November 2008

BREAKING NEWS

Fidelity National Financial, Inc. Announces Acquisition

In a press release issued today, Fidelity National Financial announces that it will acquire Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company, Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation, as well as United Capital Title Insurance Company.

Click here to read LandAmerica's official press release.
Click here to read Fidelity's official press release.

REGULATORY NEWS

Ratemaking Pre-Hearing Conference at SOAH

The second pre-hearing conference for the 2008 Biennial Rate Hearing is scheduled for Monday, December 1, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. at SOAH. A second pre-hearing conference was scheduled to allow additional time to review the 2007 statistical data and for all parties to determine the best timing for the upcoming ratemaking hearing. We will continue to update you as details develop. If you have any questions, please contact Aaron Day, TLTA Director of Government Affairs.

Texas Real Estate Commission Proposes Contract Addendum

The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) has published several proposed rule changes for public comment. The rules will be submitted for final adoption at the TREC hearing scheduled for December 15, 2008.

New 22 TAC537.51 proposes to adopt by reference a new TREC addendum for reservation of oil, gas, and other minerals. The proposed addendum would be used in situations where a seller in a real estate transaction wishes to reserve all or an identified percentage interest in the mineral estate owned by the seller, as defined in the addendum.
pdf iconDraft TREC 44-0, ADDENDUM FOR RESERVATION OF OIL, GAS, AND OTHER MINERALS

New 22 TAC537.52 proposes to adopt by reference a new TREC short sale addendum. The proposed addendum would be used in transactions where the seller requires the consent of the lienholder to sell the property and the lienholder agrees to accept the seller's net proceeds in full satisfaction of seller's liability under the mortgage loan.
pdf iconDraft TREC 45-0, SHORT SALE ADDENDUM

For a complete list of the proposed TREC rules, please visit their website.

Minerals Issue Coverage Update

The TLTA Minerals Task Force and Board of Directors have made progress on a revised proposal dealing with this issue. We are continuing to work with all interested parties to reach a consensus. As soon as a proposal is available, we will provide you an update. TLTA will be presenting a progress report to TDI at a meeting scheduled for December 16. Click here to view the meeting notice.

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

Run-Off Election Set for December 16

Governor Rick Perry announced a special December 16th runoff election to fill the vacancy in Texas Senate District 17. District 17 includes portions of Harris, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, and Jefferson counties. A special election to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Sen. Kyle Janek was held during the Nov. 4 general election. While Democrat candidate Chris Bell received more votes than Republican candidate Joan Huffman, he did not reach the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff election.

Early voting for the runoff begins Monday, December 8 and continue through to Friday, December 12. The winner of this special election will serve out the remainder of Janek's term, which expires in January 2011. For additional information, please visit the Secretary of State's website.

81st Legislative Session

The Texas Legislature doesn't officially convene for the 81st Regular Session until Tuesday, January 13, 2009, but pre-filing began on November 10. Property tax relief is expected to be a major issue on the state legislative agenda, along with rising tuition costs, and healthcare. You can keep up with daily bill filings on the Capitol website. Beginning in January, you may also check the TLTA website for specific bills TLTA will be tracking. If you have any questions, please contact Aaron Day.

TLTAPAC UPDATE

Centennial Club - Only A Month Left to Join This Historical Club

In celebration of 100 years of making history together, the TLTAPAC created the Centennial Club. The Club recognizes those who have given $100 or more during our year of celebration which ends December 31, 2008. As a Centennial Club member you will be included on a commemorative plaque displayed in the TLTA office and recognized with a special ribbon at TLTA events. Contribute today and help protect and support the Texas title industry!

TLTABay Helps to Strengthen Our Voice

The fourth annual TLTABay Online Auction was a huge success, bringing in almost $14,000. Thank you again to everyone who donated items and participated in the auction. The money raised from the auction helps to strengthen our voice in the legislative process. We have been tremendously successful in reaching out to Texas lawmakers and are well on our way to meeting our goals set by the PAC Board.

The last day to contribute before the upcoming Legislative Session is December 12, 2008. Thank you for all of your help -- we couldn't do it without you!

Click here to contribute to the PAC today.

FEDERAL NEWS

RESPA Update

As we previously reported, HUD has announced its intention to make changes to RESPA. Under the latest propsed rule, the HUD-1 Addendum contains requirements similar to those outlined in the previously proposed (and now removed) "closing script". Several of you have expressed your concerns that the HUD-1 Addendum would expose the title industry to increased liability and threaten the success of many closings. We welcome and appreciate your feedback. Please continue to review the proposed RESPA rule and let us know of any additional concerns. The staff and TLTA Federal Issues Committee, chaired by Dawn Moore, will continue to update you as more analysis becomes available.

Please note - the proposed RESPA rule will not take effect until January 1, 2010.

News to Know

The Rise and Fall of Citigroup
BBC News | Nov 24 2008
How the mighty have fallen. Citigroup, a bank which has been at the heart of America's finances for much of its history, has been brought to its knees.

Bernanke Tells New Yorker He Underestimated Housing Meltdown
Bloomberg | Nov 24 2008
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he underestimated the impact subprime mortgages would have on the economy, according to an interview to appear in the New Yorker magazine's Dec. 1 edition.

What's Next For Mortgages? Try More Regulation
HousingWire | Nov 24 2008
As U.S. financial organizations plot their course for 2009, many are waiting to see how the federal government will handle the current financial crisis under a new Presidential administration. And while there are plenty of unknowns, early leaks from the White House suggest that the Obama administration will not be taking a hands-off approach to managing the economy.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Suspend Some Foreclosures
Reuters | Nov 21 2008
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two biggest U.S. home loan finance companies, on Thursday said they would suspend foreclosures of occupied homes until early 2009, as the government moves to stem the tide of home losses plaguing the economy.

U.S. Economy: Jobless Claims Near Highest Since 1982
Bloomberg | Nov 21 2008
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits approached a 26-year high, and a gauge of the economy's future performance dropped, sending yields on benchmark Treasuries to record lows.

Originations Could Fall Below $1.3 Trillion 
HousingWire | Nov 20 2008
Everyone on the origination side of the fence these days wants to know just what kind of market they're going to face next year. The answer isn't one many likely want to hear, if one forecasting firm is correct: originations could fall to levels not seen since the 1990s in 2009, according to a forecast released Wednesday by Des Moines, Iowa-based iEmergent.

U.S. Tries New Tack on Housing 
CNN News | Nov 20 2008
The Bush administration said Wednesday that it was changing its nearly-moribund mortgage rescue plan in an effort to spark more lenders and homeowners to participate.

FHA-Backed Loans: The New Subprime
Business Week | Nov 20 2008
As if they haven't done enough damage. Thousands of subprime mortgage lenders and brokers many of them the very sorts of firms that helped create the current financial crisis are going strong. Their new strategy: taking advantage of a long-standing federal program designed to encourage homeownership by insuring mortgages for buyers of modest means.

Fannie in Danger Of Stock Delisting
Washington Post | Nov 19 2008
Fannie Mae, once the largest public company in the Washington area and a bedrock of the U.S. financial industry, disclosed yesterday it is at risk of being dropped from the New York Stock Exchange. The announcement came after the mortgage finance company's share price fell below $1, a violation of exchange rules.

Treasury takes stakes in 21 more banks
Los Angeles Times | Nov 19 2008
Investments totaling $33.5 billion are added to the rescue program in an effort to shore up lending.

Lawmakers, Treasury Lock Horns on Foreclosures
Reuters | Nov 19 2008
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and members of Congress clashed on Tuesday over the best use for the $700-billion financial bailout fund, with lawmakers demanding money to stem a national wave of mortgage foreclosures.

Freddie Mac Could Lose $20-$40 Billion
Reuters | Nov 18 2008
Freddie Mac could post losses totaling $20 billion to $40 billion in 2009, hurt by higher credit costs and write-downs in mortgage assets, an analyst at Friedman Billings Ramsey said. Reuters) - Freddie Mac could post losses totaling $20 billion to $40 billion in 2009, hurt by higher credit costs and write-downs in mortgage assets, an analyst at Friedman Billings Ramsey said.

Mandatory Mortgage Modifications and the U.S. Constitution

RGE Monitor | Nov 18 2008
The Bush administration's failure to articulate or enact a comprehensive solution to the enormous debt overhang homeowners face is rooted not only in free-market ideology, but also in fundamental constitutional law and case history dating back to the Great Depression.

FDIC Unveils Govt Plan to Help Delinquent Homeowners
India Post | Nov 18 2008
In a surprise move, FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair has unveiled details of her plan to have the government help delinquent homeowners. There are two key elements to the proposal. First, housing payments for delinquent borrowers two months or more late would be reduced to 31% of gross monthly income.

Federal Government Bails Out on Help for Struggling Homeowners
Los Angeles Daily Times | Nov 17 2008
Turns out all that talk about federal help for the residential real estate market is just that. Talk. Empty words.