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MERS Frequently Asked Questions

With the advent of the new ALTA® member benefit of discounted access to the MERS® System using a browser-based interface, many questions have surfaced about MERS and about the operation of this new benefit. Here's some background information and FAQs to help ALTA® members get started:

What is MERS?

MERS (The Mortgage Electronic Registration System) was created by the real estate finance industry to eliminate the need to prepare and record assignments when trading mortgage loans.

How does MERS work?

MERS members record MERS as nominee for the lender in the county land records and electronically track changes in ownership over the life of the loans on the MERS® System.

Are all loans registered on MERS?

At the end of 2000, when MERS® OnLine became available, MERS had cumulative registrations of approximately 3 million mortgages, and was registering over 6,000 loans daily with MERS as original mortgagee on the security instrument.

In 2004, MERS is a true industry utility with all of the top 20 residential loan originators registering all loans on the MERS system. With nearly 200 lenders registering loans, MERS volume tops 22,000 loans each day. Total registrations exceed 22 million loans nationwide.

Before MERS® OnLine, how did title agents access MERS data?

Originally, access was provided via Voice Response Unit or VRU, a toll-free telephone-based service which had been adequate for the relatively low number of MERS loans being paid off in any given title agent's service territory.

How did MERS develop its browser-interface for title companies?

ALTA® contributed $50,000 to fund development of MERS® OnLine for the title industry and to keep the access costs reasonable for ALTA® members. ALTA®'s funding and member enthusiasm enabled MERS to deliver the MERS® OnLine functionality in the fall of 2000.

What is the cost for ALTA® Members?

Only the $75 annual fee-for the time being. Additional user names/passwords are $75. Non-ALTA® members will be charged considerably more per username/password. There are no use charges and you can search multiple loans at each logon. Our objective is to aid this industry facility and add value to ALTA® membership. This $75 charge is an introductory offer and will be maintained for the next year for those "early adopters" who sign up this year. Next year, it is expected to increase.

How do we get a username and password?

ALTA® will assign a username and password to each subscriber to this service when we receive and record your dues payment or separate purchase of this service. There will be a standard ALTA® organization id, along with a unique user id and password. You will be advised of the activation directly by ALTA®. It is expected that this process will take about two to four weeks from submission of dues payment to ALTA® or separate purchase of MERS access. Consistent with the dues due date, usernames and passwords will be valid until January 31st of each year or one year from date of purchase of the service.

How do I access the database once I have my username and password?

Log on to www.alta.org, the ALTA® website. Click on the "MERS" logo appearing on our homepage in the Resources box. An introductory page will appear that will give you multiple options including learning more about MERS and ALTA®, joining ALTA®, signing up for this MERS access program, and logging on. Clicking on this logon option will open a login box where you will insert your username and password. If your account has been activated, you should be taken directly to the MERS® System.

How do I know whether a loan involved in a settlement I'm handling is a "MERS loan?"

Either the mortgage or deed of trust document itself will specifically identify Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. as the mortgagee of record or there will be an assignment into MERS. In any event, MERS will have to appear at the end of the chain of ownership of the security instrument in order to make accessing the MERS® System relevant to a given transaction.

If I've got a MERS loan, what information can I expect to get from MERS?

MERS maintains accurate, current information about the servicer for each loan on the MERS® System. It's a requirement of MERS membership that MERS members maintain the currency of such information on the MERS® System. Thus, the challenge of trying to find out which servicing center of a multi-state lender is servicing a loan being paid off as part of a closing you're handling should no longer be an issue for MERS loans with this service. Even better, for many servicers, the MERS loan record may also contain a link to the servicer's own website where payoff terms and information can be accurately and reliably obtained. While not all MERS members have this facility, more are adding it each month.

How do I find a MERS loan on the MERS® System?

The MERS database can be queried in a number of ways. You can search the database using the MERS MIN (Mortgage Identification Number) which appears on the deed of trust or mortgage, borrower's name, borrower's social security number, or property address.

What can we expect from MERS in the future?

This browser interface is only the first step! With the rapid adoption of web technology by the mortgage industry, we expect that MERS will seamlessly connect the title industry with real time payoff information of servicers that are members of MERS. We also expect MERS, through selected vendors, to greatly facilitate the timely and accurate release of liens. Finally, we expect such release documentation to be transmitted electronically as the title industry and county recorders become capable of their receipt. Again, this browser interface is the front-end of this whole process with added value expected as the industry continues to adopt MERS as the preferred way of doing business.


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American Land Title Association
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