Why Cucumbers and Title Don’t Mix

July 19, 2016

Title and settlement agents face an avalanche of new competition, new regulations and increasing technology threats. To stay ahead of industry trends, they need to be equipped and ready to educate homebuyers on the importance of owner's title insurance. To help title professionals effectively reach consumers, ALTA created the Homebuyer Outreach Program (HOP).

The core messaging of all the material in HOP focuses on consumers, the benefits they receive from purchasing an owner’s title insurance and making better decisions about protecting their property. Because homebuyers already have enough to think about when buying a house, it’s important to avoid overloading them with too much information. That’s why the messaging shifts from focusing on all the steps it takes to produce a policy to highlighting what a homebuyer gets when purchasing an owner’s policy.

As part of HOP, ALTA created the Homebuyer Guide, which includes more than 60 free resources for members to use to easily communicate the benefit of owner’s title insurance to homeowners, real estate agents, lenders and others. Included are blog content, sample social media content, marketing one-pagers, rack cards, print advertisements, rich-media ads and Power Point presentations. ALTA members have access to all of the material. In addition, ALTA members can take advantage of an exclusive member benefit to customize, download and print marketing material at ALTAprints.com.

When speaking and interacting with consumers, however, the words used to explain the industry matter tremendously. ALTA held focus groups testing many title insurance messages. Words and phrases that evoked positive feelings included confidence, protection, peace of mind, eliminating risk and efficient.

An example of how using a certain word drives the conversation involved “benefit” versus “value.” Wayne Stanley, ALTA's director of public affairs, said that ALTA research found that when talking to consumers about the value of title insurance, the conversation quickly turned to price.

“When you talk about the benefit a consumer receives, the conversation goes in a different direction,” he added.

Additionally, ALTA’s research found consumers respond negatively to clichés. Consumers did not like the phrase “protecting the American Dream,” which was a key reason why ALTA changes its slogan to “Protect Your Property Rights.”

“While title professionals have served homebuyers for more than a century, ALTA’s research showed that the old slogan did not resonate with today’s consumers,” Stanley said. “Protecting the American Dream means a lot of different things, and the old slogan focused on what the industry does. The new slogan speaks directly to the consumer and the value they get when purchasing title insurance.”

In addition, it’s important to avoid industry jargon when explaining title insurance and use terms that consumers can relate to. Terms such as liens and encumbrances are examples of words consumers just don’t understand.

“Homebuyers don’t want to hear about liens and encumbrances,” Stanley said. “To many, you might as well be saying liens and cucumbers."

Another phrase to avoid is "exhaustive search." "This leads people to think that if you’re doing such an exhaustive search, ‘why do I need to purchase a policy?’” Stanley added.

ALTA’s online survey of more than 1,000 recent homebuyers clearly showed that providing information early in the process influences consumer understanding and favorability toward title insurance.  Another survey recently conducted by ALTA measuring the impact the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule on consumer closing experience also supports the importance of homebuyer education. The survey showed that more consumers are unsure if they purchased an owner’s title insurance policy under TRID compared to transactions closed pre-TRID.

“The results support the narrative about the importance of finding the right way to explain our products to consumers,” said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “People are still confused if they purchased an owner’s policy.”

As the industry’s leader, it’s ALTA’s role to provide the tools and empower members to clearly and confidently communicate the benefits of title insurance, especially with the “optional” labeling of owner’s title insurance on the integrated disclosures.

“It starts with acknowledging that we are not in the insurance, closing, settlement and underwriting business. We are in the peace of mind business,” Korsmo said. “We offer homebuyers the knowledge, confidence, security and assurance that their property rights are protected. By viewing our business through a business-to-consumer lens, we are able to connect emotionally, build relationships, get in front of the homebuyers at an earlier point in the transaction and ensure that we are the carriers of our message.”

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.