MISMO Issues ALTA-supported Uniform Closing Instructions

May 5, 2020

For the past few years, ALTA and the Mortgage Bankers Association have been working with the Mortgage Industry’s Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO) to create uniform closing instructions.

Due to this collaborative effort, the title and mortgage industries now have standardized templates. On May 4, MISMO released uniform closing instructions, which provide common formatting within the templates to ensure that information pertinent to the closing can be found in the same place in the instructions—regardless of the lender.

The templates were developed with input from many sectors of the mortgage ecosystem, including title and settlement services companies, escrow companies, national and regional lenders, LOS vendors and document preparation vendors. In 2017, ALTA formed its Closing Instruction Working Group to help develop the templates. The group is led by James Lamphere, vice president of title and escrow for HomeServices of America, and Kate Steineman, vice president and business liaison manager for Wells Fargo.

“Participants across the industry have collaborated effectively to produce these closing instruction templates, which enable lenders to provide consistency in what’s included and where to find it,” said Kate Steineman, Senior Vice President and Business Liaison Manager with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. “Closing instructions communicate important loan details and requirements, and these templates mean settlement partners will no longer have to search through pages of instructions for information they need. As a lender, we all win through increased efficiency, quality and happy customers.”  

Lamphere shared similar sentiments, adding that the cooperative efforts between the lender and title communities resulted in a valuable tool to improve communication between key players in the lending process.

"The customer experience will be enhanced by standardizing the format for lender instructions," he said. "As the new template is adopted, we will see a more efficient process with fewer questions going into the closing and fewer post-closing issues."

The closing instruction templates include two distinct documents: the Master Closing Instruction Template and the Transactional Closing Instruction Template. The new templates focus on the format and organization of closing instructions, rather than legal language often included in instructions. MISMO has also developed an implementation guide to assist with adoption.

  1. The Master Closing Instruction Template contains lender instructions that are common to all loans closed for that lender. It includes items such as instructions for conflicts of interest; data security and document destruction; verification of signer identity; and recording.
  2. The Transactional Closing Instruction Template includes information relating to a specific loan. It includes items such as borrower contact information; property information; critical dates; and conditions and stipulations. MISMO has also developed an implementation guide to assist with the adoption of the new templates.

Click here to access templates and implementation guides.

By using the same templates, lenders and settlement agents will save money, reduce operational overhead, have fewer compliance violations and provide better customer service. The results of this collaborative process are expected to contribute to improved communications between parties, reduced error and a better consumer experience. Benefits of common templates include:

  • Efficiency
  • Improved communication between lenders and settlement agents
  • Reduction in delays in the closing process
  • Improved consumer experience
  • Cost reductions
  • Fewer document changes for the loan operating system

“The new standardized closing instructions are a real game-changer,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Co. “Industry adoption will enable settlement providers to enhance the closing experience for borrowers, while reducing the potential for last-minute changes that impact efficiency.”  

Following a public comment period announced in November 2019, both templates are now upgraded by MISMO to “Candidate Recommendation” status, which means they have been thoroughly reviewed by a wide range of organizations and industry participants and are available for use. The templates and related implementation guide are available to MISMO members. They are being made available to other organizations, including lenders, at no charge for internal and non-commercial use.   

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

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