FOND DU LAC, Wis.—It’s a misconception among credit unions that government land agencies are antiquated and technology-challenged operations, according to one person.
“It’s a myth tax agencies are slow to adopt technology,” said Kristeen Pelot, senior vice president of logistics and operations with Info-Pro.
More and more states such as California, Iowa and Indiana are standardizing records, something that is also going on in Wisconsin, where Info-Pro is based, added Pelot.
“In Wisconsin we are seeing more data online,” she said. “Efforts are underway in many states. Quite a bit is going on behind the scenes.”
Pelot’s observations come as part of a CUToday.info series on “fake news” in credit unions, which examines myths and misconceptions within and about the CU community that may be adversely affecting decision-making.
Agencies such as the Register of Deeds, the Assessor, the Treasurer, the county land office and the county clerk have been seen as laggards by credit unions and other financial institutions, Pelot said. And there still are challenges. In Fond du Lac County, Wis., for instance, each office has its own software program.
Serving on State Council
But the state Department of Administration has set up the Wisconsin Land Information Council to tackle issues such as transparency and access to land records. Pelot is currently serving a three-year term on the council, which is made up of government officials and private groups like representatives of the Wisconsin Realtors Association and the Wisconsin Real Property Listers Association.
Among the council’s charges from the state are to assist in obtaining funding to implement statewide land records modernization initiatives, to recommend guidelines to coordinate the modernization and to periodically review and recommend statutory updates to improve modernization.
The challenge is “How can we standardize to one system, to give users better access?” she explained. That access would be for both firms such as hers that specialize in real estate tax services, and also the firm’s credit union clients.
Objective: Create One Big Portal
The objective is to create one big portal for information in the next three or four years, according to Pelot. The need is clear—in Wisconsin, there are 72 counties and more than 2,000 municipalities, with half to two thirds of real estate taxes collected at the county level and the remainder at the municipal level.
With better access to online records, credit union officers will be able to save themselves a phone call or perhaps even a trip down to the county courthouse.
If successful, all of that will make it easier for credit unions to do things like look up titles and verify information such as the property address, and owner’s name, data that may be needed through the entire mortgage process from loan application through closing and servicing. And Info-Pro can benefit, as well.
Currently, the company collects data for credit unions approximately one week after the close of the property tax cycle. The firm reviews each property to determine if taxes are delinquent or not, and then notifies the credit union. The credit union can then reach out to the homeowner if there is a problem. “It’s a more proactive way to start the conversation,” Pelot told CUToday.info.
Survey Being Circulated
The Council has circulated a survey to interested parties to ask what kind of information they would like to see in a combined portal. One such group would be the Wisconsin Land Title Association, of which Pelot is also a member.
The survey went out to all users, asking “What kind of data do you want? How do you want to access it?”
Pelot called responses to the survey “really, really very exciting.”
In addition to real estate tax services, Info-Pro is involved in flood, insurance and checking services.