Seven years after the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Administration surveyed the settlement industry and officially acknowledged that kickbacks and unearned fees were pushing up real estate settlement costs, the goverment is again surveying the scene to see if these practices continue.
The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 prohibits rebates, kickbacks and unearned fees among persons involved in settlement services. I also requires lenders to make advance disclosure of settlement charges to mortgage applicants.
HUD is paying Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. $1.2 million to evaluate how RESPA is working, how it can be improved and how costs can be reduced.
The national study, to be completed in a year, will be carried out in eight or more markets and will include a random sample of HUD forms, showing distribution of settlement charges by lawyers, brokers, title companies and mortgage insurance companies. The surveyers will be looking for evidence of continuing illegal practices.
One primary purpose of RESPA was to encourage competition in th various industries to bring down settlement costs. A HUD official, who asked not to be named, said no quantitative study could be made between settlement costs then and now to detemine if they have declined in real terms because of changes in the procedures.