Author Archives: Hallmark Abstract Service

About Hallmark Abstract Service

Hallmark Abstract Service provides title insurance for residential and commercial real estate transactions in New York State and nationwide, underwriting through Chicago Title. HAS opened its doors in 2008 with two primary goals in mind! Number one was to create a title insurance company that would provide our clients with a superior finished product while affording them a seamless and stress-free process. Number two was to make the experience of working with Hallmark Abstract Service as easy and as pleasurable as obtaining title insurance for a real estate transaction could possibly be! From the sheer number of satisfied clients who keep coming back to Hallmark Abstract Service for their title insurance needs, I believe that we have accomplished our goals in the past, and we will continue striving to improve on them in the future! My Background In 1980 I earned an undergraduate degree in economics followed in 1984 by an MBA in finance with a concentration in the tax-exempt market. With this focus on the municipal market I became a municipal bond analyst at Shearson/Lehman Brothers tasked with following both general obligation issuers on the city and state level as well as housing bonds secured by mortgage pools. This experience at Shearson/Lehman Brothers followed by stints at PaineWebber and Citigroup provided a broad framework of understanding concerning the mechanics of mortgage debt in terms of prepayment experience, mortgage quality and the expected duration of a portfolio. Leaving Wall Street I started Exeter Commercial which funded commercial mortgage loans. Title insurance was a critical part of the underwriting and closing process. At the peak of the financial crisis, I recognized both an opportunity and need as many title firms, for a variety of reasons, closed their doors. Out of this, Hallmark Abstract Service was born.

Putting Your Small Business on the Map…Literally

I was recently in a meeting where Barry Rosenblum, the owner of the Intelligent Office located in RXR Plaza, Uniondale, Long Island, was the guest speaker.

He spoke about the trials and tribulations facing small businesses in today’s real estate and employment market environments.

The predicament of competing with larger companies that may possess both an impressive address and the ability to respond 24/7 to clients and prospects. That level of competition can be daunting, and I had never really considered the options that they may have.

Enter co-working spaces, particularly one located in what may be Long Island’s most prestigious office center, offering small businesses many affordable options to present themselves on a level playing field with larger companies!

Below is a brief overview and actual business example, provided by Barry, of the benefits to being portrayed as larger than you are, until you actually become that larger firm yourself! And, the downside of trying to go it alone.

Barry Rosenblum, Principal, Intelligent Office, RXR Plaza, Uniondale,

Let’s face it, we are judged by the company we keep as are our businesses. I recently needed a roofer and researched dozens of local listings. I found I was drawn only to those with a legitimate business address and positive reviews. P.O. boxes and home addresses made me wary. Following suit, those with a weak impression were likewise weak when I called.

After several calls I noticed that many companies had only a voicemail option. After leaving a few messages, I realized a callback was unlikely and this wasn’t working. I needed service immediately. Finally, one roofing company answered and I was greeted warmly. They promised to be at my house ASAP and with that, they got my $4500. 

Hiring staff and renting space at a reputable building is often cost prohibitive for small businesses. Virtual call answering and a virtual business address are 21st century solutions that make any small business, law firm or counselor legitimate in the eyes of prospects. Patients, clients and customers judge you on your listed address, reviews, and how your calls are handled. Those factors are what separates us from the long list of similar businesses and practices out there to choose from.

If you find yourself relating to the scenario above, we’d love to speak with you about how we can handle your office needs virtually, efficiently and affordably. Wishing you and your business productivity and prosperity for the new year and beyond.

Barry Rosenblum

Title Insurance: 5 Things Every New York State Homebuyer Or Refinancer Of A Mortgage, Should Know!

Hallmark Abstract NY title insurance

Hallmark Abstract Service

Typically a homebuyer will let their attorney take the lead when it comes to the title insurance portion of a purchase transaction! (Updated, January 2020)

Similarly those refinancing a mortgage will do the same with their lending institution.

And given that the relationship between the attorney or banker and their client is based on trust, that is fine. But, at the same time, think about this…

In any purchase that a consumer makes they should, and typically will, be aware of the criteria being used in the product or provider selection process.

After all, when you buy a television or a car you are intimately involved in the decision-making process so, why not in one of the most important segments of your property purchase or mortgage refinance?

The decision being made? Selecting the firm that will be insuring that you have good, clean and clear title to the residential or commercial property you are buying or refinancing!

The cost of the title insurance premium will not vary between the firms providing the policy but, there is so much more to be aware of…

Five Things To Be Aware Of When Buying Title Insurance

1. For Your Transaction, Compare Title Bills From More Than One Title Insurance Provider – When you receive a copy of the title bill for your real estate transaction in New York, the title insurance premium being charged will be the same regardless of the company you choose to use (Note: in a mortgage refinance, make sure you are being charged at the reissue rate if your transaction qualifies for it)!

Many of the other charges that appear on the title bill, however, known as ‘junk’ or ancillary fees, can and will vary from firm-to-firm. Sometimes this variance can be in the many hundreds of dollars.

This, in addition to the other points below, is why the consumer should take a somewhat active role in the choice of the title insurance provider that is selected.

And when you’re comparing the ancillary or ‘junk’ fees on various title bills, Hallmark Abstract Service is proud that we charge among the lowest in the industry, feeling we are well compensated through a percentage share of the title insurance premium. Because of the fees being charged, our clients can save as much as $1,000 when comparing our title bill to those of some other companies in the marketplace.

Remember, our recommendation regardless of who is providing the title insurance, is to get a title bill from at least one other company in the marketplace for comparison purposes.

2. Know Who The Title Insurance Underwriter Is! –When you buy insurance, regardless of the type, it’s critical that if a claim is put in that the underwriter will have the financial ability to pay! Remember that the claims-paying ability of companies are not created equal! This is certainly the case with title insurance underwriters. Hallmark Abstract Service primarily uses Fidelity National Title Group, the best capitalized title insurance underwriter in the business.

3. What Is The Title Claims Experience Of The Firm Chosen To Provide The Title Insurance Policy? – In the same way that all underwriters are not created equal, the firm actually doing the work to ensure a buyer will have good and clear title are not either! Don’t be afraid to ask questions as, once again, for most people this purchase will represent the largest one that they will make in their lives! Hallmark Abstract Service is proud that in our 10+ years in business we have not had a valid title claim!

4. Does The Title Company Chosen And/Or Anyone Involved In The Transaction Have An Affiliated Business Arrangement? – Perhaps an uncomfortable question to ask, but you as the the consumer have the right to know and the firms involved have the obligation to tell! An Affiliated Business Arrangement or AfBA, ‘is an arrangement to share or refer business between two different companies involved in providing services in the closing of a real estate transaction. There may be ownership interest of a party in both the business referring out the service and the business receiving the referral.The practice is not illegal, but is regulated by RESPA to assure full disclosure to the consumer of any relationships where business is referred in this way.’ (Source)

You want your title insurance provider to solely be focused on protecting you, their client, and not considering a business arrangement with a third party. Hallmark Abstract Service has no affiliated business arrangements.

5. You As The Consumer Have The Right To Choose The Title Insurance Provider – It’s entirely possible that you may not want to but, be aware, that if you do it is your right to choose!

Michael Haltman is CEO of Hallmark Abstract Service in New York, and can be reached at or (646) 741-6101.

Instant Replay: Steak, Strip Clubs and Luxury Suites Consume the Title Insurance Industry in New York!


While the articles title may be the perception in some quarters, it is far from the reality for the majority in the NYS title insurance industry!

Back in July 2018 Hallmark Abstract Service published an article concerning the decision by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYS DFS) to summarily outlaw any and all business development expenditures by title insurance companies, whether $10 for a meeting over coffee or a $100,000 luxury box at a sporting event.

There was no differentiation made between the above example of luxury suites or any other extravagance, and all other biz dev/marketing endeavors such as coffee or lunch basic to businesses of every type and in every industry.

In other words, we can now provide a logo’d coffee cup to a prospect or client, but cannot fill it with coffee!

Fast forward to December 26, 2019, and the legal wrangling over what is simply known as Reg 208 has seen the New York State Appellate Court uphold the majority of the regulation outlawing most basic business development practices.

Below is the article Hallmark Abstract wrote in 2018, and the story of how business is acquired and done by companies such as mine has not changed. Hard work, in-depth knowledge, honesty, integrity, customer service and a laser-focus on protecting the best interests on our clients who are the buyers of residential and commercial real estate!

New York State Title Insurance Industry: Is It All About Luxury Box Suites, Steakhouse Dinners And Champagne-fueled Parties?

The perception in some quarters was, and remains, that the title insurance industry in New York State is all about the ‘stuff’ that companies give to decision-makers to induce business through what’s known as quid pro quo?

At least that’s the perception if you’ve been reading some in the media as well as direct quotes from New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo. And, truth-be-told, given the rhetoric you would be well within your rights to think that this is the case.

And, after all, if a statement appears in a news source or comes out of the mouth of a political leader it must be true in its entirety, right?

‘Proposed state regulations take aim at the lavish gifts given by title-insurance firms to real estate professionals who refer them business.’ (Crain’s)

“…consumers should not have to pay for the cost of strip-club outings and high-priced restaurants in their premiums for title insurance…” (NYSDFS Superintendent Maria Vullo)

‘…The luxury box suites, steakhouse dinners and champagne-fueled parties can return to an obscure corner of the real estate world…’ (The New York Times)

…the title insurance industry, an obscure corner of the real estate world that has spent tens of millions of dollars to win the favor and business of its clients at ballparks, Madison Square Garden luxury suites, exclusive country clubs, expensive steakhouses, even strip clubs…‘ (The New York Times)

Of course, as we know, reality will typically fall somewhere in-between the extremes being presented by the various constituencies that have a proverbial ‘dog in the fight’!

Needless to say, in the world of New York State title insurance companies there are no doubt some bad actors who may do business in exactly the way the industry has been portrayed.

In other words, utilizing the lure of ‘stuff’ to curry favor with those who most often make the decision concerning which title insurance provider to use.

(Hint: It’s not the consumer but more often attorney’s, mortgage professionals and others although the consumer does have the right to choose the title insurance company to use.)

But for every bad actor in an industry, and all industries have them, the vast majority of firms develop business the old fashioned way which is by ‘earning it’! And title insurance in New York State is no different.

In title insurance, ‘earning it’ is providing what the ‘decision maker’ and their client, the residential or commercial real estate buying or refinancing consumer, actually wants, needs and deserves to receive…

  1. The ultimate protection of their residential or commercial real estate purchase or refinance, and the knowledge that they have received good, clean and clear title to the subject property. This is JOB #1 for any provider of a title insurance policy! In this regard it is therefore important to ask what the claims experience of a title insurance provider historically has been.
  2. A seamless transaction from the standpoint of the title insurance, with all issues being cleared well before all parties sit down at the closing table.
  3. That the underwriter being used to issue a title insurance policy be highly rated with an extremely sound financial condition so that, in the event a claim actually had to be paid, they have the wherewithal to do so.
  4.  Ancillary and ‘junk fees’ appearing on a title bill should be fair and reasonable saving the actual consumer as much money as possible. Buyers therefore should check any title bill with at least one additional title company to make sure they are being charged a fair amount. Title companies are well compensated by the premium and should not be gouging the consumer!

The bottom-line for the title insurance-buying consumer in New York State, as well as for those who may be helping them decide the company to use is this: Put as much time, thought and effort into the title insurance company that you use for your transaction as in selecting the property to buy in the first place.

Related Articles

New York Title Insurance Industry Prohibition Of Inducements Provided In Return For Business Delayed From December 18th to February 1, 2018

New York State Title Insurance Industry: ‘I’m Mad As Hell And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore’!

In New York State The Title Insurance Industry Is Public Enemy #1 Or, Words Matter!

Read The Courts Decision As The New York State Title Insurance Industry Wins Its Article 78 Proceeding Fight!

Guest Article: This Is What Seniors Should Seek in a New Home by Kent Elliot

Image: Pixabay

Buying a home is never an easy decision. And issues that come along with age, such as mobility decline and dementia, can make it that much more challenging. If you are a senior in the market for a new home, pause for just a moment to consider what you truly need. A home for your golden years requires much more than living space.

Affordability Issues

Your first consideration should be the overall cost of living in your proposed new home. For this, you cannot simply look at the mortgage. You have to factor in expenses beyond the initial price. For example, if you would rather live in the suburbs but do not drive, you will be on the hook for transportation services anytime you need to head to the grocery store or visit your physician.

There are other expenses that comprise your total homeownership costs as well. PMI is one of these. According to Bank of America, PMI, or private mortgage insurance, usually comes into play when your down payment is less than 20 percent of the final purchase price. The cost of maintenance and lawn upkeep are also your responsibility if you plan to buy a home.

Safety Solutions

In addition to cost, seniors must also think about the safety of the property. When you want to live alone, you cannot cut corners when taking steps to keep yourself safe. This is especially true when you consider the fact that 60 percent of falling accidents among seniors occur at home. Preventing falls and other injuries is a matter of adding a few practical upgrades, including ample lighting, grab bars, and non-slip flooring throughout.

During your home search, you may not be able to locate a property that meets every safety requirement. Because of this, you will also need to look at the expenses you may incur if you must modify a new home to cater to your needs.

Lifestyle and Livability

Why your primary concern is safety, comfort and convenience are also crucial when choosing a new home. Look for a home with a single story, which will be easier to navigate while also eliminating the possibility of falling down the stairs. Proximity to your physician’s office, family, and friends will also lend well to your happiness. Your new home should additionally be located close to recreational opportunities such as golf, swimming, or other activities that you enjoy.

Independent Living

Your body and mind are changing, and you may need to adapt as you age. Keep an open mind when searching for a new property. Even if you’ve lived in a single-family residential home your entire life, you might find that you no longer desire to be so far away from neighbors or that you are no longer able to change the floodlights, mow the lawn, or perform general upkeep. If this is the case, it may be time to consider independent living. These facilities allow seniors to still be self-sufficient while providing them with cooking, cleaning, and laundry services. Before making a decision, be sure to research amenities and prices in your area. For example, in New York City, the cost of independent living ranges from $1,500 to $17,250 a month.

You have options when you begin your new home search. No matter the type of home you choose, make sure that it is somewhere you can enjoy for the long haul. Don’t be afraid of the changes that come along with age. You have the power now to choose a home with features that will allow you to age in place gracefully and on your own terms.

Kent Elliot is a retired architect with a passion for dogs, DIY, and universal design. After a stroke left him with mobility issues, he thought he would need to move out of his home and into an assisted living community. But, using his experience as an architect and with a little creativity, he was able to successfully remodel his family home instead. The relief he felt has inspired him to help others do the same. He created to share what he’s learned.

Image via Pixabay


Mortgage Expert Insights on Business Planning Strategies, Guest Author Ben Smidt

Mortgage broker business planning

Mortgage loan originators, much like those of us in many professions including title insurance, will start the new year with a predominantly clean slate in terms of new orders in the pipeline.

Of course it is hopefully not 100% empty, as orders will come in through December that will hopefully be closing in 2020.

But that said, the article below written by guest author Ben Smidt from MGIC, brings in mortgage pros and others who share some thoughts and ideas concerning business planning strategies.

Mortgage Expert Insights on Business Planning Strategies by Ben Smidt, Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation (MGIC) Digital Strategy Manager.

The mortgage industry consistently shifts, requiring mortgage professionals to regularly evaluate their business planning strategies to improve mortgage growth year-over-year. Because of this, I’m providing loan officers with insights from several mortgage experts on business planning strategies that aim to assist several types of mortgage professionals in today’s marketplace.

I reached out to several mortgage experts from a variety of backgrounds, including mortgage influencers, top producing loan officers, real estate experts and industry leaders, to gather their perspectives on successful business planning strategies in the mortgage industry.

While interviewing them, a common set of themes emerged that anyone in the mortgage industry can leverage in their business planning strategies going forward.

Many thanks to these mortgage experts who were willing to share their insight and strategies:

Here are 7 business planning strategies from mortgage experts:

1. Understand Values

Knowing and understanding your personal values helps guide the professional goals you want to achieve in the future as they relate to business planning strategies.

Sue Woodard lives and breathes this concept saying, “Get clear on your values. This is often overlooked as part of a planning process, but I feel it is critical in determining how you will approach your goals, what you are willing to sacrifice and what priorities certain things should take over others. For me and those I work with, we are all clear that customer success is our number one value – so it drives our goals and initiatives.”

Dustin Brohm builds on this concept by adding, “When making business plans, you first need to step back and be honest with yourself about a) what you’re good at and, b) what you like doing. If you hate writing articles, don’t focus your strategy around blogging. If you absolutely love being on camera, then focus more on video content. Start a local show or podcast, be intentional and consistent with your Instagram stories. You must choose a strategy that aligns with your strengths, values and what you enjoy doing because that’s the only way you can stay consistent long enough to win. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you end up having more success.”

“You must choose a strategy that aligns with your strengths, values and what you enjoy doing because that’s the only way you can stay consistent long enough to win.”

– Dustin Brohm

I agree with this strategy for mortgage professionals and feel it’s easier to achieve a business goal when when it aligns with your values and you understand what’s important to you.

2. Have Specific Goals

Some goals can be too broad. Big goals are essential to business planning strategy success, but it’s more important to focus on smaller, specific goals that can help you achieve your larger objectives.

David Stevens makes this simple to grasp by stating, “Be SMART in your business planning strategies. Set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Trackable sub goals to get to the larger goal. Note that you can find other words to define SMART – but to me, it starts here. Goals need to be specific. The goals need to be precise enough that you can build a calendar and contact list from them. Think about what the overall larger goal is and then itemize the specific things you need to do to get there. There is much more to this, but this is a start.”

Additionally, Sue Woodard mentions, “Be specific in your goals. Easy to say, not easy to do. Many people simply think ‘more’ is better – but you must be crystal clear on what you are aiming to accomplish in the year ahead. Not ‘be healthier’ – but lose x pounds and run a race of x length. Not ’make more money or do more loans’ – but make x number of dollars or close x amount of volume.”

“Be specific in your goals. Easy to say, not easy to do. Many people simply think ‘more’ is better – but you must be crystal clear on what you are aiming to accomplish in the year ahead.”

– Sue Woodard

I like this concept because it allows us to clearly connect what we want to achieve with how are we going to get there.

3. Start Time Blocking

Setting aside time to develop a strategic thought or idea is important for taking action on your business planning goals in the mortgage industry.

I appreciate how David Stevens likes to approach this. He says, “A road map only works if you manage yourself and commit time to execute activities. In my early days as a loan officer, I would spend late Friday afternoons laying my entire next week’s plans on paper with a minimum of 3 full afternoons blocked for making face-to-face sales calls on Realtors®. I would also block every Tuesday morning to attend, and hopefully speak at, a Realtor sales meeting. I know activities today might be different but it’s the commitment to a blocked/dedicated time that matters.”

“A road map only works if you manage yourself and commit time to execute activities.”

– David Stevens

Geoff Zimpfer makes it simple saying, “If it’s not on your calendar it doesn’t exist! Your business plan should include time blocking and tracking of your sales-focused activities including calls, meetings, events, classes and online activities.”

Sue Woodard has a similar approach when focusing on time blocking as it relates to business planning strategies. She explains, “Block the time. Time block a weekly, monthly, quarterly check-in on progress against your goals. This will not happen automatically, and I find it will never happen if you don’t calendar it just like you would any other important meeting.”

Interestingly, in my experience, I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful in how I work to reach my business goals month-over-month and year-over-year.

4. Incorporate Accountability

Accountability in business planning strategies works to keep you on track with established goals. Not just personal accountability, but accountability from others that you trust can help keep you on track.

I found that Rob Chrisman’s remarks on business planning strategies fall in line with the concept of self-accountability. Rob says, “Throughout my years in the lending business, I have found that strategies for business planning are varied and subjective. For individuals, they range from ‘showing up every day at work’ to extensive multi-page marketing and origination plans. Lenders run the gamut from having no business plan to extensive frameworks that are reviewed quarterly by senior management. However, I have found that the common theme for success is consistently putting in a little extra time, a little extra effort, a little extra listening and a little extra customer service to help one client at a time achieve their goal.”

“The common theme for success is consistently putting in a little extra time, a little extra effort, a little extra listening and a little extra customer service to help one client at a time achieve their goal.”

– Rob Chrisman

I believe this self-accountability approach, and making sure you help each client, one-by-one, achieve their goals, pays off in the long-run.

David Stevens, who reinforces the need for accountability when preforming regular self-check-ins, says, “Ask the hard questions – why did I not do that? Hold yourself accountable. No excuses!”

Sue Woodard echoes that, recommending you “put your goals in writing, put them on your bathroom mirror or next to your computer, and then tell someone else your goals.” She continues, “These little steps supercharge and dramatically amplify your odds for reaching those goals.”

Having someone to hold you accountable is powerful, but learning to hold yourself accountable will have even more impact on reaching your business planning goals.

5. Create Focus

Everyone’s time is valuable so when thinking about business planning strategies in the mortgage industry we need to understand where to focus our efforts. Where will we see the best return on our time? I love what many of these mortgage experts shared about creating focus.

Steve Kyles says it well: “We must be strategic with our time. I encourage you to target the right partners. Make sure you know their sides and how many opportunities you can earn. Someone may love you, want to work with you AND give you EVERY deal. BUT let’s do the math: If they only close 10 transactions a year, they may only be able to refer you for 5 of the 10. And when all is said and done, you may only close 3 of the 5. That’s not enough. The solution? Build relationships with teams and partners producing a minimum of 24 transaction a year. Build relationships with influential brokers. Go deep in your relationships. You only need 5-10 of these types of SOLID relationships to close $30 million or more a year. Add value and help your partners grow.”

Real estate pro Neil Mathweg shares similar insights: “Want to ruin a man’s vision? Give him two. Or in some of our cases, ten. Meaning our businesses are full of shiny objects leading to a very cluttered business plan. And when it’s cluttered, you can’t stay focused. Energy is spread too thin and you lack consistency. I think what’s important to your business plan is removing the clutter, the shiny objects, and getting focused on three activities. We call it the three-pillar plan. The first pillar is your ‘sphere of influence’ and focusing on how you will cultivate it (think client appreciation events). The next pillar is asking what we are going to do to ‘chase’ business (think open houses, online leads, Facebook advertising or for sale by owner (FSBO)). Lastly, we ask ourselves what are we going to do to ‘attract’ business (think searchable content like blogging, podcasts and YouTube videos). By focusing on these three pillars, you will have a clear plan to execute, a clear plan that is congruent to YOU. Now, add consistency to that clear-congruent-plan and look out. Amazing things will happen in your business!”

“What’s important to your business plan is removing the clutter, the shiny objects, and getting focused on three activities.”

– Neil Mathweg

To hammer the concept home further, Geoff Zimpfer shares, “For mortgage loan originators, you’ve got three main sources of business:  1) real estate agents and referral partners, 2) past clients and sphere of influence (SOI), and, 3) online leads both paid and organic. Consider the percentage of closed business from each of those sources last year and identify which one provided the best return on investment (ROI), then modify accordingly to expand your business.”

This perspective resonates clearly with me as I’m a huge advocate of identifying where my time is best spent and focusing my energy there to see a positive return.

6. Develop Content / Branding

Content and branding in today’s mortgage marketplace should be crucial parts of your business planning strategies. They can help scale visibility about who you are and what you do with the broader audience of warm leads across social media and Google Search.

Bill Gassett is great at creating content to drive sales and he keeps it pretty simple, saying, “One of the most important aspects I have found in business planning is keeping my website/blog, Maximum Real Estate Exposure, primed to generate the most business possible. The end of the year is a wonderful time to do a little bit of inventory on the site. Consider updating previously written articles with new information, or improve upon the images used in older articles. This can bring new life to older posts. If you are a mortgage broker or real estate agent reading this, take note. Remember your branding matters – it is how people remember you. Doing a refresh of your website can lead to good things down the road.”

Neil Mathweg has a great approach to content and branding as it relates to business planning strategies. He states, “Think about what you can do to be a media company that happens to sell real estate (or originating loans). Is it searchable content like blogging or creating YouTube videos? Is it social content like the I Love Madison show I created that helps those who are new to Madison connect with people, places and events in Madison? A community-first mindset is an excellent way to get the ball rolling on content that highlights your brand.”

This approach is perfect because it allows you to highlight who you are, your brand and the value you provide while also having the content indexed in social search, as well as Google Search. This ensures your efforts will have a long-lasting return.

7. Evaluate

The evaluation process is critical to the success of fluid business planning strategies. A mortgage professional always needs to keep tabs on what is working and what is not, as it relates to the big goal.

I appreciate Steven Kyles thoughts on this. He offers, “Work and rework your plan. Reevaluate results every 30 days and adjust as needed. Measure your effectiveness, NOT your busyness.”

David Stevens offers a similar message on the importance of evaluating what you are doing and how it aligns with your business strategies, saying, “Any business plan requires reality checks. Dedicate two hours once a month to review your previous month’s calendar, the activities you did to reach your goals, and those that you did not do.”

Geoff Zimpfer’s approach to this concept of evaluating is a good one as well. He suggests, “Review your progress towards your goals every week. Measure your results, conversions and adjust as needed. When you’ve done the work and achieved the results, celebrate! Reward yourself with something that matters. It’s important to stay connected with your ‘why’ as you achieve your goals.”

I agree with Geoff that knowing what worked and what didn’t is important for understanding how we can continue to improve our business planning strategies in the mortgage industry, and stay motivated.

These 7 themes for achieving success lay the groundwork for any mortgage professional to start creating something special going forward. It’s now up to you to decide to act and create a strategic business plan that will help you grow your mortgage business in the new year.

Ben Smidt

Digital Strategy

Ben Smidt serves as MGIC’s Digital Strategy Manager. He leads corporate development and management of MGIC’s digital marketing strategy. This includes establishing a clear vision for all digital marketing initiatives and providing strategic direction for the company’s social media marketing efforts. His primary goal is to increase brand awareness and improve user experience.


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#GivingTuesday Opportunity To Literally Save A Military Veterans Life!

Heroes To Heroes Foundation: Spirituality and faith at the Western Wall

(Note: Hallmark Abstract Service CEO Michael Haltman serves as Board Chair of the Heroes To Heroes Foundation)

If You Will Be Making A Donation For #Giving Tuesday This Year, Please Consider Saving The Life of a Military Veteran!

Heroes To Heroes Foundation successfully saves combat veterans, suffering with Moral Injury, who are at serious risk for suicide (or who have made one or more attempts)!

The Statistics Are Tragic…20 Veterans Die By Suicide, Each And Every Day!!!

Heroes To Heroes Foundation, a nondenominational 501(c)(3), successfully addresses Military Veterans, Mental Health Issues, Suicide Prevention, Spirituality and Reconnection To Faith, achieved through Team Journey’s To Israel!
While saving lives, at the same time, we help save families, marriages and parents relationships with their children.
At Heroes To Heroes a very high percentage of your donation will go directly towards lifesaving activities, exactly like the one of Billy in the photo taken at the Western Wall.
Your donation will fund the following, although donations of ANY amount are appreciated more than you know:
$100 USD : Provides a baptism in Israel.
$250 USD : Provides a trip to the Western Wall in Israel.
$500 USD : Provides a day in the Galilee.
$1,000 USD : Provides a day at Masada and The Dead Sea.
$10,000 USD : Sponsors a veteran or police officer for the full program.
$100,000 USD: Sponsor a Team
Please visit the Heroes To Heroes Foundation #GivingTuesday fundraiser at Facebook here:, and 100% of your donation will be sent to HTH.
Help us meet our $5,000 goal!
Heroes To Heroes Foundation

Breaking News About Combat Veterans And Death By Suicide!

Spirituality and faith at the Western Wall

As readers of the Hallmark Abstract Service blog know, the firms CEO Mike Haltman serves as Board Chair for the nondenominational combat veterans 501(c)(3) Heroes To Heroes Foundation!

The firm has thrown its support behind this charity based on the tragic statistic that 20 Veterans, Each And Every Day, Die By Suicide!

But in addition, our dedication to the cause is also based on the unique way that Heroes To Heroes is successfully working to reverse this statistic…

Through spirituality and a reconnection of these American heroes to their faith!

This is a brief summary of the organization, with the critically important Breaking News directly below it.

Heroes To Heroes Foundation Overview

Mission: To provide spiritual healing and peer support for Combat Veterans of all conflicts and all faiths who have attempted suicide or are on a path to self-destruction due to moral injury.

Vision: To have the United States be a place where our Veterans can truly come home.

Impact: Over 300 Veterans have participated in the Heroes to Heroes program. 20+ marriages have been saved. Dozens of lives have been saved. Over 300 lives have changed for the better.

Heroes To Heroes Foundation is a nondenominational 501(c)(3) that successfully helps combat veterans (men and women) from all wars who suffer with moral injury, and who have attempted suicide or are on a path towards self-destruction, heal. Journeys to Israel are a key component to the organizations phenomenal results!

The Heroes To Heroes Foundation program is based in spirituality, helping these American heroes reconnect with the faith they have lost due to the horrors of war they have experienced. It is loss of faith that is a critical factor for a great many who attempt suicide.

Heroes To Heroes Foundation Breaking News

1) Long-term study being conducted for a validation of the efficacy of the Heroes To Heroes program:

A team at the University of South Alabama, led by Dr. Joseph Currier, a psychologist with ‘special expertise in moral injury and spiritually integrated care’, has initiated a long-term study (begun in August 2019) that will evaluate the effects of the Heroes To Heroes mission on the combat veterans who participate.

To date the statistics are proving to be quite positive!

A copy of the October 2019 Report of Preliminary Results can be obtained by sending and email to Mike Haltman at

2) Heroes To Heroes and the Veterans Administration: Heroes To Heroes has formed a ‘partnership’ with the Veterans Administration Chaplain Corps where, beginning in 2020, a chaplain will be accompanying each Journey in place of one of our coaches.

In addition to the positive impact that these chaplains will have, particularly during each evenings discussion sessions, this affiliation with the VA represents a significant departure from the federal government stance of avoiding faith-based organizations.

With that in mind, it is a strong indication of the positive impact on moral injury and suicide prevention that they view our 501(c)(3) has had, and will continue to have into the future!

If anyone is interested about learning more about the Heroes To Heroes Foundation, or of how you or your business can become involved with us, please send an email to Mike Haltman at


Related Post

The Heroes To Heroes Foundation – Because 20 Veterans A Day Die By Suicide!

Heroes To Heroes Foundation

Hallmark Abstract Service Nominated Best of Long Island, Best Title Insurance Company! Cast Your Vote Today!

Hallmark Abstract Service, Nominated Best of Long Island!

Hallmark Abstract Service, Nominated Best of Long Island!

Hallmark Abstract Service, Best Title Insurance Company on Long Island!

Cast Your Vote For Hallmark Abstract Service LLC in the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Best of Long Island!

Voting is quick, easy, very much appreciated and you can vote once every day!

Go to:

Click on the Services icon On the left side of the page in the Services section, scroll down to Title Insurance Company, And click the Vote icon next to Hallmark Abstract Service.

Voting is quick, easy, and you can vote once every day. 

Learn more about why the company was nominated in the article:

Is the Honeymoon with Your Title Insurance Provider Over?

Questions? Contact Hallmark Abstract Service CEO Mike Haltman at (516) 741-4723 or

Derivatives 101: Great Financial Tool Or Sinister Financial Time Bomb? – Update

time bomb photo

(Note: Why is a title insurance company writing about investing and hedging tools like credit default swaps? Because the potential risk to the economy and to the financial well-being of all Americans would affect every industry and every business, title insurance included!)

As a result of the travel firm Thomas Cook filing for bankruptcy a few days ago, thousands of employees are going to lose their jobs and tens of thousands of travelers required British government help to return home!

Many losers from this event, no doubt.

But, on-the-other-hand, the investors who bought and owned credit derivative instruments known as credit default swaps or CDS betting on a bankruptcy, made a killing!

That said, for every winner there is a loser, namely the seller of the CDS on the other side of the aforementioned trade.

Confusing? Yes! But the dollar amount of derivatives in the marketplace is in the tens of trillions of dollars ($200+ trillion as of 2017), and were there to be sudden turmoil in the financial markets that specific CDS or other derivatives were written on, the derivatives ‘time bomb’ could go off!

This hedging/speculation explosion would impact, in a big way, the title insurance industry, real estate, banking, insurance, manufacturing, retail and pretty much every other aspect of the global economy, akin to the financial crisis that began in 2007.

With that in mind, it is an opportune time to reprint the 2015 article from the Hallmark Abstract Service blog titled…

Derivatives 101: Great Financial Tool Or Sinister Financial Time Bomb?

By  | October 13, 2015

Derivatives…Derivatives? D-E-R-I-V-A-T-I-V-E-S!

Most if not everyone who reads this article have heard the term derivatives at some point in time. And when they have, it’s likely been in the context of how these financial instruments that are not typically seen and not really understood by the masses are actually fiscal time bombs that, if ever detonated, could bring the global financial system to its knees!

But for you and I who march through our days trying to maximize sales and profits for our businesses and who are possibly managing retirement or investment portfolios, do derivatives really play any role in our lives and are they something that we need to know more about and/or be concerned with?

The answer to that question is that of course we should know more and certainly they potentially could be something that we need to be concerned with. You will see that in the article below from Sprott Money which highlights the MASSIVE exposure that some TBTF (too big to fail) banks have to derivatives bets that hide outside of the light of day (or GAAP).

If you thought that the financial crisis of 2008 posed global systemic risk to the financial system, just imagine if some portion of the $53 TRILLION in bets at an institution like Bank of America begin to go wrong.

The Derivatives Market: Bets, Bookies, and Fraud – Jeff Nielson

No one “understands” derivatives. How many times have readers heard that thought expressed (please round-off to the nearest thousand)? Why does no one understand derivatives? For many; the answer to that question is that they have simply been thinking too hard. For others; the answer is that they don’t “think”, at all.

Derivatives are bets. This is not a metaphor, or analogy, or generalization. Derivatives are bets. Period. That’s all they ever were. That’s all they ever can be. This can be easily illustrated by simply examining and defining some of the more well-known “derivatives”, meaning those derivatives with whom everyone is familiar with their labels.

Let’s start with the two largest and most-important forms of this gambling (and fraud): “interest rate swaps” and “credit default swaps”. What is an interest rate swap? This is a bet between a banker (i.e. the people who control interest rates) and a Chump, on which direction an interest rate will move.

Can anyone see a problem with this form of gambling/fraud? Correct. If you place bets on the direction of interest rates against the criminals who control those interest rates, you’re probably going to lose on those bets, almost all of the time. Is this what we saw in the interest rate swap “market”?

Not at first. At first the Chumps were allowed to win – on their small bets. That’s how you gets lots and lots more Chumps to get suckered into the scam, and how you get the Chumps to place larger and larger bets. But after the initial “success” of the Chumps, it was lose, lose, lose.

Case in point, self-declared “economic genius”: Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary of the United States, and at that time, President of Harvard. No one thinks that Larry Summers knows more about economics and finance than Larry Summers. So it should be no surprise that this “genius” decided to bet against his friends the bankers in financing Harvard’s debt, via interest rate swaps.

How did he do? Summers managed to lose nearly $1 billion in financing a mere $2 billion of debt. To be more precise, not only did Harvard pay the full rate of interest on their debt, but (thanks to Summers’ gambling) the university paid an additional $900+ million in “penalties” – to avoid losing even more money on Summer’s gambling.

That’s what happens when you bet on interest rates against the people who create those interest rates. It’s obvious fraud, and it has resulted in at least one jurisdiction filing criminal charges against three of the largest fraud-factories in this scam: JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deutsche Bank, and UBS. But that’s all “old news” now.

To really understand “the derivatives market” as a whole requires understanding exactly what it is: history’s largest book-making operation (i.e. bookies). This is all that this rigged casino has ever represented: bookies taking bets. Here readers also need to understand how a bookie’s “market” operates.

Bookies take bets according to “odds”, the prevailing gambling-ratio for that particular bet, or the price it costs to place that bet. But these odds change over time. How do they change? They change based on the amount of money placed on each side of the bet. When more money is placed on one side of the bet, the price to place the bet (on one side) declines, while the price to place the bet on the other side rises.

The gambling itself moves the market. The financial crime syndicate noticed how this gambling operated, and figured out how they could create their own “book-making operation”, where all the bets were rigged, and where these banksters were not only allowed to take bets (i.e. act as bookies), they would also be allowed to place bets, in this same market. All they had to do was to make-up a bunch of euphemisms to hide this systemic crime.

Here we see fraud in its most-elementary form. ‘Legitimate’ bookies never bet in their own “market”. Even in the world of quasi-illicit gambling, it is recognized that allowing this would allow bookies to rig their own gambling. But not in the world of “banking” and “derivatives”. Here the biggest bettors in this fraudulent gambling (by many orders of magnitude) are the bookies themselves.

Goldman Sachs — $47.7 trillion

Bank of America — $53 trillion

Citigroup — $56 trillion

JPMorgan — $78.1 tillion

Read the rest of the article at Sprott Money here.

H/T Zero Hedge

(Note: You may have noticed that many articles here do not specifically relate to either title insurance or real estate. The reason for this is that most of the topics discussed have the potential, in one way or another, to impact real estate and by extension title insurance)

Michael Haltman is President of Hallmark Abstract Service in New York. He can be reached at

Important Information for New York State Buyers AND Sellers of Residential Real Estate Held by an LLC!

home photo

Title Insurance Companies Have Been Mandated by an Amendment to a New York State Law, to Determine the Actual LLC Owners in ANY Residential Real Estate Transaction For Both the Buyer and the Seller, Regardless of Price or Locality!

Residential real estate: One to Four Family Dwelling

Summary (Courtesy of NYSLTA):

New Law Requires

Full Disclosure of LLC Members

On Friday, September 13, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed a bill that went into effect immediately, A7190/S1730 amends §1409 of the Tax Law and §11-2105 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York.

The law requires that when a grantor or grantee residential property is an LLC, all members be identified.

If a member of the LLC is another LLC or other business entity, the “members, managers or authorized persons” of said LLC or entity must be listed. This must continue until ultimate ownership by a natural person is achieved.

New York State Assembly Bill Summary

A07190 Summary:

BILL NO A07190
SPONSOR Zebrowski
COSPNSR Colton, Wright, Davila, Cook
Amd §1409, Tax L; amd §11-2105, NYC Ad Cd
Requires the real property transfer tax return relating to residential property sold or purchased by a limited liability company to include information on the ownership of such company.


A07190 Memo:

submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)

SPONSOR: Zebrowski
TITLE OF BILL:  An act to amend the tax law and the administrative
code of the city of New York, in relation to real property transfer tax
returns of limited liability companies
This bill requires limited liability companies to disclose the individ-
ual members of the company when it files a joint tax return for any sale
of real residential property that it is named the grantor or grantee in.
This only applies to residential property containing one-to four-family
dwelling units and requires that the joint tax return be accompanied
with a list identifying all the members, managers, and any other author-
ized persons of the company. This practice has been successfully imple-
mented in New York City as of 2015.  This bill seeks to codify the prac-
tice in New York City and apply it on a statewide level.
Section 1 of the bill adds a new subdivision (h) of Section 11-2105 of
the administrative code of the city of Now York to require any limited
liability company who is the grantor or grantee of a deed for residen-
tial real property containing one- to four-family dwelling units to
accompany the filing of any joint tax return a list identifying all the
members, managers, and any other authorized persons.
Sect on 2 of the bill incorporates the same provisions into section 1409
of the tax law into paragraph (a) for statewide application.

Section 3 of the bill establishes that this act will take effect imme-
The issue of transparency that this bill addresses is important because
when real estate transactions take place involving an LLC, those behind
the companies are often unable to be identified. This bill seeks to
address the anonymity and related concerns by requiring limited liabil-
ity companies that engage in residential property sales to disclose
their members when filing a joint property tax return.  This practice
has been successfully implemented in New York City as of 2015. This bill
seeks to codify the practice in the city and apply it on a statewide
Skoufis: 06/15/16 passed assembly.
Carlucci: 6/15/16 referred to Rules
Skoufis: 01/03/18 ordered to third reading
Carlucci: 1/03/18 referred to Investigations and Government Operations
The bill takes effect immediately.

Text of the full Bill can be found here.
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