The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Justice Department are urging the Massachusetts House of Representatives to adopt a bill that would enable non-lawyers to compete with lawyers to perform certain real estate closing services. The agencies say that competition is likely to lower prices and enable better services.

The bill, HB 180, would amend Massachusetts law to authorize non-lawyers to perform real estate closing services, such as drafting deeds, mortgages, leases and agreements, examining titles, issuing title certification or policies of title insurance, and representing lenders as their closing agents.

“As the staff analysis shows, HB 180 is likely to benefit consumers in Massachusetts by encouraging competition that leads to lower prices, more convenient services and the option to use Internet-based loan services,” FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said.

R. Hewitt Pate, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Dept.’s Antitrust Division noted ways the bill could lower real estate closing prices. Lawyers typically charge more than other service providers, he said, and the increased competition from non-lawyers could cause the lawyers’ fees to decrease.

The two federal agencies in a letter to Massachusetts Representatives wrote that state supreme court decisions and academic studies indicate that consumers likely won’t face additional risk in non-lawyer closings.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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