The sky’s the limit and the slate is clean for suggestions, changes and input on how to improve the nation’s mortgage settlement process in today’s Department of Housing and Urban Development small-business roundtable.

“We’re starting over with a clean slate,” HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan has said of the roundtables, the first of which was held last Thursday.

This afternoon’s meeting in Los Angeles is co-hosted by the Small Business Administration and will seek business input on reform of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, known as RESPA.

The series of six roundtables were planned by HUD to collect input from consumers and industry professionals on how to simplify the home-buying process.

Three of the meetings, the first of which was last Friday, will be in Washington, D.C., and will include industry organizations. Today’s meeting is the first of the other three meetings, which are specifically designed to hear from the small-business community.

Today’s meeting will be attended by representatives from HUD and the Small Business Administration, as well as invited representatives from small- to medium-sized businesses

RESPA governs many aspects of the mortgage settlement process, and HUD is proposing changes to the Act to make the process simpler and easier for consumers to understand. The roundtables are an attempt to get industry input on the changes.

HUD’s original 2002 proposal would have changed the disclosure requirements for mortgage broker fees, including the yield spread premiums, simplified the good faith estimate form and permitted the sale of guaranteed-price bundled packages of mortgages and mortgage-related services.

These original proposals netted an unprecedented 45,000 comments during the public comment portion in 2002. Many of those came from within the real estate industry in opposition to the changes.

The 2004 proposed rule, formulated in response to the firestorm of comments, has been a mystery ever since. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson withdrew the agency’s proposal from the White House Office of Management and Budget in March 2004. Last Thursday’s meeting was the industry’s first look at the new proposed rules.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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