Sunday, August 20, 2006

Opportunities for Independent Agents

Tremendous Opportunities Exist
These are exciting times in the title business. New Agents can make an tremendous impact in the market. The barrier to for most new Agents has been the the high cost of title plant access but this is no longer true in the Houston, Dallas and San Antonio areas.

There is now affordable access to title plants in the major markets. Integrity Title built the first new title plant in Harris County since 1967 (39 years) and the first new title plant in Dallas County since 1964 (42 years). Note: The Houston Business Journal article states, "in the past 12 years" because they were taking into account the demise of the North American (NATCO) Plant in Harris County.

Opportunties exist for Escrow Officers, Fee Attorneys, Approved Attorneys, medium size Home Builders, Mortgage Companies, Banks, Credit Unions and Real Estate firms to participate in the title business.

If you are a "Producer" such as a Home Builder or Real Esate Agent and want to join the title business you must follow all RESPA rules and and by definition you are considered an "Affiliated Business". Many Affiliated Businesses form AfBA's a/k/a Affiliated Business Arrangements with the cooperation of other land title professionals.

The title business is a "service" and "relationship" business. People don't do business with a particular company because of the name on the door. They do business with Agents because they like the Closer or the service they provide.

Title Agencies fear losing exceptional Escrow Officers /Closers who might leave and take business with them. Escrow Officers and Closers or Fee Attorney who can retain business and can properly capitilize an Agency may want to consider such a move. The questions they need to ask themselves are:

  • Do I currently share in the profits of the company I am working for?
  • How much business can I generate if I formed my own own agency?
  • How much more money can I make if I owned my own title agency?
  • Do I have the resources or do I need partners with other to capitalize the Agency?

Escrow Officers with an entrepreneurial spirit should consider the possiblity of starting an agency. Integrity Title Records will, in a confidential setting, provide prospective Agents with all the information they need to weigh the pros and cons of forming a stand-alone agency. For many, they will work the same hours, increase their income, own their own business, and build equity in something they might be able to sell later. These may be the compelling reasons to investigate this kind of opportunity.

I would argue, a branch office or lead escrow officer in a Fee attorneys' office already performs 70%-80% of what they need to know about operating an agency. The issues they will need help with are accounting, regulatory issues and Policy issuance. There are consultants and and other services that may be able to help them in these areas.

If a person is content doing what they are doing then they should stay put. But, if on the other hand, they want to grow personally and in business by owning an Agency they should at least explore owning an Agency.

I can not tell you how many times we talk to people who say, "I thought you had to be an attorney to be in the title business." This is not true but seems to be a common misperception.

Escrow persons do not always have to go it alone. Forming a Joint Venture with a builder or real estate company may provide the number of trasactions they need to establish a strong foundation for the growth of the business. Producers would like to participate in the title premiums legally but they need an experienced Escrow Officer or Examiner to assist them. So again, the time may be right to consider changing the Client-Vendor relationship into a true long-term partnership.

Affiliated Businesses - AfBA's
We will dedicate entire posts to AfBA's but the writing is on the wall. When the largest real estate company in world, Cendant (Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Prudential, etc...) buys the largest independent title Agency in Texas, Texas American Title Company then it is just a matter of time before every major real estate companies at least investigates the possibility of participating in the title business. [Article] This is a sea change in the title business in Texas and bodes well for those willing to step up and take advantage of the new market conditions.

For more information about becoming a Title Agency contact:

Paul Cones
Integrity Title Records, Ltd., LLP
9800 Northwest Frwy., St. 400
Houston, Tx 77092

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Land Title Blog - Welcome!

Welcome to the Land Title Blog.

The Land Title business is changing rapidly and communication is critical to success in our industry.

In major metropolitan areas, the large underwriter owned direct operations dominate the marketplace. We want to give a voice to independently owned and operated title agencies.

Our goals are to:

  • Help independent agents network with other agents to provide Title Evidence, Title Examination and Closing Services statewide and nationally
  • Increase the voice of independent agents with Title Insurance Underwriters
  • Help independent agents become the preferred providers to other independent Agents so we can compete effectively with Underwriter Direct operations
  • Use the Internet to reduce costs by sharing resouces such as Abstracters and Examiners to maximize productivity and profitability

Please comment on:

  • The future of the land title industry and particularly independent title agents
  • How we can work together as independents to secure a sound future
  • Your personal experience with major underwriter owned operations
  • Things/People to watch for i. e. Fraud alerts, unfair business practices, etc...
  • Regulatory and Legislative issues effecting independent agents and the industry
  • How you can take advantage of the changing market through ABAs or leveraging data
  • Title Anecdotes - "A funny thing happened on the way to the closing..."
  • Upcoming events and seminars
  • Other suggestions and critical commentary

We look forward to a constructive dialog which helps us to understand each other and our industry better.

Thank you.

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." -- Benjamin Franklin

Coming Soon:

  • Independent Agents & Direct Operations
  • Leveraging Your Greatest Asset - The Title Plant
  • Opportunities For Independent Title Agents
  • We have Exams, You have Examiners - Sharing Resources
  • Expanding The Circle of Influence - The Numbers Game
  • Livelihoods in Title - Hanging by a String