Friday, September 5, 2014

Title Insurance Companies Must Change Their Ways

In the last few years the real estate title industry has been in the news a lot more and usually it is not because of the good things they are doing. Most of the news has revolved around the illegal kickbacks and gifts they are giving to brokers in return for more business being sent their way. The latest story is from Washington and involves homeowners suing title agencies for providing illegal gifts to brokers and passing on extra charges to the customers. These stories have become far too common and in the Internet age it is only a matter of time before anyone who is in need of title insurance will be able to find similar stories. Because of the increased knowledge title insurance providers should take heed and change their ways. There is no way to hide this information from consumers and those title companies who are engaging in these illegal practices will pay the price and rightly so.

Before I go any further I need to discuss exactly what Title Insurance is. Title Insurance is an insurance policy to guarantee your ownership against claims, liens or judgments that might arise after your purchase or loan has been completed. Title insurance providers research and certify ownership of real estate before it is bought, sold or refinanced. They search state and municipal public records for the property and persons in the transaction. The investigation is thorough and complete. The title company will notify you and your attorney or lender of any claims that may challenge your ownership or the new loan on the property. Title insurance is a requirement in almost every state in the US and it serves to protect lenders and homeowners against losing their loan or home due to title inaccuracies or deceit.

The problems arise when title companies attempt to buy their business from real estate brokers, attorneys, and/or mortgage brokers. The practice of giving gifts and kickbacks in return for additional business is illegal in every state but many title companies ignore this. This practice has been ingrained in the title industry and the fact that customers were unaware of it has made it highly profitable and difficult to discover. That is until recently. Customers are becoming better educated on the closing process and in turn what title insurance is and how much it should cost. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of the increased availability of information because of the internet. Consumers now have instant access to all the information they want with a couple of clicks of their mouse. Title companies can no longer hide what they are doing from their customers.

In the past most consumers were unaware that they could choose their own title insurance company and instead used the company that their broker or attorney recommended. The fact is that this is just a recommendation and customers have a right to choose who they want to use for their title services. Armed with this knowledge customer have the ability to shop around and find the best price for their title insurance. When looking for a title service customers need to ask for a detailed breakdown of all fees and charges from each company and determine the best price. If a company refuses to give this information or try to tell you it is an estimate and the price may change at closing they are obviously hiding something. These companies should be eliminated immediately. Once the information is obtained from a number of companies the customer should review everything and choose the company they feel most comfortable with. And remember some brokers and attorneys rely on gifts and kickbacks so they may try to convince customers that they can't choose their own title company or otherwise try to steer them away from the customer's choice. If that happens they should look closer at the broker or attorney who they are working with because they are being less than honest about this. The customer can have all of the power if they properly educate themselves.

As more and more problems are being exposed in the title industry space is opening up for companies who are willing to change the way the title industry works. Some new companies are trying to change the way consumers view title insurance and closing services by offering services directly to the consumer. They do not rely on leads from brokers or attorneys and as a result they do not need to rely on kickbacks to get increased business. Their goal is to educate the consumer and give them the lowest possible rates and they can do this because they are not adding junk fees to cover the cost of gifts and kickbacks that other title companies have. They offer flat fee charges for title and settlement services and the quote that is received on the website is what the consumer pays at closing, there are no hidden charges that pop up during the closing process. What you see is what you get.

As the title industry gains more and more negative exposure title companies who are trying to change the way the business works will see more room for themselves in the market and this will greatly benefit consumers. When consumers are shopping for a home, mortgage, or even a refinance mortgage they do plenty of research to get exactly what they want and title insurance & closing services should be no different. It could mean the difference of thousands at closing. The internet helped consumers find new alternatives when it comes to mortgages and as they become more educated they will realize that they can save a significant amount of money by learning about title insurance and shopping around.