How do you pick a title company?

Asked by Home Buyer, Mountain View, CA Wed Aug 1, 2012

What do you look out for when picking a title company? Is it a rate comparison activity, credibility check or other factors?

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11
Juliana Lee, Agent, Palo Alto, CA
Wed Aug 1, 2012
BEST ANSWER
Locally, title companies act as escrow agents. Many real estate agents develop preferences and avoidances for particular title companies because of the effort the title officers and representatives have shown they are willing to make. Having an escrow fail to close on a Friday because someone at the title company didn't make a phone call will probably put that title company at the bottom of the list.

There are few problems with titles and when there are problems the title companies normally quickly solve them. Realistically locally title companies are probably seldom chosen because of their title duties. Their escrow duties are much more visible.

Real estate agents quickly identify individuals at title companies who put extra effort into making sure the escrow moves ahead smoothly and closes when planned. If the key title people move to a different company, the real estate agent will also probably try the new company to keep the same title person(s) working on her escrows.

Ask several agents which title company (and representative) they like to work with. As long as the company is one of the major companies, you will probably get a good title insurance policy and diligent escrow work.

The most visible action done by a title company for a buyer or seller is the estimated closing cost statement and final closing cost statement. A real estate agent can give a buyer or seller an estimate but the title company has more precise specific information. I have a web page which presents estimated closing costs which in turn shines light on some of the things that happen during escrow.
http://www.julianalee.com/reinfo/closing-costs.htm

Juliana Lee
4 votes
The complete list of title companies that are located near you can be found here:

http://titlecompanies.net

For more title company listings near year, you can also visit homeclosing101.com
Flag Fri Jan 27, 2017
I would suggest looking for Organically ranked sites on the web. Not pay per click ads as the organically ranked sites have more authority on the subject.

https://www.ustitlerecords.com

I.E. US TITLE RECORDS
Flag Thu Dec 29, 2016
The title company is to be selected by the buyer, unless the seller is paying for both the Owner's Title Policy and Mortgage Title Policy. This is a RESPA law, which I've pasted directly from the HUD.gov website. This is a law nationwide, not state specific. Please read below.

Section 9: Seller required title insurance
Section 9 of RESPA prohibits a seller from requiring the home buyer to use a particular title insurance company, either directly or indirectly, as a condition of sale. Buyers may sue a seller who violates this provision for an amount equal to three times all charges made for the title insurance.
Flag Mon Dec 22, 2014
Alexiskanee, Home Buyer, South Miami, FL
Thu Jun 11, 2015
You should work with one that your lender or agent trusts to provide a smooth closing process. However, I strongly disagree with the comment that you should automatically use the one with the lowest fees. Here's why... The smaller "mom and pop" title companies typically have slightly lower fees than the big corporate title companies (Stewart, Chicago, First American, Heritage, Land, etc). However, small title companies tend to fail and go out of business with little notice. If this happens, they often go under without funding the mortgage pay-offs that they have pending. Obviously this is not good!

Reference Link: http://titlecompanies.net/
5 votes
Bill Mccord, Agent, San Jose, CA
Wed Aug 1, 2012
First understand who chooses the Title and Escrow Companies. This varies from County to County and is normally determined by who pays. For example; in Santa Clara County the Seller pays and therefore chooses. In Alameda County the Buyer pays and chooses.
If it turns out you will be paying then the best advice I can give you is to use the company your Agent suggests. We all have long standing relationships with specific escrow officers and work as a team to deal with issues which may arise.
You have no reason to fear about kickbacks for such situations. The RESPA act is very effective in dealing with any illegal activities and guilty parties are severly punished even to the point of loosing their licence in addition to substantial fines.
Good Luck
Bill
p.s. Your crash course would be greatly facilitated by chosing a competent Realtor to guide you through the process. The reality of life is that when you set out you have no way of knowing what questions to ask.
2 votes
Elena Talis, Broker, Palo Alto, CA
Wed Aug 1, 2012
For me it's the reputation, and not just the title company but the particular officer I am working with. Saying that, I had good experience with First American, Chicago Title and Cornerstone.
Web Reference:  http://talisrealestate.com
2 votes
Good point
Flag Mon Aug 10, 2015
Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Thu Aug 2, 2012
Well, it is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Here's hoping you've picked up enough information to buy safely.

All the best,
1 vote
Home Buyer, Home Buyer, Mountain View, CA
Wed Aug 1, 2012
Thanks all for sharing your insights and experience. In this virtual age online research is supplementary to having an agent. I find that knowing what questions to ask in order to go through the cycles of the decision process helps tremendously.
1 vote
Arpad Racz, Agent, San Jose, CA
Sat Nov 12, 2016
Hi,

I would ask for recommendations from local agent's. Often it is the individual escrow / title agent that may be reviewed.

Kind regards,

Arpad
0 votes
Greentekfirst, Both Buyer And Seller, Dover, DE
Tue Nov 8, 2016
All of the above. Search engines like Google usually spend much effort creating algorithms to differentiate title search websites with true athority on the subject rather than the pay per click advertisements that you might see at the top of some of these pages for related searches. Property records and information are only available through one source, the county recorder's office. Most counties do not offer public access to lien and mortgage information however. Therefore the need for title plants came about when records and documents begin the process of being indexed and entered online. This made the availability of these records more accessible through licensed companies like US TITLE RECORDS and other similar sites for document retrieval.

Our firm uses: https://www.ustitlerecords.com

Compared to industry standards, it's a fairly quick turnaround at under an hour and accessible online with no login. FREE foreclosure activity reports are provided for any property reflecting current and recorded foreclosure activity.
0 votes
Hi, Home Buyer, Highland Park, MI
Sun Aug 21, 2016
How do I pick a good real estate title company
0 votes
Doug, Home Buyer, Minneapolis, MN
Mon Aug 10, 2015
Cheaper actually is better when you are comparing title firms. Title firms are mostly far over-priced because of hidden (or semi-disclosed) relationships between real estate professionals (or their firms) and title companies. Those financial relationships (kickbacks) cost money and create terrible conflicts of interests.

A title company investigates and examines title and makes important title and closing decisions. Do you really want those decisions influenced by someone who has a contingent fee riding on the transaction closing? Real estate professionals who help their clients avoid those conflicts of interests will find better prices for their clients and far better service.

Imagine the financially distressed home builder who requires home buyers to use their in-house title firm. The title firm finds underlying blanket mortgages, tax liens, unpaid mechanics liens and reports those as objections to title and closing to the home seller who is also the builder. The builder has the power to actually tell the title company to ignore those objections and close the transaction. Not an unlikely scenario for a builder who is strapped for cash. The buyer inherits a mess of title problems, but the builder, Realtor and loan officer all get paid their fees.

You want a title company that is independent of these relationships, one that has attorneys on staff, one that actually shops underwriters on price and coverage and you want a Realtor who knows how to compare title policy coverage and who can navigate these complex issues without exposing you to conflicts. Check with http://www.nailta.org to find independent title companies near you.

Hope that helps.
0 votes
Richard and…, Agent, Fresno, CA
Tue Aug 28, 2012
Consult your Agent, they know the local title companies and which agents get the job done!
GOOD LUCK.
0 votes
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