For Title Resources, it’s all about delivering the highest quality services to title agents, real estate agents and consumers. That’s why throughout the firm’s 30-plus years of history—from its inception in 1984, to its current presence as an underwriter in nearly 30 states nationwide—Title Resources still looks to personalized service and education as the cornerstone of its success. Here, President & CEO Scott McCall explains just why the company has earned a reputation as ‘The Real Estate Industry’s Underwriter.’
Maria Patterson: First, tell us a little about the background of Title Resources.
Scott McCall: The company was originally formed in 1984 as Title Resources Guaranty Co. by a local underwriter in Texas. In 2006, Title Resources was acquired by Title Resource Group (TRG), a national settlement services provider, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE:RLGY).
The acquisition by TRG allowed us to make a concentrated effort to elevate Title Resources from primarily operating in one state to its current status of being licensed in nearly 30 states across the nation. Since TRG operates over 40 title agencies coast to coast, the benefit of having an underwriter like Title Resources enables TRG to offer a full complement of services to the consumer—ranging from real estate brokerage services through Realogy’s company-owned brokerage operations, a full complement of title, escrow and settlement services, and now title underwriting services. We’ve grown substantially as a title insurer, and we hold some of the highest financial ratings in our industry.
MP: Even though Title Resources is owned by Realogy, you’re also a major underwriter for other competitive real estate firms. How does that work?
SM: Since 2009, we’ve grown our underwriting business effectively throughout TRG’s operational footprint and across Realogy and its affiliated brokerage firms. In addition, we’ve also grown through relationships with title agencies owned by competitors of Realogy, like Long & Foster, Windermere and HomeServices of America. Each of those companies has their own title and settlement services operations, yet we’re the largest underwriter for Long & Foster and Windermere, and one of the largest for HomeServices. Why would a company want to have Title Resources as their underwriter when we compete on the real estate side? Because we all fight the same fight on behalf of the consumer, which is to provide them with the best quality service possible.
MP: Why are you viewed as the underwriter built for the real estate industry?
SM: First, we understand the business demands of our clients. Secondly, we have proven ourselves to be a highly responsive and trusted partner who provides agents with the highest quality tools and services. We can provide more local focus and local attention than large companies. If I have 5,000 title agencies, I’ve got conflicting interests in various locations. Because we work with far fewer companies, we’re able to focus on the trends in their respective markets to get them the training and education they need. That’s one of the reasons companies see us as built for real estate.
MP: Why do you believe in a selective strategy when it comes to growth?
SM: I previously worked for a national title underwriter where we were contracted with over 10,000 title agencies. At Title Resources, we work with less than 200 title agencies, which are some of the largest in the country with the highest quality. By being selective, we can allocate our time and resources to helping our title agent customers grow their business with us. We have found that our consultative approach when working with title agents is mutually beneficial. When our agents grow, we grow—it’s that simple.
We are also focused on risk management when it comes to our growth. By choosing to work with companies that are well run and well capitalized, we are able to minimize occurrences of fraud. Because of the amount of money that moves in a real estate transaction, escrow accounts can often be in the millions of dollars. When money is stolen by a title agent, Title Resources is here to honor its title policies and to provide protection to its consumers and lenders.
Being selective in who we work with gives us the ability to control the transaction. We are dealing with some of the most respected companies in the country. Our agents are similarly focused on the consumer and are actively working with us to mitigate risks and prevent fraud.
MP: What are some of the risks involved?
SM: Hackers and fraudsters recognize that there’s a lot of money in this industry. There are a lot of attempts to misdirect funds from the closing, therefore, it’s incumbent upon us to put in the proper protections. For example, a hacker may target a real estate agent and attempt to send an email using that agent’s email address with a request to change the wire instructions. At Title Resources, we’ve issued guidance to our agents that they can no longer accept emails if there’s any attempt to change wire instructions. All parties have to sign off on such changes face-to-face. Fraud in real estate is a serious concern today, and we are doing our best on the front lines to combat it and protect all parties involved—most importantly, the consumer.
MP: What are your growth plans?
SM: We have a very strategic model, and we’re very focused on growth while being selective about the number of title agencies that we underwrite. We’re focused on our bread and butter, which is the residential real estate business, and we are always looking at opportunities to partner with best-in-class operations that share our goals.
MP: Given the regulatory environment that exists today, how has your philosophy changed related to your owned title agencies and your independent title agencies?
SM: Many of the changes in the regulatory environment, which are a result of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) trying to protect the consumer, are already being done by our company. We’re making sure that the privacy of consumer information is held in the strictest confidence. We’re very fortunate because we already work within the highest levels of ethics and professionalism.
MP: How does Title Resources stay ahead of the curve in terms of regulatory changes?
SM: By staying engaged. One of the keys is making sure we’re constantly working with organizations like the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the Real Estate Services Providers Council (RESPRO) and ALTA (American Land Title Association). Realogy has government affairs resources that we leverage, and I’m also personally active on Capitol Hill. You have to make sure you’re out in front, and once you get wind of something, you have to stay ahead of the curve.
MP: How do you differentiate the firm in the market?
SM: In many states, rating bureaus set the fees for all companies, so we’re not competing on price as much as we’re competing on service. It’s all about being responsive—is the consumer being kept in the loop enough? There are ways to make the transaction effective and efficient without having to involve the consumer too much.
MP: What attracts quality employees to Title Resources?
SM: One of the great joys for us has been building this thing from scratch. We started with 30 employees and now we’re up over 200. Our strength has been our ability to attract quality people—some of the best underwriters and lawyers in the United States. We have one of the most flexible workplaces I know, and we believe it’s very important for people to have quality of life and balance.
MP: Training appears to be a cornerstone of your value proposition. Do you expect this to continue?
SM: Yes, education and training are a core part of who we are as a company. As an example, with the most recent TRID changes, we produced a custom educational platform called Shine Bright, which could be co-branded with our clients so that the title agents we work with can share informative material with consumers about all the regulatory changes that affect them. Our clients were very pleased—it gave them the opportunity to show their customers that they were on top of the changes. Post TRID, we continue to offer the Shine Bright platform to our title agent customers containing marketing materials that are geared toward helping them be more successful with their real estate agent clients.
MP: What is your view of where settlement services will be in 5 – 10 years?
SM: I would like to see it be a lot less paper intensive. I also hope the mortgage process becomes a little less painful, allowing consumers to shop more effectively. Right now, your credit report gets dinged if you go to three or four lenders. I’d like to live to see the regulators work with credit reporting agencies to come up with a way for consumers to more effectively shop for a mortgage. I’d also like to see more people become interested in getting into the title industry—it’s an exciting business to be in.
The Title Underwriter ‘Built for the Real Estate Industry’
In addition to serving Realogy-affiliated real estate brokerages, Title Resources also has become a valued title underwriting partner for other leading brokerage firms and their related title and settlement services companies. Here’s why:
“Even though Title Resources is owned by Realogy, the company has resources that are useful for many of our title partners. Title Resources has a good understanding of the affiliated business model used by HomeServices companies. It is a high-touch, service-oriented underwriter. The Title Resources staff has assisted with training, underwriting and marketing. Their materials around TRID were excellent, and several of our companies used those to help educate real estate agents and loan officers through the implementation process.”
– Jim Lamphere, Vice President,
Title & Escrow, HomeServices of America
“Title Resources provides us with some services that our other underwriters do not, which, in turn, enables us to provide additional education and training to our customers and staff. They are quick to respond to questions and problems as well. This enhances the overall service that we provide, which helps us build our business. In addition, the people with which we partner at Title Resources are true professionals.”
– Barbara Griest, President,
Trident Land Transfer Company, a HomeServices of America Company
“We were interested in partnering with an underwriter that was a good size, but did not have direct operations we would be competing with. Title Resources is a hands-on firm, such as ours. They handle claims with the highest level of professionalism, which is paramount in growing a strong title agency.”
– Don Riley, President/CEO,
CW Title and Escrow Company, Windermere Real Estate
“Title Resources understands affiliated business. They understand what it’s like to be held accountable to get deals to the table, but they know we can’t cut corners because of our affiliation. They’re working hard on technology that can change the title landscape. They are able to get us together with peers from around the country to exchange ideas, and they had a great TRID marketing campaign for agents to use.”
– Mike Maddiex, President,
Long & Foster Settlement Services
For more information, visit www.titleresources.com.