The real estate transaction process is complicated and often involves several professionals. If you haven’t been through the process, you may not know what a title company or real estate law firm does. After an offer is submitted, title and escrow professionals work behind the scenes to prepare and examine essential property documents. The title agent or real estate attorney acts as a neutral third party to find and clear any current liens on the property, oversee the closing process, disburse funds, and issue a title insurance policy.
Key roles within a title insurance operation:
- Title Processor
- Title Examiner or Abstractor
- Escrow Officer
- Closing Agent
- Underwriting Counsel
Related Reading: Is a career in the title industry right for you?
A title processor, or a paralegal at a law firm, is a vital administrative position in the day-to-day operations of a title company. This entry-level position doesn’t usually require a college degree and offers on-the-job training. Depending on the company’s size, title processors may also provide customer service support via phone calls or emails.
These employees will spend the majority of their day doing the following:
- Navigating title production software to open title orders
- Requesting title searches from underwriters
- Ordering other supplemental reports from third-party vendors
- Collaborating with co-workers and third-party professionals to resolve problems
- Providing administrative and customer support when needed
Most title companies offer processors the chance to shadow more experienced professionals during the closing process. So, there’s a lot of opportunities to move into a manager position or even start your own title company one day.
A Title Examiner reviews chain of title documents to determine who owns the property, if there are any lienholders with interest in the property, and prepare title commitments and policies based on the information. Sometimes a Title Examiner may specialize only in either residential or commercial transactions. Other job titles used interchangeably with Title Examiner include Title Officer, Title Clerk, Abstractor, or Data Abstractor.
In some cases, a Title Examiner may be an independent contractor.
Some of the usual tasks a title examiner performs include:
- Map legal descriptions of properties
- Use databases to search property records
- Find documentation related to property ownership and use rights
- Follow underwriting guidelines to produce title commitments and policies
- Work with attorneys to evaluate and resolve legal issues
While title examiners don’t need a law degree, the work they do require strong analytical skills, attention to detail, and enough understanding of local real estate laws to spot potential title defects. Some title companies don’t even require a college degree to work as a title examiner, but experience in the field is a must.
Related Watching: Dangerous Title Search Practices to Avoid
Title and escrow are often mentioned in the same breath, but they provide two distinct functions in a real estate transaction. Title refers to examining and issuing title policies for lenders and homeowners. Escrow is managing funds between buyer and seller as a neutral third party.
This distinction means that an escrow officer or agent will be in charge of tasks like:
- Preparing transaction documents like the closing disclosure
- Ensuring the buyer and seller have met financial obligations
- Preparing payoff demands for existing liens
- Holding and disbursing funds
- Verifying wiring instructions or other methods of sending funds
- Reconciling financial statements
An escrow officer is likely to help with other post-closing duties as well, like policy preparation and release tracking. Like a title examiner, escrow officers don’t necessarily need a college degree, but knowledge of the type of financial documents involved in a real estate transaction and compliance with state laws on handling funds is. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, start with the closing disclosure.
Learn more about how technology is changing the way money is moved in a real estate transaction. Listen to our interview with Paymints.io’s Jason Doshi.
The closing agent, sometimes called a settlement agent, is the professional who oversees the conclusion of the transaction at the closing table.
A closing agent is likely to:
- Coordinate the time and place of the closing
- Prepare the final closing packages for sellers and buyers
- Oversee the signing and notarization of closing documents
- Collect payments due at closing
In some cases, a title agent may perform the role of a title examiner, escrow officer, and closing agent. How this division of labor is divided is heavily dependent on state laws and the size of the title company. In some states, like Connecticut, an attorney must be present during the closing if the transaction requires title insurance. Others, like Florida, only require a licensed title agent to examine and issue the title policy.
Some lenders or title companies may outsource this work to a loan signing agent or notary signing agent. According to our 2021 State of the Title Industry report, many title professionals turned to mobile and remote notary signing agents to help handle the record volume of title orders.
Related Reading: Real Estate Professionals Every Notary Signing Agent Should Know
So far, all of the roles we’ve discussed don’t require a college degree, except this one. The Underwriting Counsel is a lawyer with extensive knowledge of real estate law and title insurance. Every title insurance policy must be underwritten by an entity willing to accept financial liability should a payout be required under the terms of the policy.
Some title insurance underwriters issue policies directly, while others work with independent title agents. Either way, the underwriting counsel provides legal insight to resolve complicated title issues.
Acting as one part advisor and one part therapist in stressful situations, the underwriting counsel is a valuable resource for title agents.
Other roles in the title industry
In addition to those responsible for producing quality title work, managing funds, and overseeing the closing, there are other professionals involved in the daily title operations. Administrators, accountants, account executives, sales representatives, and marketing specialists all play a role in sustaining a company. Learn more about the title industry by downloading the State of the Title Industry Report.
This content is provided for informational purposes only. PropLogix, LLC (PLX) is not a law firm; this content is not intended as legal advice and may not be relied upon as such. PLX makes no representations as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of this content. PLX may reference or incorporate information from third-party sources, upon which a citation or a website URL shall be provided for such source. PLX does not endorse any third party or its products or services. Any comments referencing or responding to this content may be removed in the sole discretion of PLX.