Over the past three years, we’ve been surveying title professionals to learn more about what it’s like working in a “hidden industry.” By most title professionals’ accounts, many didn’t dream of curing title defects when they were kids. While many seem to fall into the profession by chance, it’s an indispensable role in real estate closings that requires time to perfect.
To shed some light on the inner workings of the industry, we’ve compiled answers to this year’s survey in a comprehensive report.
Here are some of the highlights from the 2020 State of the Title Industry report.
The 2020 State of the Title Industry
Who we surveyed
This year, we had over 450 title and real estate professionals respond to our survey, including real estate agents in addition to title and escrow professionals. Here’s a breakdown of the demographics of this year’s respondents:
- The largest age group of respondents is 55-64 (27.9%).
- 75% of the respondents are female.
- 27.2% of respondents identified their role as closers and/or escrow officers. The second-largest segment of respondents were either owners or partners.
- 82% work for an independent title agency.
Orchestrating a seamless closing and clearing nuanced title defects requires finesse and confidence that takes time to develop. Mention of the “Silver Tsunami” has subsided during 2020, but it’s still a significant concern and evident in the demographics of our survey respondents.
Title insurance underwriters are announcing record-breaking volumes of title orders this year despite the early worry that the pandemic and government lockdowns would curtail real estate deals. Staying afloat in the flood of orders has taken precedence over the tsunami for now.
The Biggest Challenges for Title Professionals
We ask about the biggest challenges every year, and while many are common in every industry, like finding ways to generate new business or lack of time to complete job responsibilities, some are unique to title insurance.
Our respondents said the following were the biggest challenges:
- Unexpected delays
- Not enough time to complete tasks
- Finding ways to generate new business
- Educating real estate agents, buyers, and sellers
- Implementing changing technology
- Hiring and Training new staff
- Issues or conditions missing in the commitment
- Wire fraud and cybersecurity
When broken down by job role, we see a shuffle in the rankings of biggest challenges. For owners, CEOs, and other executives, generating business, hiring and training staff, and implementing changing technology scores much higher than for closers, processors, and attorneys.
Surprisingly, wire fraud and cybersecurity didn’t break the top five for either group this year. As guardians of the transaction, wire fraud is no doubt still on the minds of many professionals as cybercriminals continue to threaten the American dream of families like the Fishers. They are one of the latest victims to have their hopes of owning the perfect home snatched away along with $921,235.10 in funds by a hacker who infiltrated the email chain between the Fishers, their real estate agent, and representatives from the title company.
The Fishers’ story is one among many reminding us that the problem isn’t going away. In this video with Jason Somers from Landcastle Title, he reiterates some of the important tips to avoid becoming a victim.
When buying a home, a title agent is one of the many professionals involved in the real estate process. The work they do and the insurance policy they issue ensures the new owner is protected from losing their investment due to an error in the public record or some other title defect.
Here are some of the statistics from the report showing what the daily operation is like for title agents:
- 93% do only or mostly purchase/resale title orders.
- 76% issue simultaneous lender and owner title insurance policies.
- 21.5% personally handle 1-5 closings a month, followed by 6-10 (17.1%), 11-15 (14.6%), and 16-20 (13%).
- Of those who handle zero closings a month (12%), and the majority of those are in leadership roles like CEO, president, partner, or other executives. However, 40% of respondents in these roles are handling 6-30 closings a month.
- On average, 2 to 3 people are most likely to be working on a single file.
Tackling Challenges and Changes in Real Estate
This year has presented some unique and unpredictable challenges to real estate and title professionals. Designation as essential workers amid the shutdowns, adoption of remote solutions, and homebuyer demand that was only momentarily dampened has allowed the title industry to thrive despite a pandemic that has ravaged other industries.
To deal with the flood of title orders, outsourcing pieces of title production and property research works for some title companies and law firms. In fact, 71% said they outsource title searches and 75% outsource municipal lien searches to “focus on other aspects of the closing.” Only 8.6% said, “there is no benefit” to outsourcing.
For the first time, we also asked real estate agents about their thoughts on topics like iBuyers, who should pay for title searches in the closing costs, and qualities they look for in a title company.
Download the report to learn more and join us on November 17th at 11 am EST for our roundtable discussion with Diane Tomb, Melissa Murphy, and Robin Morgan.