Jason Somers has been working in the title insurance world since 1994 and grew up around the business. As a self-described 2nd-generation “title kid,” he’s sharing with us his insights on the challenges of cooling real estate markets in Florida and catering to millennial homebuyers. Check out our video series where he shares his expertise and outlook for the title industry.
Recently, Amanda Farrell, content strategist for PropLogix, had the chance to sit down with Jason, President of Land Castle Title Group, LLC., a Fidelity National Financial-owned company. His career has taken him from the agency side to the underwriter side, so he has a varied perspective from his experience in the industry. We covered a lot of topics facing title insurance professionals and in this blog, we’re focusing on his thoughts on the cooling housing market, how title agents and agent-attorneys can maintain their business during those times, and the keys to catering to millennial buyers.
Comparing the Florida housing market to the rest of the U.S.
Jason says that Florida is unique because we have everything that most people want. Between sun and sand, the positive population growth of about 1,000 new residents daily, tourism, and no state income tax, a lot of people like Florida. This means that Florida’s housing market is more insulated than the rest of the country, but there are pockets throughout the state that are seeing a slowdown in real estate transactions, but other markets are seeing tremendous growth.
What are your thoughts about all that recession talk?
As an optimist, Jason says regardless of what he hears in the press, he takes a close look at what the number of contracts his company is seeing and what their clients are seeing to getting a better read on what’s ahead. He says they have a lot better luck by focusing on what’s 30, 60, or 90 days out to determine what’s to come than trying to peer into a crystal ball. He adds that certain markets Land Title Castle Group operates in are down, but some of them are actually up. He says projections that 2019 will be flat is far preferable to having a down year overall: “We’ll take flat.”
Advice for independent agencies trying to compete in the current market
Jason suggests that title agencies should be looking at metrics like average fees per file, the number of transactions you’re getting in on a daily basis versus the number of transactions you’re actually closing on a daily basis. It’s important to track these metrics because it’s easy to feel like you’re really busy as Friday rolls around if you’re closing a lot of files at once. You may be so distracted that you don't realize you’re actually getting fewer new orders in the door. Since it’s impossible to control the market, be aware of your closing ratio -- how many new orders you bring in compared to how many you actually close. If you want to keep your revenue stable, you may need to increase your efforts to bring in new clients so you’re closing as many as you did the month before.
How the housing industry is trying to meet the demands of millennial homebuyers
Since millennial homebuyers are favoring new builds and walkable communities, homebuilders are faced with the challenge that new land doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Downtown areas that can meet the millennial criteria with townhomes in pocket boutique communities are popping up, but then you run into the issue of affordability. More and more, builders are creating complete, self-contained communities to meet these needs, but it’s increasingly difficult to find the space in Florida.
Curbing the growing occurrence of millennial home purchase regrets
A poll from Bankrate shows that 63% of millennial homebuyers expressed regret with their current home purchase, compared to 44% of all homebuyers polled. While both numbers are high, it’s two-thirds of millennials that experienced buyer’s remorse. Top reasons for the remorse included maintenance and hidden costs. Jason says a way to combat this is to make sure that buyers are better educated and know exactly what they’re signing.
One way they’re working on that is through a podcast run by two title professionals from their subsidiary company, Majesty Title Services, in Tampa, FL. The podcast is called Millennials360Life and covers topics like personal finance, student debt, career, and home buying.
Educating buyers on the importance of an owner's title insurance policy
According to Jason, the age-old question of how we educate homebuyers about title insurance is one that we all need to work on. He says that we’re in a great, hidden industry in terms of the value that title insurance brings to lenders and homebuyers. It’s about education, but it’s tough because title professionals are really busy doing their work. He says that state and national associations are doing great outreach work to educate not just millennials, but all consumers.
Jason says it’s especially important for Land Castle Title Group to make sure that the customers sitting at their closing table know what documents they’re signing their name to and that they ensure that experience for every customer.
Special thanks to Jason Somers for his valuable insights. We talked about so many different title industry topics that we’re already working on a second part to this video series.
Speaking of title industry topics that are important to you, we’re getting ready to release our second-ever State of the Title Insurance Industry report, but first, we’ll be holding a webinar on Wednesday, July 10 to share what we found. If you like staying informed about the industry around you, click below to sign up!