Who’s Who with the Local Title Companies

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With the recent developments, including Chapter 11 bankruptcy, surrounding LandAmerica; I thought it would be important to share with you "who's who" locally.   Due to the bankruptcy, some lenders are not accepting title policies backed by LandAmerica.  If you are buying or selling a home right now, please check with your lender or real estate agent to make sure your title company is acceptable.

Our market has many different "brand names" of title insurance companies and actually just a few actual title underwriters.   Here's a quick run down of how the local companies currently stand (note: this will be changing as Fidelity National Financial is in the process of buying LandAmerica if the transaction is successful):

The LandAmerica Title Insurance (currently going through bankruptcy and being acquired by Fidelity National Financial).  Note: percentage of ownership is based on this report effective December 31, 2007.  Hat tip to Matt Carter.

Commonwealth of Puget Sound = LandAmerica's underwriter named Commonwealth with 50% stake in Commonwealth of Puget Sound.  Windermere, along with independent broker/owners have financial interests.

Rainier Title, LLC = LandAmerica's underwriter named Lawyers with a 25% stake in Rainier Title LLC.  John L. Scott and Coldwell Banker Bain have financial interests. (See Update 12/9/2008 below for changes).

Northpoint Title and Escrow = LandAmerica is the underwriter through Lawyers and reported a 40% stake in Northpoint.

Fidelity National Financial (in the process of merging LandAmerica's title division).

Fidelity Title and Escrow = Fidelity.

Chicago Title and Escrow = Fidelity.

Ticor Title and Escrow = Fidelity.

First American Title Insurance Company

First American Title and Escrow = First American.

The Talon Group Title and Escrow = First American.

Pacific Northwest Title = First American.

Stewart Title and Escrow = Stewart Title

Old Republic Title and Escrow = Old Republic

As I mentioned, this list is scheduled to change.  Fidelity National Title hopes to have the LandAmerica merger complete by the end of this year…Fidelity called the merger off in the ninth hour in a previous attempt.  Currently some major lenders, including Countrywide, Bank of America, Flagstar US Bank and Chase, have LandAmerica companies on their "non-approved vendors" list which may cause a hiccup with transactions that are in process.

I will keep you posted a this story develops.

Update 12/3/2008: Countrywide will accept LandAm policies stating that Fidelity Reinsurance Treaties are acceptable when your title commitment shows Commonwealth or Lawyers as the insurer.

Update 12/5/2008:  Provident Funding issues memo stating they "will not accept title policies underwritten or escrow services provided by a LandAmerica subsidiary…"

Update 12/8/2008: Flagstar Bank has issued a memo stating they will "require all title commitments, title policies and closing protections to be in the name of the new entities" for loans registered after December 1, 2008.   Flagstar's memo also states that Land America affiliated settlement agents (escrow) "who have not been associated with a closing disbursement with Flagstar since September 8, 2008 will "expired" from their closing agent database.

Update 12/9/2008:  Rainier Title, LLC has announced "we have become an authorized policy issueing agent for Stewart Guaranty Company".   (No mention in the email of Fidelity or their proposed merger).

 

 

Comments

  1. Consumers should be looking for title agents that represent more than one underwriter.

    Our agency has three – we can move our clients to a different underwriter with virtually no disruption.

    Any title agency that isn’t set up that way might not be as concerned about their clients as their bottom line.

  2. Dave, title insurance isn’t done that way in our local market. Washington State requires that if someone is originating title commitments and collecting a title premium, they must own a title plant. I believe a title plant in King County runs about $2.5 – $3 million. I know in other parts of the country, you can be an agent and have a title company be your underwriter…not here.

  3. Rhonda – What’s the hiccup with lenders that you speak of? Have you had any of them not closing loans, or are they requiring a different title all together?

  4. Hi Di, we had to switch a title from Commonwealth of the Pacific this week. Our bank (where our credit line) will not allow us to fund loans with any LandAmerica affilates. This is also true with Countrywide, Bank of America, Chase and Flagstar (as of the last I’ve heard).

    If you have titles set up through one of these LandAmerica companies that I mentioned above, you might want to double check with your lender to make sure it’s acceptable. Some may not have an issue with the bankruptcy.

  5. Good to know these specifics – thanks for the timeliness of your post – this could save some headaches for our customers making moves right now.

  6. Hopefully this will come to closure soon with Fidelty actually going through with the merger. I feel for everyone involved at both title companies with a looming bankruptcy at LandAmerica and the Fidelity merger…there are a lot of unanswered questions for all involved.

    It’s also not fun as a Mortgage Professional to tell real estate agents and buyers/sellers that they have to switch title companies.

  7. I just heard this news at Thanksgiving dinner. Land America isn’t a player in Central Oregon, but I know that they are in Portland. We’ll see how this shakes out…

  8. Dylan, over our Thanksgiving dinner, family who saw Aubrey Cohen’s article said that they had a hard time keeping track of who owns who…hence this post

  9. Countrywide has backed off the LandAmerica affliated title companies and is now allowing policies with:

    “Fidelity Reinsurance Treaties are acceptable when your title commitment shows Commonwealth or Lawyers as the insurer.”

  10. Thanks for doing a great job keeping this post updated Rhonda – what a job to keep wading through all this! In your next life maybe you’ll work for CNN! (that’s a compliment 🙂

  11. Thanks, Di. Between my pre-lending background being 14 years of title insurance combined with the bad-spin some of the companies have put out with “business as usual” and “lenders are lying if they won’t accept our title policies”…I’ve feel very strong about putting as much factual data out as possible.

  12. It weird, there is nothing on the Chase wholesale website about this, no announcements that I’m aware of, and yet….the Chase rep tells me that I cannot use LandAm affiliates.

    Oh well, at least I knew to ask…

  13. Roger, now Stewart Title has entered as a suitor for LandAmerica Title companies too. This merger is not over and I don’t blame lenders for being protective during these times.

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