Local Title Company Raises Rates 30%

Normally this wouldn’t be big news…but when Northpoint Title decided to drop their rates well below market and agressively try to pull existing title orders from other companies only to raise their rates one month later, I think it’s worthy some attention. Here’s an example of an email from a Northpoint rep to a real estate agent (dated June 16, 2008):

"Just checking in to see what you thought about the new title rates.  Can you believe we are 28% lower??  This is fantastic!   Here is a price comparison on an average sales price of $275,000:

Fidelity/Chicago: $840.00

FATCO/Talon: $840.00

OUR RATE:  $605.00

This is a big difference in the bottom line for your clients.  Let me know if you have any titles  you would like me to pull over.  I would be thrilled to help you out!"

Northpoint is a Landamerica "venture".  This email excludes the other local Landamerica title companies (which represent 25% of the total resale market in King County alone), Commonwealth of Puget Sound and Rainier Title who’s title rates (at the time) were 33% higher than Northpoint at this price point.

This tactic was used an attempt to gain title business on existing transactions without any regard to what was negotiated in the purchase and sale agreement.   Not to mention the effort or cost involved in producing the all ready provided title commitments. 

Northpoint justified their deep rate cut because they were a "green" title company, promoting being paperless which many title companies are (this is not unique).  From a separate Northpoint email dated June 16, 2008:

"I have some good news!  Northpoint’s paperless workflow system has effectively reduced our waste and costs, resulting in tremendous costs savings.  To help consumers in today’s challenging real estate market, we ahve decided to pass this savings on to your clients.  We filed new, lower rates with the Office of Insurance Commissioner and the rates became effective on Tuesday, June 10th…Please pass along this good news to your clients.  I look forward to working with you."

On July 7, 2008, Northpoint suddenly was not green anymore nor were they planning on passing any savings along to consumers.  Just shy of one month, they filed a rate increase following their huge marketing blitz all based on rate.  Presentations were being made to offices promoting the low rates even after the new higher rate was filed with the State.

Effective August 1, 2008, Northpoint’s rates are the same as Commonwealth of Puget Sound and Rainier Title.  They are 33% higher than what they’ve been pushing (and pulling) over the past month.   They are in line with the other title companies rates.

Title rates are not changed on a whim.   If you’re a long time reader of Mortgage Porter, you know that my background is title insurance and escrow and that my husband is in the title industry.   As a former manager, I can tell you that title rates are discussed and studied several weeks if not months.   Not to mention the time and effort it takes to file rates with the State.  (Washington title rates are public record, filed in Olympia).

In my twenty+ years in the real estate industry, I have never witnessed a title company use what appears to be bait and switch.      



  1. Wow…

    I’m sure that went over well with the agents in the area.


  2. Jeff, I don’t think local agents know yet…I doubt the reps are putting as much getting the word out about an increase to rate as much as they did the drop.

  3. From the sounds of it, ‘Tough times calls for desperate measures’ But this one is something is pretty new for me. Tsk tsk. Not good.

  4. Reno, I agree 100%.

  5. Have you checked with Northpoint to find out why they did this? Perhaps you will find there’s much more behind this story than just some company trying to get away with the extremely obvious. The owners of Northpoint have been in this business for a long time and have a reputation of integrity and quality.

  6. Curious,
    I’m curious too as to why they promoted the low rate when the higher rate had all ready been filed.

  7. Curious, if you hear more info about this, please let me know. I’d be happy to consider adding it to this post (or write a new one).

  8. I asked my contacts inside Northpoint for the rest of the story. I suggest you all do this, too.

    As it turns out, Northpoint is sincere in the cost-savings changes they have made inside the Title side of their business. As soon as the Insurance Commissioner OK’d the new, lower rates, the other big title companies threatened action… Apparantly, they cannot compete on cost/price./service, so they went the way of so many others – they threatened to start legal action.

    So, Northpoint put their rates back on par with the inefficient players, and their profitability has to be 30%+ higher.

    The other shoe has not yet dropped… as the State’s Attorney General and the Insurance Commish are looking further into this. Can you say “collusion”?

  9. Greg,

    Which big title company(s) was threatening a suit?

    Why would Northpoint react so quickly by a threat with no grounds when the Insurance Commissioner APPROVED the low rate?

    What grounds would the lawsuit be based on?

    Why would Northpoint react so quickly by an empty threat?

    I welcome more details about collusion.

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