accessible? Despite the conveniences of the digital
age, many aspects of the transaction are best
handled in person, and some documents still need
“wet signatures” to be legally binding.
Title companies without many options as to brick and
mortar locations will offer mobile notary services,
but you sacrifice the benefit of working face-to-face
with the escrow officer or “closer” who put the transaction together. The closer is empowered to answer
questions, catch discrepancies in the documents,
make changes as needed to close the transaction
smoothly, as well as manage the process of funding
the transaction. A notary merely affirms the signatures
and cannot provide any
other service. And again,
you won’t pay any more
to sign documents with a
Who’s underwriting the
Like any insurance policy, title policies are underwritten by a financial holding company that would
pay the cost of a claim. The underwriter makes
the rules that determine whether your transaction
is insurable. This is a business decision that turns on
many factors that come up in researching the history
of the property. Are there gaps in the “chain of
title,” or the history of ownership? Are there buildings
that don’t conform to property lines? These issues
and hundreds more are considered when a title
underwriter assumes the risk of insuring the sale of a
property from one owner to another.
When choosing a title company, investigate whether
the company has multiple options as to underwriters.
Some companies are direct operations of national
underwriters, with just a single set of underwriting
guidelines. Other companies have the ability to write
policies on any of several underwriters. This makes
a difference on complicated transactions, when
the title company can shop around and choose an
underwriter with guidelines that offer workarounds.
Where is the title research handled?
Many large title companies have followed national
trends and sent behind-the-scenes jobs to other
states or other countries, particularly parts of the
title research process. On the ground in your town,
this can impact the ability of local employees to get
timely answers and solutions when there’s an issue to
be cleared up before closing the transaction.
Find out if the company you’re considering has a fully
staffed title department at their local headquarters,
or at least in your time zone.
What value-added service do I get?
Again, title companies in Texas can’t compete on
price, and those that are serious about standing out
from the herd offer a range of resources and services
to smooth and enhance the experience of buying or
selling a home.
Look for things like reports
and guides that help sellers
answer quest ions about
their property, and explain
the closing process for the
lay-person. Some offer
both printed and online resources that help buyers
learn about local schools, taxing authorities, and
communities. Some have online resources and mobile
applications to help you in estimating closing costs, and
connect you with branch locations and other resources.
Except… it’s negotiable in Texas
That is to say, buyers and sellers must ultimately come
together and agree on the choice of title company.
In Texas, the agreed upon title company is indicated
on the promulgated sales contract.
There are arguments on both sides of the issue as to
whether sellers or buyers should have their choice.
On the one hand, sellers sometimes need the
assistance of a title company to resolve known issues
that would complicate the sale, even before talking
to a potential buyer. And in Texas, typically the seller
pays for the title policy insuring the buyer (although
this is also negotiable). On the other hand, the buyer
is ultimately the insured party, and will have the
ongoing business relationship with the title company.
The important takeaway is that you as the consumer
have a voice and a vote. All title companies are not
the same, and a little research can help you make an
“ The important takeaway
is that you have a voice
and a vote.”