May 13th, 2012, Jeff Collins
Advantage Title, a title insurance and escrow firm headquartered in Newport Beach, recently launched its Title365 product, which allows real estate professionals and their clients to monitor progress of their escrow online. (Escrow is the period between the signing of a real estate purchase contract and the closing when the property actually changes hands.) We asked American Advantage President Peter Derbonne to tell us about his new product and about what he’s seeing in the real estate market …
Us: What’s the new vibe in title and escrow services?
Title and escrow are still the same process, so that hasn’t changed. What has changed is that there are technology-driven companies offering new ways of delivering the product that open the curtain so everyone can see what is going on during the process. Consumers have the power to choose the winners and losers on the Internet which we believe will ultimately improve efficiency and communication during a real estate sale or refinance.Peter: The new vibe starting to take hold in title services centers on transparency and full disclosure to the consumer.
Us: Tell us about your new title insurance and escrow tracking service.
Peter: As a homebuyer, borrower or seller, you can go onto Title365.com and view the status and detail of your title insurance and escrow order on our OrderTrac system from start-to-finish.
It’s the first system of its kind where consumers are notified, along with their Realtor or lender, about relevant events as an order progresses. Everyone can secure, share and print documents as they become available. Even after the order closes, recorded documents are available indefinitely which makes it easy, for example, when you need closing documents as you prepare your tax return.
Us: How is this new and why is there a need for it?
Peter: Traditionally, buyers and sellers have been unsure as to exactly what title insurance is and why they need it, not to mention the steps involved in securing real estate. The professionals involved in the process work behind the scenes so the cost and process details are often a mystery to many buyers and sellers.
We created Title365.com so consumers can see for the first time what’s happening as it happens. This supports the idea of “transparency” and knowledge for the consumer’s benefit. Right now, it’s a perfect storm thanks to mass adoption of technology, social media, and mobile devices. This on-the-go access means homebuyer and seller education and access is more important than ever for us to best meet their needs.
Us: Can consumers go online and use these services too?
Peter: Yes, absolutely. A professional working on behalf of a consumer instantly opens escrow or orders title insurance on Title365.com, and from that point on, the process is event-driven so everyone has access to a personalized portal within the system to get real-time updates and documents outlining every step as it happens, 24/7.
Traditionally, a buyer, seller or their agent has to place a call to escrow for status or to get a document and then wait for an email or messenger. Communication and social media tools are also built-in so all parties can interact before, during and after an order closes.
Us: Are you seeing any signs of a housing recovery?
Peter: From a title insurance and escrow viewpoint, we’re seeing Notice of Defaults (NODs) and foreclosures on the decline and an uptick in title and escrow orders overall. Once people see that buying can be cheaper than leasing, it’s always a good sign for housing recovery.
Us: How does the volume and type of business you’re seeing today compare to, say, a year ago?
Peter: We’re seeing the type of business change. Today, there is a reduction in the amount of foreclosures and an increase in short sales and traditional sales from a year ago.
Us: Does the amount and type of activity you’re seeing in Orange County stand out from other areas you service?
Peter: Orange County stands out from other areas because the activity has been healthy up and down the coast whereas in the Inland Empire, for example, our sales reps have pockets that are busy while others are slow.
In Ohio, Florida and Michigan, for example, we’re still seeing a good number of foreclosures in relation to short sales and traditional transactions.
Us: How much longer until the housing market has “recovered?”
Peter: If you look at all the market indicators — housing affordability, days on market and listing inventory — how quickly the market recovers depends on many factors. If all things are equal, we are on our way to a nice recovery.