Absolutely true. I've had some terrible experiences at title companies not of my choosing and always prefer to work with a handful of time-tested superior closers. If it's not a foreclosure, choice of the title company is usually negotiable. The seller can't force the buyer to use one company over another, however.
I want the deal to go to a title company that I know. Period. I don't care about what kind of cookies they bake, I don't care if they are grumpy and unwelcoming. I just want them to do the deal right, with no drama, no nasty little last minute charges. The best escrow agent I have ever known is never going to get nominated for Ms Congeniality. I take her my business because she is extraordinarily competent. The first time I ever closed with her, I sat there with my hands folded, more or less in shock. There was nothing for me to do. That isn't what usually happens. This escrow officer explained every document perfectly, in a way that it was obvious that my client was following her. She checked in with them to make sure they got it. She paced it right. She explained everything. What a pro!
Having an interested and competent escrow agent working to close my deal can be the difference in a deal being heavenly or horrible. And, don't forget the impact of a good escrow assistant. Title work is a team effort.
I can't always drive the deal to my title company but if there is any chance at all of that happening, I am going to try and make it happen. Having said that, there are deals where I have absolutely no control or even input into where the closing happens. Bank-owned properties are the prime example. If you want to buy a foreclosed property you will be using whatever title company the bank designated. That is just how it is going to happen.
When you buy a foreclosed property, your contract is going to get delivered to whichever title insurance company was the low-bidder when the bank put out a RFP for an escrow company. In Texas, title insurance fees are set by the state. There isn't any part of the title policy that can be reduced by the title company. What there is for a title company to negotiate are all the other fees that get charged. And, believe me, the banks have done that negotiating.
Many of the monumentally bad experiences that I have had were with foreclosed properties. Examples:
- The title company lost the file. I spent two days digging through THEIR filing cabinets. This was a long time ago, before emailed documents. Paper files were a whole lot more important at that time. The title company staff wasn't available to look for THEIR file but they were willing to let me do it. Seriously. I had unrestricted access to their business files for two days. You read that right. I was unsupervised, digging my way through every filing cabinet in the building. And this went on for two days until I found the file.
- The buyer and I spent almost an hour driving to the fringe of our metropolitian area (why are these places always located in some obscure place?) only to be told that they weren't going to be able to close as scheduled because of something along the lines of an office baby shower had taken priority over our business. Scheduled business. It was on their calendar. They just didn't care.
- In another transaction, the buyer's name, although correct on the contract, got put on all the paperwork incorrectly. We didn't spot it until after the closing. So many other things were wrong at that closing that I just didn't catch it. The mistake was discovered about 6 weeks later when my client got the recorded deed back in the mail. By that time, the title company had gone bankrupt. Their files were distributed to the remaining state-approved underwriting companies (there are only a handful of them in Texas). It took two years to get a correction deed issued, signed and filed. That file would come up to the surface of my desk periodically and I would make phone calls and send out emails and get promises and then nothing would happen and the cycle would begin all over again the next time the file caught my eye. Eventually it got taken care of. It just took two years.
I have more stories, but someone will have to ply me with strong drink if they want to hear more!