It used to be a pleasure to work with a title company. The people were smart and pleasant. They worked as partners--to help you get the deal done. In a crunch, title clerks often saved my bacon. I was truly grateful. But that was then. These days title is just another swamp an agent has to get through alone. No one seems to be in charge. I get emails from several different people--with forms to sign and random charges to fend off. When I have a question, Sara refers me to Fred. Fred only works three days a week and takes a week to return emails--if at all. I have to keep an eagle eye out for random fees--like hitting up the seller for a $125 "deed fee." Huh?
I just lost a deal because of a title company. They called me two weeks before my listing--a modest row house that my seller bought in 2004--was set to settle. "Please ask the seller to give me a copy of the title report from when he bought the property," the title clerk asked. "Pardon me?" I don't even have a copy of the title report for my own house, I said. "I doubt that the seller has it." Then I learned that six years ago the local title company that my seller had used in 2004 had gone out of business. "So what?" I thought. In 2004, my seller had paid a hefty fee for title insurance from a national underwriter and the deal had settled. My seller's lender--a big bank--oversaw the transaction and okayed it. "What is the point of title insurance if it doesn't cover my seller?" I thought. There was one more piece of the puzzle that bad title company had not bothered to share: Land America, the giant national underwriter for the 2004 title policy, had gone belly up in The Great Recession.
This is where a good title company would have done the heavy lifting. Bad title company put the onus on me. "You need to find the previous seller from 2004 and get him to sign an afidavit," I was told. "He's probably dead," I said. And I was right. Long story short: I played detective and came really close to tracking down the decedent's son. But the son refused to speak to me. Then I got lucky. My wonderful seller actually found his 2004 title policy. He also found a fax from the 2004 settlement where the previous owner had declared that his private mortgage had been paid in full. Too late for us though. Bad title company had already called the lender and told them that they were unable to provide title. The lender pulled the plug. I put the house back on the market--only to find out: Bad Title Company had had a remedy all along! They should have gotten an affidavit from a lawyer attesting to the validity of the 2004 settlement. Now I know.