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Transparency in Title Transactions

Until now, there has been no price competition among title insurance providers in New York State. But EnTitle Insurance Co. has received approval from state regulators to reduce its rates by 10% below what the other underwriters charge.

EnTitle is undertaking this initiative in conjunction with Thoroughbred Title Services LLC, an affiliate of real estate broker Houlihan Lawrence Real Estate. However, the rate reduction is available to all New York customers, added Timothy Dwyer, the chairman of EnTitle. Houlihan Lawrence chief operating officer Christopher Meyers said the working arrangement with EnTitle is part of a larger effort to bring transparency to the title side of the real estate transaction. In most deals, it is the attorney who chooses the title company, with little or no discussion with the consumer purchasing the property. This is because rates are regulated and uniform. However, there are other unregulated fees in the title transaction where the borrower faces upcharges, Meyers continued. In looking at the HUD-1 on the transactions Houlihan Lawrence is part of, it noticed a pattern where it felt the borrower was paying “exorbitant fees” without knowing what was behind it.

Because of the price reduction on title insurance and because Thoroughbred offers savings of between 5% and 16% of these ancillary fees, he said most buyers will see savings of between 15% and 26%, he said.

Dwyer said EnTitle’s mission is very similar to what Houlihan Lawrence is doing. It also seeks to bring savings to consumers and transparency to the process. For example, besides the agent channel, EnTitle also has a direct-to-consumer channel to sell its products.

This is the first time that EnTitle has initiated an agent rate reduction in the country, Dwyer added. “We are confident that this is just the beginning of a shift in the title insurance market challenging the status quo of the rate-setting process.”

Meyer said this is the beginning of a process to bring reform to this area. The arrangement is about providing choice and giving consumers value.

While Houlihan Lawrence operates only in Westchester, Duchess and Putnam counties, just north of New York, Thoroughbred provides its agent services statewide. Thoroughbred was known as Electronic Land Services until 2009 when it became part of the Houlihan Lawrence family.

EnTitle is licensed in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Dwyer noted that it has more agent relationships now than when its current owners acquired Guardian National Title Insurance Co. (which it would rename EnTitle) in 2007. Recent market share data from the American Land Title Association ranks EnTitle 24th among all underwriters nationwide for the first quarter of 2010.