By Lydia Blair
It’s easy to make the general statement that all title companies are the same. They all offer the same services, and in Texas, they all charge the same for title insurance. However, it’s like saying that all Realtors are the same, or all home inspectors or insurance companies are the same.
A closer look will reveal that there is often a difference in the level and quality of service between companies. Working with a reliable, experienced, and caring professional can make the difference between an easy, positive transaction and a nightmare experience.
Which title company you get into bed with can be like a marriage. Regardless of how it goes, you’re stuck with them for the duration of the time you own your home.
The title company is referred to as a title agency or agent. The escrow officer is the person who handles your transaction and works for the title agency. Here are my recommended steps for choosing a good title agency and escrow officer:
- Get a recommendation from a trusted source. Integrity, efficiency and reliability are the important factors you should look for. Many real estate agents develop preferences and avoidances for particular title companies based on their experiences. Bear in mind that escrow officers within a company can vary just like real estate agents in a brokerage operate differently. It helps to know who the particular escrow officer is that will handle your deal. Will you be working with that officer or be passed along to someone else?
- Verify they are in good standing with the Texas Dept. of Insurance (TDI). TDI regulates all title agents in Texas and conducts regular audits of these agencies. The most recent list of DFW area title companies with no fines or penalties for breaking the rules is in this article from July 2018. Keep in mind that lots of agencies have similar names. Look for the exact agency or you can review the complete report is see how they stack up here.
- Confirm they are a member of TLTA, the Texas Land and Title Association. More than 90 percent of title insurance agencies licensed to do business in Texas are members of TLTA. It’s equivalent to a real estate agent being a member of the Texas Association of Realtors or the local MLS. TLTA provides continuing education, industry news and updates to members. Search the TLTA membership by either individual escrow officer or ‘agents’ — which are title agencies.
- Check their calendar for the week you plan to close. You want an efficient but thorough closing that is also convenient for your schedule.
- What are their affiliations? They should be a neutral party with no loyalty to either side in the transaction. Most title companies are not affiliated with a bank or real estate brokerage. However, if they are, it is something that you should be told.
- Ask a few more questions. Do they have attorneys on staff that you can speak with if necessary? If so, that’s plus. Do they own their own title plant? That’s another big plus. How many underwriters do they use to shop coverage? Two or three is ideal.
There are hundreds of title agencies and thousands of escrow officers in Texas. Because our industry is so highly regulated, finding a really good one is pretty easy.
The opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain advice for any particular issue or problem.
Lydia Blair (formerly Lydia Player) was a successful Realtor for 10 years before jumping to the title side of the business in 2015. Prior to selling real estate, she bought, remodeled and sold homes (before house flipping was an expression). She’s been through the real estate closing process countless times as either a buyer, a seller, a Realtor, and an Escrow Officer. As an Escrow Officer for Carlisle Title, she likes solving problems and cutting through red tape. The most fun part of her job is handing people keys or a check.