Title Company Closes Doors in 47 States

What do you do when you're all set to close on a house and your selected title company goes belly up? That's what many homebuyers and real estate agents across the country are grappling with right now. Or at least there's a scramble to move their paperwork on to another company after one of the nation's largest title companies shuttered its doors on Friday.

"We are considered officially closed," said a woman answering the Titleserv National's main telephone line.

Based in Woodbury, NY, Titleserv operated across the country in 47 states as well as in select international markets, according to its website. Founded in 1986, it not only provided title insurance, but also appraisal and settlement services nationwide.

"Certainly this comes as a shock to the New York Title Insurance industry since TitleServ has long been a major force in the local and national title insurance business," Rafael Castellanos of Expert Title Insurance Agency told AOL Real Estate.
Expert Title, a medium-size independent New York-based title insurance agent, worked through the weekend to accommodate the Real Estate Bar of New York during this time of flux, he says.

Titleserv closed without explanation. A brief statement this week from president James Conway III
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confirmed the Friday closing, and simply read: "Titleserv and its professionals are working with Titleserv's lenders, title companies and creditors to provide for the flow of information in an effort to minimize disruption."

"One has to wonder the cause of such a large player shutting down," says Castellanos. "Was it the depressed real estate market and tremors of the second dip in real estate prices or perhaps the difficult competitive market among the national title providers? It does however appear to be a warning that real estate is not as strong as it was several years ago."

"Titleserv was founded on a fundamental premise -- to be the national provider of choice by offering the most reliable and comprehensive title, settlement and appraisal services in the residential and commercial marketplace," according to a statement on its website.

As large clients of Titleserv appear to be scrambling to find other providers who can fill the void which TitleServ has created, Castellanos thinks its a great opportunity for the smaller players to advocate for themselves. "Perhaps, lenders and other large clients should take historical note that small and medium sized title agents have an immense value of delivering personal one on one superior service that the large giants simply cannot fulfill.

But what's the impact on homebuyers and sellers? Expect delays, says Castellanos: "For folks who had a purchase application with TitleServ, the request for title insurance will have to be placed with another title company; thus resulting in a delay. If you are the seller of a property, the buyer places the request for title insurance thus you will be delayed as well. The end result will be like the domino effect."

Sheree R. Curry
, who has owned three homes and once used Chicago Title, is a three-time award-winning journalist who has covered real estate for six years. During her 20-year career, her articles have appeared regularly in the
Wall Street Journal, TV Week, and Fortune. She's been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009 from a Minneapolis-area rental. She seeks a book publisher -- or at least a lender who'll give a reasonable mortgage rate to a self-employed mom.

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