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Source of Title Blog : Marketing

Targeted National Marketing: It beats the Yellow Pages
by Robert Franco | 2010/02/04

It has been a while since my last blog about our enhanced listing services.  I still get a lot of questions about how it works and what the benefits are, so I thought it would be a good idea to explain it again.  Over the course of the past year, our directory was searched an average of more than 14,000 times each month, proving that Source of Title is still the premier source for finding independent title professionals.  But, without an enhanced listing, many of them may not be finding your company.

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Categories: Abstractors, General Interest, Marketing, Opportunities, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 9 comments ::

The Certified Copy Racket
by Robert Franco | 2007/12/06

Most of us have heard of National Deed Service. They are the outfit that sends very official looking letters to homeowners offering to provide them with a certified copy of their deed for around $70. A copy which is available from the county for just a few dollars.

Recently, David Bloys, founder of News for County Officials, sent me a copy of one of the letters that National Deed Service sends to homeowners.

Our records, obtained from public information, show that Property Deed Document #XXXXX recorded December 11, 2006 indicates your ownership interest in the property located at 123 Main St.

At the time you purchased your property, a deed was prepared that shows the title was transferred to you. This deed was recorded by the Lubbock County County Clerk.

The U.S. Government Federal Citizen Information Center website recommends that property owners should have an official or certified copy of their deed. If you don't already have this important document, you may obtain one now. This document provides evidence that your property was transferred to you.

To obtain a Certified Copy of your Deed, complete the order form below and return it in the enclosed postage paid envelope with your payment of $69.50 which includes location, retrieval, postage and handling or fill in the credit card information below and either mail or fax your order to XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Due to the large number of transactions, this will be your only notice of our service.

All orders will be handled promptly.

National Deed Service, Inc.

[below this, is a stub to tear off and mail in with payment.]

The problem I have with this type of service, is that it takes advantage of the elderly, and those who don't know that they can get this copy themselves for next to nothing. The other side of this, as some people see it, is that it is a convenience that may be worth the fee. However, they don't sell it that way; they don't let people know how to obtain it themselves for a few dollars and offer to provide the convenience. Instead they create a sense of need and hope that people will pay the fee out of a fear of what could happen if they don't.

Regardless, the scam seems to have caught on with another company that saw a way to make a fast buck. Florida Record Retrieval, Inc. is doing the same thing and officials in Florida have issued warnings.

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Categories: Ethics, Marketing, Public Records

Source of Title Blog :: 10 comments ::

Kickbacks: A Marketing Approach
by Robert Franco | 2007/08/29

Stewart Title Guaranty Co. has agreed to settle charges levied by the California Insurance Department stemming from illegal kickbacks at a cost of $1 million. California alleged that Stewart funneled $500,000, or as much as 50 percent of its premiums, through shell companies to builders and lenders in exchange for referrals from 1998 to 2006. The insurer passed on the cost of the payments to 3,908 homeowners in higher home-closing expenses. According to the insurance department, Stewart did not admit any wrongdoing.

But, in a never ending series of investigations, this is not not the end for Stewart. Mike Kreidler, the Insurance Commission in Washington, has proposed $1.95 million in fines for similar behavior. During a review of Stewart Title of Snohomish County, Inc.'s financial statements for a four month period, the department found more than 100 violations of the state's $25 limit on gifts. Allegedly, the company illegally paid for things like desk fees, advertising, golf tournament sponsorships and other gifts.

Stewart isn't the only company with problems - the top insurers, controlling 90% of the market, have paid a total of $78 million in settlements in the past two and half years! Whether they have admitted any wrongdoing or not, it must be worth it because the practices continue.

"There's more illegal activity now," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson. "We believe it's at an all-time level."

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Categories: Marketing, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 1 comments ::

Consumer-Direct Marketing vs The AfBA
by Robert Franco | 2007/06/18

There was an interesting discussion on Mark Pilatowski's Active Rain Blog in which Mark disagreed with me on the issue of marketing directly to consumers. Actually, I don't think Mark and I disagree all that much about the issue and if you read the comments on his blog, you will see why. It wasn't the concept of marketing directly to consumers that I disagreed with, it the way that California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner was trying to push the idea that I objected to.

Basically, I think that marketing directly to the consumers would be fantastic, if it would actually work. I would actually go a step further and say that this type of marketing may be the only hope of saving the industry from the ravages of the AfBAs. As long as AfBAs are allowed to operate, and I don't see them going away anytime soon, there will be a tremendous incentive for the referring partners to direct their consumers to the joint venture.

Title companies market to those who can send them work. It doesn't make much sense to market to those with no control over where the settlement services are placed. Currently, that means marketing to the Realtors and lenders who actually place the orders.

Marketing directly to the consumers will be largely ineffective if the consumers are not empowered to make the decision of where their title order is placed. For this to work, a more fundamental change must occur. Consumers must be educated so that they understand the process and why it makes a difference whether they close at title company A or B. Furthermore, there must be some restrictions on the Realtors and lenders to limit the influence they exert on the consumers.

Currently, RESPA requires disclosures to inform the consumer when their Realtor or lender is a partner in an AfBA where they are directing the title order, and the consumer must not be "required" to close with an AfBA partner. However, this has virtually no effect in the marketplace where consumers regularly rely on their Realtors and/or lenders to guide them through the process.

I'm not sure at this point how you could ever present a real choice to the consumer when those who the consumer relies on for guidance have a vested interest in the selection of the title company. There is a huge conflict of interest and that is why AfBAs do not make any sense. On one hand, we have the AfBAs whose main goal is to take advantage of the fact that one of the partners has control over the flow of work to the AfBA. On the other hand, we have a push for consumer-direct marketing and providing more choices for the consumers. The two concepts are inherently opposed.

In my opinion, consumer-direct marketing is an excellent concept, but I don't think it can overcome the AfBA model. If consumer-direct marketing can succeed, it will undermine the value of the AfBA and the industries that want them have a great deal of resources invested in their success.

The regulators that want to see more consumer choice and replace kick-backs with consumer-direct marketing need to work on abolishing the AfBA model first. Only then can we actually empower the consumers to choose what is best for them.

Robert A. Franco

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Categories: Marketing, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 6 comments ::

Not For Sale
by Robert Franco | 2007/05/31

With all the homes for sale around here, I thought that it might be easier to place "NOT for sale" signs in front of the homes that aren't for sale. Getting rid of the unsightly for sale signs would certainly reduce the clutter along the streets. Besides, who wants to move into a neighborhood with for sale signs as far as you can see down the street. That doesn't say much for the neighborhood, does it?

The title business has been slow around here, so we have had time to ponder the issue. We began to speculate at how long the market would remain soft. What will it take to see busy days like we had a couple of years ago?

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Categories: Abstractors, Marketing, Small Agents, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 5 comments ::

Selling Your Home May Get Cheaper
by Robert Franco | 2007/05/01

One realty company in Detroit has announced a new program to spark existing home sales. Budget Realty, LLC will be offering a flat-fee listing service of $999.00, to be pre-paid. The listing services will include:

  • Marketing of the property
  • Multiple listing service
  • E-mail distribution to their buyer list

  • Presentation of offers and counter offers
  • Assistance in developing and negotiating transactions
  • After purchase agreement acceptance, order title commitment
  • Monitor buyer funding progress
  • Estimate of transaction costs and proceeds
  • Furnish advance closing documents to advise parties on closing requirements

The flat-fee covers listing and marketing services only. The seller will still be required to pay their own closing costs and a three percent commission to the selling broker.

One of the real estate agents with Budget Realty indicated that there is concern that this will upset traditional Realtors because it will be "major work with very small pay." However, they expect the move to "turn the market and save the equity in homes in Michigan."

In my opinion, the Realtor commissions are much too high and that is likely having a chilling effect on existing home sales. As I pointed out in 'Blame It On The Weather,' homeowners have spent all of their equity, so they can't afford to sell their homes. The Realtor commissions were not an issue when home prices were rising dramatically year after year, but that has changed as well. Existing home prices have been declining for eight straight months, last reported to be $217,000.

I am not saying that real estate agents are getting rich, though some are most certainly over compensated. The majority of Realtors I know cannot make a living selling real estate - they have "other" jobs. Despite the fact that most Realtors have to have second jobs, there are still more than 1.2 Million Realtors. This is a clear sign that the commissions are too high.

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Categories: Marketing, Realtors

Source of Title Blog :: 0 comments ::

The Modern Day Soapbox
by Robert Franco | 2007/04/20

Blogging is becoming more prevalent in our wired society. Why? Because it gives everybody a voice. Anyone can set-up a blog and voice their opinions about anything they choose. We are no longer limited to the mainstream media for information. Too often the mainstream media bases their "news" on press releases and, when they seek out comments, they always ask the same "insiders" who don't always speak for the majority.

Like any source, especially those found on the Internet, you have to decide for yourself the value of the information. I'm the first to admit that my posts are nothing more than my opinion. However, my opinion comes from a very different perspective than you will get from any mainstream media outlet. My experience in the title industry gives me a unique outlook on issues that are often overlooked by the press. And, unlike the press, a blog allows readers to comment on posts. You aren't just limited to the author's opinions; you can read what others think on the topic as well, or, add your own comment.

Do people really read blogs? YES! Last month, which was only our second full month of posts, attracted over 3,400 unique visitors. Blog entries are indexed in Google, and other major search engines. There is even a Google Blog Search, just for blogs. In addition, bloggers will often link to their favorite blogs to direct their readers to other sources.

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Categories: Blogs, Marketing

Source of Title Blog :: 0 comments ::

Our Most Important Product
by Robert Franco | 2007/04/05

While driving yesterday, I passed a truck with the words "Service is our most important product" painted on the side. I think in our industry, service is our only product, but it struck me as interesting. What exactly is our service?

Many seem to think that, for an abstractor, service primarily means a fast turn-around time. But, that is most definitely not the case. Providing a fast title search, which is one of the most marketed services of the abstractors today, may actually be a dis-service to the client and the end consumer. In spite of it being one of the most demanded aspects of the abstractors services, it can be more damaging than many seem to realize.

I have written about short-cuts many times; both here and in the Source of Title forums. We see many of the other abstractors out there that provide cheaper, faster service. They do so by taking short-cuts. They don't check the Lease & Miscellaneous Indexes, they don't run the clerk of courts records behind the computer, they don't pull releases to make sure they are valid full-releases, etc. Are they really providing a service to their customers at all?

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Categories: Abstractors, Marketing

Source of Title Blog :: 4 comments ::

Shameless Plug
by Robert Franco | 2007/04/03

In the last 12 months, the Source of Title directory has been searched 202,859 times. That is an average of nearly 17,000 searches each month. I think this firmly roots Source of Title as the premier directory for independent title services.

Last month the average number of views of basic (free) listings was 2. The average number of views for companies with enhanced listings was 11. The primary reason for this is that the basic listings are only available to our subscribers, while the enhanced listings are available to all of our 12,800+ registered users. And, the enhanced listings are in bold and appear above all the basic listings in the directory.

The enhanced listings are viewed more than 5 more often than the basic listings - improving your chances of getting that next, new client. The annual fees are based on the number of counties you cover and range from $99, for up to 5 counties, to $2,999 for nationwide exposure.

Here is what some of our customers have had to say about the enhanced listings in the forums:

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Categories: Abstractors, Marketing

Source of Title Blog :: 2 comments ::

Take It To The People
by Robert Franco | 2007/03/09

YouTube is a powerful medium that hasn't really been utilized to its full potential in many areas. It has mainly been an outlet for budding film makers to share their short works, and for users to share their favorite video clips. However, there have been some that have adapted it as a sales and marketing tool. YouTube also offers a strong platform for disseminating educational information to the public that has yet remained vastly undeveloped.

YouTube offers a very low cost, and easy to use method of distributing video to consumers. Here is an example:

1st Title RealTraining Chapter 3
In this third installment of the 1stCapital RealPartner series, Paul discusses Title Insurance and Closing Costs

There are a few problems with this clip. For example, the host doesn't seem to understand the concept of eminent domain, and he is a little confused about the difference between a reissue rate and a refinance rate. It is also not entirely clear who his intended audience is. At points he seems to be addressing the borrower while explaining the various fees, but in one section he is clearly addressing the mortgage broker, or loan originator: "The last section that we are going to talk about is closing costs. Now when you get to this section its a very exciting time because that means that closing is right around the corner and that means that time that you get paid and explode your income as a real partner is starting to take off."

But despite its flaws, this video clip does demonstrate the power of YouTube and its potential for informing consumers. The typical response to educating consumers in the title industry has been adding disclosures to the closing process, but that has been extremely ineffective. More complicated, carefully worded disclosures only compound the problem. However, a well developed video series explaining the process and loan documentation could be made available to the consumer before the closing. Informed consumers may better understand their closings and be in a better position to ask questions while they are signing closing docs.

The American Land Title Association ("ALTA"), in conjunction with Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") officials, could produce a series of in-depth informational videos and post them on YouTube. Once on YouTube, the clips could be easily placed on ALTA and HUD Websites, as well as any title agency's that wanted to provide the information to their customers. Settlement agents would be able to direct their consumers to the videos when they schedule their closings.

If we really want to educate the consumers, we need to take our message to the people.

Robert A. Franco

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Categories: Consumer Advocacy, Land Title Associations, Marketing, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 3 comments ::

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Source of Title Blog

Robert A. FrancoThe focus of this blog will be on sharing my thoughts and concerns related to the small title agents and abstractors. The industry has changed dramatically over the past ten years and I believe that we are just seeing the beginning. As the evolution continues, what will become of the many small independent title professionals who have long been the cornerstone of the industry?

Robert A. Franco



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