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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?

Source of Title Blog ::

In our business, there are consequences to the homeowner and title insurer if we don't do a thorough title search. Of course, most people don't have judgment liens, very few have leases to worry about on residential properties, and what's the harm if you miss an easement or two? Most will never even notice and they will probably refinance out of the loan before it ever becomes an issue. However, some do have judgment liens, leases, and easements and with the refinance boom over these problems are more likely to become real issues. Foreclosures are spiking around the country and quite often that is where these seemingly unimportant details will blossom into full-fledged title claims.

To me, our most important service is a good, thorough title search. That is how we protect the consumers, the integrity of our public records, and our clients. The fact that a thorough title search is not a primary concern of many of the clients today does not mean that it is not important. Clients that only care about how fast, and cheap, they can get their title searches are akin to the subprime lenders. They are operating on the out-skirts of the regulations that govern them.

Another problem that plagues those clients who only care about fast, cheap service is the turn-over of their staff. The people in their office don't have enough training or experience and they don't understand marketable title. My favorite example was a client that called to inform me that my search was rejected because I didn't show an amount on an easement. I informed her that it was an easement, there was no amount to show. So, giving away her lack of knowledge, she asked "Well, how I am supposed to get a payoff?" Enough said? We eventually lost that client to an inexperienced searcher that didn't bother them by showing easements and other such nonsense. Good riddance.

Though a thorough title search is the most important service we offer, there is more. We also need to be available to answer questions about our searches. Some of them are complicated and the clients will need some additional guidance. We always put a note on those searches inviting the client to call with any questions. A prompt and knowledgeable explanation of the issue is a part of good service.

I had a client that dropped us a few years ago because I refused to lower our prices. Over the next couple of months I got a few phone calls that began with something like this: "You didn't do this search for us, but I don't understand something. If I fax it to you could you please check on it and explain this to me?" I had always like the office manager and I was happy to help - free of charge, the first few times. Finally, I said, "You know I am always happy to help you, but if you don't understand the searches you are getting, are they really worth the five dollars you are saving?" I explained to them that every time they had to call me to explain another searcher's work their order was getting delayed to their client. I got the work back and they are still a good client today.

Service goes beyond returning a quick title search. As professional abstractors our depth of knowledge and understanding, and our willingness to help our clients understand the tricky issues, is a part of the package we offer. It takes time and experience to develop that skill and to properly implement it in conducting thorough searches. That is why an abstractor's service should not be evaluated solely on speed and price.

Abstractors need to learn that lesson as well. Abstractors typically undervalue and under-price their services. Rather than marketing their quick turn-around time and lower price, they need to market their experience and knowledge of the real estate law and their ability to return a thorough title search. I know that is difficult because many of the clients don't seem to care about a job done right; but, that is a perception that we all need to change. The next time you are asked to lower your price - don't simply explain that your costs have gone up and you can't afford to lower your price. Unfortunately, other abstractors are willing to work cheaper. Instead, you need to justify your fee because your service is better. Your depth of knowledge and understanding is worth more. By giving them a thorough title search the first time, you are allowing them to provide a better product to their client. Ultimately that will allow them to provide it to their client faster because it will eliminate the additional time they have to spend trying to decipher a poor search from a less expensive and faster searcher. Not to mention... it protects them from potential claims in the future.

It all comes down to this - sell yourself, not a fast and cheap search. Anyone can write up a deed and mortgage and fax it to a client in a few hours, but not everyone can provide a thorough title search and back it up with the knowledge and understanding that you can.

Robert A. Franco


Categories: Abstractors, Marketing

1469 words | 2655 views | 4 comments | log in or register to post a comment

As a consumer of title searches, I'...
As a consumer of title searches, I'd argue that your service is quality. I've dropped several searchers because they could not consistently deliver a quality product. Speed is nice, but I'd rather have a good, slow search than a poor, fast search.

Quality avoids claims, keeps my clients happy, and lets me sleep at night.

Most importantly, quality protects the land records by exposing errors and issues so that they can be corrected.
by Dave Wirsching | 2007/04/05 | log in or register to post a reply

Dave: You are one of the good guys...
Dave: You are one of the good guys. I can't remember the last time a new potential client called me and asked how much experience I had. Nine times out of ten, they ask "how much do you charge and how soon can you get it done." I believe that is mainly because it is very easy to compare abstractors based on price and turn-around time. It is much harder to objectively determine quality until you have seen a few searches. I think licensing abstractors would go a long way to filling that void. 
by Robert Franco | 2007/04/05 | log in or register to post a reply

Well, I think our product is title ...
Well, I think our product is title insurance and settlement services. That's what I sell. Quality and service are components of the delivery of the product but it's not the product itself.

You must sell your product. People have to understand what they are buying and why they need it first, THEN and only then can they appreciate nuances of quality and service.
by Diane Cipa, General Manager, The Closing Specialists® | 2007/04/06 | log in or register to post a reply

Diane: That sounds perfectly reason...
Diane: That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I was referring to abstractors' "service." I don't think of the title report as a "product." It really doesn't add any value to the services of the abstractor. Title insurance, on the other hand, is a product with its own value, over and above the services that go into its production. 
by Robert Franco | 2007/04/06 | log in or register to post a reply
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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