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No-find Fees
by Robert Franco | 2007/06/04 |

There has been a great discussion on charging "no-find" fees on the Source of Title forums the past week or so. It is a rather touchy subject for some people and good arguments can be made on both sides.

We do not charge "no-find" fees. First, it isn't something we deal with very often. We only cover four counties and we know them pretty well. If we spot an address that could be in two different counties, we check the auditors' Web sites and see if one of them has it listed. We are fortunate that all of our counties have Web sites that we can check - I realize that not everyone has that ability.

One of the posts in the forum provided an excellent resource for checking the county on-line, MelissaDATA. MelissaData provides several tools, but the "U.S. Address Lookup & Verify" tool seems to be the most useful for this purpose. It is a street level check, which means that it doesn't simply rely on the zip code. As we all know a zip code can overlap counties; on-line tools that just check the zip code can lead to erroneous county assignments. However, I checked a couple of addresses I know that overlap and MelissaDATA correctly reported the county for them. While I'm not familiar enough with it to guarantee its accuracy, it does seem to be very reliable.

Because we don't have this problem too often, I find that for the few times we do make a wasted trip, its just not worth it to upset a client by charging them a "no-find" fee. We just absorb the costs. I do try to think of my client's position; if they are not able to bill their client, I don't want to bill them.

However, for those who routinely travel a greater distance and make such trips for one search, a no-find can be costly. When you factor in the cost of the gas, and the abstractor's wasted time, it may require the charge. For those abstractors who feel they must charge a "no-find" fee, I would suggest that it be clearly stated on their fee sheet. If the client is aware that a fee will be charged, and they clearly send the order with the incorrect county, there should be no problem charging the fee. However, I still think the abstractor has some responsibility to minimize the chances of a no-find by being familiar with their counties and using resources such as the counties' Web sites, or MelissaDATA.

What is completely unacceptable is the rude treatment by the client that the poster received when she informed them of the no-find fee. After all, when it comes down to it, it was the client's fault for providing the incorrect information. In my opinion, not charging for a no-find is a courtesy... it's not something the clients should expect.

Generally, the clients have successfully kept abstractors' fees very low and there just isn't enough profit for the abstractors to absorb much in the way of additional costs. The abstractors are one of the most important resources the clients have and they should trust their abstractors to treat them fairly on additional charges, such as no-find fees.

Just as an abstractor has a responsibility to keep such additional charges to a minimum, the clients also have a responsibility to their abstractors not to waste their time. The client could have just as easily checked the counties' Web sites, or MelissaDATA. If they chose not to, then they really don't have much to complain about when they provide an incorrect county assignment.

What it finally comes down to is that there should be a much better relationship between the abstractors and their clients. Neither party should take the other for granted. They are both on the same side and should be helping the other get the job done right... and make a profit.

Robert A. Franco

Source of Title Blog ::


Categories: Abstractors, Billing Issues

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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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