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Scott Woolley's Vendetta
by Robert Franco | 2009/05/21 |

Scott Woolley at Forbes strikes again with another blasphemous article about title insurance. You may remember the rather insulting article he wrote in late 2006 - Inside America's Richest Insurance Racket.  So far, all he has shown is that he hasn't got the faintest clue about title insurance, but he is spreading his ignorance like an infectious disease.  In his latest rant against the industry, How To Save On Home Closing Costs, he mentions "title insurance and other dubious charges."  Somewhere along the line, perhaps in a former life, he must have been wronged by a title agent... this is apparently his revenge.

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In the 2006 article Woolley basically came to the conclusion that title insurance was over-priced and that technology "could severely curtail the need for title insurers."  Somehow he even got Parker Kennedy, from First American, to say that with technology improving, "eventually insurance won't even be an important component of the product."  I'm sure you know what I think about Kennedy

And, technology seems to be the focus of Woolley's new article, too. 

Title insurance dates back to the 1800s, when property records were kept on paper and buyers were required to make sure they had clear title to the land they bought before a bank would lend them money. Two centuries later, the business is belatedly being dragged into the digital age, despite fierce lobbying by some members to slow the process.

But, what Woolley doesn't understand - is that how the records are kept doesn't really have anything to do with the work involved or the cost of insuring titles.  We have been doing title work here through the evolution of paper records to digital recording.  The big myth is that it is faster to search titles on a computer than it was to use the old books.  In my experience, that isn't the case at all.  We have noticed no appreciable difference in the time it takes our examiners to complete a title search.

First, indexing errors are much more common now than ever before and finding them can be much more time consuming.  Rather than go to an index page in a book and scan through the entries, we now have to anticipate indexing problems and search several different ways.  Each time we have to wait for a new results page and scan through the results.  And, in some counties, the images are only available on the computer and they are sometimes slow to pull and view.

Second, the computer does not obviate the need for a human title examiner to review the documents and assemble all of the relevant information.  For some reason, Woolley seems to believe that the computers have made this process unnecessary.  He is under the mistaken impression that all we have to do is enter an address, or some other information, and we get an instant list of all of the document, and only those documents, that affect the property.  If only that were the case.

And, the search is only one part of the whole process.  Although it is an integral part, after all, a thorough title search is the foundation for any title policy, there is more work to be done in order to insure the title.  Someone has to review all of the documents to determine the status of title and find any defects.  Defects, according to ALTA, plague 1 in 3 properties that are searched.  I wonder how Woolley thinks computers are going to clear the title on these properties. 

Also in 2006 article, are Woolley's misleading statistics that the premiums for title insurance has risen since 1993 and the cost of claims has declined since 1989.  He seems to be indicating that because their are fewer claims the cost should be decreasing.  However, what he misses is that the cost is relative to the number of defective titles... fixing more defective titles takes more time and, thus, costs more money.  The fact that the cost of claims has come down is a result of the industry doing a better job of clearing the titles.  Perhaps the industry should be applauded for providing clear title to more homeowners.

As I have said in the past, Woolley isn't soley to blame for his ignorance.  He has simply fallen for the propaganda disseminated by some of the biggest companies in the industry. Instant title searches, commitments in 15 minutes or less, and various other unrealistic claims have certainly made it appear like technology can replace good title agents and save everyone money.  But, perhaps this faulty reliance on technology is the reason that 1 in 3 title searches reveals a defect and why title insurance premiums are rising to deal with the clean up.

Regardless, for Woolley to persist in his vendetta against the title industry, one that has spanned several years now, he must have a personal grudge against someone.  Maybe his ex-wife is a title agent... who knows.

Robert A. Franco


Categories: Technology, Title Industry

1162 words | 5283 views | 5 comments | log in or register to post a comment

"faster to search title on a computer"

ROFLOL !!! It is faster in the internet world with office desk top access.

Right now, In most of my world there is no on-line searching. The Town Clerk's office has ONE, or if I'm lucky, two computers for index searching.  Stand in line and wait your time.  Each user is restricted to 15 minutes before moving to the back of the line.

There are a lot more book indexes then computers; i.e., odds are we won't all want to look at the same index book.  Also, not all offices have "documents" on-line or it's one computer for viewing.

I don't blame them.  As a Town taxpayer in the same old house (and more interested in the Town education budge) who has to pay for all this stuff to make life more profitable for lenders and listens daily to the "identity theft" and "steal your home" through the internet news, I am not interested in footing the bill.  Of course, as a title searcher I like the computerized indexes.

by Bobbi Shorthouse, Notary Public | 2009/05/21 | log in or register to post a reply

Online Searching reality

In the close to 10 years I have been doing my searches from the "on-line" systems the only difference is the commute and parking problems that I would have encountered if I still had to drive to the court house- I still have to review each document- still have to do the searching of the indexes, especially the "pre-computer" indexing that was used before the electronic advances. All of which can NOT be processed properly by way of a "15 minute title" or a "30 minute commitment'- those that try to sell them are just providing a drastically dangerous product- but there are those that will accept it for the money it saves  and ultimately makes them on the whole deal, The consumer is the one that looses in these transactions, all under the veil of "progress" and advanced technology- neither could be further from the truth and the total deception of the consumer.

Steve Meinecke

by STEVE MEINECKE | 2009/05/21 | log in or register to post a reply

Pushing a button...

Computerization of the records has helped in some respects, especially in reducing the amount of time it takes to "pull the books" with systems that have imaging.  Otherwise, the improvements in well-designed systems have really done nothing more than offset the problems that modern searchers encounter which did not exist in the 19th century (or the first half of the 20th century for that matter), namely the exponential increase in volume of documents that must be reviewed for any given property as well as the increase in the number of types of documents that potentially affect title.  I would bet that most land records office probably recorded more documents in the past ten years than they did in all of the years prior to 1940 combined.

Pennsylvania is full of horror stories however where computer system have been implemented badly or uncooperative or defunct vendors have created situations where a searcher has to run three or more different computer systems as well as hard copies of records in order to get a search completed.  Computerization of the records has on the whole been helpful when implemented correctly, but it has led to the unfortunate perception that searching a title now consists of pushing a button.

Also, Mr. Woolley apparently doesn't understand history very well either.  Title insurance developed primarily for the protection of buyers in the 19th century since most purchases were cash deals with no lender, which is probably the best way to save on closing costs.

by David Jenkins | 2009/05/25 | log in or register to post a reply

Great rant.

ROFLMAOOL.  You go Robert.....tell it like it is.  We all know the truth - just have to get it out to the public.  Can I copy and post this on my facebook????  No one cares what we do or how we do it. 

by Clanci Nelson | 2009/05/26 | log in or register to post a reply

Thank you...

Post away, Clanci.  Glad you liked my rant. 

by Robert Franco | 2009/05/26 | 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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