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The Red Book
by Robert Franco | 2007/02/20 |

I have often stated how important it is for a title abstractor to conduct their searches in accordance with the local standards. But, what are those standards and where do they come from?

In Ohio, we have several excellent publications that provide guidance in the process of completing a through title search. The following is a list of the Ohio resources I am most familiar with and I have a copy of all them here in my office. I use them often.

  • The Principles of Ohio Real Estate Titles

  • Ohio Title Standards, prepared by the Real Property Law Section of the Ohio State Bar Association

  • Baldwin's Ohio Practice: Ohio Real Estate Law

  • McDermott's Handbook of Ohio Real Estate Law

By far, the most common of these is The Principles of Ohio Real Estate Titles. It is published by the Ohio Land Title Association and is hardbound with a red cover. We all just call it "The Red Book." Many well known Ohio real estate attorneys have contributed to the publication and it is an excellent, easy to use resource.

Any Ohio abstractor who is not familiar with at least of couple of these resources is probably not qualified to be searching titles in Ohio. For those of you who think that there is nothing more to a title search than finding deeds and mortgages, I encourage you to pick up a copy of any of these fine publications to see what you are missing. I think many abstractors just don't know enough to know that they are not properly conducting their searches. If you use independent abstractors, ask them what resource they use.

I have done some searching to find out what others states have in the area of resources for title abstractors and I haven't found as much as I would have expected. The following is a list of books I have been able to find, and I have purchased.

  • Florida Real Property Title Examination and Insurance

  • A Virginia Title Examiners' Manual

  • The Maryland Title Searcher's Handbook

Surprisingly, I was only able to find published Bar Association Title Standards in a few states. Surely, there must be others, but here are the ones I was able to locate online:

  • Colorado

  • Nebraska

  • New Hampshire

  • South Dakota

  • Texas

It is important to use a skilled, professional abstractor. The value in using a skilled, professional abstractor is in the knowledge they possess. Therefore, I thought it most appropriate to investigate the source of their knowledge and the resources available to ensure that they performing up to the applicable standards in their state.

So, my question today is what resources are available in your state? What publications do you rely on to interpret marketable title? Please comment and help me add to this list of resources for title abstractors and examiners.

Robert A. Franco

Source of Title Blog ::


Categories: Abstractors, Title Standards

703 words | 9556 views | 8 comments | log in or register to post a comment

Near as I've been able to determine...
Near as I've been able to determine, in Wisconsin, there IS no standard. You'll have some companies that are locally known as good title agents with good searchers who know what they're doing. You'll have a few that are known to be problems, and nobody is likely to trust a prior from them.

What scares me somewhat locally is that there seems to be a movement here toward "it's good enough for my underwriter, they'll pay the claim if something happens". I recently interviewed with one company that held this mindset. They'd dropped one of the best searchers in the area because he was, I kid you not, "too detailed". TOO DETAILED??? As badly as I need a job, I walked out of that interview and never called them back. The company owner was not a title person by trade, he had a marketing background. Not a bad thing by itself, but dangerous when you have someone who can't see that our work is bigger than just pushing product out the door, and shmoozing the clients away from the competition. He was 100% in title work for the money. Again, not a bad thing, but there's more to this than the bucks.

I believe that if title insurance had a set of standards here, we'd see a number of the dangerously bad companies shut down. As for searchers, the sole resource available outside of OJT/learn from someone in your company is the WLTA Title Examiner classes. While they're good classes, they're designed to teach someone who has been hands-on for at least six months. The only accountability anyone really has is to their underwriter... and what happens when the UW's stop really caring about correct title?
by Ben Kohnen | 2007/02/20 | log in or register to post a reply

In Pennsylvania, there aren't any s...
In Pennsylvania, there aren't any standards as far as I know. Like a lot of other states, you learn title searching by getting trained by someone who already does searches.

As far as publications go, I have collected a few that are fairly well known, but they aren't necessarily standards manuals:

1. "Ladner on Conveyancing in Pennsylvania" is the most famous book and it has a chapter or two devoted to title searching. It gives a good general outline of the process and what should be searched, but isn't detailed enough to really explain how to do a search. It is still being published, but could probably use some updates in the title searching area.

2. "The Abstractor's Bible" was published in the 70s by a real estate attorney. It gives all the gory details of how to do a search correctly but has not been republished to my knowledge and so is out of date on a number of things.

3. "Pennsylvania Title Insurance Theory and Practice" was also published in the 70s and was really a course outline done by two title people so is helpful but not detailed enough to really act as a guide on how to do a title search since the book is a general course on title insurance.

4. There was a very short book written in the 20s or 30s by someone named White I believe about how to do a title search. It goes without saying that is out of date on a number of topics.

I don't believe our state or local bar associations have ever been involved with drafting title standards. The PA Land Title Association has courses that cover title searching as part of the overall subject of title insurance, but their primary focus is agents and underwriters.

I'm president of a regional association of title examiners based in the Philadelphia area. I have been working on drafting standards for our group and it is now being reviewed by a committee for potential use. These are more along the lines of professional standards rather than how to do a title search.
by David Jenkins | 2007/02/20 | log in or register to post a reply

Update: Book 4 is called "A manual...
Update: Book 4 is called "A manual on title searches and passing titles in Pennsylvania" by William Whyte Hall. Published 1934. 
by David Jenkins | 2007/02/20 | log in or register to post a reply

I am sorry, and surprised to hear t...
I am sorry, and surprised to hear that there are no "standards" in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. It does look like, at one point, there were several good publications in Pennsylvania, though. Maybe some bright, young lawyer needs to get involved with the Real Estate Division of the Bar Association to pick up the torch and update some of those.

And, Ben... I share you pain. I have had clients tell me that they want me to remove items from my title search (easements, leases, etc.). I don't really understand that logic - we don't charge them more to show those items, why would they not want to know about them?

I have had clients tell me that their other abstractors don't show them. They say that as if "I am the problem." This is probably the biggest reason for the promotion of standards and licensing. There should be something in place that lets the abstractors know what is expected of them and we should be held to those standards regardless of the clients' ignorant requests.
by Robert Franco | 2007/02/21 | log in or register to post a reply

Vermont Attorney's Title Corp has a...
Vermont Attorney's Title Corp has a set of title standards for Vermont. 
by Anne Gilbert | 2007/02/24 | log in or register to post a reply

Thanks, Anne. Now that you mention...
Thanks, Anne. Now that you mention it, I have seen these before. However, since I couldn't download a PDF, I forgot about them. There were a couple of additional states that did have standards I could not print. Thanks for the reminder, and the link. I'll add VT to my list. 
by Robert Franco | 2007/02/24 | log in or register to post a reply

Dear Mr. Franco:

Your ...
Dear Mr. Franco:

Your comments are right on, and you are promoting the highest level of professionalism and service in the title industry. I am an Ohio attorney and a licensed title agent. I have and refer to all four of the references you cited.

I love the Red Book for its thoroughness and its simplicity.

I love McDermotts for its simplicity and easy reference to legal citations.

The Baldwins is much more detailed.

In addition to those, I constantly refer to the Underwriting Manual issued by Ohio Bar Title for arcane little details that are important ... special assessments, bankruptcy, corporations, trusts, and other oddities.

Another valuable addition is electronic research on the internet. As a lawyer I subscribe to Westlaw, Casemaker, and other electronic legal research tools which help my analysis on critical problems. However, if a title agent does not have such premier research tools, it is essential for all title agents to unlock the power of the internet to explore potential issues cropping up in the searches. It is amazing what is out there for free.

by Ian Robinson | 2007/06/12 | log in or register to post a reply

Thank you Ian. I appreciate the co...
Thank you Ian. I appreciate the comment. I guess I should update this post now... OLTA released the Fourth Edition of Principals of Ohio Real Estate Titles. And, its blue now. I think I will still refer to it as "The Red Book."

"Blue Book" conjures up memories of law school exams. Although the blue-books we write our essay answers in are actually green. So to summarize, blue-books are green and The Red Book is now blue.
by Robert Franco | 2007/06/13 | 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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