Owners of established title insurers like Fidelity National Financial (FNF) and First American Financial (FAF) may want to mull over the discounting craze moving to their little-known corner of the insurance world. Everyone who buys a house needs title insurance, but - with some states capping rates and most providers charging similar premiums - few know much about it and often let their real estate agent, mortgage broker, or attorney steer them to an insurer.
The upstarts are EnTitle Insurance - now operating in 40 states - and OneTitle National, and they market directly to customers over the Internet and offer savings of up to 35% from the established players. OneTitle recently started offering policies in NY, whose high regulatory standards make it an industry bellwether. Previously a leader of using technology for real estate sales, Redfin started Title Forward about a year ago, and now operates in a handful of states.
Was that your real estate agent you saw at the UConn-Iowa State game at the Garden last night? New York's Dept. of Financial Services recently grilled some big title insurers about whether customers aren't getting stuck with the millions they spend wining and dining those with the power to steer business their way. First American and Fidelity National say such costs are legitimate marketing expenses.