Title companies and law firms require fast and reliable information sources as part of their day-to-day operations. Yet, when it comes to sourcing property tax status information, the main obstacle is a lack of centralized workflows. Orders processed in different regions, counties or states require different workflows that can vary greatly, which often results in manual workarounds that are inefficient and time-consuming. 

As part of the Scaling Your Vendor Operations webinar series, Qualia’s Marketplace & Services Manager, Kevin Swinson, joined Alan Martin, National Property Tax Expert and Vice President of Product at DataTrace, to discuss how title agents can simplify tax search reporting through centralized vendor workflows that leverage automations.

Challenges in managing tax searches

With any real estate transaction, there will be property tax information. Typically, this information comes from multiple sources and title agents often lack automated processes to retrieve it. Instead, they use manual processes, which takes more time and creates added stress for the agent. Typically, there are three main challenges in managing tax information: 

1. Managing various property tax requirements 

Property tax requirements differ from state-by-state, county-level, cities, townships, villages, and school districts. Each jurisdiction comes with its own variations in due dates, number of installments, discounts, etc. 

2. Various methods are required to obtain the tax information 

Due to the plethora of property tax jurisdictions across the U.S., property tax reporting requires many search methods, from onsite, manual research, or mail requests to fax and phone call searchers. Even though tax collector websites throughout the U.S. now have access to more data than ever before, there are still many manual processing touchpoints requiring analysis, interpretation, and rekeying of data.

3. Working through all the different methods to process tax information

There are a variety of methods used to gather property tax information. Whether through tax websites, obtaining copies of tax bill statements, or working with multiple vendors. The tax information is most likely coming through in an array of formats which still requires manual evaluation and analysis in verifying the tax status. 

Because of these challenges, title companies and law firms often face inefficiencies that can result in financial and time losses to the business as well as roadblocks when it comes to expanding the business to new regions or accepting higher order volume. 

 “Without a systematic approach to managing tax data, it can easily become a very time-consuming and costly process. It comes down to having a well-defined process to successfully manage your property tax reporting,” said Martin.

5 Tips for optimizing vendor operations

Swinson and Martin explored five tips for optimizing vendor operations overall with a focus on tax search.

1. Centralized vendor management workflows

With one source of truth, title companies and law firms can overcome some of the challenges in managing tax data by having a centralized vendor management process that integrates with title workflows. This allows title agents to avoid toggling between various platforms. For example, in Qualia Marketplace, title agents can leverage a digital hub of integrated title service providers where they can order services and manage the entire vendor process without leaving their core workflow.

2. Leverage automations 

Swinson recommends leveraging automations as much as possible to minimize manual tasks, save time, and reduce errors that are sometimes made when rekeying information. He went on to give examples of automations within Marketplace, such as automatic order placement for certain types of Marketplace products, automatic import of results into title documents, automatic notifications on order status, and integrated vendor payments. 

3. Use data-driven insights to build stronger vendor relationships

Centralized vendor reporting is essential to track service quality by viewing average turn times, pricing trends, and other key metrics. Without a single source of truth to track performance, it can be difficult to understand which vendors are consistently meeting expected turnaround times and how vendors compare to one another. 

Qualia recently launched new vendor reporting tools to help title agents and law firms easily assess their vendors’ performance. The vendor performance report allows users to track key metrics such as turn times to see how fast a tax search comes back, price changes, the share of spend across vendors, average prices and change in time, and average additional costs accumulated by vendors over time. This level of reporting helps to drive data-driven decisions and provides insights to develop stronger relationships with vendors.

4. Source vendors in a reliable network where they have already been vetted

The discoverability of trusted, vetted tax search vendor partners can be challenging and time-consuming. Marketplace features trusted vendors that have already been vetted by Qualia. Marketplace is designed to enable title companies and law firms to effortlessly discover tax search vendors and gain quicker access to frequently used vendors. These relationships are made easier through convenient digital order opening and payment completed entirely on the Qualia platform.

5. Partner with vendors who have national and local expertise 

Regulations vary in regions, counties, and states. There are also local business nuances and customs that are learned on the ground. Title companies often rely on local title vendors to help them navigate local requirements. 

In Marketplace, users can access vetted vendors who possess the necessary local expertise. For example, DataTrace is the largest provider of title search and automation solutions in the U.S. In Marketplace, users can access DataTrace services, including automated access to conduct national tax, title, title preliminary, judgment, flood, and wetland searches, all within the Qualia platform. 

With a systematic approach to managing tax search reporting, title companies and law firms can reap the benefits of an integrated vendor management system through a consistent process with centralized workflows, and rapid delivery and information validation through automation.

Talk to one of our experts to learn how Qualia can help your business optimize vendor operations.

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