It’s been a record-breaking year for the housing industry on a number of levels. We saw home prices soar to their highest two-month appreciation in 30 years, we witnessed existing home sales rise to a 14-year high in August, and we consistently see mortgage applications reach new heights each month.
Contrary to predictions about the negative impact of COVID-19 on the housing market, the most in-demand major purchase during the pandemic has been a home.
For title businesses, the increase in demand means a multitude of new challenges and opportunities—many of which often differ by region. We discussed some of these factors unique to the New York and tri-state area with Bharat Das, CEO of Pippin Title Services. Pippin is a national provider of title search services and is based in New York City.
Qualia: What are some of the biggest challenges for title agencies in New York and across the country right now?
Das: Due to low interest rates, our clients are experiencing record volumes in terms of new home purchases and refinances. For many, this new volume is straining their existing network of title searchers. This capacity constraint leads to longer turnaround times, which means unhappy customers, or even having to turn down new business. While there is a boom industry-wide, title companies that can’t quickly scale to meet demand will potentially suffer.
Qualia: Can you talk a bit more about increased business for title companies. What are some common reasons this leads to slow down?
Das: Increased business for title agencies sometimes leads them to expand their operations, which usually means new (and often unknown) territories. Typically this expansion is spurred by a customer demanding a policy from somewhere outside the company’s coverage area. When they expand into new territories, they often must start from scratch to find new searchers/abstractors or navigate new regulations.
Time lost in securing new vendors means slower turnaround times and unhappy customers. New vendors also mean more vendors, which further increases the inefficiencies with their vendor network and leads to higher overhead in terms of standardizing reports and diffuse communication.
Qualia: What are some strategies title companies are using to expand their vendor network effectively to meet demand?
Das: Title companies benefit from leveraging integrations found in their title workflow software, such as Qualia Marketplace, to easily identify and order vendor services in new territories. Pippin is integrated into Qualia Marketplace, so title businesses in the tri-state area can quickly identify us as a key service provider in their region. They can also order our services directly from their core workflow in Qualia and continue to manage communication with us there.
In general, you should be able to easily submit orders and get a consistent ordering experience and uniform product. When title businesses work with Pippin, we want them to be able to seamlessly expand their offerings to their own customers through greater efficiency, faster turnaround times, and lower overhead costs that can eventually pass through to the consumer.
Qualia: What are some challenges New York title businesses, in particular, are facing?
Das: In some parts of New York state, the lack of access to courthouses has been especially difficult to overcome. Some courthouses have created queues so that ground searchers must sign up for a specific time slot, often days or even weeks ahead. Then, if they are unable to complete the entire search in one slot, they have to start over. The election has also put pressure on the infrastructure, as court staff was moved over to help with the process.
Qualia: Are you seeing any differences in the challenges New York City title agencies face compared to agencies in other parts of the state?
Das: The infrastructure difference has been especially stark with regards to New York City versus upstate New York. In the city, good online records have meant that even with courthouse closures, Pippin has been able to process files efficiently. This includes larger commercial transactions.
Meanwhile, in upstate New York and even in Suffolk County on Long Island, closed courthouses have meant transaction deferments and extended delays on orders. This has been especially challenging since we have seen a lot of demand in these areas with renewed interest in suburban living during the pandemic. Transaction volume away from the city is at an all-time high.
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