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April 28, 2023

Digital Transformation in the Title Industry

Efficiency has long been a priority for title agencies, it’s just taken on different forms throughout the years. In the 70s and 80s, efficiency centered around the physical office. Business owners would ask themselves questions like: where does each team literally sit? Do we need a faster printer? How should we set up our phone system? Should we use paper clips instead of staples? Title agencies found efficiency gains by removing physical barriers that were preventing employees from completing orders faster. 

As we ventured into the 90s, software started to come into play. However, early title technology often created just as many obstacles as efficiencies. On top of being expensive, early software solutions often required title agencies to have specific resources for implementation and maintenance, such as engineers and dedicated technology managers. For these reasons, widespread technology adoption was often limited to large title operations with significant resources. Companies that lacked the budget to invest in this early technology continued to use tools similar to that of the 70s and 80s while upgrading office equipment, such as more advanced printers and scanners. 

By the early 2000s, title agencies of all sizes were adding basic software to their operations. This also involved creating a company website and using that website to collect online orders. Unfortunately, this operational setup required employees to execute tasks manually, often leading to additional work. This technology was not quite meeting its promise of more efficient operations. However, over the past few years, rapid digital transformation has significantly changed how title agencies create efficiencies.

How today’s digital transformation differs from previous decades

Now—over the last 5-10 years—is where we’re really starting to see the positive impact of technology on the real estate industry. With today’s Amazon-like transaction experiences in almost every facet of our daily lives, many consumers also have increased expectations when it comes to real estate transaction speed and simplicity. Title agencies must meet and exceed these expectations to stay competitive—especially in a tighter market. This situation differs from the impact of technology on the title industry in previous decades. 

In years past, a title agency could choose not to invest in modern technology with little to no downside. Business would continue as usual, and that title agency would still be a competitive option—even if they didn’t offer the latest technology. Now, with today’s technology expectations and increased access to technology, companies that can’t provide a modern closing experience risk being left behind. With so many options available to title agencies of all sizes, the decision is no longer, “Can I afford to adopt this technology?” but instead, “Can I afford to not adopt this technology?”

Why holding off on digital transformation during a down market is a missed opportunity

Title agencies that don’t adapt to modern needs and expectations may struggle to withstand future market cycles. We saw an example of this back in 2015 when the closing disclosure became mandatory. Some companies waited too long to upgrade their systems, processes, and enablement around producing this form. These companies had to scramble to adopt it, often poorly. Today’s market downturn provides a new opportunity for title agencies to assess their current technology and modernize operations accordingly. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Lower volume gives title agencies time to audit and optimize processes. A dip in volume doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. During slower markets, title agencies have more time to implement new technology and train their teams on new processes. Taking advantage of the extra time provided by a slower market enables title agencies to identify problem areas, design more effective workflows, train employees on new processes, and test the effectiveness of new workflows in a way that just isn’t possible when things are busy. 
  2. Businesses will hit an efficiency capacity without updated technology. As seen in the decades before the 2000s, businesses can only achieve a certain level of efficiency by focusing on their physical office layout and employees. Even if your fastest and most experienced employees never take a vacation or a sick day, they’ll never be faster than an automated process. Companies will eventually reach a point where it is impossible to be quick, efficient, and economical without technological intervention.
  3. Technology is more accessible than ever. Instead of expensive technology options with the need for ongoing maintenance, modern technology gives businesses of all sizes access to title software solutions. This opportunity means that both large and small title agencies can take advantage of modern technology to transform their operations. 
  4. Increasing productivity as a hedge against market spikes and dips. Employee productivity and capacity increase as automation takes on repetitive tasks and other administrative functions. This additional employee capacity can help title agencies better manage common challenges, such as sudden dips or spikes in transaction volume, without needing to make drastic changes to their employee headcount.
  5. Improving marketability with smooth internal operations. Efficient operations enable title agencies to provide quick turnaround times, better prices, and more consistent outcomes. Realtors and lenders send their business to agents who can deliver consistent service, a competitive price, and a predictably positive closing experience. Improving processes internally is a great conversation starter with the people who send business your way. Show that you’re thinking about the future, being proactive, and include them in your efforts. Asking for comments, ideas, and getting clients focused on becoming more integrated with your operations help improve business relationships and ensure that when the volume returns, your agency is the one they’ll be sending business to.  

The title industry has undergone a significant digital transformation over the past few years, with technology playing a crucial role in creating more efficient operations. Title agencies that hold off on investing in technology not only risk losing business but also put themselves at a disadvantage in the long run. 

With technology more accessible than ever, companies of all sizes can leverage modern software solutions to improve their internal operations. Taking advantage of the current market downturn to modernize internal infrastructure will be an essential component in creating a competitive edge when the market picks up again. Ultimately, title agencies that embrace digital transformation can provide a better closing experience for clients, increase productivity, and improve marketability in a competitive industry.

Alex Brown Headshot
Alex Brown

Alex is a real estate attorney with a Title and Escrow background spanning the local, regional, and national levels. Prior to Qualia, Alex worked at Mortgage Connect, a national title and escrow services provider focused primarily on high volume refinance transactions and with Opendoor to launch their joint-venture national title company. Alex developed Opendoor’s title operation from a single state/single market in 2017 to their 2020 multi-state coverage area processing nearly 15,000 transactions with an approximate value of $7.2 billion.

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