A La Jolla-based information technology company has come up with a Web site, www. clta.titlewizard.com, it claims will revolutionize title insurance and related industries while offering consumers complete freedom to comparison shop rates and companies online.
“I describe the site as the Orbitz of real estate closing services,” said Anthony T. Farwell, president/CEO of ClosingCorp at 565 Pearl St., Suite 308. “But we will have uniquely discounted rates that aren’t otherwise available.”
TitleWizard is a free, Web-based tool that makes it easy for consumers and real estate professionals to shop for title insurance in California. It’s a quid pro quo. Title companies can now promote their brand and message directly to consumers. Consumers can learn more about policies, rates and services before they buy.
“It’s very easy to use but what’s happening behind it is very complex,” said Farwell. “There are very complex, rate-generating engines, business rules and systems that deliver an instant quote for title insurance that is specific to the user’s transaction.”
ClosingCorp partnered with the California Land Title Association, one of the largest title associations in the country, to create its groundbreaking new Web site. “That’s very important for us in terms of credibility in the industry,” pointed out Farwell.
Title insurance is purchased in connection with every real estate transaction, and any loan associated with a real estate transaction, to protect the lender or buyer of property against any encumbrances - undisclosed loans, liens or rights to the property - that were not known or disclosed at the time the transaction took place.
ClosingCorp has been in its current location for about a year. The company was created in 2005 when Farwell and Steve Katinsky, executives with long track records in the Internet, communications and information service industries, saw an evolving business opportunity and teamed together to explore it.
Said Farwell: “We got into the business after hearing the Department of Insurance discuss regulatory reforms with the title industry, and it became apparent to us there was no way to shop for title insurance or most any other real estate closing service using the Internet. The goal in mind, when we started this company, was to develop an industry-supported site that allowed us to work with the industry much more closely than we might have.”
Giving a demonstration of how TitleWizard works, Farwell used his laptop computer to call up the Web site. He punched in a few simple bits of information, the area, La Jolla, the home’s value, $1 million. Up popped a list of 80 title companies in the state, 18 to 20 in San Diego County, and their rates.
“The principal advantage to users is not only the ability to obtain instant quotes,” said Farwell, “but also a depth of information about each closing service provider so you can evaluate more than just their price and location. The benefit to the closing service provider is they are exposed to consumers and real estate professionals who are specifically looking for their services. In all cases, the user never pays to access the service.”
Bigger and better things are in store for ClosingCorp. In a sense, TitleWizard was a trial run, a precursor to what is to come. “TitleWizard is a baby version of Closing.com,” said Farwell, “a successor site that will also be free to users, but will allow professionals and consumers to obtain prices on all closing services - title, escrow, home inspection, land surveyor and all notary.”
At present, ClosingCorp handles only residential real estate services, not commercial. The company has about a dozen employees, a number likely to increase to about 20 in another month or so.
ClosingCorp. plans to launch its new and improved Closing.com real estate services information site in the first quarter of 2008. Farwell said advancements are to include extended functionality to other real estate sites such as Zillo and Yahoo.real estate, as well as the Multiple Listing Services, which Realtors use to manage home listings.
Farwell said ClosingCorp has also acquired titledirectory.com. “We also acquired a portfolio of more than 300 Internet domain names associated with the closing services industry,” he said, “the most important one being Closing.com.”
Statistics show the Internet has become a primary source for people shopping for real estate and related services. “More than 80 percent of the homebuyers who have purchased a home in the last year have used the Internet to research their purchase in some fashion,” noted Farwell. “As a category, Internet usage for real estate research is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the Internet, even with this down real estate market.”
Down times in real estate are actually up times for Internet-services companies like ClosingCorp. Said Farwell: “We think a slow real estate market is helpful to us because people are much more aware and sensitive to the closing costs associated with their transactions, whereas, in a high-appreciating market, they can be less sensitive to those costs.”
Call ClosingCorp at (858) 459-8999 or visit www.ClosingCorp.com.