John P. Bruce

Executive Vice President-Commercial Escrow

Heritage Title Company of Austin

This is the second in a series of interviews with other professionals who participate in the real estate transaction.

How do title agents normally interact with real estate agents?

What typically happens is a property is listed, a property is shown, a contract is offered, and a contract is executed. Once that contract is executed, it needs to be deposited with a title company. That is most often the first contact that we have with the real estate agents involved. Once that contract is deposited, it triggers an effort by the title company to receipt the contract, circulate receipted contracts, and circulate wiring or other payment instructions if earnest money and/or option money is not presented with the contract. We work with real estate agents to coordinate due diligence materials and schedule the closing itself to accommodate the buyer and seller in executing the documents.

What are some of the most common topics that you deal with?

One of the biggest problems during the pandemic has been the coordination of the physical closing itself. Is a buyer or a seller comfortable coming to the title company to close? Would they prefer to have a mobile notary sent for closing? Do they have access to a notary in their location? That’s less of an issue now as we are starting to open up. I am very happy to say we are starting to see many more in-house closings.

When a contract comes in, we perform a title search. That title examination results in the issuance of a commitment for title insurance. When that commitment for title insurance is issued, we list any curative matters that need to be addressed prior to the closing. They can be anything from old unreleased liens to gaps in the chain of title. If we are dealing with property that came through probate or bankruptcy, it often triggers other requirements for additional research or affidavits to be produced. Your curative matters on title could involve having to cure issues that no longer affect the subject property.

What current issues are title agents facing?

It is a very brisk and vibrant real estate market that we’re all living in right now. So the title companies are dealing with managing their workloads. We’re all very busy, which unfortunately results sometimes in it taking a little longer to get title work out.

What do clients look for when choosing one title company over another?

Title companies in Texas all sell the same product for the same cost. The Texas Department of Insurance sets our rates. So title companies compete on service and relationships. I think that the choice of a title company by an agent or a buyer or a seller is often based on the service that person has received in the past and the relationship that party has with a title company. This is a business where title companies and real estate agents form friendships and relationships. It’s truly amazing how intertwined our businesses are.

Anything else you’d like to add?

If I had anything to say to our REALTOR® friends out there, it’s communicate and work with your title company on the timelines that the parties negotiate in a contract to make sure that the title company and the surveyor can meet the deadlines that are required. Also be conscious of other third-party reports that are required that may also need a longer lead time than you would normally expect.