Three independent title companies in Texas have formed a partnership they hope will allow them to maintain their independence while remaining competitive in an industry characterized by national companies consistently absorbing independent ones.

 

The Texas companies will operate under the same banner as AmeriPoint Title and will share such costs as advertising. However, each company will remain independently owned and operated and able to make decisions on its own.

 

“It’s a vehicle to give us not necessarily a competitive edge, but to allow us to compete on a more level playing field,” said Allen Shindler, president of AmeriPoint Houston, formerly Lawyers Title Company of Houston.

 

Hear what Allen Shindler has to say about AmeriPoint Title.

 

AmeriPoint is an intriguing concept because parts of the title industry are dominated by a few large companies. Market concentration makes it difficult for independently owned title companies to compete, and many have been bought out by the larger firms.

 

The American Land Title Association doesn’t keep track of how many title companies are doing business across the country. The Texas Land Title Association has 424 independently owned and operated title offices as members. That figure represents about about 90 percent of title companies in the state, according to the group.

 

The other founding partners of AmeriPoint are Ticor Title Agency of San Antonio, now AmeriPoint San Antonio, and Rattikin Title Co. of Fort Worth, now Rattikin Title, a member of the AmeriPoint Title alliance.

 

The three companies coordinate closings and do title searches, but don’t underwrite title insurance policies. They all use Fidelity National Financial, although Shindler’s company doesn’t use Fidelity exclusively.

 

Frank Willey, vice chairman of Fidelity National Financial, said he’s never seen independent title companies band together in quite this fashion, with each maintaining their independence. He said a lot of independent title companies don’t want to be owned by a larger underwriter or beholden to a corporate structure.

 

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” Willey said. “It allows regional and local title agents to pool their resources and skills and core competencies and expand them in a larger geographical area.”

 

The three founding AmeriPoint partners own the rights to the AmeriPoint name, but control no other partnership assets at this time, Shindler said. There is no sharing of company ownership or equities.

 

The partners shared the cost of attorney fees to set up the fledgling partnership. They’ll also foot the bill for advertising, since they all would benefit from AmeriPoint name recognition, Shindler said.

 

Shindler hopes they will be able to negotiate as one entity to get better deals vendor services, computers and other costs. Their large competitors benefit from those economies of scale, Shindler said, and AmeriPoint would give its companies a chance to do the same.

 

Whether that collective shopping might extend to employee benefits and the like hasn’t yet been determined, Shindler said.

 

Locations in Austin and Dallas are soon to join the group, and Shindler hopes it will spread throughout Texas and eventually into other states. He’s already received calls from companies in Virginia, Colorado, Florida and Arizona.

 

“In a week’s time, it went from a poodle to a Labrador, it went from a little dog to a big dog in a week,” he said.

 

The founding partners will review companies that have asked to join and make sure they’re a good fit. They’d be able to use the AmeriPoint name and logo on a contract basis and may have some requirements to follow, but otherwise would remain independent businesses, Shindler said.

 

The interest surprised Shindler, but he said it makes sense because independent title companies, no matter their location, face the same competitive pressures from the larger, dominant firms. They’re looking for ways to stay alive and independent, he said.

 

Shindler said that interest shows the alliance is not too little, too late, although getting the venture off the ground has been a long time in coming.

 

Shindler originated the idea almost four years ago, but requirements like getting the name AmeriPoint trademarked took longer than he expected they would.

 

Send tips or feedback to samantha@inman.com or (510) 658-9252, ext.140.

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