Title insurance premiums increased 1.4 percent from a year ago during the third quarter, the first year-over-year growth in more than three years, the American Land Title Association reported.

ALTA’s preliminary Third-Quarter Market Share Report showed the title insurance industry generating $2.51 billion in premiums during the quarter ending Sept. 30, with revenue increasing in 32 of 50 states compared to a year ago. It was the first year-over-year increase for the industry as a whole following 13 consecutive quarters of declines, the group said.

Title insurance premiums increased 1.4 percent from a year ago during the third quarter, the first year-over-year growth in more than three years, the American Land Title Association reported.

ALTA’s preliminary Third-Quarter Market Share Report showed the title insurance industry generating $2.51 billion in premiums during the quarter ending Sept. 30, with revenue increasing in 32 of 50 states compared to a year ago. It was the first year-over-year increase for the industry as a whole following 13 consecutive quarters of declines, the group said.

California generated the most title insurance premiums — $396.3 million, up 13.3 percent from a year ago, followed by Texas ($270.7 million, down 9.9 percent), Florida ($178.5 million, down 16 percent), New York ($148.7 million, down 26.1 percent), and Pennsylvania ($112.7 million, up 5.1 percent).

ALTA’s numbers also show the industry’s top two underwriters losing market share to the other "big four" national underwriters and also regional companies.

Fidelity National Financial Inc. — the industry leader since acquiring bankrupt LandAmerica Financial Group Inc.’s underwriting companies in December — saw its market share plummet from 45.8 percent in the second quarter to 39.6 percent.

After the acquisition, Fidelity fired 2,300 former LandAmerica employees and closed 240 offices in 2009. That means for the near term, the former LandAmerica subsidiaries —  Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co., Lawyers Title Insurance Corp., and United Capital Title Insurance Co. — won’t be handling the volume of business that they once did, the company says. …CONTINUED

First American Corp. — which before Fidelity’s LandAmerica deal was the nation’s largest title insurance underwriter — boosted its market share from 26.7 percent to 28.6 percent from the second quarter to the third. ALTA’s figures show the company accounted for 29.7 percent of title insurance premiums during the third quarter of 2008, and 30 percent in all of 2007.

The third- and fourth-largest underwriters, Stewart Title Guaranty Co. and Old Republic International Corp., boosted their combined market share to 23.6 percent, up from 19 percent a year ago.

Stewart Title’s 14.7 percent market share was up from 12.9 percent in the previous quarter and 13.2 percent in the third quarter of 2008. In 2007, Stewart claimed a 11.8 percent share of premiums.

Old Republic, which had a 5.5 percent market share in 2007, claimed 8.9 percent of title insurance premiums in the third quarter of this year, up from 6.58 percent the second quarter and 5.8 percent a year ago.

Regional title companies have also been boosting their share of the title insurance premium pie, from 7.1 percent in 2007 to 7.6 percent in the third quarter of 2008 and 8.3 percent in the quarter ending Sept. 30.

The combined market share of regional title companies plus the smallest of the national underwriters — Stewart and Old Republic — totaled 31.9 percent, up from 24.4 percent in 2007.

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