Title insurance premiums surged 36 percent in 2021 to a record $26.2 billion as low mortgage rates spurred refinancings, according to an analysis released Friday by the American Land Title Association.

Title insurers generated a record $26.2 billion in premium revenue in 2021, a 36 percent increase from a year ago that was driven in large part by a surge in refinancings as mortgage rates hit record lows.

The big four title insurers — Fidelity, First American, Old Republic and Stewart — continued to claim just over 80 percent of that business, as independents boosted their overall market share by just two-tenths of a percentage point last year, to 19.41 percent, according to an analysis released Friday by the American Land Title Association (ALTA).

Diane Tomb

“Incredibly low mortgage rates lead to an unprecedented increase in real estate transactions and substantially higher home values,” ALTA CEO Diane Tomb said in a statement. “Those factors — caused in part by the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic — contributed to the record title insurance premium volume, which the title industry won’t see again soon.”

ALTA’s analysis showed that independent companies and the smallest of the big four title insurers — Old Republic and Stewart — posted stronger growth numbers than the industry as a whole, while industry giants Fidelity and First American lagged the industry average.

Title insurance premiums written, by company, 2020-21

Title insurance premiums written by company, in billions of dollars, in 2020 and 2021. Source: American Land Title Association.

The Fidelity National Financial family of companies — which include Chicago Title, Fidelity National Title and Commonwealth Land Title — posted 35.6 percent annual growth in premiums written, with $8.578 billion in production for the year.

The First American Financial Corp. family of companies, which include First American Title Insurance and First American Title Guaranty, grew premiums written by 34.5 percent in 2021, to $6.039 billion.

The Old Republic Title Insurance Group of companies, including Old Republic National Title Insurance and American Guaranty Title Insurance, posted the highest annual growth among the big four companies, with premiums written up 36.8 percent from a year ago, to $3.959 billion.

The Stewart Information Services Corp. family of companies, which include Stewart Title Guaranty and Stewart Title Limited, also posted higher than average annual growth, with premiums written growing by 36.3 percent to $2.506 billion.

Collectively, independent title insurers posted the healthiest 2021 growth numbers, with premiums up 37.3 percent, to $5.076 billion.

Title insurer 2021 market share by company

Title insurer 2021 market share by company (percentage of total premiums written). Source: American Land Title Association.

The Fidelity family of companies continued to have the biggest share of the title insurance market, writing 32.8 percent of 2021 premiums, down slightly from the year before, when Fidelity had closer to 32.9 percent market share.

The First American family’s 2021 market share of 23.1 percent was also down slightly, from 23.3 percent in 2020.

The Old Republic family of companies’ 2021 market share of 15.1 percent was up slightly from a year ago, when it was closer to 15 percent.

At 9.6 percent, the Stewart family of companies’ 2021 market share was virtually unchanged from a year ago.

Collectively, independent title insurers accounted for 19.4 percent of 2021 title insurance premiums written, up from 19.2 percent a year ago.

The three biggest independent companies — Westcor Land Title Insurance, WFG Title Insurance, and Title Resources Guarantee Co. — accounted for 58 percent of the $5.076 billion in title insurance premiums written by independents.

With $1.55 billion in premiums written, Westcor’s 2021 market share grew to 5.9 percent, up from just under 5.8 percent in 2020.

WFG’s $744 million in premiums written enabled the company to claim 2021 market share of 2.8 percent, down slightly from 2020 when WFG captured closer to 3 percent of the market.

With $633 million in premiums written, Title Resources Guarantee Co. grew market share to 2.4 percent, down from just under 2.5 percent a year ago.

Looking ahead

With mortgage rates on the rise, title insurance premiums are expected to fall as the refinancing boom tails off, and inventory and affordability constraints dent homebuying.

End of the refi boom

Source: Fannie Mae Housing Forecast, April 2022.

In an April 19 forecast, economists at Fannie Mae projected that single-family mortgage originations will fall by 37 percent this year, to $2.8 trillion, and by another 14 percent in 2023, to $2.4 trillion.

Given the recent run-up in mortgage rates, Fannie Mae now expects homeowners will refinance just $889 billion in mortgage debt this year, a 66 percent drop from 2021, when lenders refinanced $2.6 trillion in home loans.

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Email Matt Carter

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