In the wake of so much industry upheaval, The Real Deal recently decided to rank the most active title companies in New York City. All in all, the top 20 firms worked on $36.75 billion in sales transactions across the five boroughs during the 12-month period ending March 31, 2018. Of that total, $25.85 billion was on commercial properties and $10.9 billion was on residential.
First American Title Insurance clocked in as No. 1, writing policies on about $7.49 billion worth of sales across 376 deals. It was followed by Fidelity National Title Insurance at about $4.83 billion across 203 transactions and Chicago Title Insurance at about $2.7 billion across 172 transactions. Royal Abstract of New York came in fourth at about $2.55 billion across 208 deals, and Madison Title Agency rounded out the top five with about $2.36 billion across 347 deals.
Madison declined to comment for this story, while representatives for First American, Fidelity, Chicago and Royal Abstract did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
TRD’s analysis accounted only for lead firms — those identified on deeds filed with the New York City Department of Finance — on transactions worth $1 million or more. There wasn’t enough publicly available information to determine split deals (when two insurers work on a sale together). That’s largely because most firms did not respond to multiple requests for comment or declined to participate, citing the DFS lawsuit.
In the case of Kensington Vanguard National Land Services, No. 6 on the ranking, the company provided supplemental information on the sales it insured between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018. As the lead insurer, it had $2.09 billion in deals — $1.4 billion in commercial and $686.5 million in residential. But when including shared deals, Kensington’s numbers totaled $2.9 billion, $2.2 billion in commercial and $701.5 million in residential. All of its split deals, with the exception of one, were commercial.
Meanwhile, a mega-merger is set to rock the industry.
The title universe has long been dominated by the “Big Four”: Fidelity, First American, Old Republic and Stewart Information Services Corporation. But in March, Fidelity signed an agreement to buy Stewart for $1.2 billion. The deal, which is set to close sometime next year, would make Fidelity the largest title insurance company in the country by a wide margin. Prior to the merger, it controlled 33 percent of the national market and had $7.2 billion in reported revenue.
Daniel Price, founder and CEO of Manhattan-based OneTitle National Guaranty Company, said consolidation has long been part and parcel of the title industry — although the deals are rarely as large as the one between Stewart and Fidelity.
As it stands, three of the top 20 insurers on the ranking are already owned by Fidelity: Fidelity National Title Insurance and Chicago Title Insurance as well as Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company, which clocked in at No. 7 with $1.78 billion in deals. Together, the companies worked on a combined $9.31 billion in sales. Stewart, which may fall under the Fidelity umbrella next year, ranked 12th, writing policies on about $1.21 billion worth of transactions across 180 properties. None of the firms responded to requests for comment.
The consolidation of some of the industry’s largest companies can make it difficult for smaller firms to compete, according to sources. Aaron Krantz, vice president of business development at Omni Title Agency, said the company generally tries to stand out by emphasizing factors like customer service.
“We tell our clients you can get our lawyer on the phone at 7 p.m. if you need to,” he said, “whereas the big guys, you call the office after 5, and you’re lucky if someone answers the extension.”