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Showing posts from November, 2008

FIDELITY & LAND AMERICA - the story continues

"Door Buster" is to Black Friday, as Turkey is to Thanksgiving. And so it will go on the day after the turkey day. Sleep deprived and crowd-worn citizens will set out in hopes of buying the things they want (or think they want, anyway) at a discount to what they had previously been selling for.

Business types (at least certain title insurance types) seem to be more interested in maximizing a four day work holiday this year, so they concocted their own door buster deal yesterday; before adjourning for Thanksgiving. According to news reports, Fidelity is buying LandAmerica's title insurance business after all - after LandAmerica files for bankruptcy protection and sheds off some less desirable assets. LandAmerica will then sell its principal title underwriting units to Fidelity National for a combined $298 million. Chicago Title will buy Commonwealth for $158.6 million, and Fidelity National will buy Lawyers and United for $139.4 million.not all of LandAmerica.

You may …

WHAT???? closing costs are going up?? again??

OK, maybe not everyone's. yet.

The McHenry County Recorder's office has announced an $8 fee increase for each document recording, effective December 1.

The minimum fee per document is now $50.00. Buyers record a Deed and Mortgage. Sellers record releases of all mortgages and other liens that are paid off in connection with a closing.

CONGRATULATIONS LANE TECH INDIANS!

Congratulations to the men of the Lane Tech High School football team, winners of the 2008 (Chicago) Public League Championship. Lane took the crown in a decisive victory over Hubbard over the weekend, with a most decisive 24-7 victory.

Full game highlights, and a nice mention of son number on the Booster Club web site

Next up for Lane, a showdown against Loyola on Friday at Soldier Field, the 75th annual Prep Bowl.

according to wikipedia,
As early as 1927, the Chicago Public Leage football champion met the Chicago Catholic League champion at Soldier Field for the city title. The game would be later dubbed the Prep Bowl in 1934 by Mayor Edward Kelly as a Thanksgiving fundraiser for the city's poor. Until the advent of the Illinois state playoffs in 1974, the Prep Bowl was the main attraction of the fall season, attracting crowds in upwards of 100,000 in its heyday and averaging close to 65,000. Since 1974, crowds have dramatically dwindled with the emphasis switching to earning a stat…

LandAmerica, we hardly knew you.....

Inman News Reports:

Fidelity National Financial Inc. has called off its plan to acquire troubled rival LandAmerica Financial Group Inc., the companies said Friday, calling into doubt LandAmerica's long-term prospects.Fidelity and LandAmerica both issued terse statements at 8 p.m. Eastern Time Friday saying Fidelity had exercised its right to back out of the deal during a due diligence period.LandAmerica lost $599.6 million during the third quarter and was in danger of defaulting on its debts, the company said in a recent regulatory filing. Fidelity announced an agreement on Nov. 7 to acquire LandAmerica in an all stock deal valued at $128 million

Guaranty Title & Trust Company bids Adieu

Title Insurance companies are licensed and regulated by each state the they are authorized to transact business in. In Illinois, that duty falls to the Department of Financial & Professional Regulation. On November 7, IDFPR announced the death of one of those companies, Guaranty Title & Trust Company.

Inquiries regarding the GTT liquidation and requests for Proofs of Claim forms should be directed to: The Office of the Ohio Insurance Liquidator, Attn: GTT, 50 W. Town Street, Third Floor, Suite 350, Columbus, OH 43215. The telephone for that office is (614) 487-9200.

SHOULD CONSUMERS TAKE ACTION? Well, that is going to depend on where you closed or who insures your title.

If your title insurance comes from Chicago Title, Ticor Title, First American, Stewart or LandAmerica, or Old Republic (which collectively control roughly 93% of the title insurance markets) you probably don't have any worries. Guaranty was not one of the "big five." Same goes for titles written…

Title Insurance Company Woes Continue

Most Chicago area home closings take place at a title insurance company's office. Just setting foot into those offices these days tells you all you need to know about the current state of the Real Estate business: Still open, ready and willing to do business, but it's just not happening. Most are pretty lonely places right now.

The numbers seem to bear this out. According to the American Land Title Association and Inman News, All five of the nation's five biggest title insurers lost money during the third quarter.

Those grisly numbers:
First American, the nation's largest, reported an $8.3 million third-quarter loss Fidelity, number two in 2007, lost $198 million and closed 115 title and escrow officesStewart reported $30 million in losses, closed 40 branches, and canceled 1,750 independent agencies LandAmerica lost $599.6 million! which may explain its recent announcement that it was being acquired by Fidelity, and the urgent need for an immediate $30 million in secure…

A Brief Respite on a Chilly November Morning...

Good News: It took two days of hearings to get there, but an Oregon Judge cleared a man of public indecency charges, following his arrest for riding his bicycle, ahem, unclothed. Riding your bicycle naked (in parts of Oregon, anyway) may well be a protected form of public expression (your right to free speech)! Read the whole Oregon News report here.

Chicago's next World Naked Bike Ride will take place Saturday June 13, 2009

HUD TAKES ACTION (sort of)

The body of federal law that governs most aspects of residential closings that involve a new mortgage loan is known as the Real Estate Settlement Practices Act (RESPA). Our US Department of Housing and Urban Development, among other things, issues and enforces the regulations that flesh out andimplement the law.

HUD announced today that it amending its regulations to require mortgage loan brokers to actually give prospective buyers a standardized Good Faith Estimate of their closing cost. OK, the truth is that they already require GFEs, they are changing the format. What was once a fairly incomprehensible one page form is now a three page colorized incomprehensible form, that will come with a fourth page of "explanations"

HUD estimates that the new regulation will save the average consumer $700 at the closing table. Cool right?

Here's the catch:

The reegulation does not go into effect until Janury 1,


2010!

the TITLE INSURANCE pool gets a bit smaller

There are five major title insurance "families" in the United States. Together, they account for roughly 93% of all title insurance here. Last week, two of the five announced a merger. Subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals, Fidelity National Financial and Land America will combine forces, becoming the nation's largest title insurance provider. If so, they will control nearly half of the overall market.

This is not really so much of a merger as it is an acquisition: One of Fidelity's subsidiaries, Chicago Title, is going to bail out Land America with a $30 million in stand-by secured credit to provide liquidity and to help Land America's subsidiaries Commonwealth Title and Lawyers Title pay down other debts.

Conventional wisdom, and historical indications suggest that the title insurance industry is usually a hugely profitable one. In 2003, according to ALTA, the industry paid out about $662 million in claims, about 4.3% percent of the $15.7 billion take…

The Sterling Condos - a follow up

The Sterling residences are just up the street, across the river from my office. I wrote about them some time ago and the high rate of foreclosures there, owing in large part to the developer's creative marketing efforts that fed the greed of many condo investor/speculators.

Here's a pretty grim example of the train wreck that we are all witnessing. The owners of this unit are having trouble selling it at a 40% discount to what it sold for four years ago!

Yikes.