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Comparison Shopping for Title Insurance: CLTA Launches TitleWizard

The California Land Title Association said today it has launched a new Web site designed to help California consumers compare prices for title insurance coverage. Called TitleWizard, the site is accessible via http://www.clta.titlewizard.com/ or by visiting the CLTA’s own Web site, and has the support of California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. “CLTA proudly launched TitleWizard as part of the title industry’s ongoing commitment to make sure consumers have the tools available to shop for title insurance,” said Margaret Foster, President of the California Land Title Association. “We share Commissioner Poizner’s goal of using creative technological solutions that empower consumers. TitleWizard will help Californians take advantage of comprehensive and accurate marketplace information.” What’s interesting to me here is two things: the title industry claiming it has an “ongoing commitment” to help consumers shop for title insurance, and Poizner’s participation in the effort. The first is absolutely laughable (show me one insurer’s Web site where an online quote is offered); while the second suggests that the Commissioner wants to see this tool take off with consumers. Matt Carter over at Inman got advance wind of the TitleWizard announcement last week, and noted that in spite of the “first-of-its-kind” rhetoric being used to generate buzz — language that has since disappeared in today’s press announcement — the service isn’t anything really new, although the CLTA’s direct support for TitleWizard likely means more a more comprehensive data source. My questions are more practical in nature, I suppose: what sort of real value will this have? For one, I don’t know that there are huge swings in title premiums from one company to the next, making a focus on “price comparison” pretty weak in terms of the value of a consumer’s time. For another, the TitleWizard results aren’t guaranteed prices — so an overly-detail-oriented borrower out to choose the policy costing $50 less can’t be assured that the policy premium shown on TitleWizard is, indeed, fifty dollars less. And even if the price is correct, the spread is usually something that can be covered in the deal anyway — I don’t see why an originator or builder would choose to work with a potenially unfamiliar title agency when such small incremental dollar values are involved. I’m just not really sure what the point is here, except perhaps to cool off the Commissioner’s office enough in order to prevent mandatory title premium caps and/or rollbacks. If that’s the goal, they’ve clearly got Poizner’s attention.

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