Change Continues to Visit Roster of Title Companies

by George Waldon  on Monday, Dec. 14, 2009 12:00 am  

Waco Title Co. of Lowell, a subsidiary of Arvest Bank Group Inc., extended its reach to Pulaski County in 2009 with the opening of a Little Rock office. In October, the company also acquired Lincoln Land Title in southwest Missouri, with offices in Springfield, Ozark, Branson and Republic.

Blake Hanby, Waco's president and CEO, won't be surprised to see more changes before the market settles down.

"Not today, but there may be more tomorrow," he quips.

How's business in northwest Arkansas these days?

"We're seeing there are still deals being made, whether those are commercial or residential," said Triad's Levin. "The activity isn't as heavy as it was in 2005, although we wish it was."

Lenders are typically a part of the real estate transaction equation from a financing standpoint, but these days, banks and thrifts are helping generate transactions and title business from the position of owner.

More lenders have entered the ownership picture as borrowers have forfeited property ahead of or in connection with foreclosure actions.

First National Title Co., with offices in Little Rock, Maumelle, Benton, Bentonville and Fayetteville, is among the firms competing in both the central and northwest markets.

"We're just closing deals," said Jim Pender, president of First National. "It's steady, not great, but definitely better than last year."

He said that northwest Arkansas real estate remains active, unlike other once-hot markets where the sales bubbles did more than burst. Pender added that overbuilding is perhaps the biggest culprit in the market's real estate slowdown.

"Northwest Arkansas has always been an inventory issue," he said. "They've constantly had people moving in there. Our business has been steady there."

More than 130 companies around the state received surveys in the second year of compiling the largest title companies list. There is no fee or financial obligation for companies providing information for consideration, as is the case with every list published by Arkansas Business.




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