Charles Jones Blog
I still remember the first time I saw a title plant in action. It was in the late 90’s and I was new to the industry, having just joined Charles Jones. I was at my first ALTA convention and saw a demonstration of a Data Trace™ search. Word was that it was the way to do business in many other parts of the country. I thought this is certainly easier than thumbing through musty index books and hauling big bound encyclopedias to the copier. I was intrigued with the power and speed of such a tool. It contained millions of records. I wondered when, (not if) it would come to New Jersey and if I could help bring it to our customers.
A lot has changed since then. Signature Information Solutions now offers the Data Trace Title Plant in NJ and many counties have automated their records – some even (gasp!) putting portions of them online!
One of the reasons I had been brought into Charles Jones® was to build a title plant. I had prior experience building technical products in the information industry and Charles Jones had been advised by clients that County Search was an area that could really benefit from a better way to do things. After considerable time, research, and capital investment, we completed our research around the turn of the century (it’s fun to say that). The verdict was in: As a family-owned business, the multi-million dollar investment and the identified risks were considered too great and we sought partners to share the innovative opportunity and the associated risks.
Data Trace later decided to build NJ plants on its own and fought through the considerable challenges. In addition to access to complete records, many clerks and searchers were resistant to the idea and felt threatened. Agents who had outsourced searching in the last 30 years were reluctant to bring it back in-house. But Data Trace moved forward and now Signature offers ten automated counties of at least 20 years each and more on the way.
But, while title plants are the norm in other parts of the country, NJ title agents are just starting to adopt the technology. Signature now has many customers enjoying the benefits afforded by the plants. For present owner searches, it‘s a fast and convenient way to get the job done.
So, what does a title plant mean? It means controlling your search queue and completing your work when you need it. It means the freedom to complete searches or pull documents when the courthouses are closed. It means having the choice of whether searches are completed in the office or at home. It means enjoying the flexibility to conduct rundowns or pull documents at the closing table. It means impressing a top client who sends an order late in the day, by having a commitment prepared the next morning. And it can mean improved retained earnings due to its favorable pricing structure. Title Plants are a different way to do work. It may seem far away right now, but as the housing market recovers, title agents will one day find themselves working seven days a week again. The title plant can be a tool to help get the job done. We’ve seen a lot of changes in this industry since I saw my first title plant. What changes do you see in the next ten years? How will title plants play a role? What do you think?
Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing