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Media Contact:
Christine Ziomek
chris@caryl.com
(201) 796-7788
June 19, 2012

TALKING TITLE WITH ELLIOT ZAKS

A Look at Title Insurance Trends in 2012 with the Director of Operations for Madison Title Agency

LAKEWOOD, N.J., June 19, 2012 – Was 2011 the year that the title insurance business turned a corner? Looking at 2012, will claims begin to head down and profits start to climb? Elliot Zaks is the co-founder and director of operations of Madison Title Agency, the flagship company of Madison Commercial Real Estate Services (MCRES), based in Lakewood, N.J. We spoke with him to get a sense of the trends he sees in title insurance and his goals for the future.

Q: Could you start by telling us a bit about Madison Title Agency?
A: In 1998, Joseph Rosenbaum and I were two young New Jersey real estate investors who wanted to build a new model for title insurance agencies. We believed there was room for a title agency with the resources and scope to handle the largest deals but with the agility and client services that distinguish a boutique agency. And so we launched Madison Title Agency.

In our first year of operation, Madison Title completed 2,500 transactions and insured more than $1 billion of liability. The company grew, and now we provide complete title services in all 50 states. In fact in 2007, before the real estate market collapsed, we handled the title insurance and closing on the largest non-casino transaction in the history of the United States – the $8 billion Extended Stay Hotel chain – consisting of 684 hotels in 44 states in the United States and Canada in less than two months. We handle searches, write policies, manage transactions, provide closing and escrow services, and offer REO solutions and bulk transaction management services. To date, we’ve insured over $100 billion in commercial and residential real estate transactions.

Q: How did Madison Title navigate the real estate collapse beginning in 2008?
A: It goes without saying that the economic downturn was a huge challenge for everyone involved in commercial real estate. Many large and seemingly secure firms either went out of business or were acquired. Between 2008 and 2010, over 50 percent of title agencies across the nation closed their doors. At Madison, we responded to this dismal landscape by sharpening our focus on the needs of the commercial real estate industry. We developed new services and offered our clients innovative solutions. And we did this while staying true to our core values of integrity, adaptability, creativity and hard work.

Q: What were some of the tactics you used to survive the Recession?
A: While other companies were cutting back on making investments, we took a number of careful, proactive steps to build our client outreach efforts and our technology infrastructure. For example, we installed a sophisticated web-based system for automated workflow and documentation capability, providing clients with 24/7 access to information and services.

We strengthened our marketing team and expanded our relationships with a select group of companies through work-flow partnerships. When other agencies were slashing their staffs, we added some of the nation’s most successful title professionals to our team. I believe that our program of calculated investments has resulted in a much stronger company today.

Q: How does the title insurance industry look to you today?
A:  A number of title insurance underwriters reported an operating profit in 2011, with a decrease in claims and an increase in net income. For some, the uptick may be the results of cost-cutting measures counteracting their relatively low overall volume. But these are obviously better results compared to the situation a few years ago. It suggests that the market has hit bottom and is starting to recover. And with the bigger underwriters still saddled with significant liabilities, there are opportunities opening for mid-sized companies that aren’t afraid to be nimble and innovative.

Q: What is your vision for the company in 2012?
A: We continue to be driven by the entrepreneurial spirit that launched Madison in 1998. Growth requires innovation. We want to provide our clients the best in 24/7 support, with a team of top title professionals and state-of-the-art technological solutions. Most importantly, we’re committed to building Madison by doing business the right way. We avoided the fate of many title agencies over the past few years because of our unwavering commitment to service, a fundamental integrity and a careful attention to detail. These values haven’t changed since 1998, and they will continue to drive our course in the future.

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