Executive Summary

Last year's refinancing boom fueled by record-low interest rates increased both the number and dollar amount of mortgages insured by the top title companies in Los Angeles County.

After two years of declines, the dollar amount of mortgages insured by the county's 25 largest title companies jumped 77 percent, with refinances, sales and construction loans totaling $98.4 billion last year. The 448,000 loans granted by the top 25 title companies marked an 82 percent jump from 2000.

Most of the overall jump was as a result of refinancing activity. Federal interest rate cuts, 11 of which totaled 4.25 percentage points during 2001, dropped mortgage rate levels to 6 percent toward the end of last year. As a result, top title companies insured $66 billion in refis last year, triple the amount in 2000.

The boom resonated all across the list, from market leader Fidelity National Title, which doubled its insured dollar volume last year, to smaller companies like American Coast Title and New Century Title, each of which more than tripled their insured dollar volume figures.

Danny King

The Pacemaker: Fidelity National Title Insurance Co.

For the second straight year, Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. was the top insurer of mortgages in Los Angeles County.

The Tarzana-based firm more than held its own during the year-end refinancing frenzy by tripling the volume of business generated by title insurance on refinanced mortgages. Fidelity National wrote title insurance on $10.5 billion worth of refinanced mortgages, about 70 percent of its total business, up from 46 percent in 2000.

While the company failed to reach its stated goal of picking up an additional 3 percent market share last year, it still represented 15 percent of the county's title insurance market, up from 13.7 percent in 2000. In all, the company insured 67,542 loans in the county, about 12,000 more than its nearest competitor, First American Title.

Fidelity National Title is the largest of three subsidiaries of Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chicago Title, parent company of Ticor Title, is also a Fidelity National Financial subsidiary. Last month, Santa Barbara-based Fidelity National Financial created Property Insight, specifically for the purposes of combining all of the subsidiaries' databases into one information service provider.

The parent company had a record year in 2001, reporting $305 million in net income, up from $108 million in 2000.

Danny King

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