Riding the wave of record-low interest rates, the volume of mortgages insured by the 25 largest title insurance firms in L.A. County increased to $155.7 billion, a 54 percent increase over 2001 levels.
With 30-year fixed mortgage rates dipping below 6 percent, refinancings accounted for more than 70 percent of the volume. The value of L.A. County mortgage refinancing hit $111.3 billion in 2002, a two-thirds increase over the year earlier. Sales volume increased as well, with insurance written on $41.1 billion in sales in 2002, a 30 percent increase over 2001.
All of the companies on the list registered gains for the year, ranging from the 20 percent increase posted by No. 17 Diversified Title and Escrow Services, formerly South Coast Title, to No. 23 California Title, which tripled its mortgage volume. California Title, along with No. 7 Equity Title were the only two companies to go against the refinancing trend, with a majority of underwriting derived from sales mortgages.
Fidelity National Title Insurance Co.
With $22.8 billion worth of mortgages insured in Los Angeles County in 2002, Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. was the largest title insurer for the third consecutive year.
In posting a 50 percent increase in volume in 2002, Fidelity could not keep up the torrid pace it set in 2001, when it doubled its volume over the previous year. Fidelity also lost 0.57 percent in market share, for 14.4 percent of the L.A. market. The firm still recorded more than $3 billion in mortgage volume and 9,000 more loans insured than No. 2 First American Title.
The lion’s share of Fidelity’s growth came from refinancings, accounting for three-fourths of its total business. Fidelity recorded a 62.3 percent increase in its refinance activity in 2002. Refinance mortgages insured totaled $17.1 billion, compared to $10.5 billion in 2001.
The balance came largely from sales, in which Fidelity registering a 25.6 percent increase over 2001, to $5.4 billion.
Fidelity National Title, along with No. 3 Chicago Title and No. 21 Ticor Title, are subsidiaries of industry giant Fidelity National Financial Inc. The parent company became the largest title insurance company in the United States after its 2000 acquisition of Chicago Title Corp. and now accounts for 30 percent of all title insurance policies nationally.