By Julie Brown
Helping people achieve the American dream of home ownership is one of the greatest rewards of being a real estate professional. Ask anyone who works in the industry why they do it and they’ll likely say to help other people. Professionals who work in the title business are no exception.
The work of title professionals is not glamorous but is critical and often goes unrecognized. That little piece of paper and insurance policy is what guarantees someone owns property. Residential Executive met with Fidelity National Title’s Melissa Shapiro to learn more about this noble profession.
Melissa Shapiro loves to garden. She enjoys planting seeds and watching them grow. That same passion for growth has taken her real estate career far. Shapiro wanted to streamline the transaction by keeping realtors, lending and title under one roof. She has brought that vision to life over the last decade and is proud of her contributions to the real estate industry.
With a background in pharmaceutical sales, transitioning to selling real estate wasn’t a huge leap for Shapiro. She earned her license in 2004 and started thinking about what she could do to affect the industry and better serve her clients.
“We help clients make the biggest purchase of their life, and it never made sense to me that we send them to a third-party entity they’ve never met before to sign what is easily the most important documents of the transaction,” she says. “I always thought it was a huge disconnect that we didn’t handle the client from the beginning to end throughout the entire transaction process.”
In 2005, Shapiro was approached by a company to create in an in-house title division. That philosophy of making title part of the business partnership carried with her to her current role as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Fidelity National Title. Now she manages a team of title and escrow experts and stresses the customer service part of the business.
“We get in the middle of the transaction and become a true partner, not just an ancillary piece of the closing at the end,” she says. “We’re an extension of our clients and not just a third-party entity.”
With the market and economy starting to improve, Shapiro says the title industry is becoming more competitive. She points out there were 143 title entities in 2006 and now there are approximately 122, but that number is quickly growing.
“It’s really forcing us to get back to the basics of business like answering your phone and providing customer service,” says Shapiro. “When you are looking for a title company, you’re not looking at rates because we all follow the same mandates and essentially have the same product. You’re really looking at service and who will be an extension of your company and a true business partner in helping save time, money and create additional resources.”
Providing a full-service and memorable experience has been the biggest strategy to Fidelity’s success, Shapiro says. The company hosts many events to network, educate and support the community.
“As real estate professionals, we have a responsibility to educate homeowners that they have choices now. Over the past few years, people were stuck in their homes unless they wanted to short sale or foreclose. Now there is more equity than ever and homeowners have the freedom to choose to stay or sell. ,” says Shapiro. “Many people have been concerned with our low inventory, yet the market is improving so people have choices they didn’t have before. They can downgrade or upgrade.”
The recession has definitely changed the way people do business, Shapiro says.
“I don’t think we will ever experience what we have over the past few years with the distressed market. We have more mandates in the works now,” she says. “These new requirements have made it difficult and scarier for banks and title companies to do business efficiently. We have to be responsible and need to educate homeowners and provide proper default notification.”
For Shapiro and her team, it’s still about providing value and service, much like planting a seed and watching it grow.
“We have to do something spectacular so that people choose us,” says Shapiro. “We have to be innovative, aggressive, on the cutting edge and get out in front of the transaction instead of only being at the close.”