I think I’ll keep it for myself

Today, I didn’t feel bad enough to stay home or good enough to go to work. So that just makes for a really pissy combination. That kind of snottiness that makes you wake up with your eyes and nose crusted over in a pool of drool on your pillow because you’ve been sleeping with your mouth open, because your nose is crusted over kind of sick. The kind of sick where you go back in your mind over all the people who were so inconsiderate as to go outside in crowds of people when they were infected and want to disembowel them. I should have gotten up and stood on the BART train that morning that guy sat behind me and sniffled for the entire ride. Or the guy with the annoying hack. But I didn’t and now I’m just wasting my hate. My overall sense is that of aggravation. Coupled that with a few ironic conversations, well, away we go! Danger! Rant ahead!

First, let me take a swipe at Seeno. Yeah, the monsterous builder of Contra Costa County and also the owner of the adjacent property to mine. According to their “Property Manager” the fence that blew over in the storm is mine, and therefore my problem. It’s a common fence you ass clown. Is that how you got rich? Jacking the average Joe? I’m giving Albert Seeno III Today’s Worst Person in the World. (with a nod to Keith Olbermann)

The seminal event –a conversation with a Senior Paralegal at MoFo. (who BTW is on the list of the top 100 places to work) I’ve done business with this woman on and off for around twelve years. She was a puppy paralegal when I first met her. She is a seasoned professional now. We were working on a transaction together and I was explaining something in the preliminary report to her. There are certain buzzwords that make paralegals twitch. Documents entitled “Agreement for Water Use” fall into that category. This particular document affected farm property and was necessary back in the 1930’s for these guys to get a loan from the Federal Land Bank. It said so, right in the document. So I explained everything that I thought about the document and she said “I was so glad to see you were on this deal. There are so few Title Officers who know what they’re doing any more. I knew you’d know what to do.” I took it as it was meant. I get a comment like that nearly every day. I had a guy last month, who I had never worked with before tell me that working with me was “fun and easy”. For my money, that was one of the best compliments I’ve gotten short of this:

Thanks for all your help with the XYZ Holdings, Ltd. transaction. Your professionalism, calm demeanor and good humor were much appreciated. (They are in short supply in many organizations these days) I hope we can work on another closing in the future.


Hank is a Texas land lawyer who sent me that in a handwritten note on his personal stationary. Every time I read that I can hear his gentle Texas accent on the phone. Sadly, I haven’t had an opportunity to work on a Jaguar dealership since then.

I’m good. I know what I’m doing and I’ve been doing it since 1976. And I’ll probably leave the business in the next year or so, out of aggravation with the industry. The sad part is there is no one coming up behind me. I possess skills and a craft that is no longer revered or even expected, and the number of claims attorneys will triple because of it. Pay me now or pay them later.

The rumbling in the business is that things will swing back to the way they were (prior to title work being done uh, remotely) I think it will too. I just don’t know if I have the stomach to wait for a lumbering industry to catch up to what I already know. In 1995 I went to my first Macworld. I was amazed at the technology. I went back and told my boss at the time that the technology existed to store digitized copies of recorded documents, scrape those documents with optical character recognition software and insert that information into a preliminary report. Thirteen years later, the title industry still hasn’t implemented a technology that I figured out after my first Macworld and a couple of beers. And while that’s super cool technology, it is not a substitute for actual knowledge. Every county has it’s nuances and unless a title professional is working in that particular county every single day, they cannot keep up with the nuances. I am expected to write the entire country, (with the exception of attorney states). It scares me to death. Hell, San Mateo County with their squirrelly joint plant scares me. Multnomah County scares the shiweewee out of me. And we have 10,000 workers in a country that doesn’t even have title insurance writing our preliminary reports. How foolhardy is that?

Back in the day (when I was young) title companies built their title plants by having Posters in the back rooms. These people would run out the legal descriptions of every new recorded document and “post” that document into the proper arb account. Then when an order opened on that property, the searcher would go to the arb book, run the correct arb and be able to prepare the search package based on what was posted in the arb book. Smaller companies went to the courthouse and grantor/grantee searched everything, or purchased “plant time” or “search packages” from the larger firms.

That’s a big misnomer in this business. Customers, that is, policy purchasers, believe that we search the Official Record every time we write a prelim or a commitment. We don’t. We search our plant, we never actually search the Official Record. Nowadays, we all have the same plant, so we all make the same mistakes. Half the time we write “quick” reports that have a bullshit exception in them that essentially means “anything we might have found, had we done the job you think we did”. Back in the 1970’s a company by the name of HW Systems came into Alameda County and built a plant back to 1958. (a very good year). TRW bought them and ran it for a number of years. I used to hang out with the San Francisco poster. He would locate all of the previous day’s documents and mark them up for the keypunchers. They would then input the information for the title plant. He was out of there no later than 11am every single day and half of that time we were screwing around talking about Formula racing. He’s now a cab driver. The point is, not a lot goes into how things were posted back in the 1980’s. I’m sure less goes into it now. I’m positive that the tapes are sent to another country and coded and keypunched there. TRW sold the unit eventually and it is now owned by First American, which coincidentally had this little press release today. So when marketing reps come out and tell customers how they “carefully search the records”, that’s bullshit. They punch some buttons in on a computer, the document retrieval system prints out a run, they choose which documents they’d like to see from that and lickety split it goes right back out the back door, in Bangalore.

The thing is, the part where the record is carefully searched, is gone. It’s a lost art. It’s ancient history. When I ran the American plant we went into San Francisco. A friend of mine had a copy of the E&R cards in her basement and we paid her $2500 for them. They were Easement and Restriction cards on every block in San Francisco. It was compiled by a an old Title Officer, Egon Hall over the span of his career and then copied for those coming up behind him. I took a kid that I thought had potential and taught her how to run property at the courthouse in San Francisco. I told her “never forget what you’ve learned right here. It’s a lost art and it will separate you from the crowd someday.” That was the last kid I taught how to search the record. The guy at our shop who knew how to search the Macinernies in San Francisco died. That leaves me. Before I got here, they had no one. Which gets me to the last part of our rant today Jackie Speier.  Jackie Speier is running for the House of Representatives and needs to be stopped. Here’s why.

State Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, responded at the time by saying that lawmakers need to take a closer look at the politically powerful title insurance industry, which had lobbied aggressively to prevent consumers from having access to lower-cost alternative plans. Apparently Speier didn’t like what she saw. She introduced legislation the other day that would allow homeowners to cut their title insurance costs in half when refinancing. “The law in California has lagged behind changes in technology and consumers spending upwards of $1,000 each time they refinance their home,” Speier told me. “This bill will create more competition in the mortgage guarantee and title business, and that can only be good for consumers.” When I first tackled this issue, I focused on an upstart firm called Radian Guaranty that wanted to offer cut-rate mortgage insurance policies. Radian’s service wouldn’t include many of the bells and whistles, such as title searches, that are usually not necessary for refinancing. The problem was that mortgage insurance was deemed by state officials to be no different from title insurance, and title insurance can only be offered in California by a licensed title insurer. Under Speier’s bill — SB344 — both title insurers and mortgage guarantee companies like Radian could offer the new low-cost policies, a move that could save homeowners hundreds of dollars during the refi process.

Politically powerful? That’s a crock in and to itself. And why it’s complete bullshit.

And these little tidbits, that really make my whiskers twitch.


Beauregard and Rita concur, Jackie Speier must be stopped. The bitch is after two of the things that matter most to me. My job and my dogs. She must be stopped. Again.