Cyberhomes and its future

In An Open Letter to the Title Insurance Industry, I posited that the title insurance companies had to transform from their cozy business-to-business model centered on providing settlement services for the Realtor to embracing a larger customer base, which includes the consumer. In doing so, they have the opportunity to recast their business model from paper-pushing insurance using hordes of title reps to online data delivery using the internet.

Cyberhomes was the baby step in testing how to package title-based data to the consumer. It met with some tepid reviews because there was no concurrent marketing campaign nor promotion, it was a dry site with a retro-world wide web name. Despite the unassuming start, Fidelity/Cyberhomes has been watching the data delivery landscape powered by AVM brother Zillow like a gorilla in the brush.

Marty Frame, Cyberhomes architect, shared a few disclosable thoughts on where Cyberhomes is headed.

In my Cyberhomes - Part 1 article a few days ago, I posited that Cyberhomes has access to and the confidence of the brokers based on the fact the title insurance industry historically caters to them. Affinity marketing - positioning Cyberhomes to add value to and reinforce the brokers' business - is a natural way to maintain their relationship. Cyberhomes is already branding their AVM for inclusion on the brokers' sites... the next step is transactional -  Cyberhomes can extend business lines vertically for the broker. For example, Marty envisions how Cyberhomes can offer consumers instant and binding refinancing quotes - with title insurance qualification and competitive rates - to any consumer just as Zillow provides their Zestimates today. The consumer only needs to verify his/her identity to receive the personally customized quote... and those quotes can also be delivered through the brokers' sites for revenue sharing.

How can Fidelity offer such a Web 3.0-like deal? The gorilla is Fidelity's access to title and other financial data... a critical competitive advantage over their Real Estate 2.0 brethren.

Instant title qualification? It's already reality... in the past week, the two reigning experts on title insurance issues, Diane Ciba and Ed Rybczynski discuss First American's new TitleSmart product, which promises title qualification in one minute (current preliminary title reports can take up to several days to prepare). Title agents lose out... First American's offering will cut the price of lender's title insurance and lower agent commissions. In essence, title insurance companies are disintermediating the title agents and streamlining the settlement process because their lender clients are demanding speed and efficiency. Inevitably, First American/TitleSmart will also have a consumer facing site spewing out binding quotes just as Marty envisions.

Here's the point: this is how the title insurance companies will finally engage the consumer - at the POINT OF SALE where the loan broker and/or Realtor can CLOSE THE DEAL with their client right there and then with an instant transaction confirmation delivered electronically, not by a title rep. Where the rubber meets the road... the spirit of Glengarry Glen Ross lives and technology just makes the closing easier.

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  • 1/25/2007 1:24 PM Thelma Saunders wrote:
    It was great running into you this morning Pat. You know,what's intersting to me is, I've been doing what you recommended (and what I intuitively knew to be true) without realizing it. I just had to get my head wrapped around it in my own, personal way. The path I've chosen, a blog for my neighborhood, is stimulating. I'm excited to write for my neighbors and our community. The perspective makes all the difference. And, of course, the whole concept came from you. Somehow I realize it was working in the back of my mind since we first met. Anyway, I look forward to getting together with John. It's very exciting to be at the forefront of this phenomenon! Thelma
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