Terry Powers, officer at a title company in San Mateo, admits that being somewhat of a detective helps in his work.
“When someone buys a house, we issue a preliminary title report that lists ownership and financing and also if there are any kind of public utility easements,” he explains. “I search the ownership back through the years, do a chain of title, check for accuracy and put those together in a report that is sent to realtor and lender.”
When he first began working with the company he went to the county recorder’s office and spent hours searching home records that dated back to the 1800s. He confesses that even though having all the records on his computer is handy; the thrill of perusing history still holds a fascination.
“I ran across a copy of Leland Stanford’s will one afternoon that detailed all the property owned by his family and the amount he left to the university,” Powers reminisces. “Several years ago I did a search on singer Bing Crosby’s Hillsborough home that was worth under $1 million when he died in 1977. It’s probably worth over $4 million today.”
He says it’s still a seller’s market today and that fact was illustrated recently after searching information on a modest 50-year-old home in Woodside. The price tag was $22 million.
A few of the valuable attributes for those wanting to go into the title field include a keen interest in research and patience in looking up former property owners and their histories.
“The best part about my job is the fact that you don’t have to have a college degree,” says Powers. “I was a professional gardener, but after a back injury I looked for something less physical. I began working for a title company by pulling documents as an office helper.”
He worked his way up to become a title examiner and then to his present position. He says there are hundreds of job opportunities in the related escrow industry that involves working with banks and realtors. Secretarial positions are in especially high demand.
“If you are dedicated to the job, all you really need is a high school diploma,” Powers reports. “Mostly it’s on-the-job learning and training. You learn from the people who have done the detective work.”
Lending a Hand
According to John Marcell, president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers, his business is either feast of famine and, unfortunately, this time of year it’s the latter.
“For the past five years there has been a large volume business and our industry has acquired people to take care of the volume,” he explains. “But as the interest rates rise, the demand for mortgages decreases and loan demand goes down as well.”
Lower interest rates bring more borrowers to the table. And though interest rates are inching up, the sheer volume of real-estate transactions in California ensures a steady supply of mortgage-related job opportunities.
“There are salespeople, who need to have a personable attitude and a knack for selling,” Marcell relates. “There are job opportunities for underwriters, who look at loan applications and determine if they should be made, and for those in the funding department who check the documents for accuracy before they are sent to the shipping department for mailing.”
Spring, he claims, is the best time to get into the lucrative mortgage industry. That’s the time people are looking to buy a new home and for a new mortgage. In the meantime, savvy jobseekers could get ahead of the herd by taking some Department of Real Estate courses. It’s a great way to get the knowledge you need rather than waiting for on-the-job training. Students in high school should try to improve their grade point average and get involved in school and community activities.
“Brushing up on your math skills is key,” Marcell advises. “So much of what we do involves calculations, so prospective financial employees need an ingrained aptitude. I can teach you the mechanics of how to figure loans, but you have to be capable of using calculator and computer.”
Another option to get into the finance game is through insurance companies. Agents now are offering loans and handling investments.
According to a life insurance association, young adults are showing more of a propensity to save what they earn than the older baby boomers. Insurance agencies are cashing in on this change and are offering broader financial services.
Just as banking as gotten into insurance, the insurance industry as gone into banking and is handling mortgages, lines of credit, mutual funds, CDs, savings and checking accounts. Agents have to be licensed to sell banking transactions.
Lonny Haskins with State Farm in Rohnert Park points out that all the financial part of the business is handled through agents. And to become a State Farm agent requires passing a state licensing examination in the financial sector as well as selling auto and home policies.
“I am told that our company has the best support in the industry to get new agents started, and we are looking for agents all the time,” he notes. “And our better agents do very well financially.”
State Farm agents are actually independent contractors with their own small businesses. According to Haskins, those who succeed have motivation, attention to detail, ability to hire good staff, coupled with a keen business sense.
“It is an advantage to have a lot of business savvy to begin with, but no master’s degree is required,” he reports. “However, prospective agents must realize that the business and its success will depend on them.
“That’s your insurance to a successful future.”
Jobseekers considering their career options in the insurance industry can call State Farm’s recruiting department in Sacramento at (916)746-5198.