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Bill wins title for taking the strain out of taxes.

A title insurance agency isn't usually the kind of business innovative entrepreneurs dream of entering. Rates for title and mortgage insurance are fixed by the government, so it isn't as if a new entry into the industry can make a splash by hatching a streamlined operational model that will allow it to shave pricing.

Yet Bill Barron, who founded the title insurance agency Titlevest in 2000, has managed to differentiate himself from the faceless others in the business and find success by offering superior service and technology.

The heart of his business is common to all title insurance agencies: the review of titles for real property about to be sold and insuring that those titles are free and clear from any liens or other encumbrances that could prevent the purchaser from securing ownership or using the property in accordance with its intended function.

Barron's firm also sells mortgage insurance to insurers which guarantees that, in the event of a loan default, the insured lender is the first lien holder and is consequently free of any obstacles that could affect its right to foreclose on the property.

But while the product it offers is somewhat standardized, Barron has drawn attention to his title insurance agency by installing a website, www.titlevest.com, that in addition to enabling clients to place insurance orders, also allows them access to free proprietary software designed by Titlevest's team of programmers.

The programs, which can be accessed simply by logging onto the firm's site, aid in the creation of a host of real estate legal forms pertinent to the process of transferring a property's title and deed. They can generate and help complete everything from contracts of sale to New York State transfer tax forms to the city's relatively new ACRIS tax form which must be filed online.

Additionally, Titlevest's site also provides a closing cost calculator, the first of its kind that tabulates the hard to identify charges added to the price of a transaction, like title insurance premiums, transfer taxes, mansion taxes, and fees to record deeds and do mortgage searches.

The latest addition to Titlevest's free software offerings is a program called ACRIS ASAP which interfaces with the city's ACRIS transfer tax website. Unlike the city's site, which according to Barron isn't intuitive and is plagued by inefficiency, Titlevest provides a software platform that simplifies the ACRIS transfer tax process and consolidates redundant data.

"We've taken the city's website, which has tons of confusing check boxes and different sections where you have to fill out the same data again and again, and made it far more user friendly," Barron said. "It allows the user to enter the minimum amount of data and get through the process far more intuitively rather than having to know the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the city's site."

The Titlevest website also has the capability to store all data that a user enters and insert that data where applicable in any other form that it provides, allowing its users the convenience of never having to enter the same information twice.

Titlevest offers all of its software for free to registered users. To register is also free, though Barron has guessed accurately that users, so impressed by his site's features, will order their title insurance through his firm.

"We think that having this website and continually keeping it up to date will show clients that we're both innovative and first class service providers," Barron said. "We hope that users will respond to the valuable tools we offer by purchasing their insurance through us. So far that has been the case and we've continued growth of our clientele."

Perhaps the greatest testament to the efficacy with which Barron's website and software has lured buyers to purchase title and mortgage insurance through his firm is the fact that despite employing over 30 people, Titlevest doesn't have on staff a single salesperson.

"To not have salespeople is virtually unheard of in this industry," Barron said. "But we have word of mouth from so many satisfied customers and that's been the most effective way to helping us grow.

"One of the things I'm fanatical about is providing the kinds of services with our website where people come away and have great things to say about us. Real estate attorneys or real estate buyers will come on and use our software to help them complete a real estate transfer and they've really enjoyed using our software and see it as a valuable tool to their business. If we can continue to do that, I think that we're going to keep on growing and have even more success."
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Title Annotation:PROFILE OF THE WEEK: Bill Barron, Founder & President, Titlevest Agency Inc.
Author:Geiger, Daniel
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 11, 2005
Words:772
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