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Boring Title: Childhood Friends

Title insurance is boring, but Allied Title & Escrow is here to decode the jargon and make it (somewhat) more interesting. This biweekly column will explore the mundane (but very necessary!) world of title insurance while sharing interesting stories of two friends’ entrepreneurial careers. 

What did two childhood friends see in the title industry to make them think there was a big opportunity and a better way to serve agents, builders, lenders and home buyers?

We (Matt Paulson and Latane Meade) have known each other since a basketball league for 7 years olds in Virginia Beach where our dads coached and sometimes got kicked out of games for yelling at 16 year old refs.

Yep, it’s true.

We always discussed different businesses and finally teamed up to start Allied Title & Escrow a couple years ago. We saw an archaic industry which we thought we could shake up.

Today’s article is what we thought could be done better and what we put in place to make sure we could achieve those goals.

As we looked at the industry, we noticed a few consistent themes with title companies:

  • On the technology front, most companies seemed to behind the ball. Websites were outdated, not mobile friendly and most companies didn’t have a social media presence and weren’t engaging with their customers.
  • Reactive (vs proactive) communication — within the industry, title companies have a reputation for being hard to get in touch with and not responding quickly.
  • On a similar note, clients could rarely get in touch with the owners of the title company if a significant issue arose.
  • Feedback from customers — title companies weren’t consistently reaching out to clients to find out how their settlement experience went and how they could get better.
  • Flexibility — many times people buying or selling a home were too busy to come to the title company for the closing during a work day.
  • Atmosphere — the old law firm office feel (mahogany wood panels) from the 90’s still held true in many cases. Sure it’s title insurance and boring but why can’t the settlement experience be fun and cool?

How did we solve or improve on the industry?

  • We hired marketing experts to help create engaging content (blogs, social media posts) where we can interact with our customers and provide them marketing ideas that can improve their sales. A mobile friendly website was an easy fix!
  • Consistent lunch and learns educating agents and builders on hot topics (eg., TOPA in DC, IZ (Inclusionary Zoning) regulations, what marketing does and doesn’t work for agents.
  • Internally, we preach over-communicating and pro-active communication with our clients (agents, builders, lenders and consumers). Whether it’s responding immediately after a contract comes in or answering questions from agents, lenders or the buyers/sellers themselves, we always try to respond timely to questions.
  • Matt and Latane provide our clients with our cell phone numbers so they can get in touch with us 24/7 if they need to. We have a great team in place who typically can solve their questions or issues but if not we are always available.
  • Continuous feedback — we continuously reach out to our clients to ask them how we did. We might not always hit the mark perfectly but by learning how we can improve and constantly making tweaks, we are always going above and beyond to make a client’s experience top notch. Click here to see our Google Reviews from actual customers.
  • We provide remote settlements and will do a settlement anytime and anywhere so buyers and sellers can continue on with their busy lives.
  • Fun office atmosphere. Raised ceilings, Silicon Valley feel, coffee and beer on tap for buyers to celebrate their new home. Click here to see our office!

Although we believe that we have built a great company and provide a great experience for our customers, we are always looking to improve. We try to follow a specific vision, mission statement and values, which you can find here.

Title Tip of the Week

How to avoid wire fraud!

Wire fraud is more and more prevalent in today’s culture. The main thing you can do to avoid wire fraud is to call the title company’s office and receive the wire instructions over the phone. You should not just accept wire instructions over email in case a scammer has hacked an email and has begun corresponding with you.

When calling the title company, search them on Google and call the phone number listed on Google or on their website. The reason you do this is in case a scammer is emailing you and telling you to call his number to get the wire instructions over the phone.

Have questions related to title insurance? Email Latane and Matt at [email protected].

Want to use Allied Title & Escrow when you buy a home? Tell your agent when you buy a house to write in Allied Title & Escrow as your settlement company!

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Boring Title: Top 10 Tips for a Smooth Home Buying Experience in Northern Virginia

Title insurance is boring, but Allied Title & Escrow is here to decode the jargon and make it (somewhat) more interesting. This biweekly column will explore the mundane (but very necessary!) world of title insurance while sharing interesting stories of two friends’ entrepreneurial careers. 

One of the most commonly asked questions from people starting the home buying process is: how do I have a smooth transaction?

We want to make it easy for you to close on your dream home! Read more for our top tips for having a smooth home buying experience in Northern Virginia.

1. Meet with your real estate professionals early

Even if you’ve bought and sold a house before, start the process early. Talking with professionals well in advance of when you want to buy will help you be prepared.

Meet with your real estate agent, title expert, loan officer or home inspector early in the process to know what they will need from you and to get a grasp on what the timeline and process will be moving forward.

2. Listen to the experts

A good rule of thumb in any real estate transaction is to listen to the experts! Make sure you hire someone with experience. Or if it’s a friend you are hiring, make sure they have experts on their team that can provide you the good and bad on every property.

No question is a bad question when you are trying to determine if you are going to buy your dream home.

3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Definitely sit down with a mortgage lender before you see properties. A lender will ensure that you are looking for homes that you can afford. In addition, they will make sure you have the proper paperwork so that when you find your dream home you can close quickly.

4. Make a list of must-haves and would-likes

The fewer must-have requirements you have for a new home the more options you will have.

In addition, being flexible means that you can consider homes in your budget range that you might not have considered before. Great real estate professionals will let you know when your expectations aren’t realistic.

5. Make decisions quickly but not hastily

In the greater Washington DC area, properties fly on and off the market. So, it’s best that when you see something you love you make a decision quickly and write up an offer. This will help you be able to secure a home that you want rather than lose out on it during the home buying experience in Northern Virginia.

6. Expect the unexpected during the home buying experience in Northern Virginia

Expect that there will be something that comes up in your home inspection or something before closing is revealed about the property.

Make sure that your timeline allows for a delay. That way you can ensure you know all potential issues with the home and you can request a credit or the seller to fix any issues.

7. Talk to your title and escrow company early

The home title is one area in which a transaction could fall apart.

Engage with your title and escrow company early in regards to the status of the home you’re looking at purchasing. A great title and escrow company will perform a thorough title search to see any potential issues related to the title of the property.

Are there any liens? Any heirs on the title that aren’t the sellers you are negotiating with? Getting title insurance will protect you if there are past or future issues, and you only have to pay it one time at closing!

8. Perform a final walk-through

Ensure that prior to closing you walk the property one last time. Sometime a large rainstorm or unexpected event can change the condition of the property.

Generally, it is 30-60 days from the time that you put a contract down on a property to the time that you go to closing. You want to make sure that the property is intact and there is nothing visibly wrong before signing the paperwork.

9. Read the closing documents

Your closing documents may seem daunting but be sure to read through them! This includes the interest rate, taxes and closing costs.

Ask any lingering questions of your mortgage, real estate and title professionals before going to closing so that you are ready to sign when you go to the meeting.

10. Get the keys and enjoy your new home

The final part of your home buying experience in Northern Virginia is enjoying your new home! Hire moving professionals for a smooth move. When your transition goes well, you can really enjoy your new space even if there are a few items left on your to-do list!

Have questions related to title insurance? Email Latane and Matt at [email protected]. Want to use Allied Title & Escrow when you buy a home? Tell your agent when you buy a house to write in Allied Title & Escrow as your settlement company!

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Boring Title: 6 Surprising Reasons a Title Company & Title Insurance is Important

Title insurance is boring, but Allied Title & Escrow is here to decode the jargon and make it (somewhat) more interesting. This biweekly column will explore the mundane (but very necessary!) world of title insurance while sharing interesting stories of two friends’ entrepreneurial careers. 

For many people across Northern Virginia, buying a home is one of the biggest investments they will make in their lifetime. That’s why it is so important to make sure that your investment is protected.

Believe it or not, there are many reasons why title insurance and working with a reputable title company is so important. Here are the most common and unexpected reasons you absolutely need title insurance.

1. Proper Record-Keeping

When you use a title and escrow company to process your sale, this means there is a proper record for who owns the home and land. This helps protect your investment while you own it and when you want to sell it.

2. Avoid Scam Artists

Even in this day and age, there are scam artists that can forge documents and pretend to own a property. These types of people may approach you as not wanting to go through the proper channels to buy a home.

You could find later that they were not the legal owners of a home and therefore you are not the legal owner despite any money exchanged.

3. Undisclosed Estate Issues

Even if a home is not sold directly as a result of an estate sale there could be issues with a will regarding who owns a home. If someone doesn’t have full ownership rights they can’t sell the home legally. Title insurance can help protect you from undisclosed issues down the road.

4. Fencing or Illegal Building on Your Property

Whether you have a lot of property or a small piece of property, encroachment of fencing or buildings onto your property can be an issue. Just because a building or fence is there does not mean that it was permitted, approved or on the property line. A good title and escrow company can help you understand what you own and what you need to protect.

5. Legal Disputes

Anything from divorce, bankruptcy or disputes regarding payments on renovations can put the title of a house at risk. If you buy a house with outstanding lawsuits or potential lawsuits, you might have legitimate liability as a new buyer if you don’t have title insurance.

6. Mistakes

In any industry errors and omissions can happen. Title insurance protects you from overlooking something regarding your property and its legal ownership.

An example is that it’s possible that an heir was never put on the deed and as a result that person could come back years later saying they own 50% of your property. If you don’t have title insurance you could have to pay the heir out of your own pocket which could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Whether it is a boundary issue or defects in the title, title insurance can provide you with some peace of mind and help secure your largest investment.

Title Tip of the Week: Always choose the enhanced policy over the standard policy when purchasing a single-family home or a newly constructed condo. The enhanced policy protects you against boundary disputes and also increases the policy’s value 10% a year for 5 years.

An example is a $1M house would be covered $1.5M within 5 years. If you would like to learn more about the standard and enhanced policies, click here.

Have questions related to title insurance? Email Latane and Matt at [email protected]. Want to use Allied Title & Escrow when you buy a home? Tell your agent when you buy a house to write in Allied Title & Escrow as your settlement company!

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Boring Title: Most Common Liens on Northern Virginia Properties


Title insurance is boring, but Allied Title & Escrow is here to decode the jargon and make it (somewhat) more interesting. This biweekly column will explore the mundane (but very necessary!) world of title insurance while sharing interesting stories of two friends’ entrepreneurial careers. 

Did you know that 1/3 of properties that are put up for sale may have title issues? Not only that, but many title issues can go back decades. Divorce, bankruptcy, estate issues, judgments or tax liens can all affect the ability of an owner to legally sell a home.

These are the most commonly known lien issues in Northern Virginia that can affect your ability to buy or sell a home.

1. Inheritance and Estate Issues

Sometimes an inheritance isn’t as clean as it should be. If an estate does not properly name heirs or a will is contested, a home may not have been legally sold. Estate issues can go back several decades, so you may “inherit” a previous ownership issue.

2. Child Support or Divorce

Complications that come with a sale as a result of divorce include liens as a result of failure to pay taxes, child support or spousal support. In addition, this is a life event that may be rife with fraud and forgery issues. If only one spouse consents to the sale and does not properly involve the other spouse then the title could be at risk.

3. Bankruptcy Proceedings

If there is an active bankruptcy, the title of a house will be in limbo during the proceedings. In addition, if someone owned the home, then married a person in bankruptcy, the title would need to be confirmed clear before a sale could proceed.

4. Contractor or Sub-Contractor Liens

Anytime that work is performed on a home there is the potential for a lien. This may be because the contractor or a subcontractor was not paid. The best way to avoid this as a homeowner is to ensure you have clauses regarding release of liability for subcontractor payments. If a lien was placed on your home, you must make sure with the state of Virginia that the lien was released properly after the dispute was settled.

Title Tip of the Week: Title insurance is only a one time payment and protects you for the life you or your heirs own the home. There is no deductible if you ever have a claim. If you have your own owner’s policy you will be protected from the examples described above!

Next column we will talk about the difference between standard and enhanced policies. Have questions related to title insurance? Email Latane and Matt at [email protected]. Want to use Allied Title & Escrow when you buy a home? Tell your agent when you buy a house to write in Allied Title & Escrow as your settlement company!

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Boring Title: Title Tips for First-Time Home Buyers


Title insurance is boring, but Allied Title & Escrow is here to decode the jargon and make it (somewhat) more interesting. This biweekly column will explore the mundane (but very necessary!) world of title insurance while sharing interesting stories of two friends’ entrepreneurial careers. 

Enough Entrepreneurial stories… how about we try to educate the audience about title insurance. This week we will provide title tips for first-time home buyers.

Title Tip 1: Get an owner’s policy in addition to the lender’s policy.

Did you know that 1 in 3 title searches have either a title or public record defect? Getting the owner’s policy will make sure that you are covered in a circumstance where defects were not found in the initial search, but then pop up later down the road.

Title insurance is ONLY a one time cost at closing unlike health and car insurance which you pay monthly forever! That one time cost will protect you for as long as you own the home AND as long as your heirs own the home. Yes, a one-time cost!

Title Tip 2: The second tip is something that many people who are purchasing a home in the DMV go without knowing: Title insurance premiums are regulated.

This means that the title insurance premium will basically be the same no matter what title company you use. Title premiums are set by underwriters and underwriters prices are within a few dollars for each policy.

Where there is an opportunity for a buyer to negotiate is with the fixed fees that title insurance companies charge. Those fixed fees include a variety of services, which may include the title search (aka the abstract), title commitment, processing fees, settlement fee, courier fees, etc.

If you are one to negotiate you’ll have an opportunity to do so with a title company’s fixed fees which are usually $800-$1000 per side (buyer/seller).

Title Tip 3: The buyer (not the seller) gets to select which title company they use.

Seller’s may offer incentives to the buyer if they use a preferred title company which many times can be a good offer. However, service in the title industry matters so make sure you to do your homework on the title company. Check their Google and Facebook reviews!

Have questions related to title insurance? Email Latane and Matt at [email protected]. Want to use Allied Title & Escrow when you buy a home? Tell your agent when you buy a house to write in Allied Title & Escrow as your settlement company!

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Boring Title: How Halloween Costumes Led to National Partnerships and More


Title insurance is boring, but Allied Title & Escrow is here to decode the jargon and make it (somewhat) more interesting. This biweekly column will explore the mundane (but very necessary!) world of title insurance while sharing interesting stories of two friends’ entrepreneurial careers. 

This week we discuss how Dressing up for Halloween as Ace and Gary led to a partnership with Saturday Night Live, Disney and ABC… oh and the title tip of the week!

Yes we will give you some title tips this week, and I know last week’s horror story version of the title and obstacle-racing industry wasn’t the most motivating, but today we are going to provide you with a slightly ridiculous story of how you never know how choices you make might lead to something much bigger than you ever dreamed.

Approximately 10 years ago, my friend and business partner (Steve Stoloff) and I (Latane) were looking to win a costume contest on Halloween and we always wondered why no one sold Ace and Gary costumes from Saturday Night Live.

If you don’t remember Ace and Gary, click here to see a video from many years ago. Outrageous, ridiculous… everything you want out of a Halloween costume!

We decided to go to Walmart and buy long johns, underwear and food coloring. 3 hours later we had what we thought was a costume, that somewhat resembled the characters on the show.

We went out that night, got offered $250 on the spot by SNL fans and won two Halloween costume contests for $3,000 total. A nice little evening! We decided that maybe we were on to something and we would try to sell them online the following year.

11 months later we remembered our previous year’s success and decided to pop up an Ebay store with pics of us wearing our homemade costumes from the year before. I think we both hoped we could generate some grocery and beer money for the month of October… maybe November.

We launched a small pay per click campaign with keywords similar to “ridiculous costumes” and “Ace and Gary SNL” and what happened next was a bit shocking. Within an hour of the pay per click campaign, we received an order.

We were charging $150 for the set so we thought it would be too expensive for people. Apparently it wasn’t because within a week we had sold over 300 costumes.

Now we were faced with our biggest issue, how the heck are we going to make this many. After buying out all the long johns and underwear in town at Walmart and Target, we made costumes around the clock for a week and we actually fulfilled all the orders.

We had no idea we would sell this many and we knew we couldn’t keep making these costumes unless we actually had a partnership with SNL. I sent in a cold email to SNL about the possibility of working together on Ace and Gary costumes. Shockingly Broadway Video (Lorne Michaels’ company who handles licensing for SNL) responded. I then had a friend of a friend in the licensing business join the call since I had no idea what licensing even meant to help me negotiate a deal.

The experienced licensing rep helped us secure a deal and the next year we manufactured high quality Ace and Gary costumes, which were one of the best sellers nationwide.

It went so well that we sold the company we created, Ridiculous Costumes, to a much larger Halloween company. Still today the costumes are sold online and here is a picture of our friends who we made wear the costumes for our first photo shoot.

After getting my feet wet with licensing and learning how deals should be structured, my business partner and I ended up rebranding our ROC Race AKA Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge to WIPEOUTRUN after partnering with Disney and ABC’s hit TV show Wipeout.

Point of the story: You never know how one idea or one relationship can lead to much more than you ever expected.

We had no idea what we were doing but we continued to try to learn and luckily we took those learnings onto the next project. At Allied Title & Escrow, we’ve had relationships we didn’t expect much from lead to our biggest relationships today. You just never know…

Title Tip of the Week: If you are buying a condo, you don’t need the enhanced title policy… just go with the standard title policy. It will save you money and you will be protected on your investment.

With that said, we recommend people always do the enhanced title policy for single family homes. You want the 50% appreciation it provides over 5 years and the protection you get on boundary issues with neighbors. Click here to learn more about the differences between standard and enhanced policies.

Have questions related to title insurance? Email Latane and Matt at [email protected]alliedtitleandescrow.com. Want to use Allied Title & Escrow when you buy a home? Tell your agent when you buy a house to write in Allied Title & Escrow as your settlement company!

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Boring Title: Horror Stories from the Obstacle Racing and Title Industry


Title insurance is boring, but Allied Title & Escrow is here to decode the jargon and make it (somewhat) more interesting. This biweekly column will explore the mundane (but very necessary!) world of title insurance while sharing interesting stories of two friends’ entrepreneurial careers. 

People ask me (Latane) all the time how and why I ended up in the title industry after being in the obstacle racing industry. The answer: It really makes no sense!

With that said, one thing I did consider as I got older and had a couple of kids to support was whether it was smart for me to be in an industry (eg., Obstacle Races) which was so boom or bust. Title insurance seemed a bit less risky than obstacle racing but today we will explore the horror stories of owning a business in each industry.

In our title tip of the week, we will also explore a horror story of a consumer who didn’t buy title insurance.

When you take an obstacle race to a new city, you are committed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for that weekend whether people sign up or not. Sometimes though you are lucky enough to get thousands to sign up for your race but that doesn’t mean you are in the clear. One such incident occurred in October of 2013 when we took the Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge (ROC Race) to New York City. We were very excited as we had over 25,000 participants signed up which was our most successful race to date.

What we didn’t expect was that this one weekend would be the only time in over 50 races that we were setting up the course on federal land. That week we learned that federal government would shut down for the first time in 17 years. As a result of the shutdown, federal employees would not be working and thus the property would be chained up and no one would be allowed on the land.

Although we had a no refund policy, we tried to do the right thing by offering refunds but first we informed everyone we would be rescheduling the event for two weeks later at a different location. We hired a communications/PR expert when making the decision to offer refunds who estimated only 8% of participants would take us up on the refunds. Unfortunately 55% took us up on that offer and an entire year of profits went away in a blink of an eye.

We had tried to plan for all types of situations, but that was one we never considered. We actually came up with a new internal saying after the event: NEVER EASY!

Owning a title company has its own set of risks. Although we at Allied Title & Escrow are fortunate to have top of the line security systems and protocols in place and have never had a security issue, other title companies have been hacked.

One such scam that overseas hackers have successfully pulled off is hacking a title company’s email and then reaching out to a buyer who is about to wire money and telling them to wire it to another to another bank account. It’s possible for a buyer to wire $1 million to the wrong account and have no recourse to get that money back.

Always call the title company to confirm wire instructions! We take extra precautions by continuously changing our passwords amongst a variety of other security measures to make sure our customers are protected.

Title Tip of the Week — the Horror story edition:

You are required to buy title insurance for the lender if you are getting a mortgage. The owner’s policy for yourself is optional but don’t mess around with not getting your own policy.

The most painful horror story, which happens in our industry, is when a distant relative or ex spouse surfaces after you bought your dream home and they claim they actually own the property because they should have been on the previous deed but never were.

If a judge were to rule in their favor, you could have to pay them off to own your house in full and could be out hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you have an owner’s title policy in place you would be covered! In fact, an owner’s policy covers attorney costs and there is no deductible…you just pay one time when you close on your house.

I know, I know, we were a bit pessimistic this week. We will make up for it in the next article. Have questions related to title insurance? Email Latane and Matt at [email protected]. Want to use Allied Title & Escrow when you buy a home? Tell your agent when you buy a house to write in Allied Title & Escrow as your settlement company!

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Boring Title: Welcome to our First Ever Column


Title insurance is boring, but Allied Title & Escrow is here to decode the jargon and make it (somewhat) more interesting. This biweekly column will explore the mundane (but very necessary!) world of title insurance while sharing interesting stories of two friends’ entrepreneurial careers. 

Introducing BORING TITLE! To us it seems like the right name of our ongoing column because frankly is there anything more boring than title insurance? Does anyone even know what it is?

Our column is written by Latane Meade and Matt Paulson. Owners of Allied Title & Escrow, they started off as childhood friends, both went to JMU and then went different directions after attending college. One went to California, the other stayed in Arlington. One launched a business throwing parties, obstacle races and making Saturday Night Live costumes and the other went to law school and then started his own law firm. Fifteen years later, they’ve now teamed up to run a title company. Makes sense… well not really.

In our ongoing bi-weekly column we are going to try to take on one of life’s biggest challenges: making title insurance interesting.

We hope you check in every other week. The following are some topics we are going to cover in the coming months.

  • Why would someone go from running companies in the sports and entertainment industry (eg., adult sports leagues, obstacle racing, 3,000 person parties) to title insurance?
  • How is owning a 5K race series different and the same as owning a law firm and a title company?
  • Horror stories: What’s the most ridiculous thing that has happened with each business?
  • How dressing up as a Saturday Night Live character (Ace and Gary) led to a partnership with Disney and ABC.
  • What did two childhood friends see in the industry to make them think there was a big opportunity and a better way to serve agents, builders, lenders and home buyers?
  • Why do I need title insurance? We will provide some nightmare scenarios of homeowners who didn’t get title insurance and the hundreds of thousands of dollars they had to come out of pocket as a result.
  • The biggest struggles we’ve encountered growing businesses.
  • Aren’t all title insurance companies the same? Why does it matter who you choose?
  • What are the FAQs that homebuyers should know related to title insurance?
  • What is the difference between the standard and enhanced title insurance policy? What are the scenarios where I should get one or the other?
  • What are Matt and Lat wearing to Halloween this year?

Have any questions or comments? Email us directly at [email protected].

Oh, and one quick note: don’t risk not getting title insurance for your own home! In the coming weeks we’ll explain why going without it can cost unsuspecting homebuyers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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