A business of relationships

by Anna Ferraro

The office of an abstract company is full of data spread over reams of antiquated papers and up-to-the-minute hard drives. From a Google search on “abstract companies,” one might conclude that this line of work is dry and didactic. But to Amy Coats, the manager and a partner at Morgan County Abstracts, “this is a business based on relationships.”

Coats began her work at Morgan County Abstract Company in 2005, following several years of being a stay-at-home mom. Performing well in her job, she now manages the company, and in January of 2015, became a partner and joint owner of the company.

A lot of Coats’ daily tasks involve the typical managerial duties – handling the hiring of employees, overseeing the day-to-day business functions and administration, and dealing with personnel issues. She shares that nearly 75 percent of her time is spent doing training and review with her team that takes care of Escrow closings.

Coats provided a bit of background to her work, saying, “Way back, abstracts were used as a chronological history to a title of a piece of real estate – naming the ownership changes, and providing a continuation of each time anything changed with the title, for example, any leans or encumbrances on the land.”

Today, the primary task of abstract companies is to provide insurance titles. What does the process look like? Coats explained, “When we receive an order, for a land sale, we would get a contract form the realtor, attorney, or the buyer/seller. [In that contract], we have to search the names, and search the land, for it’s history.” In a way, they’re a bit like detectives. On another way of looking at the title insurance part, Coats said, is a “historical lesson.” The real estate part, Coats added, “It’s a lot of numbers, making sure we are following the details we prepared on the title – so that we can hand a clean record to the new owner of the land.”

Working closely with many local attorneys as well as the banks and realtors, Coats emphasized again the relational aspect of her business, saying, “When I provide the title for a closing, I’m not just doing for a client, it’s for my good friend at Jacksonville Savings, or one of my good friends at Steve Hills Realtors, for example.”

Morgan County Abstract celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2015, dating back to their founding in 1865 (note to past, present and future clients: it’s a good thing when your abstract company has a solid record of its own). Coats shared, “We have a lot of experience and a lot of really knowledgeable employees. Here in Morgan County, we have full sets of original records. We have old abstracts and old ledger books in the original handwriting … in addition, [in our office], we have a title plant that we update daily with the current records.” Coats added, “We rely a lot on local attorneys. We are not attorneys, so we can’t give legal advice – we tell what the title problem is, and how it needs to be corrected.”

Why is solid title insurance so important? Coats explained, “When you buy a house, or a piece of farmland, that is the one biggest investments you will make in your lifetime – it’s a big chunk of money. You want to make sure that you’re making sure that your investment is protected by having a title search completed … it’s a very worthwhile investment.”

Recently, Coats herself experienced this scenario as she and her husband walked their son, Haydn, a 19-year-old sophomore at Illinois College, through the process of purchasing his first home. Coats commented, “Just having my background, it made the whole process so enjoyable. I knew – I understand every single detail of what he was going through, and was able to explain that to him, and knew that everything about it was going to be okay.”

What could buyer encounter? Coats shared, “Sometimes, there could be issues with what we call a ‘chain of title’– how the title has been passed down – how each deed is recorded. If we find an error with the chain or the legal description, that can halt the closing – we have to correct that before the new transaction can take place.” Through the Coats’ family process of procuring Haydn’s home, she shared, “I was frequently reassuring ourselves that we were doing what we should, that everything was coming together as it should, and that the transaction would close in a very timely manner. And it did.”

In reflections on what makes Morgan County Abstracts unique, Coats answer was given with feeling – “the staff here has numerous years of experience and so much knowledge. In addition, we have a very loyal customer base … this is a business based on relationships … a lot of my customers are my friends – realtors, lenders, attorneys – knowing that we’re providing them a valuable service that will meet their needs, which will meet their customers needs – that’s what I try to focus on. I’m not just focusing on a lender or a client, I’m helping a friend.”

At the end of the day at Morgan County Abstract, Coats judges her work by the relationships. Amidst a data-driven office, she and her staff parse the data and to reach the people that the data affects. It truly is a business based on relationships.

To reach out to your local abstract company for their services in one of their counties (Morgan, Scott, Cass and Menard), visit www.titleco.biz, or call the Jacksonville office at 217- 243-7432.

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