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Education has been key to its growth, local escrow company says

Tighter lending standards slowed things, but made for better recovery says Federal Escrow Inc. owner

Posted: March 31, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 31, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Independently owned and operated since 1998 by Jim and Anita Lombardi of Santa Clarita, Federal Escrow Inc. has been offering every type of escrow imaginable.

"We offer residential resale, short sales, commercial, investment properties, bulk properties, mobile homes, re-finances and 1031 exchanges," said Anita Lombardi.

Having worked in the escrow business since the age of 18, Anita said she and her husband had talked on and off about owning their own escrow company before the opportunity came their way.

Anita had been hired to manage the business of a newly opened Encino escrow company when the owner suddenly decided he didn’t want to own the business, she said.

"He offered to sell it to us," she said. "And my clients were the only clients we had at the time."

Jim Lombardi noted that the couple has lived in Santa Clarita since 1981, and since Anita had handled escrows in the Santa Clarita Valley for many years, the couple decided to relocate Federal Escrow Inc. to Valencia in 2002.

Federal Escrow Inc. also opened a Lancaster office in 2006.

"When we first started, there were only three of us," Jim Lombardi said. "Now, we have 20 employees, nine of which are escrow officers."

The Great Recession challenged the firm, forcing it to tighten its belt and scale back after the real estate market suffered its worst crash in decades. What saved the company was its loyal client base, said Anita Lombardi.

"We’re very diversified, thanks to all of our escrow officers and their loyal clients," she said. "Many of our clients have stayed with us since we began in 1998. They’re still doing business with us today."

And as a result, the Lombardis were able to weather the tough times and enjoying improved business at Federal Escrow Inc.

Some of the issues with tighter lender requirements slowed the recovery down a little, said Anita Lombardi. But in the long run, the cleanup made for a better market recovery, because there are fewer escrow cancellations with buyers qualified at a higher rate.

"For almost two years, we were getting better month after month," Jim Lombardi said. "(Last year) was one of our best years ever – certainly our best in eight years. Additionally, in the first quarter of 2013, we’re running ahead of what we did in 2012."

And as for 2013, the company is forecasting a better year than 2012, he said.

Education has been a key to growing the business, Anita Lombardi said. As one of the few independently owned escrow companies with no affiliations to real estate brokers or title companies, Federal Escrow Inc. trains the notaries that it uses for signing loan documents.

If a notary can explain the basics behind the documents clients are signing, such as a deed of trust, it helps make customers more comfortable with what they’re signing, she said.

"That’s why all our notaries have experience in lending or real estate," Jim Lombardi said. "We don’t use outside vendors or notaries that don’t have experience in our field."

There have been so many government changes that the owners, both of whom have been president of the SCV Escrow Association and members of the California Escrow Association, stay on top of all the changes in the industry and keep their employees educated, as well.

"We’re big on education and staying on top of all the new rules and regulations in the industry, which allows us to give the best possible service we can," Anita Lombardi said.

The escrow process is an integral part of the real estate transaction, said Erika Kauzlarich-Bird of Triple D Realty. Her company has been using Federal Escrow Inc. for a long time, working with escrow officer Jackie Benton-Reeves.

"Jackie’s knowledge and professionalism just helps to make our team stronger when providing the best quality service to our clients," Kauzlarich-Bird said. "I love the fundamentals behind Federal Escrow Inc. and their integrity."

jana@signalscv.com

661-287-5599

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