Housing woes hit title insurers: Report

Title insurers report a spike in the number of claims, slowdown in new business; possible sign of more pain to come, according to a new report

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- In yet another sign of pain in the troubled real estate sector, title insurers are seeing a big increase in the number of claims, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reported on its website Sunday that title insurers like First American Corp. (Charts, Fortune 500) are fielding a significant rise in claims - yet more evidence of the housing market's woes.

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Title insurance policies essentially protects lenders and homebuyers against challenges to a property's ownership and, according to the Journal, are often seen as a wider measure of the health of the housing market than foreclosures.

Homeowners can file claims, but so too can subcontractors that file liens when work on a house goes unpaid.

First American reported a 52 percent spike in claims in the second quarter compared to the year earlier, the paper said.

Some title insurers also say new business has slowed - a possible sign, the Journal said, of more problems ahead.

"If you want to know what's going on with mortgage activity, you look at title orders," Nik Fisken, an insurance-industry analyst at Stephens Inc., told the paper. Top of page