As a self-described “historical document geek,” Rayni Scott loves examining old papers, leafing through personal journals and poring over household ledgers from time periods long gone. For her, discovering how people lived profoundly different lives from those we do in 2024 is fascinating. Her interest in tackling these historical puzzles also dovetails perfectly with her 20+ year career in title insurance.
As an Underwriting Counsel for the Southwest Region at Alliant National, Scott often spends her time exploring the history of properties the company is considering insuring. These records originally brought her into the field and continue to inspire her to deliver for the company’s independent agents.
To understand how Scott became the legal and title professional she is today, we must begin at the beginning. Following his retirement from the energy industry, Scott’s father became involved in real estate development. At the time, he would often bring his daughter to the county courthouse, where she would help him check ledgers to learn who owned different tracts of land that he and his business partners were interested in developing.
“I think I was the only middle schooler reviewing grantor-grantee indexes or putting together deed chains,” said Scott of those days. These early experiences left a lasting impact. Later in college, Scott’s favorite classes were Constitutional Law and Real Property Law, and she would eventually parlay her interests into a career in title examination and later in underwriting. Today, Scott’s love for historical puzzles continues to animate her work. “One of the most engaging parts of my job is putting together the puzzle,” she said. “The job doesn’t get boring. Every file offers different facts and there is always something new to learn.”
For Scott, a property’s historical details are not just meaningful in the abstract. Instead, just like the historical records she explores in her personal time, a property file can reflect the lived reality of real people. They can also certainly impact those involved in the transaction going forward. “It isn’t just paper shuffling,” she said of the profession. “Underwriters can actually make a difference in people’s lives with our answers.” The historical and the human sides of title examination and underwriting are both present in the various types of property transactions that come across Scott’s desk – including residential, commercial, multi-use and ranch land – although to varying degrees.
Residential sales, for instance, are often steeped in emotion. It is not uncommon, says Scott, for the seller to have “all their belongings in a moving van and need the sale to fund a new home – which are known as back-to-back closings.” On the other side of a residential transaction, you can have someone who is “buying their ‘dream home,’” Scott explains. If that wasn’t enough, these deals may also have problems that are “only discovered at the closing table” and can “really pull on the heartstrings.”
On the other hand, “commercial and multi-use transactions are ‘easier’ in the sense that attorneys are usually involved,” Scott notes. You can focus more squarely on the transaction’s particulars and “speak the same language when discussing reasons for exception or requirement.”
Finally, ranch land sales split the difference, which makes them “the toughest yet perhaps the most interesting,” according to Scott. These transactions require deep dives into the property’s history – including chain of title issues, mineral rights and surface estates, and waterway concerns. Yet they also frequently include lots of family members – property heirs who bring personal and emotional stakes to the table.
Given her passion for navigating both the historical and human dimensions of property transactions, it is not surprising that Scott found a professional home at Alliant National. The company is defined by its comprehensive capabilities, meticulous title reviews and responsive underwriting. Although for Scott, Alliant National also views title insurance as being about community in addition to historical and legal analyses.
Scott relates to the company’s community focus on multiple levels. Personally, joining Alliant National was a reunion of sorts: “I’ve worked with many on the Alliant National team before,” she said. But it also has a larger dimension. Recognizing that title insurance can profoundly impact people is one thing, but you also must back up such beliefs with action. Scott notes that this makes Alliant National’s investments in education and industry development so important, as they enable agents to improve service delivery and strengthen the industry overall. “I’m passionate about our webinar series,” she said. “I was also excited to learn my law school alma mater created a Real Property Clinic and that Alliant National is instituting a paid internship program to open avenues for new professionals to join our field.” Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” This principle is self-evident in real estate and title insurance. In these industries, historical records speak volumes about the forces that shaped a property and what meaning the property may have for those who lived there. Additionally, the level of care, consideration and effort put into dealing with those documents can leave a lasting mark on both the buyer and seller. Her love for historical records and acute understanding of that fact have empowered Scott to build an enviable career. They are also qualities that will help her continue to execute on behalf of Alliant National’s agents in the years to come.
Thanksgiving is a touchstone for reflection, gratitude, remembrance, and a celebration of the gifts we have received. And, although we aspire to be grateful every day, this holiday is a wonderful reminder to pause, take a deep breath, and give thanks.
The past few years have been marked by unprecedented challenges, including world conflicts, a wildly unpredictable US housing market, the emergence of unregulated title products, and a notable increase in fraud. In the face of those obstacles, we have borne witness to your dedication to serving your customers and communities. Your perseverance and fortitude have been a source of inspiration for me and all of us at Alliant National.
I am truly grateful for the progress we have made together this year. For instance, in this month’s #allnatadvantage newsletter, we learned how the team at Florida’s Brick City Title helped stop a fraudulent cash purchase transaction. Brick City and several other agencies have been recognized this year for their fraud prevention efforts under Alliant National’s Crime Watch program. Their actions are a reminder that daily vigilance is key.
We are also grateful for the agents working with us on our new SecureMyTransaction identity verification product, which we announced in August during our Florida Seminar. Together, we are making significant strides in maintaining the integrity of transactions and protecting consumers.
In both big and small ways, we share an unwavering commitment to helping others realize the American Dream. On this Thanksgiving, I extend my deepest appreciation for your heart of service and gratitude for your partnership with Alliant National.
Alliant National salutes a title industry giant.
Like many industries, title insurance is a diverse field with individuals from all walks of life. However, if there is one experience many title professionals could say they share it is being impacted by Curt Niehoff during their careers. Affable and hardworking, well respected and generous, Curt was a force for good in the title industry for more than 40 years. His passing on May 2nd, 2023, leaves a major hole within the industry and is a significant loss for all who were lucky enough to know him.
“Curt was a gentle giant,” said David D. Lanaux, Owner and President of Title Professionals of Florida and a good friend of Curt’s for over 40 years. “He was big in stature, but he was also big in heart. The title industry has lost a great man.”
Curt Niehoff was born in 1954 in the tiny town of Carlyle, Illinois, located approximately 50 miles outside of St. Louis, Missouri. The only son of Robert Niehoff and Anne Wahl, Curt gained an early appreciation for the world of title insurance through his father, Robert, who was a past Vice President and Western Agency Manager for Chicago National Title Insurance Company. After graduating from Clearwater High School, Curt attended the University of South Florida before pursuing the title insurance business upon completing his studies. This launched a career that would last for over four decades and earn him a sterling reputation amongst his friends, customers and co-workers.
In the 1980s, Curt took his career to the next level when he was hired to help start-up several title insurance companies that were moving their operations to Florida. He made incredible contributions to the overall success of several of these firms, including Fortune 200 companies like TransAmerica Title Insurance Company and TRW Title Insurance Company. As his career progressed, he also served as a state agency representative for Ticor Title Insurance Company, Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company, United General Title Insurance Company, Lawyers Title Insurance Company and Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.
The turn of the century brought Curt to one of the most important personal and professional moments of his life. In 2000, he met Cathy Rairigh, the founder of Island Title Services, Inc. within the Tampa Bay area. The pair fell in love and ran the company together until Curt’s passing. Pairing great customer service with consummate professionalism and authentic care for others, they built a company that won them the respect of many. Outside of work, Curt enjoyed an enviable personal life as well, indulging in his great love of music, cheering on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning, and caring for his dogs: Sailor and Dakota.
At around this time, Curt was also serving as an important advocate for the industry and a staunch antagonist of legislation that adversely impacted the state’s title agents. Curt waged, along with many other title professionals, an important battle against the “Butler Rebate” rule as just one example. Although the effort was in vain, his dedication to the cause was unsurpassed. Stemming from a Florida Supreme Court case from 2000, many believed that the Rebate might threaten insurer solvency. Curt’s efforts, along with many others, to prevent its implementation spoke directly to his passion for the industry and those who work within it.
In 2014, as Florida legislators debated the promulgation rule enacting “data call” requirements for title insurers, Curt once again acted alongside others as a vanguard for the field’s interests. The data call rule requires title agencies to submit records of their business transactions to the Florida Department of State. During that period, Curt drove from Tampa to Tallahassee once every 30 days to attend panel meetings and provide valuable input to protect the title agent from any negative side effects from the legislation. While Curt was not on the panel itself, he was instrumental in lobbying the legislature to protect the industry and those who rely upon it.
In addition to his lobbying work and advocacy for the industry, Curt was a huge believer in nurturing the next generation of title talent. He possessed a preternatural ability to identify promising young prospects and would routinely push for the hiring of young professionals. He always led by example, as well, never requiring anyone to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself. He would also frequently go above and beyond for those lucky enough to cross his path. As David Lanaux notes when discussing his own mentorship experiences with Curt:
“I knew nothing about title insurance when I met Curt in 1982,” says Mr. Lanaux. “I met him once, for two hours while visiting a friend in Tampa. He called me when I got back to New Orleans and talked me into moving to Tampa to take a job in the business. I learned everything from Curt that I needed to know to succeed in the industry.”
“Having worked with Island Title Services for many years, everyone at Alliant National had the opportunity to witness first-hand Curt’s generosity, his care for his community and, of course, his raw industry expertise,” said Debra Coffie, SVP and Alliant National Florida Regional Manager. “There is no doubt our field has been left poorer through his passing.”
For anyone who has built and maintained a career across multiple decades, the question of legacy will often loom large. But in Curt Niehoff’s case, there is no question that he not only lived up to the example set by his father, Robert Niehoff, but also added his own special and unique contributions to the field. Curt believed wholeheartedly in the promise of the industry, not to mention the essential role it plays for individuals looking to build lasting financial security in America. For Curt, title insurance was about far more than paper pushing or title searches, it was about helping facilitate the lasting dreams of individuals, families and communities.
“We didn’t just lose another title professional. The industry lost an advocate, a believer and a consummate professional,” said Lanaux, while summing up Curt and his impact. “Curt was loved and respected by many. He will be missed and remembered by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Navigating the complexities of our industry is indeed challenging, and it humbles me when independent agents confide in our team, sharing their concerns and ideas. One recurring issue you’ve brought to light centers around identity verification and the inherent risks involved in this key element of the transaction. I am delighted to announce that Alliant National has collaborated with Finigree, a leader in financial and payment technology solutions, and developed a robust identity verification system – SecureMyTransaction.
SecureMyTransaction is designed to equip you with the information you need about both buyers and sellers to advance your transactions with confidence. The technology applies a multi-factor identity verification process that cross-checks mobile device ownership and location, credit bureau information, bank account validation and ownership, payoff and proceeds verification, knowledge-based authentication, FinCEN and OFAC searches, along with Alliant National Underwriting Alerts.
With verified identity information at your fingertips, you’re empowered to protect against seller impersonation fraud, vacant property fraud, and deed and document forgeries. Scams like these can have profound consequences, including financial loss, reputational harm and regulatory sanctions. SecureMyTransaction is thoughtfully designed to help you mitigate these risks.
This solution – which is initially being offered exclusively to Alliant National agents nationwide – will be unveiled tomorrow at our annual Florida Seminar in Orlando. For those attending, we look forward to presenting this new tool to you and hearing your initial thoughts.
For those who will not be with us in Orlando, I hope you will take the opportunity to learn more about this solution built specifically for independent title professionals like you. You can visit SecureMyTransaction.com for details, or reach out to Alliant National’s Bob Grohol (BGrohol@AlliantNational.com, 440.228.0826) to schedule a demo.
As you familiarize yourself with this new tool, whether at the seminar or from afar, I invite you to share your thoughts and feedback. We have developed this system with you in mind, and your insights are invaluable to us. Please feel free to reach out to me, to Bob, or to any member of your Alliant National team.
As we approach July 4th, we reflect on the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of our nation. At this time of remembrance, our team at Alliant National also honors the remarkable contributions of independent agents like you, whose unwavering commitment to the American Dream empowers countless individuals to pursue homeownership and economic prosperity.
In 1776, as the principles of freedom and self-determination were woven into a new experiment in government, the challenges were as profound as the ideals at stake. From the trials of its infancy, our nation emerged as an economic power, giving rise to the American Dream.
Today, the mortgage and title industries stand as the cornerstone of this dream, and at the heart of every mortgage transaction, independent title agents work tirelessly to ensure the smooth transfer of property. Title insurance – and your integral role in the title transfer process – allows individuals to make informed decisions and gives them the confidence to pursue their dreams. Your expertise and dedication also contribute to the stability and growth of the communities you serve. You create employment and economic opportunities, support local businesses, and foster a sense of trust and security.
Well over two centuries after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, our nation continues to face challenges that resonate within our industry. Economic and housing market uncertainty, political polarization, and the potential impact of AI are among the macro forces pressuring title agents, along with industry-specific issues such as the emergence of unregulated title products. At Alliant National, we are honored to partner with you in your noble work and stand as your ally in facing the challenges of the moment.
Your work and dedication inspire us every day, but especially now. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we honor your commitment to upholding the American Dream and our nation’s ideals. To you, we extend our heartfelt gratitude.
Here’s wishing you and yours a happy 4th of July.