In 1993, Rachel Torchia knew that her company had to change to survive. Brecksville-based Gateway Title was in the middle of a refinancing boom that year, but market conditions were changing and she needed to find a way to adapt.
"We were no longer allowed to market directly to Realtors," says Torchia, Gateway president. "Agencies were forming their own affiliations with title companies. It really changed the way title companies get business."
Gateway was a young company at the time, putting it at a disadvantage in forging partnerships.
"I knew the refinancing business would not be there forever," says Torchia. "It was an excellent source to get started, but I needed something else. I saw a big, untouched segment in for-sale-by-owners. No title company would admit to or touch them publicly, because the Realtors would have a fit.
"Their thinking was that if you are catering to FSBO, then you are against us. I'm not against anybody, I was just looking at our future."
So in 1995, Torchia broke ranks and targeted the FSBO segment.
She began by attending open houses and checking ads in the paper to target potential clients.
"What most people didn't understand is no matter how you sell your house, you need a title company," says Torchia. "Most sellers didn't know what to do after they got a buyer."
Torchia developed brochures with basic information on the selling process and what sellers needed to do. Seminars followed, and she began refining her information for sellers.
By 1996, Torchia set her focus solely on FSBO business. Her initial brochure evolved into a free 24-page FSBO Training Manual that covers everything sellers need to know. The company also put much of the information, along with closing documents, on its Web site at www.gatewaytitle.com.
Revenue increased with the new focus, but Gateway still lost deals when sellers were tempted to use a different title agency suggested by the buyer, Realtor or lender. Torchia fought back, and in 1998 created the Smart Start program. In it, sellers get $125 off the title examination fee if they commit to Gateway before the contract is signed and pay for it up front rather than through the sale proceeds.As a result of targeting this niche through educational efforts, gross income has more than tripled since the company opened, and employment has grown from three people to 22. How to reach: Gateway Title, (440) 546-9660