First American Real Estate Information Services, a provider of mortgage-related technology, has taken a big step toward establishing a one-stop technology shop for lenders.
A joint venture to be formed with Experian, a leading consumer credit information company, would combine most of First American's operations with those of Experian Real Estate Solutions.
First American's parent, the California title insurer First American Financial Corp., would own 80% of the St. Petersburg, Fla., venture, which is yet to be named. Experian would own 20%.
The new company would be the largest provider of mortgage credit information and of flood data, and the second-largest provider of appraisal and real estate tax services.
California-based Experian Real Estate Solutions is a supplier of data used for appraisals, tax services, and title insurance. St. Petersburg- based First American Real Estate Information would contribute its credit reporting, flood compliance, appraisal, and tax reporting services.
John W. Long, president of the First American unit, said Experian's extensive data base houses a wealth of information that could lead to new products and services for lenders.
"I have a feeling there are a bunch of things that will come out of this ... that we haven't even thought about yet," said Mr. Long, who will head the joint-venture company.
Charles Gunther, an analyst with Van Kasper & Co. in San Francisco, said larger mortgage lenders such as Norwest Mortgage and Countrywide Credit Industries yearn for the electronic dissemination of information from a single source.
To make it easier for lenders to purchase its real estate products, First American has developed a system, Rapid, which centralizes the ordering process, freeing lenders from having to deal with individual divisions.
R. Michael O'Brien, president of GMAC Mortgage, a subsidiary of General Motors Corp., said his company uses several First American products because First American has done a good job of integrating different aspects of technology. GMAC is the nation's 12th-largest servicer.
"We, like all companies, are in a race to choose and apply technology in a way that improves service to our customers," said Mr. O'Brien.
For lenders, the biggest cost-related benefit of the deal would be streamlining of the appraisal process. Experian's data base contains information on more than 80 million properties, so First American could use fewer providers of information. That would lower its delivery costs and, by extension, cut charges to lenders.
It is widely accepted that First American has "by far the strongest and most complete array of information services to the mortgage lending industry," Mr. Gunther said.