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Local title company purchased

One of the nation's largest title companies is buying out Josephine-Crater Title Companies Inc., the largest independent provider of title services in Southern Oregon.

First American Title Insurance Company will purchase the parent company of Grants Pass-based Josephine County Title Co., Medford-based Crater Title Insurance Co. and Ocean Title in Curry County. The deal, announced Thursday, is expected to close this fall.

Jim DeCourcey, the company's president and the son of its late founder, says the family decided to sell the business for a variety of reasons, led by the lack of someone to take it over when he retires.

He says the family began to consider a succession plan after his father, James Monroe DeCourcey, died in 1991.

There were no candidates for continuing it in the family, he says.

Aside from the succession issue, he says national consolidation and the continuing advances of technology make it a good time to let a larger outside company take over.

First American has served as the underwriter for Josephine-Crater Title Companies for more than three decades.

With that existing relationship, DeCourcey says the decision to sell is like the culmination of a very long engagement.

No major changes are expected at the companies. DeCourcey will continue to manage Josephine County Title and Steve Swearingen will continue to manage Crater Title.

The businesses employ about 100 people and while some jobs may change DeCourcey says the employee count will remain at the same level.

First American Title Insurance is the largest subsidiary of First American Corp., based in Santa Ana, Calif. The company has more than 800 title offices nationwide.

Josephine County Title Co. was founded in Grants Pass in 1956. Three years later, the company expanded into Jackson County and formed Crater Title Insurance Co., which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

Crater Title has four locations: its main office in downtown Medford, a second Medford office, a Rogue River branch and a recently opened Ashland location at 525 A St.

The new ownership will allow the local companies to offer some additional real-estate services through other companies affiliated with First American, including loan processing, credit reporting, flood certification and appraisal.

DeCourcey says the title insurance industry has seen a wave of consolidation that followed the consolidation of the banking industry. That, coupled with the increasing role of technology, makes it easier for larger companies such as First American to offer more services than small independents can.

They bring some service lines and product lines to the marketplace that, really, a small company can't duplicate, he says.