Closings inch forward as agents navigate title company hack
Fidelity National Financial, the nation’s largest title company, coming back “office by office” as real estate agents and loan officers find low-tech solutions.
- In a form filed with the SEC today, Fidelity National Financial said it contained the cyber breach on Nov. 26.
- The company told the SEC that “an unauthorized third party accessed certain FNF systems and acquired certain credentials.”
- The stakes are high: “If we don’t close, I don’t get paid,” one agent said.
Fidelity National Financial has "contained" the cyber breach that disrupted real estate closings across the nation and is in the process of restoring normal operations, according to an amended filing the company made to the SEC today.
"The incident was contained on November 26, 2023," the amended form 8-K reads. "The Company is restoring normal business operations and is coordinating with its customers."
Fidelity National Financial escrow officers had been working with paper files and telephone calls rather than emails to complete closings after a hack forced it to pull all systems offline last week.
The nation's largest title company has not responded to telephone calls or emails for comment, but real estate agents and loan officers around the country paint a picture of a system slowly coming back online.
"The wire transfer system is back up and running but email is not running," said San Francisco Realtor Kate Fomina. "They're doing it office by office. Kind of turning it on bit by bit."
Fomina was able to close a transaction with Chicago Title, one of FNF's subsidiaries, last week. "They manually went to the recorder's office," she said.
FNF, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is the parent company of Fidelity National Title, Chicago Title, Commonwealth Land Title, Alamo Title, and National Title of New York.
Tuesday afternoon Fomina was waiting for word that a client's wire transfer for a deposit had gone through, but she had been warned it might take some time because FNF's officers are "slammed" in the wake of the hack.
Meanwhile, loan officer Jacob Winters with New American Funding, said his escrow officer in Elkhart, Indiana, has email back but not other systems. Those are expected back online soon, he said.
"We're in the middle of a refinance right now," he said. "We're set up to close tomorrow evening or Thursday morning."
Agents frustrated but finding a bright side as they move forward
Brittany Zickus, an eXp agent in Oswego, Illinois, said she has a closing put on hold because of a "domino effect" of the FNF hack.
"Everybody's trying to route to other places," Zickus said.
Zickus expressed the same frustration of many caught up in the outage. "The unfortunate thing is that everybody did everything right," she said. This is not something we can help fix. Everyone works very hard to get to closing. When something like this that's absolutely out of our hands happens, it's difficult."
"If we don't close we don't get paid," she said. I have two young children that I care for so I am very dependent on closing."
Zickus said she was told the situation should be fully resolved "hopefully" by Thursday.
Veronica Torres Luna, an agent with RE/MAX in Clovis, California, said she's been impressed by the heroic efforts of her local title company in dealing with the outage. "They're working on paper files and we're still on track to close on time," she said.
"It can happen to anyone," she said of the hack. She even found an upside to being forced to communicate without email. "We should pick up the phone more often," she said. "It goes back to that human and personal touch. They told me, 'We're affected but we're still working on the file.' "