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Building your own title quote calculator? Read this first.

Building your own title quote calculator

If you’re thinking about building (or have already built) your own title quote calculator, congrats on leveling up your client service! Web-based calculators are a great way to provide fast, accurate service and build client loyalty.

But building your own title calculator takes a lot of considerations. Whether you’re thinking about developing a calculator or already have one on your title company’s website, ask yourself these questions before moving forward.

Why are you choosing to build it yourself?  

Building a cloud-based calculator is no easy feat, so what’s your reasoning behind taking on this project?

Many title companies don’t realize there are affordable and high-performance calculators out there already, ready to use and customize with your branding. 

However, if you’re choosing the DIY route because you think those existing calculators are “excessive,” “too expensive,” or “more than you need,” there are a few more questions you need to ask yourself.

Can you afford the real cost of building a title quote calculator? 

By far the biggest risk when building a title calculator is cost. Based on our experience, a rough estimate says it would take 3 full-time developers around a month to build a reliable website tool that produces title quotes.

And that’s only title quotes: no seller net sheets, no additional functionality, no integrations with essential software. For that 480 hours of development, the cost could easily exceed $40,000 before any maintenance or improvements. 

We build software products and, trust us, whatever your worst-case scenario is for development costs…it’s too low. For version 1.0 of a tool which doesn’t directly correlate with revenue increase, the costs are hard to justify.

Unfortunately, the worst way to cut costs is also the most popular: sacrificing functionality.

Are you okay with limited functionality? 

The basic function of a title quote calculator is to produce numbers that are close enough so your clients can use them to close deals. Obviously, the more specific and reliable your estimates are, the better.

One extremely useful (but technically non-essential) function would be the ability to have fully customized title costs for every state, country, branch, or transaction type: dropdown menus where users click the appropriate fee, and the numbers appear like magic.

The cost of this feature (and knowing how burdensome it is to regularly update the data) means it’ll probably get cut before development. We could name a dozen other features that are equally powerful and useful…but also expensive and time-consuming to build. When looking at what you can reasonably create, you have to ask yourself:  Is this minimal functionality actually worth the investment?

Do you have a plan to scale and adopt new features?

Building a product is only the first step—it’s the refining, testing, optimizing, and expanding of that product that brings out the real value. This kind of product growth is the natural result of ongoing investment, adopting client feedback, and adapting the product to evolving requirements.

The best title quote calculators inherently provide subtle added value. For example:

  • Pre-defined default fields (e.g., implicit page numbers for the deed and mortgage documents)
  • Mobile and multi-OS compatibility
  • Smart ease of use and rapid processing speed
  • Full range of quoting and estimate tools—just in case
  • Custom fee schedules (if real estate agents and lenders are using your tool)

The reality is that your in-house product is unlikely to scale or diversify easily as your company evolves. Your ability to add new features or integrate third party apps will be seriously hampered since your company is footing 100% of the bill.

Do you have the manpower to maintain it? 

When your platform gets buggy or goes offline, do you have the expertise on hand to fix it?

These kinds of apps (and yes, your calculator should be a flexible, cloud-based web app) require ongoing updates, bug fixes, and maintenance. Downtime is the enemy of successful product adoption.

This isn’t to mention significant upgrades such as changes to comply with new laws or regulations. Modern software products can’t just rest on the shelf: they need constant TLC. If you want a competitive calculator that helps you stand out from the competition, you’ll need a software developer on retainer to help you maintain it (and a generous budget to pay them).

Do you know what your reps and clients actually want? 

We see this all the time. Title agents receive the new calculator—the result of all that expensive and complicated labor—and it’s a bit clunky, or some useful feature is missing, or the final quote is kind of ugly and they don’t want to share it with a client.

So they just fire up the old method (i..e pen & paper or Excel) and do things the comfortable way.

And if your product doesn’t add value for the end user (like saving time or simplifying the process) then what’s the point?

In reality, this is like a culmination of the previous risks: by trying to save some money, ditching some functionality and failing to adequately maintain the product, you inadvertently create a tool that has no place in the business at all.

Are you prepared for the future? 

When the COVID crisis started in 2020 and title agents were being sent home in their droves, all that lovely internal software became instantly inaccessible. No one could access the building and, therefore, the tools of the trade.

However, tools that had kept up with technological advances (such as cloud-based hosting) didn’t face any interruption at all. Our new remote working era means that your calculator needs to:

  • Communicate with all your other tools without being physically on-site
  • Work through your home Wi-Fi
  • Be accessible from mobile devices

This is a huge part of what makes using products from external vendors so powerful: they are continually investing in making the calculator better — including keeping an eye on the future and integrating new technologies.

Already got a self-built calculator? 

If you’ve read all of this and are already glancing sideways at your self-built calculator, we get it. Even if you don’t want to hear it, this is our advice: if it’s not working, leave it behind.

The great fallacy is that because you’ve already invested $X, you should continue to invest $Y and stick by your product—otherwise, what was the point in spending all that money and time?

Instead, what you should do is take that $Y (or, more likely, a whole lot less) and invest it in a proven product that actually works today and will continue to work even better in the long run. Sara Demb Goldstein is Marketing Director for Capitol Title. She said about her title company’s old self-built title quote calculator:

[Our self-built] calculator was designed specifically for Capitol Title. [And yet] keeping up with changes in county transfer taxes, title insurance premium increases, recording charges was time-consuming and difficult. When we found TitleCapture, we were so impressed.

She described the transition to TitleCapture—with customer service, automatic maintenance & updates, broad features, and a professional aesthetic—as “life-changing for me and my business.”

What we can learn from Sara’s story is that even if you’ve invested time, money, and stress into using your own internal calculator, the future can be much brighter if you accept your sunk costs and leave it behind.

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