GRS Title Services recently announced that Elizabeth Steele, Esq., has joined the team as Director, Business Development, based in Richmond, VA. A graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law, she was most recently an executive at Stewart Title.
At GRS, Steele is active in all aspects of the title process, from sales to legal underwriting. She has about 18 years of experience in the field. She is also an active member of CREW, where she was President of the Richmond chapter in 2016.
Steele touched on how she got involved in the title services sector of commercial real estate, the trends she sees in her local and state markets and the state of gender equality in the industry.
GRS Group: How did you get involved in commercial real estate due diligence?
Elizabeth Steele: Basically, by accident. When I moved to Richmond, I couldn’t find a job, as I was not licensed in Virginia, and was temping at some law firms doing residential real estate work. The title company vendor for the law firm essentially stole me from the temp agency to do commercial underwriting. I got into it and stayed. That was almost 20 years ago. Yikes!
GRS Group: How does your experience as an attorney assist you with your profession?
Steele: It helps in many ways.
First off, it gives me instant credibility. There is a presumption that you have more expertise/experience/understanding/knowledge, etc., because you are an attorney.
Secondly, I think that I do have more expertise/experience/understanding/knowledge because of my law degree. In law school, you are taught to think about things very critically and analytically. When I analyze title issues with my attorney hat on, it is a different angle from how a non-attorney title professional may view the issues. Perhaps it is more comprehensive from that standpoint.
Finally, it does help immensely in negotiating title issues with attorneys. I’ve been told that because they do not have to over-explain their position, there is less “lawyering” that needs to be done from their perspective, which is a cost savings for their client.
GRS Group: You are heavily involved with CREW. How has gender equality progressed in commercial real estate?
Steele: “Heavily” doesn’t begin to describe it. I drank the Kool-Aid 17 years ago and never looked back. It is vital for our industry, and all other industries for that matter, to advance women. Women comprise half of the potential workforce. You can advance the success of an entire industry by advancing one-half of the people in the industry. Women bring a different skill set to the table. We tend to be more collaborative so there is no situation that is a zero-sum game. Women can find ways to solve a problem where everyone gets something, in other words, you don’t have to lose for me to win.
As for gender equality … sigh … it is better than it was 30 years ago, perhaps, but we have a lot further to go to reduce (or eliminate) people’s conscious and unconscious biases toward women. There are still not enough women in executive positions. And the pay disparity is still there.
GRS Group: What asset type is your team working on the most now and why?
Steele: As far as property types are concerned, my sense is that multifamily is strong in Virginia, and especially here in Richmond. There is an influx of young workers, a.k.a. millennials, who are not looking to buy a house in the suburbs but are instead scooping up all the apartments/condos/townhomes in cool and hip locales.
The other is industrial property. We haven’t handled a ton of that property type in this office, but with the Amazon fulfillment centers opening up all over and other various companies putting up warehouses, and other facilities, industrial is a strong sector here in Richmond.
GRS Group: What are the biggest upcoming trends in the title services arena of CRE?
Steele: For Virginia, I think that the push is going to be utilizing the e-notary/remote notary process where the signatories and notaries are in different locations. Virginia originally passed a statute in 2008 which set up the framework for electronic notarizations. It was changed and overhauled in 2011, updated in 2013 and provides a mechanism for documents to be notarized where the signor and the notary are not in the same place. Given the state of the digital economy, it is a significant piece of legislation and one which would make life easier for real estate professionals and others involved in real estate transactions where the parties are global. It would also provide cost savings, superior security, and document integrity, which are not available through paper-based notarizations.
About GRS Group:
GRS Group is a leading provider of commercial real estate (“CRE”) services worldwide. With offices across the United States, Europe, and affiliates around the globe, GRS Group provides local market knowledge with a global perspective for institutional real estate investors, occupiers and lenders worldwide. The GRS Group team has evaluated and advised on over $1 trillion in CRE transactions.
About GRS Title Services, LLC:
GRS Title Services, LLC is a leading provider of commercial real estate title insurance services and it is an authorized Title Insurance Agent for Fidelity, First American, Chicago, and Commonwealth title insurance companies. GRS Title Services, LLC provides accurate, timely and complete title search and real estate related search services in every geographic region of the country. The firm also prepares, assists and reviews the closing documents necessary to meet its client’s specific needs and requirements.