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Real Estate Tax Firm May Become 2nd Biggest

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County corporation is set to become the nation’s second-largest real estate tax service in a $28-million deal announced Friday.

First American Financial Corp. has agreed to buy TRTS Data Services Inc. in Los Angeles, which had been the No. 2 service behind the industry leader--a real estate tax subsidiary of San Francisco-based TransAmerica Corp. The merger between TRTS Data and First American Real Estate Tax Service in Brea is expected to be completed in mid-November.

TRTS Data’s current owner, Westwood Equities Corp., is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, so the all-cash sale is subject to a judge’s approval.

Both First American Real Estate and TRTS Data monitor the payment of property taxes on behalf of lenders in an effort to either avoid or at least predict foreclosures.

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“Property taxes (that are unpaid) would create a lien . . . and the property could be foreclosed on and the lender could lose his security,” explained William Zaenglein, First American Financial’s corporate counsel.

Tax services enable lenders to either ensure the payment of the taxes or alert them to foreclose on a property before a tax lien is placed against it.

First American officials said its tax subsidiary services about 1 million contracts and TRTS Data services about 6 million. Trans-America monitors about 13 million loan properties, according to spokesman Richard J. Olsen.

First American Financial also is the parent corporation of First American Title Insurance Co., one of the country’s largest title insurers. First American Financial had revenue in 1990 of $708 million.

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