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Larkinville-based appraisal firm buys Rhode Island company

A technology-based real estate appraisal management company headquartered in Larkinville has acquired one of the nation’s largest title search and closing firms, expanding its range of services nationwide and sharply growing its workforce.

Solidifi, which is based in the Larkin Center of Commerce at 701 Seneca St., agreed Friday to buy Middletown, R.I.-based Linear Title and Closing Ltd. for up to $96 million.

The deal will broaden Solidifi’s reach and market share in property transactions to the $10 billion title and closing market. It also increases its staff to more than 700, although Linear’s offices will remain in Rhode Island.

“We are extremely pleased to announce this acquisition, which will enable Solidifi to bring our demonstrated excellence in using technology to improve the customer and field-agent experience to the large and growing title and closing market,” said Jason Smith, CEO of Solidifi and its parent, Real Matters. “Linear represents a great fit with our existing business and we look forward to working with them to bring the innovation Solidifi is known for to mortgage closings.”

The final purchase price will depend on Linear’s performance, but Toronto-based Real Matters simultaneously raised $100 million to fund the deal through a “private placement” of stock.

Solidifi is the third-largest provider of mortgage appraisals in North America, working with 60 of the top 100 lenders, and handling one in 10 valuations nationwide. The company – which employed more than 300 before the merger, including more than 100 locally – says it has invested more than $35 million so far in its own technology and software, helping it grow its industry market share by 50 percent a year.

Linear, meanwhile, is one of the five biggest providers of national title search and mortgage closing services for refinance, purchase, short-sale and foreclosure transactions in all 50 states. It works with real estate service providers nationwide.

“The management team of Linear has long been seeking like-minded partners focused on building scalable software services for the mortgage closing space,” said Linear CEO Nick Liuzza.

Founded in 2008 in Chicago, Solidifi raised $22 million in financing in 2012 and also moved into Buffalo that year. In January 2013, it acquired Buffalo-based appraisal management firm Kirchmeyer & Associates, creating the industry’s No. 3 independent player. In a subsequent deal, Solidifi bought Southwest Financial Services Ltd.

Besides Buffalo and now Rhode Island, it also has an office in Cincinnati, plus remote staff nationwide. “We’re very proud to call Buffalo home for our head office,” said President Loren Cooke. “We are committed to it. All of our lenders come in and visit us once a year, so we get to showcase Buffalo on a regular basis.”

Solidifi has been expanding since it moved into the Larkin Center of Commerce in fall 2013, and now occupies about 30,000 square feet on the sixth floor. Cooke said the firm already plans to add another 30,000 square feet on the seventh floor as well, as officials expect to double staffing locally just on the appraisal side, plus any growth from the Linear deal.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com