I have to admit I haven't followed Motley Fool Inside Value selection First American Financial (NYSE:FAF) very closely. OK, make that "at all." The company has come up on some screens I run, and I'm aware that it carries a very attractive P/E ratio, but the idea of getting involved with a company that has a fair amount of exposure to residential real estate has kept me away.

With today's earnings report from First American, I decided to make an exception and take a look. It wasn't a great quarter for the company, but it did manage to ease the pain of having mortgage originations volume by being able to charge slightly more for title originations, and by making market share gains. Overall, the company came in with a 9% gain in revenues, but with an 18.8% decline in earnings per share. However, both periods contain one-time items, and when adjusted for, the decline was a slightly more palatable 11%.

It's a bit more heartening that, with the exception of its mortgage information business, the company was able to increase revenues in each of its areas of focus. Although First American didn't provide detailed balance-sheet information, I'm also assuming that its balance sheet remained very healthy, as it has for a number of years now. The company has also repurchased $23.3 million of its shares and plans to step up its repurchases in the coming quarter.

I'm still not entirely comfortable with purchasing First American Financial, because I'm particularly bearish on the housing market in the near term. But I am rethinking my initial biases against purchasing shares at all, and I plan to check out Fidelity National Financial (NYSE:FNF) and LandAmerica Financial Group (NYSE:LFG) in comparison. It's hard to ignore that the company's overall market should grow nicely in the long term, and until things change competitively, I see little reason for its market-share growth to stop. Such a combination generally leads to very nice long-term returns; completely turning my nose up at the offer would be a big mistake.

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At the time of publication, Nathan Parmelee had no interest in any of the other companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.