By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Title companies in Texas all offer the same basic services. And since title policy premiums are regulated by the state, there isn’t much difference in cost from one to the next. What makes one title company better than another? What keeps agents going back to their favorite escrow officers time after time?

I thought I’d survey a few Realtors. After all, they are the ones who usually choose which title company to send their real estate contracts.

After surveying dozens of agents and lenders, the No. 1 answer was great communication. To win their business, the title agency and closer must communicate quickly and frequently. This was at the top of the criteria for agents like Robin McCoy (Keller Williams), Chris Suwannetr (JP & Associates), Sheri Stout (Ebby Halliday), Erik Hargrave (PrimeLending), Kerry Slaughter (Keller Williams), Mary Anne Collins (eXp Realty), Vanessa Bamback (Haute City), Nichole Vilchis (Keller Williams), Kay Wood (Briggs Freeman Sothebys) and Phillip Walker (Keller Williams).

“They’re communicative with all parties and always one step ahead,” says Amy Timmerman (Local Resident Realty) about her favorite title company. “Updates, reminders, clear and prompt responses,” are what Lori Hudson (Ebby Halliday) appreciates about her preferred title agency. 

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The Wilde House located at 4466 Vz County Road 4106, Canton, Texas, listed by Jenni Stolarski and Shelle Carrig of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty for $450,000.

Want to get away? You could do far worse than The Wilde House in Canton, Texas. Situated just 60 miles east of Dallas, this eye-catching little gem is coming in hot with a list price of $450,000, and a short-term rental history that’ll put a lot of coin in your pocket. It’s a property that some are saying “evokes that Prada moment!” Trust us, you’ll want to see why.

See the stunning interiors on SecondShelters.com now.

Devonshire Home Rendering

A dear friend and Realtor and I were talking over the weekend about how many more young families are moving inside 635. It seems like every home that goes on the market is snapped up by a family with children or with one on the way. It’s truly amazing, especially considering that most families were taking off for the burbs just a decade or so ago.

And while there is no shortage of fabulous family homes inside 635, wouldn’t you love to have a house that was distinctly yours? One where you could decide where the mudroom is, the orientation of the master bath, and where the WC is placed (never near the kitchen!). This is a great opportunity to do just that! For close to $1.2 million you can design your dream home with Creekview Construction.

The luxury builder is offering a gorgeous design and floorplan the site at 5620 Southwestern in highly sought-after Devonshire where you can choose the finish out and fine-tune the room sizes and locations. The neighborhood is amazing, with shops, dining, and great private schools all within a short drive from downtown Dallas.

And, as the listing from Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s Shelle Carrig states, “This is your chance to create your own, or sit back and let a dream home be designed and built for you.” Who can resist that? The floorplan features 4,300 square feet with four bedrooms, three and a half baths, and plenty of room for you to use your imagination.

Want to check out the lot? It’s on the MLS tour tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I knew it was only a matter of time before this happened. After all, Realtors have been stealing tips from ad pros for years to make homes look glorious in photographs to entice buyers. What have I been telling you for years — it’s all about the photos, right? Now we hear that “placement pets“, as they are known in the advertising world, are increasingly showing up in home listing photos. The point is to convey a subliminal message to would-be buyers, and make them feel as warm and fuzzy about the house as one of my fluffy Golden Retrievers. Let’s face it, pets have become status symbols and are increasingly the “children” of empty nesters and gay couples. A hunting dog looks great snuggled on a hearth; Vizsla’s or Standard Poodles are chick magnets, so why wouldn’t they lure in buyers? You may have noticed that my furry child, Bree, is proudly displayed on this blog.

(Now she wants a blog of her own!)

Then there was this photo of former representative Anthony Weiner’s apartment — with a “pussy cat” on the sill. Talk about subliminal!

It started in — you guessed it — New York City. According to my friend Ann Brenoff at AOL Real Estate, Tristan H. Harper, senior vice president of New York’s Prudential Douglas Elliman agency, uses designer dogs to sell property. In fact, he sold an East 63rd Street penthouse for a record $3.75 million in 2008 after this photo (above, terrace) of Rocko the Shih Tzu was published everywhere.

Then a Montecito, Calif., agent posed a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on the rug of her $4,595,000 listing, hoping to inspire buyers. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are ritzy dogs; they were bred by English royalty and match an uppity British house. I know all about these dogs because I have two Cavalier grand-pups, and Polly has the lineage of a Windsor. Huh!

So I asked several agents and home stagers if anyone is doing this in Dallas?  I know Tucker, Dave Perry-Miller’s precious Portuguese Water Dog (and Bree’s beau) participates in the actual selling process: his job is to fetch contracts, full-price only. Might Dave be adding Tucker to a few select home photos?

No way, say local home stagers. Holly Kangas Bellomy says when she consults with homeowners who are selling their homes she has them remove evidence of pets (bowls, beds) as well as the pets.

“I don’t like to see the pets in the photos either because some buyers have pet allergies and may not want to consider a home that has had pets living in it,” she says. “They may wonder about pet messes, odors, and anything that has been destroyed.”

Realtor Kerry Paradise Slaughter agrees: when she has a listing with dogs, she works to minimize the dog factor, like smell and dog hair. (Note: GoldenDoodles do not shed!)

“I do not think a dog photo adds warmth to the listing photos,” she says.

Shelle Carrig, who works with Becky Frey, says “for those of us that love dogs, we know that they are like children. Neither make good staging props for sales photos. We want buyers to recognize the features of the room, not the family pup.”

Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging says professional home stagers would never advise using an animal as a staging prop.

“There are far too many potential buyers with allergies. Pets shed, they smell, there are buyers that are afraid of animals,” she says. “It’s not a good idea.”

Well, gosh, not even for the photos? Here I was thinking of

becoming Bree and Tucker’s agent.

“I took a listing that had fuzzy warm dog photos in it and re-listed it without the dog and sold it quick,” says Charles Nuber.

Still not convinced, you?