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 Midcentury Modern marvel at 730 Harter Rd. in Old Lake Highlands is one of our five featured properties in the CandysDirt Open Houses of the Week column.

The Midcentury Modern marvel at 730 Harter Rd. in Old Lake Highlands is one of our five featured properties in the CandysDirt Open Houses of the Week column.

If you’re passionate about real estate like we are, then you know the delights of a weekend spent at open houses. In our hot market, there’s no better way to show your interest, meet the agents, and make an offer!

This CandysDirt Open Houses of the Week column is designed to show off five exceptional properties in Dallas (and the ‘burbs from time to time) with open houses that weekend. Today, our houses range in price from $400K to $819,900. There’s everything from a central Dallas duplex that feels like a treehouse in the woods, to an Old Lake Highlands Midcentury marvel (pictured above) that showcases the atomic era’s best looks.

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This is the third installment of a new occasional column called Getting Real About Renovations. We’re looking at renovation realities for all sorts of projects, from hardwood floors and open floorplans, to master suite additions and kitchen upgrades. We’ll give you the unadulterated truth about options, costs, effort, Realtor opinion, and estimated ROI for these projects. You can read the last one about garage doors here

When people think of home renovations, things like “new kitchen” and “hardwood floors” typically come to mind. But when it comes to bang for your buck — and it might not be as sexy as a new vaulted ceiling or bathroom tile treatment — you really can’t beat adding insulation.

Both nationally and in Dallas, the top home remodeling projects last year were those that increased the functionality and sustainability of the home. They did this by improving either a home’s drive-up appeal or energy efficiency, according to the 2016 Cost vs. Value Report by the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling magazine.

Fiberglass attic insulation, which increases a home’s energy efficiency, ranked among the top five most profitable projects nationwide. In Dallas, it recouped 100.9 percent of initial investment, based on an average project cost of $1,482, according to that report.

“I think adding insulation is a great ROI in most cases —it is relatively inexpensive, as compared with radiant barrier, HVAC, solar panels, and a lot of other energy efficiency features,” said Kay Wood, a Realtor with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. “There are also sometimes incentives from Oncor or federal tax credits for increasing the efficiency of your home. I always encourage clients to think about how long they plan to stay in their home and how long it looks like it will take to see that savings pay for their investment. Energy efficiency and green features can also improve resale.”

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1115 S. Canterbury Court Saturday 700

Who would have thought you could find Cape Cod style in Kessler Park?

Dallas is certainly filled with a wide variety of unique homes, but finding one with that Eastern Seaboard vibe is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. So we’re beyond excited that Kay Wood with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International has just listed this two-story cottage at 1115 S. Canterbury Court for the first time in history.

Yes, you read that right.

This home has never been on the open market. “It’s always been sold by word of mouth,” Wood said. The present owners are only the third family to have occupied the four-bedroom, two-bathroom home, listed for $750,000. The thought of owning a home that’s only been in the hands of three families and invokes a distinct feeling of being on the Cape, makes our hearts skip a beat. (more…)

Oak Cliff basementBasements in North Texas are about as rare as a cat that likes to swim, but today’s Tuesday Two Hundred is that unusual exception.

The reason you don’t find basements in DFW is because our clay soil moves too much and building one is usually cost prohibitive. But in North Oak Cliff, there are a few. The house at 924 Lausanne Ave. in the Kings Highway Conservation District has a finished basement that adds about 650 square feet to the home, which is 2,144 square feet.

Built in 1921, this house has three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a half bath. The current owners bought it in 2013, and love it dearly, but a job offer out-of-state is too good to pass up. So it’s on the market as of Oct. 30, listed for $299,000 by Kay Wood with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty.

They’ve made a lot of updates, and there are more that could be made—this house has big potential. Additionally, it’s walking distance to restaurants, Stevens Park Golf Course, and the Kessler Theater, so location is prime (and check out the stately million-dollar homes just one street over).

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Fun morning last Thursday with members of the TIER networking group of darling Dallas realtors! They are Laura Saunders with Allie Beth, Karen Wyatt with Keller Williams Elite, Kamella Hollis with Allie Beth, Tiffany Strickland with Legacy Texas Title, Carrie Hill and Amy Timmerman from Nathan Grace, Lindsay Craig from Virginia Cook, Elisabeth Davis and Kay Wood from Briggs Freeman. This networking group was conceived four years ago just as the market started to crater, now there are 14 in the group that started when two colleagues, Amy Timmerman and Tiffany Strictland, went to lunch and decided they needed a forum to exchange and share ideas. Networking with other agents is a top priority, they tell me, especially in a market like our’s where inventory is shrinking. That’s right– the biggest complaint I heard from these agents, selling anywhere from $200k to one million dollar homes, was that Dallas is suffering from a lack of real estate inventory. Other shared nuggets:

-Buyers are so much pickier these days!

-If a home is pretty, priced well, and staged, it sells.

– A lot of home sales are happening outside of MLS — less than 10%, but still a significant amount. Amy says she just had two homes that were sold before they made it to MLS.

-Sellers are holding back.

-120 days on the market is the sweet spot. If a home is on the market for longer than this, something is wrong… or it’s time to start bargaining!

-East Dallas is hot!