This post is part of Qualia’s Future of Work Series, where we spotlight leaders who are inspiring new talent to join the real estate industry.
Cicely Ford launched Pensacola Heritage Title earlier this year alongside her business partners John McCorvey, Brian Johnson, and Melissa Floyd. Their mission was to fill a gap in the market by building a title company that was rooted in the community and understood the unique needs of minority homebuyers.
We connected with Ford to discuss the beginnings of Pensacola Heritage Title, why she decided to pivot into the title industry from real estate sales, and how she continues to bring people into the title industry through community education and networking.
QUALIA: You previously worked as a real estate agent. What inspired you to start your own title business?
FORD: Everyone in the real estate industry knows that this business is all about relationships. I was trying to build my vendor list [as a real estate agent] and I was looking for a title company within my own community. I couldn’t find one.
Once realizing that gap, I came together [with McCorvey and Floyd] and decided to start Pensacola Heritage Title. It wasn’t the need to get into the title business, it was “how can we help our community and what vehicle can we use to reach them to understand homeownership?” Our goal was to help our community to benefit from homeownership and educate them [on those benefits]. We wanted to help folks understand homeownership and realize the dream.
QUALIA: Why do you think education is an important element to the work you’re doing?
FORD: You have to remember that the average person doesn’t understand title insurance and most first-time homeowners have not experienced the title process. Our mission is to make the unknown known. We want to simplify it and make it crystal clear what the process is to get to homeownership. The title process is a huge part of that mission.
QUALIA: Your background was as a real estate broker. Why did you decide to own a title company instead of opening up a new brokerage?
FORD: A lot of people jump into brokerage from the real estate sales side. I wanted to do something different. It was again about what was needed in our community. I didn’t want to take the selfish road—I wanted to provide for my community. I thought, “what was really needed in my community?” And that gap was title.
Another part of that gap was giving people what they wanted from their title company. We interviewed people and asked, “what do you want to see in a new title company?” The number one thing was communication. We make sure we call back and respond in a timely manner. That’s where Qualia came into play. It connects the title agent with all parties involved so there is open communication without the need for phone calls and emails to update people in real time.
QUALIA: You mentioned that the general public often doesn’t know much about title insurance. How does that impact your ability to recruit talent?
FORD: We have Heritage Happy Hour every first Tuesday of the month. We’ve done this strategically to let people know that we are here and to attract people who are in the real estate industry who may want to understand more about title careers. We had a loan signing agent come to our happy hour and now that person is interested in becoming a licensed title agent. She may be our next hire. We’re all about raising awareness.
We also want to set a standard in this industry by making sure that every team member in our office is a licensed title agent. We want a client to walk in and know that any of us can help them in all aspects of the closing. Training and education are a huge component of that standard.
To hear more from other real estate leaders who are redefining the industry and bringing in new talent, click below to subscribe to our blog and receive the latest stories straight to your inbox.