With over 13,000 followers on Instagram, Rachel Luna, the principal of Texas-based Patriot Title Company, is the self-proclaimed “Texas Title Queen.” Luna has worked her way through the ranks and is now among the most recognizable pros in the title industry.
“I have worked every position in the title industry, from the front desk to file clerk, to copy girl, to a notary, to an escrow officer. And now I am the principal of the largest woman-owned title company in Texas,” Luna said.
HousingWire recently caught up with Luna to discuss her career, the “boutique title experience,” and bringing title knowledge to the masses through social media.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Brooklee Han: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you found your way into the title industry?
Rachel Luna: I was born and raised in Houston, and I am of Mexican-American decent. It was a very modest upbringing, and we were taught to be hard workers by my family. During school I had the opportunity to be part of a co-op program with a title company. I graduated high school quite early and I ended up being a title clerk there for a while before going to university, where I got a degree in business. I then went to work for a builder and from there I just stayed in real estate. I eventually became a salesperson for the builder and learned the sales side of things, then I worked with a title company to partner with the builder, and then I found myself transitioning back into title. And the rest as they say is history. I never left title again.
BH: A saying frequently thrown around in the world of title is that you are either born into the industry or you stumble into it. It sounds like you stumbled into title! Prior to the co-op program, did you know anything about title or had you considered a career in the world of real estate?
Luna: I definitely stumbled into it. I was originally interested in doing journalism or law. So, I had these two different interests, but I ended up in title. I like that title has a legal aspect to it, but I also like that we are able to talk to people and get to know them a bit through their transaction. Then there is the investigative piece and that was what I wanted to do with journalism — I wanted to be an investigative journalist, so I loved going to the courthouse or the town hall and looking for records. But I like that there is a balance between legal stuff and people. And I love seeing people buy their first home — it is such a moment for them, and it was infectious for me to be around that at such a young age. And then every deal is so different, so every day is different. Also, having been in sales, I like that title is right in the middle of the real estate transaction. Title sees everything and we are how it all gets done. I really enjoy and feel gratified by getting deals done because I know we have helped those people cross the finish line.
BH: You mentioned doing sales for a builder before getting back in title. What led you to leave the sales side of real estate?
Luna: I was a top salesperson and was making a lot of money, but I had no life. I was working every Saturday and Sunday, every Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend and one day I woke up and was like, “I am not giving up another Thanksgiving weekend to help people shop for houses.” I was young and I think I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew, and I felt that maybe I just wasn’t ready to give up so much. I wanted to stay in real estate because growing up I had read so much about how most self-made millionaires did it through real estate, and then my grandmother had rental properties and I saw how she was able to build wealth from that. So, I moved back into title, and I really feel like it is some sort of divine destiny for me because here we are years later and I have been able to build my business, perform with a high level of integrity, gain respect in the industry and still have time to be fabulous in between.
BH: Your fabulous side is definitely showcased on your social media platforms – you do a great job of highlighting your personality, while educating people about title insurance. How did you start using social media?
Luna: So, the whole COVID thing happened, and we had been talking about doing a podcast and I just wasn’t sure. You know, what if we couldn’t get a guest on or what if they weren’t dynamic? I just didn’t feel like a podcast was my vibe. But I am really great with crowds and with the pandemic I was looking for a way to stay in touch with my clients, so I decided to start filming some shows and posting them on social media and YouTube. The platforms are all changing right now – our main audience is Millennial homebuyers, and to connect with them you really have to use these tools to elevate your business and brand. So, I just started by showing the daily life of someone in title and showing them around the office and the different tasks we do and basically how we run a title company. I think a lot of people were curious about title, so they started watching. And I think the videos resonate because I am just being myself, there is no falseness here. But, by showcasing this to a massive audience through social, that was really the secret sauce of us elevating the brand name and who we are. I am making title popular and a lot of people in the industry are happy about that.
BH: Consumer education and understanding is typically viewed as a major hurdle by most title companies. How are you using your YouTube channel and your social media to improve consumer knowledge of title?
Luna: That is something I am a huge advocate for because the consumer needs to know what they are buying and what title insurance does because it is their insurance policy. I feel like most people just think the title company disburses funds and gives them the title to the house, but we are actually an insurance company and people don’t understand that. They don’t understand that we are actually protecting their purchase. Sometimes we get calls from clients asking about papers they get in the mail because they just don’t understand that they are purchasing an insurance policy and those papers are the physical copy of their policy.
A home is one of the largest investments a person will make in their life and it is important to protect that investment and protect everyone in the transaction. We are also working to educate lenders and real estate agents because a lot of them don’t know that if you refinance within a certain time frame you can get an extra discount on your policy. We are actually working on some content about that now that we will share soon.
BH: We are hearing a lot about real estate agents leveraging their social media to generate leads. Have you had any success with this through your social media?
Luna: After I started my social media, that was when we actually started having consumers directly reach out to ask us questions about selling their home and how much the closing costs would be to see if they really did want to sell. So, we give them a complimentary breakdown of the settlement costs and then when they are ready to sell they almost always come back to us for their title company. Sometimes we are even the ones who recommend their realtor which is kind of the opposite of how things normally work.
But our inbox is always full of questions about title from consumers and we take those engagements very seriously because that is how you develop public awareness of the industry and what we do.
BH: What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced as you have built your business and how did you overcome them?
Luna: The biggest challenge in building the company was realizing how much I needed to invest in my frontline. I always tell people that this is a customer service business and when I started out, I did not invest as much as I should have in my frontline — my receptionist and all the people out front. I was putting more into watching my bottom line than really investing in my team and the people out front because as a new business owner you are always looking at where you can cut back and increase revenue. But I learned really quickly that the frontline is everything in the title business and you have to invest in your folks out front if you want to increase your bottom line.
Then one of the other obstacles was dealing with the big competitors in our industry because we are an independent and we are up against these big publicly traded companies like Stewart or First American. But I came at it like we are a boutique title company trying to create our own space in the market. But creating that rapport with clients and getting them to see it as they could either be a little fish in a big pond over at one of the Big Four or they could be a big fish in a smaller pond with us. As a boutique, we value their business, but we also know their kids and their dogs — they are more to us than just a file number. So, changing the perspective our client base to trust us as an independent boutique company with their business and to give them an experience was the biggest challenge.
BH: What differentiates a boutique firm like yours from the larger title companies?
Luna: What I say, is that you can shop at Gucci, or you can shop at Macy’s. At Gucci or Chanel or Versace, you are going to have an experience when you shop. You can have a glass of wine or some strawberries and champagne or a croissant and there will be flowers and beautiful music. So, for us this means making sure that the closing set up is elegant and that the homebuyers and sellers feel relaxed and a little spoiled. At Macy’s you are going to have some comfortable chairs, but that is it. Buying a home is an occasion and it should be treated as an event. We want real estate agents to look good for their clients, so we make sure they don’t have a cookie cutter closing experience.
BH: One of the biggest challenges facing the title industry is the talent crunch. Some people in the industry have termed it the “silver wave.” What are your thoughts on this and what role do you see your social media presence playing in potentially driving more people into title?
Luna: Through social media we get a lot of people reaching out saying things like, “My mom is a Realtor and I have gone to her closings, and I don’t want to be a realtor, but I am really intrigued by title,” and that is great. If you are a detail-oriented person or you love numbers title can be a great business. We have recruited people from some accounting firms and from the county clerk’s office because they saw what we do on social media. Obviously, it helps if they have some knowledge, but I tell everyone that it they are willing to put in the work, we will train them because so much in our industry is hands on learning. We put them in our incubator program and within two of three years they are licensed and are closing agents. Once they become closers, they can build their book of business and then they can grow their business as large as they want.
BH: What is your best piece of advice for someone considering a career in title?
Luna: If you want a long, stable career where you will be able to increase both your income and your knowledge and you will always be challenged, title in a great place for you. Something similar can be said for real estate agents, but there are so many of them, it is such a big pool to compete with, but in title and escrow it is a lot smaller and if you are willing to put in the work, you can become the best. If you are powerful, passionate and the best version of yourself then anything is possible.