Values title closing company

5 Core Values at South Oak

Dec 29, 2022 Team South Oak Share:

Title insurance is pretty standard. But South Oak isn’t your standard title and closing company.

At South Oak, our values drive everything we do – from how we hire new employees to how we serve our customers throughout every step of the title and closing process. And these core values work together to provide the best title and closing experience in the Southeast.

Dawn Braddock, COO at South Oak, shares more about our values and their impact on employees and customers.

Relationships First

Relationships and people always come first. We want every individual that comes in contact with South Oak to know that they are valued. This starts with treating others the way we would want to be treated.

While outstanding customer service is a key part of this, every member of the South Oak team is committed to treating customers and teammates alike with kindness, care, and grace, whether we’re answering a routine question or working through a knotty title issue.

This care also extends to our files. Every file represents an individual, and keeping this in mind motivates us to do our jobs well. We aren’t just processing paper - we’re looking at the unique characteristics of that particular file for that particular piece of property at that specific time.

We’re also committed to being there for our clients. While we’re obviously here for our customers during normal business hours, our clients also know that we’re here for them even when the lights are off and the doors are closed.

At other title companies, you may only have one contact. But at South Oak, you can reach out to anyone. And if the person you contact can’t help you, they’ll connect you with someone who can. Dawn Braddock, COO of South Oak, says, “Our clients know that they can pick up the phone and call or text any one of us. If there’s a problem, we’re all here for you. This includes our leadership and owners.”

Our employees feel like they’re truly part of a family at South Oak, and that family atmosphere extends to clients as well.

Providing Outstanding Experiences

Closing experiences are often memorable – but it’s usually for all the wrong reasons, such as a delay or misunderstanding. At South Oak, we want every closing to be both memorable and enjoyable for every customer.

Buying a home is a huge transaction and often an exciting moment in a person’s life. We’re here to celebrate with clients and make them feel comfortable and relaxed on closing day. Braddock says, “I was recently talking with a top-producing agent, and she said that she’s never had another agent hesitate to have a closing at South Oak. Agents know to expect an outstanding closing experience here.”

We also work hard to meet customers where they are. Although we do a lot of volume at our offices, we’re not a closing factory. We make time for every single client – and sometimes, that means we need to do something extra. We’re willing to accommodate requests for flexible closing options, including mail-away closings and travel closings.

“Recently, an elderly couple needed to close on a home here in Birmingham. But because neither of them drive, they were worried about how to get to the closing. Michelle, a closer in our Birmingham office, told them not to worry. She drove to their home to notarize the documents. After taking care of the closing tasks, Michelle was able to stay for coffee and conversation,” Braddock explains.

At South Oak, we understand that people may not remember what we did, but they’ll always remember how we made them feel. We’re always working hard to ensure that everyone who does business with South Oak has an outstanding experience.

Cultivating Trust

Every day, people trust us with one of the largest transactions they can make. At South Oak, we know that trust has to be earned and cultivated throughout every step of the real estate transaction, from the accuracy of their file to the safety of their wires.

At South Oak, we truly have the best closers in the business. We’re privileged to have true industry experts on our team working files. While some closing companies can boast fifty years of experience among their employees, just one South Oak closer has fifty years of experience.

Susie Ceyte, a closer in our Birmingham office, has been working as a closer for fifty years. She brings so much expertise and wisdom to our team. And Susie is just one of our many experienced closers,” Braddock says. Moreover, we’ve developed processes and procedures that are designed to minimize human error. When you combine that level of expertise with our carefully crafted closing processes, you find an unmatched level of accuracy.

Clients also need to be able to trust their title insurance. Our diligent search and exam process is designed to eliminate a cloud on the title prior to closing and protect customers from title issues. Our title search process can include name searches, bankruptcy searches, prior owner title searches, and 30-year title searches.

Because there are hidden risks associated with every title, title insurance provides trustworthy protection to both lenders and owners. At South Oak, our title insurance is underwritten by Stewart Title and Guaranty Company and Fidelity National Title Insurance Company. South Oak is a proud member of ALTA and SLTA.

From mortgage payoffs to escrow services, we’re also committed to handling all finances in a timely, accurate, and ethical manner. And to keep customers safe, we are doing everything we can to prevent wire fraud at every step of the real estate transaction.

Braddock says, “We take a proactive approach to preventing errors and issues. We frequently audit and update our processes to minimize errors, and we’re always watching for trends in fraud. We try to stay at least one step ahead to ensure customers that South Oak is going to protect customers and their finances throughout their transaction.”

Technology and Innovation

Although technology is a key part of the way we do business at South Oak, we’re not using technology for its own sake. Every new technology we implement is for the sake of eliminating hassles and headaches for our clients or for keeping their transactions safe.

We’ve been committed to this for the ten years we’ve been in business, but we’ve implemented several changes in the past year that have transformed the way we process files internally, communicate with clients, and protect funds wired for closing.

Qualia has allowed us to both refine our internal processes as well as communicate securely with realtors, lenders, buyers, and sellers. This software has also helped us minimize closing delays and provide better service to our clients. Additionally, the secure communication portal allows anyone associated with a file to easily check a file’s status, ask questions, and submit information for closing.

We’ve also implemented CertifID to protect funds wired for closing from fraud. This protection extends to funds wired by buyers, sellers, and South Oak. Transactions with CertifID are also insured up to $1 million.

Additionally, Payments.IO allows clients to make earnest money deposits online. This tool makes depositing earnest money simple while minimizing errors and ensuring that the money gets applied to the correct file.

Technology has not only helped us refine our processes and protect our clients but it’s also helped simplify the closing process. These tools also have the benefit of providing added reporting so that we can continually improve the way we serve our clients.

Serving Our Communities

While our customers know we’re committed to serving them well, South Oak is also dedicated to serving and supporting the communities where we operate. Braddock says, “Each of our offices has its own DNA, and each office supports what matters to their team members and clients and pursues different initiatives to serve their communities.”

At each office, service is ongoing. While it's impossible to list all of the ways our offices are currently serving their communities, we did want to share a few of our recent service initiatives.

South Oak Birmingham: Blanket Fort Hope

Blanket Fort Hope's mission is to love and care for child trafficking survivors. Kids who are victims of trafficking have unique trauma - and many group homes and foster care placements aren’t equipped to deal with us. Blanket Fort Hope is building a first-of-its-kind home in Alabama to support these children, and our Birmingham office has been raising money towards this goal.

South Oak Huntsville: Kids to Love

This Huntsville organization supports children in foster care. South Oak Huntsville recently sponsored 75 children for Christmas. Audra Henderson, title agent in Huntsville, says, “We were able to spread the word through TikTok and Facebook, and we promoted this among our realtor and mortgage friends throughout the month. Our office was a drop-off point for gifts, and then our team transported them to Kids to Love. It was a joy to be able to do more for these kids by getting our real estate community involved in sponsorships.”

South Oak Pelham: Manna Ministries and Wreaths Across America

An Alabaster-based organization, Manna Ministries feeds over 800 families in Jefferson, Shelby, and Chilton counties each month. During the holidays, South Oak Pelham continued their support of this organization by contributing to their holiday box campaign, which provides a family of four with a complete holiday meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sandy Johnson, attorney and partner in Pelham, says, "We also contribute each year to Wreaths across America. We do this in honor of my uncle, Mitchell A. Spears. His wife (and my aunt) works our front desk and is fondly called Aunt Pleasia by the agents that visit our office. We will also attend the wreath-laying ceremony at the National Cemetary in Montevallo."

South Oak in Florida

Our Florida offices, located across the panhandle, have supported several community causes this holiday season. Heather Newsome, office coordinator, says, “We participated in the Festival of Trees as a sponsor for CPAR (the realtor association in our community), which donated proceeds to the Children’s Advocacy Center and the Life Management Center. We also decorated another tree to be auctioned as another donation. Our Panama City Beach location was also a drop-off point for gifts, toiletries, blankets, puzzles, and other items for elderly individuals in our community through Holiday Hope.

This small sampling of recent service initiatives reflects the diverse, exciting ways our offices give back to their communities. Many of these initiatives come out of the passion of one of our team members.

South Oak Title and Closing is a values-driven organization committed to providing realtors, lenders, and their clients with the best title and closing experience in the Southeast. At each of our locations, you’ll find a team that lives out its values every day. Contact us to learn more about our approach, or you can order a title and schedule a closing online today.