A home is usually the largest single investment most of us will ever make and that can be stressful. Required by most mortgage lenders, title insurance protects against loss of value from fraud, forged signatures on deeds, unknown property heirs, liens, and documentation errors so owners don’t lose significant money. Centennial Title Insurance Agency, Inc., 3 West 63rd Street, Suite 100, is a family-owned firm providing title insurance and escrow services for both residential and commercial buyers and sellers. Meet the Centennial Title team and learn why they choose Brookside, how they help take some of the stress out of buying and selling a house, and what sets them apart from others.
Leaping into Small Business
“The business owners and people I visited when I was working in banking seemed much happier than I was,” Jeff Miller, President of Centennial Title, recalled. Before he opened Centennial Title, Miller visited tons of small business owners through his job in banking. “The business owners and their employees all truly cared about what was going on.”
So, in 2005, Jeff and his wife Lori Miller opened their own business.
“And here we are now,” Jeff said. “I left my job that September and we opened a company in November. It was crazy. We had a sixth-month-old baby. I think ignorance played a big part in our ability to get through it.”
Lori had her own business as a massage therapist before they opened their title company. She said that entrepreneurial experience and her human resources experience as Director of Training with Houlihan’s Restaurant Group helped make that transition easier.
The Millers first opened their business in Overland Park. “We wanted to open up in the 435 corridor,” Lori said. “We were in a tall office building and wanted to be accessible to people from all parts of the metro.”
But even after opening their business in Overland Park, the Millers always had their eyes on Brookside.
“We live here, we raise our kids here, we love this community,” Lori said. “When the opportunity came to move our business in 2015, we were all over it.”
A friend approached Jeff and Lori and asked them to partner up on buying their current location in Brookside at 3 W 63rd Street. Without hesitation, they purchased the building with a partner with whom they share the building. The building itself used to be a filling station during the 1940s. The Millers retained as much of the original elements as they could during the restoration. There’s memorabilia from the filling station days throughout the Centennial Title office, like vintage photos and a gas sign.
The Brookside Team
When Jeff (right) and Lori (center) first decided to move their business to Brookside, they were nervous.
“We were so successful in Overland Park,” Jeff said. “I wondered if people would respond well to us. But we should’ve done it years before we did.”
Since moving their business to Brookside, the Centennial Title team has grown. Emily Porter (back row left) joined the team as an Escrow Closer and Brenda Cisper (front row left) came on staff as an Escrow Assistant. Jeff and Lori will be welcoming an additional team member in the next month as their business continues to expand.
“The community is friendly and has a small neighborhood feel,” said Porter, who grew up in the area. “I don’t know everyone, but I tend to run into people I know or teachers I’ve had in the past.” Porter moved away from Kansas City for eight years. When she returned home, she instantly felt as comfortable in Brookside as she did during her childhood.
“A lot of people decide to come back and raise their kids in Brookside,” Porter added. “Kansas City is just one of those cities. If you’re from here, you tend to find a way back.”
Brenda Cisper grew up in a town of 700 people and said that Brookside has the charm of a small town. “People want to support local business,” she said.
The Centennial Title team is built on customer service. When customers call, they get a real person on the phone. “That’s partially because we don’t have voicemail,” Lori said with a laugh, ”but mostly because we believe in the importance of answering the phone.”
Buying or selling a house can be a stressful experience. “We want to be available and try to keep customers informed so that they know what to expect,” Brenda Cisper said.
“People seem surprised that when they go into a closing, we are friendly,” Emily Porter said. “You have to enter into those spaces with sensitivity. People may be getting divorced or selling their mother’s home who passed away. Some people are excited to sell, while another’s house just burnt down and they’re selling the lot. We try to get the history on who’s coming in the door so that we can match their feelings. And we also try to make it fun!”
The people that the Centennial Team works with make it enjoyable, Jeff Miller said. Some of the real estate agents come by the office to hang out between showings.
The Brookside residents have high expectations for local business, Lori said. “Our business has grown because of who we are and the service we provide. Customer service is what we look for in hiring people.”
“Neither Brenda nor Emily came to us with title experience,” Jeff added. “We hired them because of who they are, and we knew that they were the kind of people who would provide a high level of customer service.”
A Small but Mighty Team
The Centennial Title team is just four people. A small team means that everyone has to pull their weight and be as efficient as possible.
“Because everyone’s situation is different, you have to be pretty detail oriented in getting someone’s settlement correct,” said Emily, who handles all escrow closings. “It’s a very detailed process. The challenge is making sure that at the end of the day, each situation is handled appropriately. It’s a fun challenge.”
Jeff has worked hard to establish workflows. “As things get busy it becomes increasingly essential to be efficient,” he said. “We have to manage that growth.”
“We create this fun environment, but still have serious things to do and people to answer to,” Lori said. “We underwrite for Fidelity National Title. We take it seriously and follow the rules and regulations.”
Being a part of the Brookside community has been huge for Centennial Title. “It feels good!” Jeff said. “We are starting to dominate the 64113 and 64114 zip codes, and I love that that’s also where we work and live. We feel we are an integral part of the community, especially doing what we do by helping people move to the Brookside neighborhood.”
CENTENNIAL TITLE INSURANCE
3 West 63rd Street, Suite 100
Kansas City, MO 64113