Hill Country Titles celebrates golden anniversary
After practicing law for a year, Gordon E. Sauer was approached by mentor Arthur Stehling, attorney and president of Security State Bank & Trust, informing him that a local owner was willing to sell his abstract company.
Stehling agreed to lend Sauer the funds to acquire the company and within a month, the transaction was closed and Hill Country Titles officially opened in June 1970.
“He was my mentor and told me every country lawyer needs to own an abstract company and that was enough for me,” Sauer said.
In June 2020, Sauer and his team celebrated 50 years of personalized customer service, with over 43,000 transactions filed.
With Sauer’s focus on being an attorney, it took five years to build his client base and develop the title company.
“During my first year of practice, I had to become experienced in examining abstracts and then had to give title opinions before title insurances were available,” Sauer said. “I then walked over to the courthouse, dispersed the funds and then closed the transaction.”
Being in the title insurance business essentially consists of two components: title examination and escrow or the financial side.
In 2000, Sauer saw the business grow significantly, largely due to the thriving real estate market in the Hill Country.
“At this time, I started devoting more time to the title company than I had before and shifted my focus,” Sauer said. “I realized it had excellent potential for revenue growth. I am very pro-family and I became more aware of the role our title company played in the lives of our employees.”
Fifty years later, Sauer and the team at Hill Country Titles has had the privilege to serve the real estate and lender industry in the Hill Country through complex transactions and developing an expertise in navigating transactions to the closing table.
Hill Country Titles prides itself in that its title plant goes all the way back to sovereignty, meaning it has access to land grants from when Texas first awarded patents to land in Gillespie County from 1845-1870.
“All the transactions that we close here, go back to patent,” Sauer said. “It’s uncommon in urban areas for title searches to go back that far. Usually they only go back 25-30 years.”
Sauer opened the business as the only employee but now has 21 dedicated members working alongside him.
“I am very supportive of family activities like attending school events, athletic events, all kinds of things,” he said. “Anytime that there is a family need, whether it is illness, health concerns, financial concerns, it gives me great joy to extend that grace.”
As a result, Sauer has several tenured members, including one who has served with him for 43 years.
“That pro-family attitude has resulted in tremendous loyalty to the organization,” Sauer said. “Long tenures confirm a good work environment, gives good standing in the community, signifies loyalty and provides stability within the organization.”
About five years ago, Sauer saw a need to transform his company from a company that had employees and a boss to one that had members and a leader.
“I thought it was going to be an excellent form of governance and it allowed doors to be opened for the appointment of directors within the organization,” Sauer said. “We are now a member-driven organization under my leadership. It gave be an opportunity to develop servant leadership, which I believe is the most effective style of leadership.”
Sauer thrives on seeing his members grow not only professionally, but also on a personal level.
In the community, Sauer has served as the president of the Chamber of Commerce, on the board of Hill Country Memorial and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, and the Gillespie County Historical Society.
His business has also contributed financially to various community charities.
Sauer has continually worked to provide what he calls a “Customer First” experience.
“While we are in the title insurance business, our underlying driving force is providing title assurance, as many of our customers don’t really understand the significance or the importance of a title insurance policy,” Sauer said. “It is more important for them to know that when a transaction closes at Hill Country Titles, the transaction has been completed accurately and correctly.”
Sauer takes extra time to develop relationships with customers, meeting them, thanking them and offering ancillary services.
Over the last 10 years, Sauer has been introduced to a plethora of new technologies to help his business grow and operate successfully.
“Technology has significantly changed how we complete our work from the time a contract is initiated through the closing of the transaction,” Sauer said.
Hill Country Titles has begun digitizing their title plant database and uses a program called Zoccam, allowing earnest money to be delivered directly to the escrow department and GoOptionPay, a resource used by buyers to deliver termination option fees to the seller or their agent.
“This allows us to complete transactions effectively, quickly and securely,” Sauer said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also allowed for new technology and tools to be introduced, including video closings, online notarization and more.
Sauer expects these tools to be carried on for years to come.
“These things distinguish us and if there is a tool out there, we are going to use it,” he said.
Hill Country Titles has three locations across the Hill Country.
The Fredericksburg location is at 114 East Austin Street.
The Junction branch is located at 135 North 6th Street and the Rocksprings location is at 120 North Well Street.
For more information, visit www.hillcountrytitles.com.