This week, we are excited to shine the Highland Title + Escrow spotlight on Mike McFarlane. When Mike began this settlement company journey in 1999, he brought a wealth of knowledge and a love for helping people with him, laying the foundation for an environment filled with supportive team members and satisfied customers. So, let’s get started!
After Mike graduated from law school, he worked for a small, general practice law firm (the type you don’t really see anymore) in Vienna, Virginia. There, he was blessed to have great mentors who taught him about all aspects of the law. For example, he could be drafting a will one day, and the next, he might be representing a criminal defendant in court or handling landlord/tenant evictions. Mike litigated cases at the federal and state levels, including a case in the Virginia Supreme Court in 1996. (He prevailed…in case you were wondering.) He was also proud to be admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The general practice where he began his career handled all facets of the law; it also handled many real estate closings, so when Mike opened his own practice, he concentrated on real estate and commercial litigation. That experience helped immensely for what was to come.
One of the best things about his law practice was that he had handled everything that may go wrong in the settlement process. This perspective helped Mike focus on making the experience at Highland Title + Escrow personable, understandable, and manageable for all parties involved.
Because Mike had positive and supportive working relationships and environments throughout his career, he instilled that culture in his own company from day one. It has been the key to our success. “I had heard that when I got out of law school, I would know the why, but I wouldn’t know the how. I relied heavily on a core group of professionals with experience in the industry, and that has become the strength of our company,” Mike mentioned.
The Highland Title + Escrow team is why agents and consumers alike return again and again for settlement services, and Mike takes pride in that. Our staff is full of people who know what they are doing and love what they do. In fact, two people who worked at that law firm in 1990 now work with him, and the average years of service at the company is over ten years. He considers it a pleasure to work at Highland Title. Truth be known, he really likes his job because he works with people who respect each other and the clients coming in the door, and the team tries to make it fun.
The team approach is key at the company. Mike played sports and coached Little League and recognizes that the lessons learned on the field translate into the business world. If mistakes are made, these never fall on one person’s shoulders. It’s an opportunity to assess what happened, do better next time and move forward…working together to achieve a goal. It’s the backbone of what Highland Title + Escrow is all about.
With seven staffed offices, as well as six designated settlement locations throughout the DMV, staying in touch could be difficult, but Mike remains involved in the real estate transaction side of the business by helping his team with closings and reviewing title. With some working remotely, COVID and some working in different locations, he wants his team to be one big company, not separate companies working under one umbrella. It’s at the top of his list this year, and he has some ideas, but you won’t find any spoiler alerts here.
Mike’s typical “great day” would be any day he gets to interact with his team and help clients. He has stepped away from conducting settlements but still helps when he can because he enjoys it. His days are often filled with meetings, appointments with employees and reviewing title or discussing potential problems. Anywhere he is needed, you’ll find Mike. He talks with agents to help resolve issues and spends his time managing the business, but the best day ever is when the settlement is finished, and the buyer or seller looks at their agent and says, “That was a smooth settlement.” It always comes back to helping people.
When asked about challenges in the industry, Mike says it’s the same as it’s always been. “We have a market-driven business. When we are really, really busy, that ‘busy’ comes from the outside market. If the outside market falls, so do we. We get our business from the real estate industry so anything that impacts them also impacts us.”
Technology has made an impact in the industry, and at Highland Title + Escrow, Mike and his team are on board. State of the art settlement software, video conferences and Remote Online Notarization (RON) were very helpful during the height of COVID, and many of these will stay as options, but Mike feels there is nothing like the human side of settlement. Finding the right mix that still serves clients and provides a personal touch is the perfect balance.
On a more personal note, Mike is married with four children. His daughter is in the Army currently in the famed 82nd Airborne Division. (He also mentioned that being near Washington DC, there are many military spouses and some veterans on the Highland Title team.) His son is 26 and doing well for himself in the Herndon area, as well as twin boys who are in the eighth grade who keep him busy.
In his spare time, Mike volunteers in the community. He is a member of the local planning commission that oversees certain aspects of zoning and land use. He’s on the Executive Board of the PTO and maybe has the self-admitted problem of being unable to say “no.” He hopes to find more time to golf and travel with his wife as his kids grow older.
Ultimately, Mike McFarlane is a helper of others. He is satisfied when they are satisfied, and that sets the tone at Highland Title + Escrow. Please stop by any of our locations, or call 703-723-3300 for all of your title and escrow needs.