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CEO’s Corner Spring 2023

Now that Daylight Savings Time is official, it really feels like spring is here, not withstanding the cold weather we’ve had the last few weeks. Hope business is picking up for everyone as we have seen an uptick in orders over the last few weeks. With any luck, that trend will continue.

One trend that will definitely continue is the availability of technology that is designed to change not only how a closing is conducted, but how title agencies communicate with everyone associated with that closing. Online portals that allow customers to access software systems to view their files and obtain copies of a title commitment or a survey may become widely available. Artificial Intelligence systems that automatically respond to certain emails and inquiries are on the way (although for now that product is extremely expensive). Remote Notary, in its different forms, is perhaps the most immediately impactful.  

For years now, a type of Remote Notary has been used. Each time we send documents to a seller out of town, we are really setting up a type of remote notary. That solution to getting documents signed is very common, but it is nothing new as it has been done for many years. What is new is Remote Online Notarization or RON. This form of notary is truly remote in that the people signing the documents and the notary are in different locations and the interaction is by way of an approved video platform. It is a very cool concept and will eventually, I think, dramatically change the closing experience.

But here’s the question. Even though these technologies are available, how many people will want to take advantage of them and how quickly? Will customers want to log in to a platform to get their commitments and surveys or will they just email or call their closer/processor like they have always done because old habits die hard? How many title agencies will spend the money necessary to put in an AI platform? As for RON, most title agencies already have a RON solution available. We certainly do. And, while RON has been used somewhat sparingly and mostly as an emergency measure up until now, I believe that RON can become popular if a few obstacles are removed. The problems I see with RON are that it is still somewhat cumbersome to use, lenders won’t allow RON for their notarized documents, and not all states have online notary laws. (If you can believe it, California does not have online notary legislation).  

To truly be an effective closing option, RON must be made easier to use. Right now it works, but it’s not easy for some consumers to navigate particularly for those who are less tech savvy and not accustomed to doing a lot of things online. As for lenders allowing RON, I am hopeful that in the next few years, banks and mortgage companies will allow us to notarize their documents via RON. Then, I think RON will really take off. And, that certainly would be a logical next step since many lenders now have non-notarized documents electronically signed. We are currently looking at a much simpler form of RON and hope to have that in place sometime this year.

So, my hope and my belief is that technology will continue to drive the evolution of the settlement process so that closings will not only be more efficient for all of us settlement service providers, but also make it easier and less time consuming for consumers and customers to interact with their title agent and do all that is necessary on the actual day of closing in shorter amount of time.

I know it’s been a tough year so far for a lot of people in the real estate industry (and others, as well). And, if you have been in the business for only about 10 years or so, this is the first downturn you have really faced. Keep in mind, that for those of us who have been around for let’s just say, more than 10 years, downturns, recessions, housing crises, mortgage crises, foreclosure crises, high interest rates, and stock market crashes have come and gone and we are still here. It’s my belief that hard work and perseverance will always win out.

Anyway, have a great spring, thanks for everything, and hope to see you soon.