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Homestead Title has handled dozens of digital or e-closings in the last few weeks. We have been able to accommodate sick sellers, a borrower in lock-down in India, and parties who simply did not want to risk their health for a sale or refinance.

The way our industry handles these closings has been a moving target, sometimes changing by the day or even hour. Welcome to the new “normal.”  Here’s the latest.

Remote Online Notary

We have conducted e-closings using Remote Online Notary (RON). This is a fully digital closing experience, where every signature is digital (like docusign).  Even the notary signs digitally.  This requires a computer with Google Chrome or Firefox, a webcam and microphone, a decent internet connection, and use of an approved e-closing “platform” or service like Pavaso or Notarycam. Homestead is Pavaso certified to conduct closings and act as a remote online notary.Pavaso

Pros:  Parties don’t need printers, scanners, mail, or UPS and can sign everything on their computer from anywhere.  There is no paper whatsoever!

Cons:  The technology can be very challenging. Failing to answer security questions or having technology challenges can cause delays. Not all title companies have this capability (Homestead does!!). RON cannot be used for Power of Attorney documents or for most lenders, meaning it is limited to sellers.

Homestead uses Pavaso and our own Notary (we don’t rely on third party notaries).

Video Conference Closings

We have handled closings via video conference, using Zoom, Facetime, or WhatsApp.  These are “wet” or “ink” closings — the parties sign documents on paper during a video conference with our attorney, who verifies their identities and signatures on camera.  They deliver the originals back to us and our attorney “Authenticates” their signatures. Wisconsin law allows an attorney to Authenticate the validity of a signature, with the same effect as a notary, based on familiarity with the signature.

videoPros:  Virtually everyone can figure out the technology (it’s a simple video conference call), we can use this for signing a Power of Attorney, it is fast and easy.

Cons:  The parties need access to a printer and scanner. They still need to send the originals back to us (usually by UPS and we provide the label). The closing must be a pre-sign at least one day prior to closing.  This cannot be used for lender documents that require Notary Stamps and same-day signing.

In-Person Closings:

We are still handling the majority of our closings at our office.  We are doing these as “drive-in” or “car-hop” closings.  Parties do not need to leave their car.  We provide social distancing and limit contact.  We will continue drive-in closings during the Emergency Order, which was extended to May 26, 2020.

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To protect the safety and health of our customers, clients, and staff, Homestead Title has made some significant adjustments:

  • We offer Digital, E-Closings to Sellers and Cash Buyers
  • We are handling in-person transactions as “Drive-Up Closings”

So, how well are these working? 

Digital, E-Closings

We’ve handled many digital closings over the last week and the reviews are positive.  Closing from home is obviously convenient and safe. And the time it takes to close is similar (actually a little longer to authenticate identities). Yet, just as working from home can be awkward and less efficient, so too are digital closings.  The technology is good and easy, but not perfect.  Voices sometimes echo or lag, video can cut out, and explaining documents is slightly harder. Anyone who’s participated in Zoom or other video conferences knows what we mean.  Given our current circumstances, the positives far outweigh the negatives.  In normal times, this will be one more tool in our tool-kit, but will not replace in-person closings.

Drive-In Signing

driveinHomestead Title is handling all in-person transactions at our WEST office as “Drive-Up Closings.” We’ve received fantastic responses as customers appreciate our efforts to protect their health. And, the process has worked very well: Customers call when they arrive, we bring documents and a clipboard, and they sign in the car.  Customers take a little longer to sign. And we answer questions from 6 feet away or by phone.  We can’t wait to return to the closing room, but we’re proud to keep our customers and team safe.

With both Drive-In and E-Closings, we are offering to send all copies via secured, encrypted email.

Some of these adjustments are temporary.  In healthy times, we will not be doing “Drive In” closings — if we do, we’ll serve burgers and shakes on skates!  We likely will handle more e-closing when things return to normal. Yet, we anticipate most closings will return to the closing room with happy buyers, sellers, Realtors, and lenders celebrating together.

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We can close many transactions digitally from the comfort and safety of your home.

In response to the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, the State and our underwriters have passed emergency rules to allow digital closings and remote notarization!

E-Closings are here

We will be able to accommodate almost all sellers and many buyers with “Remote Online Notaries,” (RON).  This will allow for fully remote, digital closings without the need to leave home.

Buyers with a loan will need their lender approval to conduct a fully digital closing.  Lenders have many considerations and challenges, including investors, underwriters, mortgage insurance, and legal issues. Some may not be able to offer this service right away and others may allow only some documents to be signed digitally.

Homestead currently uses Notarycam and is trained and setting up Pavaso – two nationally recognized, approved platforms.  We “host” closings with a certified, remote-online notary.  The Wisconsin DFI has temporarily allowed Wisconsin notaries to also become online notaries (without the need for including an out-of-state notary) and our team is also adding this service.

Please contact us if you wish to close remotely and we can determine whether this is an option and coordinate with you.  

 

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Homestead Title has implemented a plan to maintain day-to-day operations in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Homestead will continue normal operations, without disruption, during these challenging times. We do not anticipate any delays or cancellations as a result of temporary changes to our business. The majority of Homestead’s team will work remotely from home over the coming weeks. Phone and Email will operate as normal and we are available to help.

Closing officers will be available in our office for any scheduled sale or refinance. We will operate with minimal, in-office staff and appreciate your patience and understanding.

We are committed to supporting and serving our employees, their families, and all those involved in our real estate and title insurance transactions.  As we monitor developments and guidance from public health professionals, we will make any necessary adjustments.

Tips for a Healthy Real Estate Closing:

  1. Only Signors in the Closing Room: Homestead will not allow anyone in the closing room other than necessary signors (Buyers, Sellers, and their attorneys).  We urge Lenders and Realtors not attend closing and will ask them to wait in our outside lobby.
    1. We will include Realtors and Lenders on all questions by phone.
    2. We will overnight commission checks at no cost to the Realtor or their broker.
  2. Sign Separately and Social Distancing: We encourage Buyers and sellers to sign at different times.  We are waiving Seller pre-sign fees until at least June 1, 2020.  Alternatively, we encourage Buyers to arrive on time and Sellers to arrive 35 minutes after the start of closing.  This will allow for minimal contact and more “social distancing.”
  3. Remote or Digital Closings: When possible, Homestead will offer remote or digital closings.  Remote notarization is not yet legal in Wisconsin, so fully digital closings are rarely an option other than for cash purchasers. We will explore all options to accommodate our customers and protect the well-being of our community.
  4. Clean Office Space:  We are providing clean pens and separate paperwork to minimize contact between people. We are wiping down all surfaces with disinfectant wipe throughout the day.
  5. When to Avoid Closing: If any Buyer or Seller is sick,  in contact with anyone diagnosed or suspected of having Covid-19, or has traveled internationally in the last 14 days, please contact us for alternative closing options
  6. Celebrate: We are excited to help you buy, sell and refinance. Yet, we will be refraining from hand shakes, high fives, and other close celebrations.  These are scary times, but together we can do this!

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Remember to “spring your clocks forward” by 1 hour on March 8, 2020!  This is great news for people who love evening daylight and the start of spring.  But, it brings an interesting twist for Wisconsin Realtors.

CST

The new Wisconsin WB-11 Offer to Purchase defines deadlines as expiring at “11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time.”   Central Standard Time is our time zone in the winter months.  Starting March 8th and continuing all summer, Wisconsin will be using Central Daylight Time.  Arguably, this means that deadlines in the Summer months expire at 10:59 p.m.

What should Realtors do about the time change?  Enjoy the evening sun and try not to work past 10:59pm.  You will avoid this weird time zone glitch and you will get a better night sleep.

Spring

Thanks to Evan Swain of Keller Williams for his brilliant insights on this topic!

Happy Spring and don’t forget to spring your clocks forward at 2a.m. on March 8th. 

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Is it time to refinance your mortgage?  Probably!

The rate on a 30-Year Mortgage has steadily dropped from already low rates. Although rates can vary by region and lender, the national average has dropped from  nearly 4.5% to under 3.5% over the last 6 months.

Mortgage Rates

The drop in mortgage rates corresponds with a recent drop in the 10-Year Treasury Bond.  The market for these bonds does not directly effect mortgage rates, but it is good indicator of their direction.  In fact, movement of the 10-Year Treasury Bonds almost exactly mirrors movement of 30-Year Mortgage rates over the past 5 years:

COMPARISON

As of February 24, 2020, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury bonds were near record lows.

Does this suggest record low mortgage rates?

Yes!  The current mortgage rates are already near record lows.

Will mortgages rates drop further (don’t they drop when the bonds drop)?

Not Necessarily.  Mortgage rates are not directly effected by bond rates — there are many factors that determine mortgage rates.  And, a drop in bond rates may reflect market conditions that are already “baked in” to current mortgage rates.

The recent precipitous drop in bonds may be largely a reaction to the coronavirus, and fears of its effects on the global economy.  Yet, those fears and the current bond yields at least hint at a continuation of low rates, if not a drop in rates.

Disclaimer – if we could predict where mortgage rates will go, we would be on a tropical beach, not writing this blog.  Rates could go up or down. Mortgage rates are already CRAZY LOW and its probably time to refinance if you haven’t already!

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This is the first in a series of videos explaining FIRPTA — the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act.
Firptapicforblog

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Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Check out these trick-or-treat safety tips and please consider participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project. You can find more info about that by clicking on the link above.

Here’s a list of the hours/events for Trick-or-Treating:

Cottage Grove: 10/31/17: 4:30 – 7 PM

Madison: 10/31/17: 4-8 PM

Downtown Madison: 10/25/17: 3-6 PM at participating Businesses!

Monona: 10/27/17 from 5:45-7 PM @Winnequah Park

McFarland: 10/31/17: 4-8 PM (No set hours)

Oregon: 10/31/17: 5-8 PM

Stoughton: 10/28/17: 3-5 PM Downtown Trick-or-Treating

Sun Prairie: 10/31/17: 5-7 PM

Verona: 10/31/17: 5-8 PM

Waunakee: 10/31/17: 5-7 PM 
(more…)

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Spring is finally here! These neighborhood-organized rummage sales are a great opportunity to score some bargains.  It’s also a great opportunity to see how much Madison has to offer. Check out the full list HERE of all the local neighborhood garage sales happening around MadTown!

Have fun and enjoy!

Date Event Location
May 11 – May 13 Oregon Community Wide Garage Sale Oregon, WI
May 11 – May 13

 

Waunakee Garage Sale Days Waunakee, WI
May 13, 2017 Nakoma Garage Sale

 

Nakoma Neighborhood
May 18May 20 Hawks Landing Hawks Landing Neighborhood
May 19 – May 20 Deforest/Windsor City Wide Garage Sale Deforest/Windsor, WI
May 19 – May 20

 

Wexford Village Garage Sale Wexford Village Neighborhood
May 19 – May 20 Spring Harbor Neighborhood

 

5156 – 5148 Spring Court
May 19 – May 20 Blackhawk Garage Sale

 

Blackhawk Neighborhood
June 3, 2017 Emerson East Garage Sale Emerson East Neighborhood

 

June 3, 2017 Marquette Neighborhood Garage Sale Marquette Neighborhood

 

June 2 – June 3 Hill Farms Garage Sale

 

Hill Farms Neighborhood
June 8 – June 10

 

Portage Citywide Garage Sale Portage, WI

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Spring is finally here and it’s time to get planting! If you are selling a home, a beautiful garden can add curb appeal. If you’re staying put, a garden can add to your home’s value, the sustainability of your property, and your happiness. If you know of another, upcoming plant sale in the Madison area, let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

Homestead Title takes pride in being green and sustainable. Every year we provide a list of local garden sales in the Madison area. Enjoy!

Date Location Event
May 12th, 11am-5pm Olbrich Gardens Plant Sale with the Pros: Olbrich Gardens annual fundraiser.
May 13th-9am-3pm Olbrich Gardens Plant Sale with the Pros: Olbrich Gardens: annual fundraiser.
May 13th, 10am-2pm Troy Community Farm: 502 Troy Drive Spring Plant Sale: All plants Certified Organic.
May 11, 9am-2pm UW Arboretum Visitor Center Native Plant Sale
May 13th, TBD Shorewood Hills Garden Club: 1008 Shorewood Blvd Plant and Mulch Sale
May 13, 9am-2pm Oregon Garden Club: 8th Annual Oregon Garden Club Charitable Plant Sale
May 13, 8:30am-11am Mound Vue Garden Club: 709 Brookstone Crst Mound Vue Garden Club Plant Sale
May 12 – May 13 West Side Garden Club: 3918 Nakoma Rd West Side Garden Club Plant Sale
May 21, 2017 Master Gardener Plant Sale: 1 Fen Oak Ct.  Master Gardener Plan Sale

 

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