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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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The self isolation and quarantines of the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic creates challenges and disruptions, including in real estate.  The title and mortgage industries are putting forth efforts to overcome these challenges.

Remote Digital Closings May be Available Soon!

A major effort is underway from title underwriters, legislatures, and administrative agencies to allow “Remote Online Notaries,” (RON) in Wisconsin.  This would allow for fully remote, digital closings without the need to leave home. While it would primarily be available to Sellers, some Buyers can also sign remotely.

E-signing2

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 certain documents to be signed digitally.

Homestead Title is already conducting digital, remote closings for “Cash” Buyers (where none of their documents are notarized and there is no lender).

Look for important updates on Digital Closings in the coming days.

 

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