Buying a house involves a lot of paper pushing. Stacks of paper can take hours for buyers and sellers to sign over and over again. While there’s been some movement in the mortgage industry to provide more digital solutions, adoption of eMortgages and remote online notarization across the board has been slow. Suddenly in 2020, as the pandemic and government shutdowns swept across the country, lenders and title professionals quickly turned to remote eClosing solutions to keep real estate deals moving.
One couple in Southwest Florida found themselves in such a predicament. Before they could complete the refinance loan on their home, their local government halted any plans for a trip to their title company’s office to sign the papers. Fortunately, they had another option.
Danielle and Steve Krivda talk about their remote online notarization experience and why they’ll never go back to the old way of doing things.
Refinancing with an online notary during COVID-19
Steve, a business and personal development coach at Six Figure Coach Initiative, and Danielle Krivda, a construction manager, moved into their Florida home with their two sons in 2012. It was the perfect home for the active family, but it was missing a pool. In 2020, they decided to refinance with Cottrell Title and Escrow as their closing agent, but then uncertainty set in as the coronavirus spread across the United States, spurring local and state municipalities to force businesses to close.
As Steve and Danielle were discussing their options with James Schlimmer, Managing Partner at Cottrell Title and Escrow, he presented the idea of doing a remote eClosing.
75% of title agents said they plan to make changes, like adding remote online notarization options, to their business in the coming year.
As a busy couple involved in their community, school, and church, Danielle and Steve both saw the benefits of a remote closing beyond the concerns of social distancing.
“This option is by far the most pleasurable closing experience we’ve had.” – Danielle Krivda, homeowner
“Life is definitely chaotic and busy all the time. We’re involved in our church. We’re involved in the school. I teach fitness classes on a regular basis,” Danielle explained.
“We didn’t know it was an option, to be honest with you,” said Steve, “When that option presented itself it fit perfectly into our active lives. In addition to everything Danielle is doing, I run my own business out of the home, doing business and personal development coaching, and coaching our boy’s cross country team. I’m also involved with our church and so forth, so getting time together was one of the most attractive things that we’ve gone through in any of our home purchases or refis.”
“If you have any concerns, if you have any sort of health issues, and you’re doing everything virtual, this is an added benefit,” added Danielle. “Let alone, if we didn’t have [the shutdown], we would choose this time and time again. I’ve told everyone that. This option is by far the most pleasurable closing experience we’ve had.”
Remote Online Notarization vs. Traditional Closings
Some professionals in title and real estate worry that digital closings will leave consumers, especially first-time buyers, feeling cold by losing out on the celebratory and personal touch of closing face to face.
This was the fifth time the Krivdas closed on a property, and although they can’t speak from the perspective of a first time homebuyer, the experience of closing remotely on their iPad had no loss of human connection.
When asked if they thought title and real estate agents should worry about this, Danielle chimed in, “It wasn’t any less personal. The person was right there. She was walking us through. You could see her icon moving across the paper, showing us the different aspects, explaining it as we were reading down through, so it wasn’t as though it was impersonal and you felt disconnected. If anything it was even more so because you could read along with her as she’s highlighting as she’s pointing out different areas and where to sign and how to confirm the signatures. She stayed connected the whole time. So there’s the efficiency without the loss of personal connection.”
While not every buyer or seller may feel the same way about communicating with another person through a screen, the layout of the platform also accommodated efficiency, unlike an in-person closing.
“There was definitely more efficiency doing the remote online notary,” said Danielle. The process itself was not nearly as tedious, just the examples of having to constantly sign your name over and over and over again. Once they got that captured, it was a matter of confirming the signatures.”
Steve added, “Yeah, point and click signatures are awesome.”
Steve also explained that going through the documents was far easier. Questions about a document were answered quickly and clearly with the remote notary. “Because they had the document right in front of them, we could go through it line item by line item. We knocked out probably at least 50% of the time in that area easy.”
In all, the entire process took less than an hour and was effortlessly squeezed in between two of Steve’s business meetings. The original closing on the house took about two and a half hours plus the time to drive to and from the title company’s office.
Connectivity is always a big concern when it comes to closing remotely. The Krivdas had a short blip on their iPad getting started, but Danielle quickly resolved it after finding a good spot in front of the router.
Snapping a photo of their driver’s license also proved to be a little difficult with their iPad since the same camera used to take the picture was also the camera capturing their video stream, but the online notary helped walk Danielle through it.
While tablets can be used for some RON platforms, it’s a good idea to consider using a desktop or laptop computer to avoid any interruptions in the video stream. Use a separate device like your phone to capture and upload documents verifying the signer’s identity.
A desktop or laptop can also be plugged in directly to the internet with an ethernet cable to establish an even stronger connection. For title companies looking to set up a digital closing room, a strong internet connection is just one of the essential technology updates for remote closings.
Never Going Back to Traditional Closings
Steve and his father-in-law also own a real estate investment company, and he believes that this is the new way of doing real estate transactions. The comfort and convenience of completing a closing in a platform that provides additional security measures to prevent identity theft simply can’t be beaten.
“This is not negotiable,” exclaimed Steve, “If you’re going to do a closing, this is the only way to do it. It’s more efficient. It’s a lot more pleasurable to go through. It was a good experience. Anybody that is considering purchasing now, why not do it from the comfort of your home.”
“This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for closings.”