The first title company was established in Pennsylvania in 1853. Since then, the industry has seen many changes, some as the natural consequence of developing business technology and practices and others at the behest of industry regulations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in business operations everywhere, devastating many who couldn’t pivot to a digital buying experience quickly enough. Some big players and visionaries were making moves to digitize and automate more aspects of the title production process even before the pandemic.
As a whole, the title industry has been buoyed by one of the hottest housing markets on record. Many in the industry might not see the need to make changes to their technology stack or internal process just yet, but it’s an excellent time to evaluate what your competitors are doing and how you can keep up when the market adjusts.
Here are some ways that title industry leaders use technology to manage underwriting processes better, track the progress of a file, and offer more convenient closing options to consumers.
Managing and automating title insurance production
Data is the most precious resource of any business. This is especially true for title underwriters and their agents because access to good data means good title policies and fewer title claims. Manually sifting through that data means higher than average production costs compared to other types of insurance.
To minimize the time title examiners and abstractors spend on creating title commitments and clearing title, underwriters like Stewart, First American, and Fidelity National Financial are creating and investing in digital tools to help agents process orders faster.
Stewart Virtual Underwriter is a reference system built to assist agents during commercial transactions to access information and respond to customers’ needs quickly. Some of the information accessible in the system include bulletins, a state-by-state guide to title-related real estate practices, policy forms and endorsements, USA Patriot Act database, standard exceptions, and national and state-by-state underwriting manuals.
First American’s ClarityFirst also helps agents achieve more efficiency during commercial transactions. The application provides a digital hub of information and resources on transactions protected by two-factor authentication, encryption technology, and wire transfer verification.
First American has a history of innovation in the title industry. It was also the first underwriter to announce creating a blockchain system designed to facilitate the exchange of prior title insurance policies between underwriters in 2018. Recently, the company announced a partnership with Lone Wolf Technologies to make title orders directly available to real estate agents.
The focus on increasing efficiency for professionals across the industry and enhancing the overall closing experience has resulted in some glowing reviews of the company on Wall Street.
NextAce, a subsidiary of Fidelity, also launched a Virtual Title Assistant, which allows title companies to quickly adopt automation without updating their current processes and systems. According to the company, a full commitment can be produced within minutes, and the setup process means there is no downtime, no custom software to build, no need to change internal workflows, and no training.
If automation tools aren’t available for your title company, there’s also the option to outsource title reports to handle the overflow of orders. Current-Owner Searches, Two-Owner Searches, and Full Title Reports are available to order on the PropLogix platform or through an integration with your title production software.
Tracking the transaction
We’ve all become accustomed to asking Siri to set a timer, Alexa to check the weather, and Google to find a restaurant open for delivery. Virtual and AI assistants are also being used to help consumers, real estate agents, and lenders involved in the closing track the progress of title insurance.
We were introduced to one of the first virtual closing assistants for title companies, Alanna, during a podcast interview with James Schlimmer, Managing Partner at Cottrell Title & Escrow. In the interview, James explained why traditional methods won’t cut it anymore and how automation and AI tools like Alanna help his team improve customer service.
In April of this year, National Integrity Title Agency introduced Robin, another version of the chatbot virtual assistant for title companies.
These virtual assistants integrate with your title production software to provide answers to frequently asked questions about pending files using text or chat. They can also provide closing cost estimates and push notifications when tasks are completed or send reminders to parties involved in the transaction.
Other title industry leaders are introducing dashboards for customers to log in and track their closing progress. First American Financial’s investment in Endpoint has yielded positive returns as the Seattle startup has surpassed its growth targets and doubled its employee count in 2020. Endpoint CEO, Scott Martino told the Title Report, “Endpoint combines innovative technology with the expertise of experienced escrow officers and provides a digital compass for the most significant purchase of a homebuyer’s lifetime.”
PropLogix clients also have access to an ordering dashboard to manage their requests, cancel orders, check on the status of an order, and place updates. If you prefer to order your title support services like municipal lien searches, tax certificates, title reports, and release tracking without navigating away from your title production software, we have integrations with some of the most popular applications including:
Watch a full demo here and request more information on pricing for our title support services.
Closing with Remote Online Notarization
Closing day is also getting a digital upgrade with eClosing solutions that include in-person electronic notarization (IPEN) and remote online notarization (RON). Remote and contactless closings became of particular interest during the onset of COVID-19, but because many title companies and lenders lacked the digital infrastructure to support it, many defaulted to drive up closings, mobile notaries, or social distancing in offices.
Still, COVID-19 has pushed remote online notarization forward as more states move to permanently adopt legislation allowing for its use by commissioned notaries.
A technology that was seen as an impractical novelty before the pandemic has developed into a convenient closing alternative consumers love. One couple who used a RON platform for their refinancing said their remote closing experience was so enjoyable that they’ll never go back to closing on a home the traditional way. A survey by the American Land Title Association found that RON adoption was up 547% in 2020. It also noted that RON is most heavily utilized in Florida, Texas, and Virginia.
In response to the growing interest in RON, ProperSign was launched to accommodate the move to a paperless closing experience. Title agents, notaries, and other professionals can use ProperSign to upload, tag, eSign, and remote notarize documents. Our QuickSign tool makes it easy to collect eSignatures on any document. If you aren’t ready to run a RON closing, we can also connect you to a RON-approved notary to complete the transaction.
Going digital isn’t always an easy choice for busy professionals. It takes time to evaluate your choices, weigh the pros and cons of adoption, build interest and buy-in with other stakeholders, and train staff. The reward, however, can be more than worth it. Wherever your company may be on the journey of digital innovations, we’re here to provide the support, services, and tools to help you grow your company and improve the homebuying experience.
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