Closing day has changed since the outbreak of COVID-19. Now more than ever, real estate professionals are looking for safe ways to continue business. While plastic partitions and long sticks might be crucial short-term solutions, investing in remote closings now makes sense for many title companies and law firms.
But what are some of the essential items on the technology checklist to get started with remote online notarization? Learn about the must-haves to set up the perfect virtual closing room here.
The four areas of implementing Remote Online Notarization your title company should focus on are:
- The Right Software
- The Right Hardware
- The Right Security
- The Right IT Team
The Right Software
Remote Online Notarization revolutionizes the concept of “appearing” before a notary. The signing and notarization of electronic documents is performed through the use of audio-visual technology. However, RON platforms are more than just a video conferencing tool.
In order to conduct a remote closing, the proper software must be set up. While some governors are approving the use of video conferencing tools in the interim, for long-term use, these tools are insufficient to meet current state requirements as well as the minimum standards set in the SECURE act.
While some state laws may require the notary or signing agent to designate a RON service provider on their application, the laws remain neutral on which technology is chosen.
Some popular remote online notarization service providers include:
The settlement process is only one key part of the remote online notarization ecosystem. In order for a full eClosings to be executed, lenders must also be enabled to receive eNotes and have an eVault storage system in place. When delivering mortgages to Fannie Mae, Lenders must also be part of the MERS eRegistry.
Review Fannie Mae’s list of eClosing Technology Service Providers to see each one’s capabilities.
The Right Hardware
The signing and notarization process must be done simultaneously and without interruption. To achieve this, title companies and law firms will want to increase their internet speed, update ethernet cables, and purchase cameras and microphones to improve video and sound quality.
All parties should have a strong internet connection. Video streaming relies on good download and upload speeds.
The FCC defines broadband, or fast internet, as internet with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. How fast you can go often depends on your location, and some of the fastest places may surprise you!
If you’re lucky enough to live and work in areas with fiber internet, consider upgrading your company to the super-fast 1GB plans.
Wifi is convenient, but it’s not as reliable and fast as a connection from an ethernet cable. Cable connections are also more secure.
Ethernet cables are rated according to different categories or “cat.” The Cat5e is the most common and the bare minimum for good video streaming. Options also include Cat6, Cat6a, Cat7 and Cat8.
Capture clear images during your remote closings with cameras made for streaming. You’ll want to aim for higher resolution and better lighting for a clearer picture.
The Logitech C922 Pro costs $99.99 and has a 720p live streaming resolution.
The Razer Kiyo provides full HD video and enhanced illumination for the same price. Watch this video to get a better idea of how the two compare.
Alternatively, you could splurge for 1080p streaming with the Ultra HD with the Logitech Brio Ultra HD Pro for $199.99.
There are lots of options available at much higher price tags, so take some time to decide what best fits your budget and will provide the best closing experience for your clients.
Depending on your camera, you might not need to purchase a microphone.
Headsets like Plantronics Blackwire 725 provide noise canceling technology and high quality audio.
If wearing a headset sounds unappealing, speaker phones like the Jabra Speak 410 OC are an alternative solution to improve the remote closing experience.
What buyers and sellers need to know
Make consumers aware of what devices they’ll need to properly perform the remote notarization process. Mobile devices like phones and tablets aren’t optimal for many RON platforms.
While most consumers will have the necessary speed to conduct the closing over their desktop, recommend they do a quick speed test beforehand.
If there is any disruption during the signing and notarization process, it’ll require a complete do-over.
The Right Security
Some popular video conferencing tools like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype don’t meet standards laid out by MISMO and ALTA or follow data privacy laws like the Gramm Leach Bliley Act.
Secure Remote Online Notarization platforms should:
- Confirm identity with multi-factor authentication measures like Knowledge Based Authentication questions and tools to scan and verify government IDs.
- Provide a signing or notarization feature.
- Create a tamper-proof seal on documents signed during the process.
- Secure non-public information.
Unfortunately, applications like Zoom, Skype, and Facetime provide none of these protections.
In fact, the rush to video conferencing tool like Zoom has exposed some major vulnerabilities. Attackers can use Zoom to steal users’ Windows credentials according to some internet sleuths. The company says they are working on patches to address the issue, but this should serve as a stern warning to title agents and agent attorneys to be cautious in what tools they use to conduct remote closings during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Right IT Team
During this time, your main focus should be protecting the property rights of your clients and stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Setting up a remote closing room without the guidance of professionals is ill-advised, especially since cybercriminals are looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. Hopefully, you have an internal team you can lean on right now. If you can afford your own team, it’ll help your company stay agile enough to accommodate rapid changes in technology while maintaining best cybersecurity practices.
If an internal IT team isn’t something you can afford right now, finding a trustworthy vendor to outsource this work and provide consultation is the next best solution, but you may lose some flexibility. During a time when many companies are looking to cut costs, it can be difficult to justify searching for a new vendor, but if you’re serious about making the move to remote closings, cybersecurity must be a priority.