Even as technology has changed every aspect of our lives, some aspects of the title search process have been a bit slow to embrace technological change, with some jurisdictions keeping title documents sequestered in dusty file cabinets and notaries memorializing closing signatures in leather-bound notary log books. However, like many industries, the title and closing industries are undergoing a technological revolution — driven in large part by the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on in-person business, and fueled by advances in technology at every stage of the title and closing process. Learn more about how technology is changing the title landscape, and how advancements in technology will continue to streamline the closing process for buyers, sellers, and agents in the future.
Digital Technology And Title Searches
The title provider is the fulcrum point for every real estate deal. The title company ensures all aspects of a deal happen in a timely and coordinated fashion, doing everything from searching records and compiling title history to ensuring all documents are processed on time for closing.
A title search involves a comprehensive review of documents that can number into the hundreds, including chain-of-title documents, tax records, and court records including judgments and liens. In traditional title searches, this review involves physically visiting the relevant offices and searching for documents that were filed by clerks or recorders. This process is time consuming and subject to error, as it relies on physical files in different locations, which can be lost or misfiled.
While some counties still rely on physical records, most county recorders have made the leap to digitized, electronically searchable title records. Most still rely on physical recordkeeping to some extent, however, and the digital records that are available are PDF scans of paper documents. When title companies act to resolve a cloud or encumbrance on title, that communication between title agent and recordkeeper is done, traditionally, through an old-school phone conversation.
While electronic title searching has made the process more efficient in recent years, areas for improvement remain. Rather than being dependent on county records searches, real estate transactions may someday be confirmed by blockchain, reducing the time spent on title searches and resolving title encumbrances. The title searches of the future may only take a matter of minutes, rather than hours or even days.
The services offered by title companies have also evolved by leaps and bounds to incorporate the latest technology. Resources like Landtrust Title’s Seller Net Sheet provide easy-to-use tools that allow real estate agents to generate instant seller net sheets, buyer estimates, and more. Technology also permits such time saving offerings as online scheduling of closings, online instant cost estimates, and electronic versions of common legal forms and documents.
Remote Online Notarization (RON)
As anyone who has ever been through a home purchase can attest, the process of signing all required documents to finalize financing and close escrow can be overwhelming. Remote Online Notarization, or RON, is a promising use of existing technology to streamline the closing process.
RON refers to a completely remote notarization process — the notary and signer are in different physical locations. The authentication and signing process takes advantage of real-time voice and video connections, which allow the signer and notary to see and hear each other. The use of video calls both enhances the customer experience and provides strong consumer protections, including the real-time verification of identity. The use of RON is critical to providing fully remote digital real estate transactions since documents such as the mortgage and deed need to be notarized in order for the closing to be completed.
RON has found wider acceptance due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Like all in-person, face-to-face meetings, meetings with notaries were seen as high-risk as states attempted to bring the pandemic’s spread under control. In Wisconsin, the state government passed a law permitting remote online notarization, and in Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s disaster declaration included a provision temporarily authorizing the use of remote online notary services.
Like many other technological advances brought on by the pandemic, RON is likely here to stay in some form. Real estate groups are urging Congress to consider federal RON legislation, and over 20 states have adopted some form of remote notary services. Over time, it is even possible that the adoption of remote technology could allow for entirely remote closings, conducted in largely the same way one might conduct a daily Zoom teleconference.
PropTech And The Technological Future Of Real Estate
The future of title and real estate technology is undoubtedly in the integration of different platforms used at different points in the dealmaking process. Applications that allow real estate agents and attorneys to “talk” more efficiently and effectively with title companies, mortgage lenders, and closing agents will streamline the title search, home financing, and inspection process, allowing for closings to occur more quickly and with fewer opportunities for human error.
The use of mobile-friendly technology and efficient title recording will change the way we buy and sell real estate. New RESPA / TRID regulations will continue to drive transparency of title insurance fees and cost estimates for consumers. This increasing need for clarity and communication will create a need for title companies who can manage these new technologies and integrate them into the traditional title search and insurance process.
Landtrust Title: Your Partner for Results
When choosing your title partner, you want a team that understands and can use the latest technology, but who also understands that technology, no matter how sophisticated, is never a substitute for the care and attention of a dedicated team of title and closing professionals. When your real estate agent works with Landtrust Title, you get a partner for results. We do things differently than other title companies — whether it’s personalized support, convenient closing times that meet your schedule, or quick and easy payment methods ensuring everyone gets paid right away, our attention to detail will help ensure a smooth transaction. We’re obsessed with making your experience so seamless, you don’t even have to think about it. If you have questions about what to expect when your real estate deal closes, Landtrust Title Services can help. Please contact us today at [email protected] or by phone at 312.528.9210.