The Title and Real Estate industry quickly adopted electronic processing methods once the pandemic hit in 2020. This industry was already on its way to these platforms, but the acceptance of such rapidly took over the industry to enable companies a way to continue operations in a world that was shutting down.
3 Changes to the Real Estate Closing that are Here to Stay:
1. Electronic Transmission of Closing Documents
The shift to electronic processing platforms has enabled law firms and title companies to leverage a more efficient approach to closing transactions without being physically present. Many lenders and mortgage brokerages have elected to use e-sign methods for documents with their borrowers rather than requiring physical “wet signed” copies. These documents are often scanned and imaged once signed, so they have basically adapted to a better processing technique that allows it all to be e-signed from the borrower’s phone or computer. There are still critical documents that need to be notarized at closing such as the Mortgages and Deeds. We often see a closing that may have taken 90 minutes pre-pandemic, now take about 30 minutes due to the minimized paperwork and electronic methods. These are often referred to as Hybrid Closings and they have been very widely accepted by buyers and sellers. It keeps the closing smooth and seamless, having all the kinks worked out ahead of time before anybody has to be at closing.
2. Less Physical Attendance
Prior to 2020, it was very common for a closing to take place and have numerous people physically attend. This included the real estate agent, buyer, buyer’s attorney, mortgage broker, and title agent. It would be customary to see these individuals attend, sign paperwork, notarize, discuss closing issues, and so on. This custom has drastically changed post-pandemic, keeping closing to 3-4 people at most and some entirely remote. Seller proceeds are typically disbursed by wire and real estate agents often elect to have their funds mailed or wire transferred as well.
3. E-Recording of County Documents
Although many counties throughout New Jersey had already been accepting electronically filed Deeds and Mortgages, not ALL counties were on board until post-pandemic. The counties that lagged behind on computer technology and electronic processing were forced to adapt quickly and embrace the change. In addition to imaging and electronically processing in the county offices, they also operated with less staff. Some experienced layoffs and departments going fully remote. Unfortunately the counties continue to be short staffed and it has caused backlog and delays in recording documents and title searches. Although the backlog is better than 2020, we still experience a change in search practices and less staff to aid in operations at the county level.
There have been many ups and downs over the last few years in real estate. Lots of transition in the title and real estate industries – both positive and negative. It is important to speak with your real estate professionals to understand the closing process and what you can expect throughout the process.