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HousingWire Magazine: December 2021/ January 2022

AS WE ENTER A NEW YEAR, let’s look at some of the events that we can look forward to in 2022. But what about what’s next for the housing industry?

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Nationwide adoption of online notarization just took a big step forward

Nation’s secretaries of state adopt regulatory standards

One of the main things standing in the way of a fully digital mortgage in many states is the requirement for a notary to witness the signing of the mortgage closing documents.

Currently, only four states allow their notaries to perform online, remote notarizations, which allow borrowers to “sign” their mortgage documents from anywhere, via secure video conferencing.

But it appears that the push to take online notarization nationwide is about to take a huge step forward.

On Monday, the National Association of Secretaries of State, a group that includes the secretaries of state for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories, adopted nationwide standards for online notarization.

And the move is important because in most states, secretaries of state are the commissioning authority for notaries, granting them the authority to act as a notary.

According to the NASS, the electronic notarization standards will form a framework that policymakers and regulators can use when developing and implementing remote notarization laws, regulations and guidance.

The effort was led by Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who chaired a NASS task force on electronic notary standards.

“This task force’s exhaustive process yielded a comprehensive product that sets forth baseline standards to support transactional security, the privacy of the document signers, and the centuries-old assurances of the notarial act,” Grimes said in a release. “I’m proud to have led this discussion with a bipartisan group of secretaries and key stakeholders from across the country.”

Back in 2006, NASS adopted standards for electronic notarization, which allowed documents to be signed electronically on a tablet or computer. But, the standards still required an in-person appearance in order to verify the signer’s identity. Therefore, electronic notarization was not fully digital.

But the adoption of the new standards moves the country closer to nationwide acceptance of online notarization.

Currently, notaries in Virginia, Texas, and Nevada are allowed to perform online notarization for signers nationwide.

According to Grimes’ office, nine more states, including Kentucky, are currently considering online notarization legislation.

The move towards online notarization is being led, in part, by Notarize, a digital platform that allows for legal, online document notarization.

As expected, Notarize celebrated the NASS decision.

“We’re thrilled to announce that today, the National Association of Secretaries of State officially adopted standards for online notarization. The new standards are a huge step forward – providing clear policy and regulatory guidance for the effective operation and regulation of online notarizations,” Notarize said in blog post. “It puts notarizations conducted online on par with in-person paper notarizations for acceptance by key regulators.”

Notarize CEO and Founder Patrick Kinsel took to Twitter to further applaud NASS’ move.

[Update: This article is updated to accurately note the states that allow notaries to perform online notarization.]

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