The number of title and settlement companies offering digital closings has increased 228% since 2019, as more of the industry moves online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per a survey of 300 title professionals conducted by the American Land Title Association, only 14% of professionals offered digital closings prior to the health crisis. Now, in 2021, 46% offer digital closings, according to Diane Tomb, ALTA chief executive officer.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, title and settlement professionals rapidly adapted their processes to meet the needs of their customers and to continue facilitating safe and secure closings, and one of the title industry’s most important tools in this process has been remote online notarization,” Tomb said.
According to the survey, more than 5% of transactions were closed with some variation of RON. Thirty-five percent of companies currently offer RON to close deals.
Adoption of remote online notarization soared 547% in 2020, according to a ALTA survey of major vendors working in the RON space. To date, 34 states have passed permanent RON legislation, and ALTA reported in December that RON is being utilized most extensively in Florida, Texas and Virginia, with a usage uptick also being seen in Midwestern states.
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“It’s not insurmountable to get permanent RON laws passed over the next few years by states that haven’t done so,” Bill Anderson, vice president of government affairs for the National Notary Association, told HousingWire in April. “But there’s got to be a will to make it all happen.”
In May, Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) reintroduced federal legislation that would allow remote online legislation nationwide. Dubbed the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic (SECURE) Notarization Act, the bipartisan legislation would permit “immediate nationwide use” of RON by every notary in the United States. It would also require the use of tamper-evident technology in electronic notarizations, and help prevent fraud through the use of multifactor authentication.
“RON is a convenient alternative to traditional in-person notarization for all consumers, but it is especially beneficial to consumers who are unable to easily travel to access notarial services, serve in the military overseas or have time constraints,” Tomb said.
Of those surveyed, 64% expect an increase in RON closings during 2021, with lender and consumer requests the top factors that would most likely alter a company’s timeline to implement technology to conduct RON closings. RON was used the most in transactions involving sellers only (40%) and cash deals (23%), followed by refinances (17%) and purchases (14%).
Of those who took the survey, 52% said closing times decreased utilizing RON due to the number of documents signed ahead of time, while 43% reported cost savings.
The average expense to implement RON was just under $30,000 per office, according to the survey.