[PULSE] A new normal: Navigating and innovating during challenging times

Staying positive and being proactive is key

This is one of a series of Op-Ed articles from industry leaders on how their companies are adapting to the market changes caused by the coronavirus and viewpoints on proposed solutions to market challenges.

First and foremost, I hope everyone is safe and staying safe on behalf of the people you love, and hundreds of millions of people around the country during these extraordinary circumstances. There is so much uncertainty right now, not only about our health but about our jobs and businesses and the broader economy. 

Victor Ciardelli,
Guest Author

The main thing we’re communicating with our team working remotely right now is to stay safe, stay inside and take good care of yourself and your family. And as long as you’re in a good place and safe, we’ve been working on two main objectives.

The first objective is to focus on positivity. I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction. If you’re living in fear and having anxious and negative thoughts, it can be bad for your immune system, which is obviously extremely important to help you stay strong and healthy, especially right now. Thinking negative thoughts also tends to attract negative outcomes.

Right now, more than ever, it’s important to focus on positive thoughts. Turn off the news and use this time to define or redefine what you want out of your life – relationships with your family and friends, health, fitness, career goals, etc. Make a plan to read positive books and articles, watch positive movies, try meditation or yoga.

By focusing on positivity and writing your goals down, you can manifest what you want out of your life. Why not come out of this stronger than how you went in?

The second objective we’re focused on is to help our industry adapt to the New Normal. At Guaranteed Rate, we can now say we have a digital mortgage experience that’s 100% free from physical human contact for our customers and our partners. Think about that. It’s literally safer to get a mortgage than it is to go the grocery store! 

The digital mortgage we introduced years ago features a completely digital application, automated income and asset verification, digital disclosures, and the entire experience is both digitally and physically safe and secure through approval. More recently, Guaranteed Rate made two additional giant shifts to adapt to our New Normal.

The first giant shift is within the appraisal process, where traditionally an appraiser would need to enter the home. But suddenly, no borrower, seller, real estate agent or appraiser, wants to enter the home. So Fannie and Freddie aligned to allow desktop appraisals for most purchases. 

For all other appraisals, we’re driving innovative solutions, through tools like FaceTime to enable virtual appraisals, allowing the appraiser to take screenshots as the borrower or seller walks through the house at the direction of the appraiser. This is a game-changer, and we’re proud to have pioneered a solution we hope others can benefit from as well.

The second giant shift is to go virtual for closings as well. Guaranteed Rate has been doing virtual closings for over a year with FlashClose, a winner of this publication’s Tech100 award. We have great experience with it, having used it in over 23,000 transactions last year. While it allows customers 24 hours to review and sign most documents digitally, the final few still require wet signature. So we’re working with settlement providers to leave those documents on doorsteps, and then reposition themselves to a safe distance while the customer signs safely with their own pen. Not perfect yet, but practical and effective.

Better still, we offer FlashClose with full eClose in 38 states and counting, utilizing Remote Online Notary. Adoption of this fully remote process continues to pick up momentum, as counties and states adjust and adapt to these much-needed digital tools. 

Making all of this happen has been a huge collaboration across a number of industry players we’re proud to partner with, including Fannie, Freddie, FHFA, HUD, appraisers, title companies, notaries, etc. In a few short weeks we’ve moved the digital process ahead two entire years! 

And right now, we’re seeing a third giant shift coming from real estate agencies as they continue to create and promote digitally-enabled virtual experiences. Utilizing FaceTime and other tools, major real estate companies are already launching live video-chat home touring systems with agents physically in the home doing all the things buyers do: opening and shutting cabinet doors, turning on faucets, measuring rooms, and even pointing out flaws that are hard to detect through video so the buyer feels completely in the know.

And isn’t it ironic that as the need for digital tools increases, so does the value of a great real estate agent to bring them to life? Agents have never been more important!

A few short weeks ago our industry suddenly found ourselves playing with a completely new set of rules and a very old playbook. Now, we’re learning how to win within the new rules with a new playbook that we’re writing on the fly. We’re not there yet, but I believe in the ingenuity of the people in this industry, and our collective ability to innovate for the New Normal.  

We’ll find ways to help buyers realize what an amazing time this is to buy a home, with interest rates that make most people’s biggest investment historically affordable. Real estate agents will utilize technology to make buying and selling a home safer and easier than ever. And mortgage companies like ours will safely enable those transactions, and through refinancing, safely save millions of homeowners hundreds of dollars a month for years and years to come.

Together, we can and must push forward, stay positive, and find new ways to win in the New Normal. We’ll be better and stronger for having had the experience. Let’s go! We’ve got this!

Finally, please join me in positive thoughts for all who are affected by this virus, and everyone risking their own safety to help protect ours. Bless them all.

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