APRIL 2020 ISSUE
Can you believe all that’s happened since our last newsletter? The global spread of COVID-19 has affected each and every one of us in some way, shape or form, and there’s no clear end in sight. But here’s some useful information to help us do our jobs during these unprecedented times.
County clerk closures
Obviously, county clerk offices are critical to our business, but as the New York Times recently reported, many of these offices in some of the largest real estate markets are closed. Need to know if a particular office is open? ALTA has compiled a comprehensive list of the status of all the county clerk offices nationwide. While many offices are closed or partially closed, all are continuing to find ways to serve title agents.
RON and e-Closing related challenges
The ALTA list also notes what districts permit RON transactions. However, this is a complex issue: RON usage varies by state and sometimes by county, not every lender allows transactions, the technology is new, there’s a limited number of vendors offering the service and more education is needed. ALTA is currently working with other trade associations to support the effort to pass the Secure Notarization Act, which will allow the nationwide use of RON. Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for more information about this effort.
Watch for fraud
Fraud is also on the rise in times like these when we are so reliant on the Internet and email to do business. Be sure to remind your agents and their consumers to wire your funds only to a confirmed recipient. Be cautious and CALL before you move your funds.
Best practices for a safe closing
Aside from the suggested health recommendations from the CDC (such as washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing a mask in public, etc.), there are some additional steps you can take at the closing table to help protect both you and your clients. Here are some suggestions from the Texas Land Title Association (TLTA):
- Stagger closings to minimize the number of customers in waiting rooms.
- Only allow the signers to the transaction in the office. Ask agents and lenders to attend by conference call. Family and friends should be asked to respect the need for social distancing.
- Use electronic and other means (mobile notary, e-Closing platforms, Facetime, Skype, etc.) to perform as many functions as possible. Send papers in advance for review. Consider providing drive-thru services for anyone.
For some more suggestions from TLTA, please click here.
During these times of uncertainty, there’s a higher chance that things could go wrong at the closing table. Make sure you’re crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s on every loan doc and lien release that comes your way. Nobody wants a situation a few years down the line where a loan goes bad and forensic reviewers come looking for errors.
We’re almost ready to unveil our updated, refreshed reQuest platform. The newly revised system will feature a new, modern look and a simplified ordering entry process.
EVP of Operations, Covius Settlement Services
This month, we spoke with Joe Chappell, Executive Vice President of Covius Settlement Services. Joe gave us some insight on how he’s dealing with the refi boom and the social distancing rules of the COVID pandemic.
Q. How are you coping with the refi volume and the new social distancing restrictions?
Joe: As much of the industry has, we have seen a significant volume increase, and the changes have certainly introduced new requirements as far as how we process our orders and ultimately serve our clients. Social distancing has driven the vast majority of our workforce to a work-from-home model, and it has also put extreme pressure on our vendor supply chains. County office closures have also resulted in delays within certain product lines due to availability of title information or the ability to get documents recorded in a timely fashion. Fortunately, we have not experienced any service or turn time delays with reQuire.
Q. Are you still seeing closings happening? Have they changed?
Joe: We are still seeing high closing volumes, and the majority are proceeding normally. We have experienced some through the remote notary process, though we haven’t seen a significant uptick in RON closings as a result of the virus. However, we are seeing much more personal protection diligence surrounding the closing process with social distancing, sanitization of the closing documents and even drive-by and parking lot closings becoming more mainstream. These processes limit the overall physical interactions between the parties and have driven more processes around the preparation of our document packages. There is certainly momentum for remote closings, but it will take a while for large scale changes to flow through the closing process.
Q. Are you doing anything different in your shop because of COVID?
Joe: Certainly. COVID has made us rethink all of our processes. While the pandemic itself is certainly a humanitarian and economic disaster, I think there will be positive lessons learned that will continue to be carried forward after this is all said and done. The drive to maximize the work-from-home capabilities of our workforce has made us think about all of our fulfillment processes to truly prioritize how we utilize our physical facilities, as well as how we manage our virtual staff. I think the transformation associated with this very critical review will actually improve our production performance management as well as our employee satisfaction. The teamwork, innovation and collaboration we have needed and experienced throughout the pandemic window is nothing short of incredible.
We have also started evaluating our supply chain. The mortgage industry is an incredibly fragmented ecosystem, and the current pandemic has required a deep review of all of our suppliers and contracting relationships. While I am extremely proud of the performance of my teams and the suppliers we depend on, it has certainly exposed areas of opportunity and made me consider functions that have traditionally been contracted and the geographies the services are performed in.
While this is no surprise, COVID has just further solidified my position that there is no substitute for great people. In a world of automation, machine learning and RPA, having teams dedicated to driving compliance and making the right things happen for the consumer and our clients remains hyper critical when you implement and absorb so much change within the fulfillment processes. Automation is critical and advantageous, but human capital is invaluable when managing change. And while there are tough conversations on impacts, volumes, forecasting and operational responses, there is also compassion and care in the conversations. We all have people in our life circles that have been impacted by this pandemic, and it seems as if the line between business and personal has blurred somewhat – I think that’s a good thing.