The pandemic served as a great accelerator for innovation in how companies deliver products and services to their customers, including how title and settlement companies support the real estate transaction closing process.
One major example of innovation is remote online notarization, or RON, a fully digital process in which the signer’s identity is verified with strong anti-fraud measures and then electronic documents are eSigned and eNotarized with the notary remotely viewing via webcam. In a RON closing, home buyers or sellers eSign all the documents with no ‘wet’ signatures or in-person meetings needed. Documents that must be notarized – the deed, mortgage, etc. – are notarized through an online video session from anywhere in the world between the buyer or seller and a RON-certified notary public who is physically in the state where the notary is commissioned.
Currently, 42 states have authorized notaries to use RON. The mortgage and settlement industries have long advocated for well-crafted laws that will enable even more widespread adoption of RON. At the Federal level, the House passed the SECURE Notarization Act this past July, and it has momentum as it heads to the Senate.
“Before the onset of the pandemic, we were already rapidly scaling up our services and training our team in anticipation of greater demand for RON closings. Because of that and our deep relationship with the company’s preferred RON platform, Notarize, our capabilities are at the forefront of the industry, and we are continuing to innovate how we integrate RON into our closing options for customers.”
As the title company with the most extensive national RON notary team dedicated to facilitating RON signings, First American is an industry leader in driving the adoption of RON.
Sally Taylor, digital eClosing manager with First American Title’s Direct Division, leads the company’s national RON Notary team and shared her perspective on how the industry is bringing this innovative digital option to buyers and sellers.
What is the inherent value RON creates for customers?
RON closings combine convenience, efficiency and security, creating a smoother experience for the parties involved and enhancing risk management. In short, RON closings save buyers and sellers the time it takes to have transaction documents notarized in the traditional, in-person way. Documents are digital and transferred among parties via secure, password-protected platforms, eliminating the need to have physically printed documents transported via car by mobile notary or printed in an escrow office. First American-certified RON notaries are also trained by First American to identify red flags to reduce security risks through the notarization process.
Because First American is the leading title insurer with a national team dedicated to RON, we are able to offer a more consistent, efficient and secure experience, enhancing customer satisfaction. Our team is continually trained as RON continues to evolve and is focused 100% on the RON experience.
RON facilitates eClosings that can also create greater efficiencies for secondary mortgage markets, as the digital loan documents created in a RON signing allow the loan to move more quickly and at less cost from the closing to the secondary markets.
What does First American do differently than other companies that offer RON closing capabilities?
Before the onset of the pandemic, we were already rapidly scaling up our services and training our team in anticipation of greater demand for RON closings. Because of that and our deep relationship with the company’s preferred RON platform, Notarize, our capabilities are at the forefront of the industry, and we are continuing to innovate how we integrate RON into our closing options for customers.
To date, our team has managed more than 25,000 RON closings with exceptionally high satisfaction ratings from customers, and the volume of RON closings continues to increase each month.
We invest heavily in the training and support of our people at First American. As a result, our employees and First American-certified RON notaries have deeper expertise and more experience with RON than a traditional panel of notaries, allowing us to help meet the needs of our customers and to drive the business forward.
Our unparalleled expertise and strong team dynamic are essential to enhancing the closing experience for all the parties involved.
How do you see this space evolving in the years to come?
We’ve learned over the past two years that creating efficiency through the digitization of transaction processes is essential to stay competitive in the market. More and more of our current and prospective customers are reaching out proactively to learn about RON, proving that what was previously seen as a nice-to-have is now a highly sought-after innovative solution. In fact, more than 1,700 real estate professionals attended an informational webinar on RON we recently hosted.
Over the next three-to-five years, we see tremendous growth in eClosings and the implementation of RON, especially if it is legalized federally. We want to help all lenders, title insurance agents, real estate attorneys, homebuilders and others understand the value of this technology, and that will certainly encourage more eClosings. To prepare for this influx, First American is prioritizing how we can better integrate and build our teams to scale, so we can continue to pave the way for increased adoption.