Remote online notarization jumps 40% in May: Qualia

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As the coronavirus ushered in a mass shift to remote work, more and more mortgage and housing companies adopted digital processes to maintain business continuity.

Remote online notarization usage grew 40% in May, with 33% of professionals using it compared to 24% in March and April, according to Qualia's latest industry survey. Of the 335 respondents — the majority of which work for title and escrow companies — 65% now transitioned to working remotely, up from 61% in the prior survey.

This rapid change buttressed a "monumental shift in mindset," Nate Baker, Qualia co-founder and CEO, said in a press release.

With all the technological catch-up, low interest rates and lockdowns lifting across the country, optimistic volume outlooks rose 414% month-over-month. About 36% expect amplified business in the 30-day future and 34% expect consistency, versus just 7% and 24%, respectively, the month before. Meanwhile, 13% foresee decreased volume compared to 46% in April and the remaining 17% are unsure what to expect, down from 23%.

"The real estate industry looks very different than it did just three months ago, and it will likely look very different in the next three months as we see remote work and remote online notarizations transition from temporary stopgap solutions to permanent options," Baker said.

"These results suggest that real estate professionals are settling into new routines for conducting business, whether they're contactless in-person, digital or hybrid options," he added. "Notably, a large majority of respondents remain interested in remote online notarization options, indicating that RON is likely to stay post pandemic and become a consumer expectation."

Remote notarization — either virtual or wet-signature — represent a chief piece of the lending's fully digital pie. In May, Qualia launched its Connect Video Chat in compliance with RIN guidelines, providing secure, real-time video in which wet signatures are recorded and stored on its servers.

"We have seen numbers rise and some unique situations with borrowers stranded in other countries so RON has helped tremendously," Paul Anselmo, CEO of Evolve Mortgage Services, said in a statement to NMN. "However, where we thought we were headed in March and where things actually ended up are vastly different. While there has been an overall increase, the rate of [industry-wide] adoption for complete paperless closings is disappointing."

Evolve teamed with Pavaso, a digital closing platform offering RON technology, in late March.

While remote notarizations might still not be mainstream yet, servicers could bring the second wave of adaption, Tim Anderson, SVP of business development and corporate strategy at Pavaso, said in an interview. With over 4 million mortgages in forbearance, servicers will need to carry out loan modifications remotely once the moratoriums end.

"It took two months to get more adoption than in 20 years for e-sign because the coronavirus forced change," Anderson said. "I've never seen bills passed so quickly. Legislators from many different states who can't agree on anything, passed the emergency RON laws. That's what I see as most important. RON adoption isn't easy, there are restrictions and implementation challenges. The ones that get it, will thrive. The ones that don't want to change will lag and might not survive."

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