Opinion

To have e-closing implementation, remember the settlement agents

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For years, the mortgage industry has been hearing that borrowers want a fully digital mortgage and are urging lenders to adopt the necessary technology. Additionally — and now more than ever — this industry is relying on and implementing new technologies, which includes providing borrowers an e-closing option.

As lenders begin to embrace e-closing technology, it is vital to remember the settlement agents, as they play an essential role in the both the process and in cementing long-term adoption.

Taking the closing table virtual

To put it bluntly, e-closing cannot become a reality for a lender unless settlement agents are brought in to the process. After all, it is the settlement agent who decides if the closing ceremony will take place at the closing table or in an e-closing room.

It is the lender's responsibility to ensure that the e-close process is not placing undue stress on settlement agents. While the lender will employ the services of a single e-close vendor, settlement agents may work with multiple e-close platforms, sometimes in a single day.

In the past, settlement agents have been left out of e-closing technology developments, which has had an impact on the adoption rate. Some lenders have assumed that settlement agents would accept e-closing tech simply because the lenders have, without taking the settlement agent's role into account. Many lenders have corrected that mistaken view and are now including settlement agents in the e-closing implementation conversation.

The settlement agent's view

Lenders have many factors to consider when choosing an e-close platform, but settlement agents typically have this choice thrust upon them. Even though settlement agents often don't have a choice in the e-closing tech selection, they very much have a choice in whether the platform chosen by the lender is used to complete the closing ceremony, and this decision often comes down to how user-friendly the platform is and whether it makes their jobs easier or harder.

Technology that doesn't present a resolution to each and every aspect of the settlement agent's role in an e-close ceremony isn't a solution at all. To improve the settlement agents' view of the e-closing table, lenders must offer them an easy-to-use, full-service platform to make their jobs easier and the closing process smoother.

An e-closing platform should also offer settlement agents the ability to view signing progress in real time as well as look at documents with the borrower. That makes it easier for the settlement agent to answer any questions that may arise without potential confusion or issues occurring. This feature requires settlement agents be able to view all closing documents in the package, not just those assigned to them as a task.

Additionally, settlement agents should be afforded the ability to upload their own acknowledgement, e-sign and ink sign documents. Settlement agents should also have the capability to print ink-sign documents prior to the note date in preparation for the closing ceremony, saving time at the table. By offering settlement agents an e-closing platform that meets their current and anticipated needs, lenders are also providing a more complete digital closing process for all parties.

Investing in the right technology

By working with settlement agents to determine which technologies and platforms they are familiar with and enjoy using, lenders can invest in proven technologies that will help make e-closing ceremonies an everyday reality. Many settlement agents currently have experience executing a hybrid or full e-closing ceremony and almost certainly have worked with both easy-to-use and cumbersome platforms. With settlement agents driving e-closing adoption, lenders can expedite the implementation process by investing in an e-close platform of which settlement agents approve.

Lenders can adopt e-closing technology to their hearts' content, but without settlement agents on board, e-closings will never take off. The settlement agent leads the closing ceremony and that includes determining whether it takes place in person or virtually. When implementing e-closing practices and technologies, the best (and first) practice should include settlement agents in the conversation.

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