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Technology aids closing real estate deals, though in person deals are still preferred

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily
Real estate companies, mortgage companies and title companies are working on ways to close deals that don't require people to gather in conference rooms.
Unsplash photo

Part of the effect on business from the COVID-19 virus is the way real estate deals are completed, with more virtual business completed in a business that traditionally has relied on in-person transactions.

Social distancing rules make it impossible to put a handful of people in a small conference room to close a real estate sale. Land Title Guarantee Co. has recently begun a handful of new ways to do business.

The company in the last week or so has rolled out what it calls “curbside closing.” The company’s closing team emails purchase documents to a buyer for review. By appointment, that customer comes to a Land Title office to physically sign another copy of the documents. Questions can be answered either via video conferencing or by phone. The buyer signs the documents in his or her car, then hands them to an employee who then has the documents notarized. That takes care of documents that still need a “wet signature” — putting pen to paper.

Katie Kuchler, who manages Land Title’s offices in the Vail Valley, said there’s a system called a “Remote Online Notary” for out-of-state sellers. With that system, sellers can have documents notarized virtually.

Signing via video

Thanks to a new policy from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, in-state customers can sign documents via video chat.

Marka Brenner of Blue Sky Mortgage said she hopes the move to virtual signatures and document notarization can create some permanent change in the business. That will be especially helpful for buyers and sellers outside the U.S., Brenner said.

The current system requires a buyer in another country to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate to have documents witnessed and signed. That’s an onerous process in the best of times, Brenner said. With U.S. embassy facilities shut down in much of the world, the process is even more difficult.

Allowing documents to be witnessed via webcam could actually clear the way to do more business with out-of-country buyers, she said.

It would be helpful “If I don’t have to have a Mexican client fly to San Diego (to sign documents),” Brenner said.

The state of Colorado currently allows documents to be officially witnessed via webcam. Brenner said she’d like that to continue after the pandemic passes.

Expanding what’s available

Brenner said she’d like to expand the “shopping list” of how to close real estate and other transactions.

At Alpine Bank, regional president Michael Brown said he’s seeing more business being done without the need for in-person contact.

Brown said he’s been impressed with the way title companies and others have been “very responsive” in how they’re getting business done right now.

“We’ve really tried to keep business going and getting transactions closed while working on the safety of our customers and employees,” Brown said.

In addition to real estate deals, banks also close loans for business and individual customers.

“We’ll continue to close some of those by appointment at the bank,” Brown said. But those in-person contacts are conducted under the guidelines set by local, state and federal authorizes. That includes disinfecting pens after use, he said.

While operating in the virtual world has its advantages, real estate and finance are traditionally person-to-person businesses.

Brown said it’s “always been preferable to sit down with customers.” Brenner agreed.

“We like to be at every closing,” she said.

Kuchler on Monday said only three people were in what’s usually a bustling office in Avon. The staff and customers have adapted well to remote work, she said.

But, she added, “We’ll be excited to see people come back into the office.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.


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