TitleBytes News & Happenings

Close it Your Way!

May 26, 2020

By Lisa Rozmarniewicz, Capital Title Insurance Agency

As title professionals, we are committed to the safety of our buyers and sellers as well as to our fellow employees. News and recommendations are evolving daily, but here are some measures that have been implemented by many companies that might be of interest for moving forward. As information changes about this virus and how to return business back to normal, one should adjust these measures as needed. Many title company staffs are working remotely, with a few in branch offices making sure that transactions are getting closed. Many customers are asking, “What are my options for closing my real estate transaction, while keeping safe during the COVID-19 epidemic?” Here are a few suggestions for closing options that your company might implement, if they haven’t already.

Many clients are asking for a Curbside Signing. These are particularly popular for those who prefer to not enter a building. Generally, these can be accommodated in your office parking lot. A closer can approach the client’s car, donning masks and gloves with a clipboard that has been sanitized and using brand new ballpoint pens for the signers to keep after their signing is complete. Their documents can be signed while in their car, witnessed by the closer standing nearby. Hand sanitizer is offered to the signers before they get started. You can also give them a disinfecting wipe to wipe off their driver’s licenses before handing them to the closer to make copies.

An additional way to minimize person to person contact is to place plexiglass barriers on closing room tables (think sneeze-guard at a salad bar). The opening at the bottom of the guard offers enough room to pass papers back and forth.

Staffs should be diligent in ensuring that conference rooms and waiting areas are sanitized per CDC guidelines after each closing. Many have items on closing tables for people to use, like reading glasses, etc. Removing “community items” from closing tables is highly recommended. Single use coffee cups and ink pens should be brought in for each closing, then disposed of or taken with you after the closing.

There are other possible closing options to help those who prefer to keep their distance, as much as possible.

eCLOSINGS DocuSign styled closings can be arranged locally or anywhere around the world for buyers paying CASH.

DocuSigning (or the use of a similar qualified provider) of all documents except the ones that need to be notarized (and some mortgage notes, which may require a wet signature), is another great option. Then, the client can just come in for a couple of minutes and wet-sign the remaining documents. Those wet signatures can be accommodated in sanitized closing rooms, or curbside in front of a Notary.

Governor Whitmer’s updated Executive Order in Michigan approved a temporary option for notarial acts for real estate transactions. Utilizing a form of audio and video combined (think Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype), the notary is then able to witness the signature of the parties in the transaction, while a closer is going over the documents virtually. Of course, this is subject to the rules and procedures set forth in the Governor’s Executive Order, like preserving the video of the signing for a specified period of time.

But, this can be a game changer right now and may allow clients to safely sign their documents in their own homes. Not all transactions will qualify for this type of closing, and it is suggested that you contact your underwriter for additional guidelines. The updated Executive Order authorizing this type of notarization is valid through June 30, 2020.

Certainly, it’s a challenging time for everyone in Michigan. However, knowledge is power and the more comfortable we make ourselves with such new protocols for public safety, the easier it will be to communicate these steps and options with our clients.

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