Before the pandemic, Rick Hecker, Underwriting Counsel at Conestoga, didn’t receive many inquiries from title & escrow agents about remote online notarization (RON). While the technology existed and was gaining momentum, there wasn’t very much activity or urgent interest. “When the pandemic hit, for the first three weeks, I don’t think I answered anything but RON questions,” Hecker said.

This intense demand for RON at the onset of the pandemic was seen across the country. Many title & escrow businesses sent dozens of requests to various RON platforms in March and April, only to hear back from one several weeks later. RON providers were understandably underwater with requests and many title companies simply went with whichever one could get them set up the fastest.

Now, RON providers are finally coming up for air and have the bandwidth to respond to inquiries. Meanwhile, new RON platforms have come on the market, giving title & escrow businesses a broader spectrum of options to consider. 

We spoke with Hecker over the phone to discuss how title agents in Conestoga’s underwriting regions are responding to RON’s explosive growth and how they are navigating the different RON platforms on the market. 

Among Conestoga’s underwriting states, interest in RON varies

Conestoga underwrites in several states including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia. These states have varying RON legislation in place which Hecker said impacts title & escrow businesses’ comfort with investing in the technology and training for RON. 

“In Pennsylvania [the temporary nature of the RON orders] has been a hindrance,” he said. “To get set up to be a RON notary and invest in set up fees is a little too high for some to justify what they view as being available for only a few months.”

Hecker also mentioned that while executive orders enabling RON in states like Pennsylvania are temporary, he expects the states will find ways to extend things until some form of more permanent legislation is in place. 

In other states where RON legislation had been in place before the pandemic, Hecker said that title & escrow agents were able to “hit the ground running and get started” with RON. The only headwinds Hecker noted are that mortgage lenders are often still reluctant to accept RON transactions. 

Not all RON platforms are created equal

For title & escrow businesses that are ready to invest in RON, Hecker said that most state-approved platforms are also accepted by Conestoga; however, businesses should consider looking beyond just the requirements. Hecker noted two differentiating factors that he believes set certain RON providers apart. 

Look for platforms that are intuitive for both the notary and the end-client

“One of the most significant elements that differentiate RON programs is their user-friendliness,” Hecker said. This doesn’t just mean how easily an online notary and agent can navigate the software, but how intuitive the technology is for the homebuyer and seller as well. “If the client can’t figure out how to navigate the software and there aren’t clear directions for them to follow, the program isn’t going to be a success,” he said. 

When evaluating RON providers, Hecker recommended that businesses ask for a demonstration of the product from the side of the notary and from the side of the end-client. “If the program isn’t very easy to use or straightforward, it will create a negative experience,” he said. 

Consider platforms that integrate well with your existing software 

“One piece many title agents are curious about is the extent to which the platform is similar to their existing software,” Hecker said. “There are also benefits to systems [like Qualia] that are a one-stop-shop.”

Hecker added that the more consistent or integrated the system is with the title or escrow agent’s existing processes and workflows, the more usable and simple the program will be to learn. 

Are you doing business in Virginia, Ohio, or Florida? If so, get information on Qualia RON – the only remote online notarization solution built for real estate.

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