It’s an astonishing time for businesses in the real estate market. The year kicked off with record-breaking M&A activity, dozens of financing rounds for PropTech startups, and several IPO and Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) announcements. In February 2021, Redfin acquired RentPath for $608 million, in the same month, Divvy Homes raised $100 million in Series C funding, and Compass and Offerpad went public. This is only a sample of the flurry of activity happening and a sign of the innovation that 2021 has in store.
As innovation continues to take place across the industry, it’s more apparent than ever that real estate businesses looking to solve homeownership challenges have their eye toward a fully-integrated home purchase experience. Key to achieving an end-to-end experience is the integration of digital closings. At the TET conference, title & escrow experts discussed how technology is enabling businesses to deliver differentiated closing experiences that meet consumer expectations.
Qualia’s Director of High Growth Accounts, Jamie Kump, joined Shawna Hernandez, VP, Head of Operations at Endpoint, and Steve Berneman, Co-Founder and CEO of Blueprint Title to discuss.
The closing: a critical piece to delivering an end-to-end homebuying experience
“The industry is loud and clear about the chase for an end-to-end experience for the consumer,” Hernandez said. Real estate businesses looking to deliver an end-to-end digital home purchase experience will get nowhere if their title or escrow company is still living in a paper-based world.
“I don’t see how you could possibly deliver an end-to-end [experience] if you don’t involve title,” Berneman said. “But if [title] is not prepared to be digital no one else can be. If we’re still living in paper and phones then all of the best businesses in the world can’t deliver that [digital] experience to the end-user.”
Indeed, title & escrow businesses are a part of nearly every real estate transaction. Without a consistent digital closing experience, the end-to-end concept falls short. “The title & closing is the final frontier of the digital real estate transaction,” Kump said. “The closing is the most emotional experience and is what people will remember. People now see title as a way to competitively differentiate their business.”
Berneman agreed that title is a competitive differentiator. “If your title company stinks and is last-minute, that will be the only thing your buyer remembers. They will forget the last 42 days they’ve been working with you and will remember the last day [at closing].”
Delivering a digital closing experience at scale
Historically, delivering a positive closing experience depended solely on the people managing the closing process. These experts possessed the knowledge necessary to work through the local nuances of a transaction while also managing a multitude of other tasks. Today, a highly-knowledgeable title & escrow team is equally important; however, the work of a stellar escrow agent, for example, is more scalable thanks to automation.
Berneman’s company, Blueprint Title, operates in over 20 states. “We don’t have people [on the ground] in all of those states,” he said. Instead, much of the local knowledge is integrated into the backend of his technology platform, Qualia, through dynamic workflows. For example, if Blueprint was working on the same property type in Texas and Colorado, his team looks at where the transaction would vary and builds that variability into the automated workflows. “This enables us to work smarter,” he said. It also allows his team to focus on value-add tasks such as risk management and document review.
A better closing experience means technology enables more meaningful human-to-human interactions
An end-to-end digital closing experience does not mean that human interactions are taken out of the equation. “Human experience is the most important part of the transaction,” Kump said. “There are a lot of mundane and repeatable processes that tech can optimize and automate so that title & escrow teams can focus on personalization and a human touch.”
Berneman explained that Blueprint takes the approach of proactively anticipating a buyer or seller’s needs. “[Reducing the buyer or seller’s stress] isn’t about the number of times we can touch a buyer or seller, but the reduction of those touchpoints,” he said. “We should give you transparency through automated communications and disclose documents before you even ask for them.”
The way forward
In the future, the best home buying experiences will not be characterized by one piece of the process standing out from the rest, but by a consistent experience from start to finish. Kump believes that this will be made possible by a connected real estate ecosystem. Technology will bring lenders, real estate agents, title & escrow companies, and the many other parties involved in the transaction into a single system so that the home buyer experiences a frictionless and unified journey from the time they place an offer to the moment they earn the keys to their new home.