The housing market took a number of surprising turns this year in response to the pandemic. While many expected home sales to slow down due to a recession, the housing market defied expectations and exploded with activity. Buyer interest increased, home sales quickened, and listing prices grew by the double-digits. Meanwhile, mortgage lenders, real estate agents, and title companies—faced with record-high activity—innovated to transform traditional in-person experiences (such as home tours and closings) with virtual and socially-distant options.
During the Qualia-sponsored HousingWire event, “How to Build on 2020’s Housing Technology Boom,” Craig Haskins, COO at Knight Barry Title, and Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, discussed predictions for the year ahead.
Will virtual home tours and digital closings see continued growth in 2021?
“There’s a saying that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste because it necessitates innovation to adapt and meet the challenges presented by the crisis,” Hale said. “The housing market has done a great job of this… the question will be if there’s enough incentive to adopt and use technology [after the COVID-19 crisis ends].”
Hale added that she believes in some cases, things like the closing experience and home tours may go back to classic, in-person experiences. However, there is evidence that digital closings and virtual home tours will continue to expand in adoption now that consumers have had a taste of these convenient options. “With virtual tours, we saw a spike in prevalence and utilization during the initial shelter in place,” Hale said. “We’ve calmed down from that initial spike; however, we’ve seen higher shares of virtual tours overall than before the pandemic and we’ll continue to see adoption.”
Haskins agreed that consumer demand will push the adoption of remote online notarization (RON) and other digital closing options forward. When Knight Barry Title first invested in RON technology (prior to the pandemic), they completed one RON closing per month. Today, the company completes 5-10 RON eClosings per day. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Haskins said, adding that once lenders master eVaults and technology on their end, the industry will see RON spread more rapidly.
Technology predictions for the year ahead: moving toward a digital, connected ecosystem
Nearly every part of the real estate transaction is coming online. Haskins pointed to online negotiations and electronic mortgage applications as digital processes that have become nearly ubiquitous. “It’s becoming rarer and rarer to do these things in-person,” he said.
With this digital shift, consumers are more empowered and have greater transparency into the homebuying process. “Consumers have more information about real estate than ever before, and are now demanding [similar transparency] in the closing process,” Hale said. “Technology that brings title agents, real estate agents, consumers, and lenders into one place so that everyone is on the same page will become more prominent and will be significant technology in the year ahead.”
Stay ahead with Qualia
In 2021, as more systems and processes come online, there will be greater opportunity for a more digitally-connected real estate ecosystem. Qualia’s platform enables the connected real estate transaction of the future. To learn more about how our products work to bring title companies, lenders, real estate agents, and consumers onto a single, secure platform, click below to schedule a time with one of our Qualia Specialists.