Last year, Qualia kicked off 2020 with our inaugural Future of Real Estate Summit (FORES) in Austin, Texas where experts from across the real estate industry shared their predictions for the year ahead. No one could have predicted what would occur just a short month later when a COVID-19 shut down global economies and turned every industry on its head.

While FORES 2020 presenters couldn’t anticipate the pandemic or its far-reaching implications, some predictions simply happened faster than anticipated. Here’s a look back at an unprecedented year as reflected by what our presenters hypothesized before the pandemic as well as a look forward to this year’s Future of Real Estate Summit held virtually on March 11th.

Highlights from the 2020 Future of Real Estate Summit

An unexpected refinance boom & red-hot housing market

At FORES 2020, Marina Walsh, VP of Industry Analysis of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), delivered her forecast for 2020. She noted that refinance activity would likely drop by the second half of the year. The pandemic, however, completely altered these predictions. 

In response to the economic uncertainty spurred by the pandemic, interest rates hit record lows. For the first time in history, average rates on 30-year home loans fell below 3 percent. These rates encouraged homeowners to refinance their mortgages. According to estimates from Black Knight, more than 9 million refinance transactions will have taken place in 2020. That’s exponentially higher than 2019 figures which were around 3.75 million.

In 2020, the housing market overall also experienced a record-breaking year. Home prices increased to the highest two-month appreciation in 30 years. Existing home sales rose to a 14-year high in August. And even toward the end of the year, the housing market stayed hot—in November, time on the market for residential homes hit a new all-time low for the month. 

Technology adoption exceeded expectations 

At FORES 2020, Qualia CEO Nate Baker sat down with Williston Financial Group (WFG) founder Patrick Stone to discuss 2020 predictions. Stone said technology that drives efficiencies and lowered fixed costs would help businesses run more lean operations in the next economic downturn. The downturn came much quicker than anyone anticipated due to the unpredictability of the coronavirus; however, Stone accurately predicted the value of technology during a time of strained resources.  

At the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns, title & escrow professionals on Qualia’s cloud-based platform transitioned to in-home offices with minimal interruptions to their day-to-day operations. We heard from many customers who told us that their teams could immediately access files and communicate with their partners and clients remotely without a hitch.

At FORES 2020, trendspotters from HousingWire and October Research discussed their predictions for the year ahead. HousingWire President & CEO, Clayton Collins, and October Research Owner and Publisher, Erica Meyer, both predicted a surge in RON usage. 

Indeed, in response to the need for safe, socially-distant closing options during the pandemic, remote online notarization (RON) had its most successful year yet. According to MERS, in the first 11 months of 2020, eNotes registered increased 264% year-over-year, and the number of companies transacting on the MERS eRegistry increase 121% year-over-year. 

Qualia stayed on pace with 2020’s accelerated rate of change

At the onset of the pandemic, Qualia worked at record-speed to develop unique tools and features that Qualia users could leverage to navigate the uncertainty surrounding remote online notarization (RON) legislation and executive orders, novel COVID-19 protocols, and remote work. Within the first three months of the pandemic, Qualia released the following tools.

  1. A real-time county recording closure tracker to help keep title & escrow businesses updated on the status of local operations.
  2. A filtering feature within Qualia Marketplace for title & escrow businesses to more quickly discover signing agencies with RON capabilities.
  3. Qualia Team Video Chat to enable title agents to communicate face-to-face with their co-workers without leaving Qualia’s platform.
  4.  Qualia Connect Video Chat to enable title agents to initiate video conversations with transaction participants. This tool was especially helpful for enabling secure remote ink-signed notarizations which were temporarily permitted during the pandemic.
  5. Several new integrations with title service vendors and title insurers which further streamlined operations and enabled better collaboration for more efficient operations as businesses faced record-level volume in light of the refinance boom. 

In addition to Qualia’s product development in 2020, we also announced Qualia’s acquisition of Adeptive Software, the developer of ResWare, a complementary title & escrow production software well known throughout the industry. 

Lastly, in 2020, Qualia became a clear category leader among PropTech companies looking to create end-to-end homebuying experiences for consumers.

The Future of Real Estate Summit 2021 

While experts at FORES 2020 anticipated a shift toward digital adoption, the pandemic caused the industry to press the fast-forward button toward our inevitable digital future. 

In March 2021, experts from across the industry will take the virtual stage at our second-annual Future of Real Estate Summit to make their predictions for what will surely be another transformative year. We expect another big year in real estate and at Qualia.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from peers in your region who are navigating change as well as the leaders at the forefront of these changes who are helping shape what’s next. Notable speakers include basketball legend Magic Johnson, Entrepreneur and Co-founder of Zillow and Pacaso, Spencer Rascoff, and President of ICE Mortgage Technology, Joe Tyrrell.

Interested in attending our next Future of Real Estate Summit on March 11, 2021? Click below to register now. 

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