This is a developing story (last update March 23, 2020).

Last week, social distancing efforts encouraged by the federal and local governments during the COVID-19 outbreak, have caused many mortgage lenders, title & escrow businesses, and signing agencies to take a closer look at in-person signings. Signing agents and notaries who do accept closing assignments are taking extra precautions to reduce and limit person-to-person contact. 

These precautions are especially difficult considering consumer expectations for personalized signing experiences which have encouraged notaries to travel to people’s homes for signing assignments. “According to a survey the NNA conducted this month, the average notary travels to 7-9 homes per week to complete signing assignments,”  Chris Sturdivant, Vice President of Business Development at the National Notary Association (NNA), said. 

What’s being done to protect signing agents and notaries?

Earlier this month, the NNA put together COVID-19 guidelines for notaries and signing agents which encouraged businesses and independent notaries to put the health and safety of themselves and signers as the highest priority. The NNA wrote “each closing will need to be evaluated and handled on a case-by-case basis.” 

The NNA recommended that notaries use enhanced precautions during in-person signings such as avoiding handshakes and keeping hand sanitizer available among other practices. The NNA also encouraged title & escrow businesses and lenders to reach out to their contracting parties for specific guidance and procedures for signings.

Are in-person signings still happening? 

Overall, the notary response to COVID-19 varies widely across the country. These variances are due to the procedural decisions made by contracting agencies, the comfort level of individual notaries, and a number of other factors. 

According to Chuck Haney, President and CEO of Sign X (a national mobile signing agency that deploys NNA-certified notaries to signing assignments across the country), many signings were still happening last week and the week prior despite uncertainty surrounding the virus. “We’re still seeing a lot of signings taking place right now with the low interest rates spurring high refinance volume,” Haney said. 

Haney referenced one title company that requested a notary to be on-site all day to complete signings. “This particular title company shut down the office for all foot traffic and they are only allowing essential personnel and signers to come into the office to complete signings,” he noted.  

This is a developing story. To stay up to date on COVID-19 and its impact on real estate transactions, subscribe to Qualia Insight below to receive updates straight to your inbox.