Last week, the New York State Land Title Association (NYSTLA) hosted its virtual Title Tech Expo. This online conference brought together land title insurers, real estate attorneys, and mortgage bankers to engage on topics key to the title insurance industry in New York state. 

Qualia’s Director of Product, Charlotte Brown, hosted the fireside chat on “Digital Transformation & Innovation in Northeast Real Estate.” Brown was joined by Pat Roe, General Manager at Charles Jones, as well as the New York office of DataTrace, and Philip O’Hara, Executive Vice President at Municipal Data Services (MDS). The panel discussed advancements and trends in the New York and Northeast marketplaces. 

How New York real estate adapted during the onset of the pandemic

The pandemic rapidly pushed the real estate industry towards a new digital paradigm. New York State knows this well, as they were one of the hardest hit regions during the pandemic. Roe and O’Hara spoke about how their respective organizations adapted and innovated during these highly unusual times. 

At the onset of the pandemic municipalities sporadically closed due to COVID cases. Roe and O’Hara both explained that they needed to act fast to manage those sudden roadblocks. Roe noted that historically, his team would handle work as it came through; however, as municipalities’ operations changed day-to-day, a backlog of work started to pile up.

Managing expectations and communicating timeline delays became central to maintaining positive client interactions. Responsiveness was a pillar for Roe and O’Hara to manage client expectations when unforeseen closures impacted typical timelines—it also became a competitive differentiator for their businesses.  

Beyond the pandemic: strategies for growth

For MDS, integrations with title companies have been a game-changer both before and during the pandemic, allowing them to immediately get projects out to their workforce. As O’Hara said, “We are in the process of integrating with Qualia, which helps to streamline our work. It is paying off in huge dividends.” These integrations allow both vendors and title businesses to scale and manage fluctuations.  

Today, integrations are also critical to new business acquisition for MDS. O’Hara said the first question new clients ask now is what type of integrations they offer. “Without integration options, the conversation could prove to be very short,” said O’Hara. 

For Roe, service level is another important factor for business acquisition and client retention. Integrations also enable better points of service for his clients. After credentialing new customers, Roe said they will typically ask questions about the speed of the services, how they can submit an order, and who they can talk to for updates. Roe and his team establish points of contact for critical support straight away. Roe’s investments in technology and integrations help drive down service times and enable seamless orders so that they can stay one step ahead of other providers on the market.

To further drive down service times, Charles Jones and DataTrace look back at historical data on their products and are able to deliver point-of-order time estimates to manage client expectations. When this first rolled out in Pennsylvania, they saw a dramatic reduction in calls on products that had longer cycle times. Their company also leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to capture human decisions which have been repeated numerous times to reduce production time from order inception to getting to their customer base. 

On the Charles Jones and DataTrace roadmap is the incorporation of a single sign-for their local customers’ record repository and credentials. They are setting their sights on having an integrated exam workflow and overall higher degrees of integrations between partners, both customer-to-customer and software partners, like Qualia. As Roe reinforced, “The cloud-based infrastructure provides ‘technical elasticity’ when our customer base or suite of applications grows.” 


In addition to their technology roadmaps, Roe and O’Hara also outlined their industry predictions for 2021. 

Roe laid out several financial forecasts:

  • Interest rates will stay low
  • In the second half of the year, we will see a decline in refinances
  • Transaction volume should decline from its historic levels
  • Purchase volume should continue to rise in the second quarter after COVID vaccination distribution

Roe also provided some general industry predictions. He noted that consumer-direct channel businesses like iBuyers will continue to grow demand and will be a challenge for organizations that don’t embrace it. He also predicted that there will continue to be an increase in auto-decisioning to reduce cycle time. Lastly, regulation to protect consumer information will increasingly be a challenge on state and federal levels. 

O’Hara provided his thoughts about the overall effect of the pandemic on the title industry, specifically questions about the workplace of the future. Historically, the exchange of files and ideas took place in office ”bullpens” throughout New York. “Do they go away, or do we come back to the office?” He asked. “Digital closings became a necessity in New York. Now that people got a taste of it, and there is a demand, do we move back to where we were before or move forward to digital closing options for the future?”

One thing is certain, as consumer expectations continue to drive changes in the process of buying and selling homes, how swiftly title & escrow companies and attorneys innovate and adapt will determine their long-term success. 

To learn more about business resiliency and the workplace of the future, join us for our 2nd Annual Future of Real Estate Summit on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

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