Richard Bramhall, Chief Underwriting Counsel at Westcor, has been an advocate for remote online notarization (RON) for several years. Westcor was one of the first underwriters to embrace RON—long before the pandemic pushed underwriters across the country to accept remote closings. 

We met with Bramhall over the phone to discuss RON adoption during the pandemic and the longevity of RON beyond the flurry of interest this year. Bramhall discussed why RON will be a differentiator for title & escrow businesses to market themselves in an increasingly digital world. 

RON is advancing in some locations quicker than others

At the onset of the pandemic, Bramhall said that many title & escrow businesses couldn’t even get a call back from RON providers due to the intense demand for remote closings.

After the initial spike in interest subsided, Bramhall saw noticeable adoption trends begin to take shape. Among the several states Westcor works in, Bramhall said that Florida was the most on board with RON. This is likely because Florida has had a RON statute in place since January 2020. Meanwhile, in attorney states such as West Virginia and Rhode Island, businesses were less receptive to RON. “Attorneys are more reluctant to embrace new procedures,” Bramhall said. 

It’s not just millennials who are embracing digital closings

“One thing I’ve found really remarkable is that I expected RON to be embraced only by people in their twenties, but that has turned out to not be the case,” Bramhall said. From his experience, the consumers who are most excited about remote closings are those who are in their fifties or sixties and have refinanced multiple times or purchased more than one home. “They’re familiar with the process, so they like that they can just sit at their desk and click through everything quickly,” he said. 

Bramhall said that RON eClosings are not for everyone. Some first-time homebuyers idealize the concept of going into an office and having a ceremonial closing experience in-person. Regardless of preferences, Bramhall stressed that RON is a tool every title & escrow agent should have in their toolbelt. “In the event that [RON] is useful or necessary, you’ll want to have it on the ready for your client,” he said. “You don’t want to be fumbling through the procedures because you were not prepared.” 

As market share increases for online mortgage lenders, title agents with RON capabilities will have an advantage

Bramhall discussed the lack of acceptance among institutional lenders as a common roadblock for title & escrow businesses to adopt RON. However, he added that digital mortgage providers such as Quicken Loans are big adopters of RON. “As the Quickens of the world drive their market share higher and higher, they may take RON with them and increase the percentage of transactions closed remotely,” he said. 

Title & escrow agents who can support RON eClosings will have the attention of mortgage officers and companies like Quicken who are placing digital bets. “[Online lenders] need to find title agents who can support digital processes, so there will be relationships that are established [through RON] even after COVID is over,” he said.

Bramhall cited one title business as an example of the value of RON capabilities for marketing. “This particular agent has been really successful because they aggressively market their RON capabilities,” he said. Overall, Bramhall believes RON capabilities can help set title & escrow businesses apart from the competition. “It’s a high-tech tool to put in your toolbox to market yourself as a 21st century player in the business.” 

To learn more about RON and how its taking shape in your state, click below to speak with one of our RON specialists. 

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