When a homebuyer or seller is out-of-state at the time of a real estate closing, one of the first solutions that come to mind is remote online notarization (RON). While RON is a helpful digital tool, it’s not always accepted by all parties. 

During a recent Remote Qualia Live event, representatives from Fidelity National Title Group, Nema Online Signing Solutions & Consulting, and Velox Title & Escrow, Inc. discussed the ins and outs of out-of-state transactions.

Martin Goldberg, Underwriting Counsel at Fidelity National Title Group; Terrence Gabriel, Agency Representative at Fidelity National Title Group; Missy Johnson, CEO of Nema Online Signing Solutions & Consulting; and Janet Johnson, Settlement Officer and Operations Manager at Velox Title & Escrow, Inc. joined the conversation. 

Not all out-of-state closings are created equal

Martin outlined three common scenarios in which a signer is out of the state. With each scenario, title & escrow agents may leverage different solutions. Martin shared how each scenario is handled for Maryland transactions; however, protocols may differ by state.

  1. The signer is outside of the state but located within the United States. The person notarizing the document must be duly appointed to notarize documents by the state, county, or tribe where the notarization is taking place. The acknowledgment is taken in accordance with the law of the state where signing occurs. A remote online notary may be an acceptable alternative; however, the settlement agent must confirm RON is acceptable in their state and check their title insurance underwriter’s guidelines for compliance. 
  1. The signer is outside of the country. The signer can appear at a US embassy or consulate and the notarial act can be performed by an ambassador or other approved agent of the United States. If the country where the signing is occurring is a member of the Hague Convention, then the signing party can appear before a notary public of the country or a judge/clerk of a court of record of the country. The individual notarizing the document must then secure an apostille to verify the notarial act was performed by an individual authorized under the laws of the country.
  1. The signer is in the United States armed forces. An active-duty military commissioned officer duly designated to take an acknowledgment may perform the notarial act. The officer performing the notarization must attach a certificate to the document confirming that the person appearing is in the armed forces or is a spouse or dependent of a member and that the person performing the notarization is a commissioned officer in active service. The certificate must also include the service person’s military serial number and the military branch and rank of the officer performing the notarial act. 

Terrence added that because notarization legislation differs by state, it’s important for title & escrow agents to reach out to their underwriter representative to understand the state’s requirements and what the underwriter will accept. 

Preparing for an out-of-state real estate closing

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding an out-of-state closing, “planning and scheduling are key,” Janet said. For documents to be processed and a closing to take place on time, the settlement agent must be aware of each signer’s location when the order is opened. “Of course, emergencies come up, and people have to leave the state… that’s where we work quickly to make sure we can find notaries and get documents signed,” she said. 

On the signing services side, planning is crucial for discovering the right notary for the transaction type. “We need to make sure we have mobile notaries on the ground that can actually take the signing and that they are vetted to meet underwriter requirements,” Missy said. “With RON, there are limited notaries that are RON certified, so sometimes we need to collaborate with other third-party vendors.” 

Leveraging technology to expand your capabilities for out-of-state closings

Discovering notary partners and other third-party services in new regions has historically been a challenge. Most title & escrow businesses focus on their core regions of operation to establish a pool of reliable, certified notaries. Today, technology can help businesses develop relationships in new regions. 

For example, within Qualia Marketplace, title & escrow agents can discover vetted signing services and order notaries directly through Qualia’s platform. This allows title & escrow businesses to instantly expand their reach without the hassle of references and other due-diligence efforts to check the reliability of a particular third-party. “Qualia Marketplace facilitates us getting a notary who is compliant and meets our standards,” Janet said. 

To learn more about how your team can use Qualia Marketplace to expand your business, click below to schedule a time with a Qualia Specialist.

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