In the past three months alone, real estate has undergone a decade-worth of innovation. This acceleration holds potential if businesses have the foresight to invest in technology that supports an efficient, secure, and cross-collaborative real estate transaction. 

At the RESPRO’s annual conference held (virtually) this week, Qualia’s Head of Partnerships & Integrations, Max Lamb, joined Jeff Medley, Head of Operations at LemonBrew Abstract to discuss this topic. The pair explained how cloud technology provides the necessary infrastructure to support a streamlined and secure transaction for all parties involved. 

The current challenges of real estate closings 

Real estate transactions have long been a complicated process involving a number of stakeholders and (often) siloed technology platforms. Lamb pointed out that the current COVID-19 environment causes additional challenges including:

  1. Many real estate professionals are working from home for all or part of the week. A recent survey by Qualia found that between March/April and May, the number of remote title & escrow employees rose slightly. This may be an indicator that businesses are considering work from home options for employees as a more permanent benefit. Technology that enables secure remote operations is crucial.  
  2. Clients and consumers need contactless closing options. During COVID-19, title & escrow businesses have discovered creative closing options to limit person-to-person contact. These included curbside closings, new safety protocols limiting the number of people at the closing table, and the use of remote online notarization (RON) in states where it’s permissible to use. 
  3. Fluctuating volume due to low interest rates and uncertain market conditions. During COVID-19, title & escrow companies face weekly fluctuations in volume. Low interest rates have sparked refinances, while purchase volume has been unpredictable as inventory is listed and delisted in response to news about the pandemic. 

Medley agreed that working remotely created new challenges for his team at LemonBrew. The work-from-home scenario also acted as a forcing function to improve communication processes and their use of technology tools. “Now that we’re transitioning back [to the office], we’re still challenging our process to think about how technology can help us meet our goals,” he said. 

Addressing transaction challenges: rapid innovation during COVID

“There has been a tremendous amount of innovation in the past decade and even in the past few months alone to enable [a more connected real estate ecosystem with the cloud],” Lamb said.

In the past decade, cloud-based software has evolved to enable better integrations to connect underwriters, lenders, property data providers and other vendors. The industry is also seeing more communication portals arising for loan officers, real estate agents, buyers, sellers, and title or escrow agents to stay updated on transaction progress.

In the past few months, the title industry has also seen a “big emphasis on new types of tools such as video conferencing,” Lamb said. “Remote ink-signed notarization (RIN) and remote online notarization (RON) have also become very prominent depending on the state you’re in.” 

Lamb also noted that in the past few months there has been a winnowing of less productive technology and tools. For example, in-person electronic notarizations (IPEN) have become less appealing to closing agents, while demand for RON has increased

Why cloud-based technology is particularly valuable now 

As innovation in the real estate industry advances, it’s important to consider the infrastructural demands which go hand-in-hand with digital transformation. Lamb outlined the value of cloud-based technology for building a sustainable and flexible infrastructure. 

  1. Businesses can leverage the cloud expertise and specialization of the software provider. Typically, cloud providers have teams focused on building new products and features and teams focused on feature and product updates and maintenance. These specialized roles are not feasible for real estate IT teams. 
  2. Businesses can focus on their core competencies of running a real estate service business. Rather than building an entire technical team to build a core infrastructure, real estate IT teams can focus on business-driving initiatives. 
  3. Cloud-based infrastructures deliver a high degree of connectivity and speed. Cloud technology is built for browsers, so users can connect from anywhere. This connectivity is harder with on-premise servers. 
  4. Much of the security burden can be shifted to the cloud software provider. Cloud-based software providers leverage cloud services like Amazon Web Services — a $36.5 billion business that focuses solely on data protection and security. Businesses can capture this expertise through working with cloud-based software providers. 

Implementing cloud technology: things to consider

“When you think about the environment that new technology is working within, it’s important to consider internal and external ecosystems,” Lamb noted. Internally, teams should be able to access cross-functional information they need and collaborate on one system. Externally, partner systems should be integrated with the core infrastructure to efficiently provide information without rekeying. 

Lamb outlined a few questions to consider when implementing cloud-based technologies: 

  1. Does your technology strategy allow for integration with your partners? For title agents, underwriters and vendors are key.
  2. Are you providing a connected experience for consumers and clients?
  3. Are your employees enabled to work where and when they need to without clunky remote desktop logins?

By answering these questions, businesses keep their clients and end-consumers top of mind during the implementation process. The end result should be a better transaction experience for every stakeholder involved.

To learn more about how cloud-based technology compares to on-premise server software, click below to download “The Complete Guide to Enterprise Software Evaluation for Title and Escrow Companies.” 

Download the Guide