In title & escrow, software is the backbone supporting daily work. Every order passes through and is at the mercy of the software’s sustainability, usability, and security. In effect, a software system is a contributing team member who works behind the scenes to streamline closings through efficient data collection, stringent security, and intelligent task delegation. Just like an employee, your software should grow with your business and adapt to marketplace changes.
With so much relying on your software system, it’s imperative that you evaluate software options through an objective lens and with the same rigor you would in the hiring process. Starting with a baseline set of criteria can help you take the first steps in narrowing down software options.
One of Qualia’s resident industry advisors, Eric Bloomquist, helped us break down the criteria every title & escrow company should consider when evaluating software options. He is no stranger to evaluating and implementing mission critical software and possesses more than 20 years of industry experience working across a range of brokerages and title companies to deliver technology integration.
His approach to software selection focuses first on the business goals of the organization to determine requirements. While business objectives will inevitably vary across title & escrow companies, Eric believes these 7 criteria are essential starting points to consider when evaluating software options.
1) INCREASE OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCIES AND MARGINS
To begin, take a close look at how the software will help you increase transactions or improve your margins. Ideally, the software will be a centralized platform for teams to work seamlessly across an order from setup, to obtaining buyer/seller information, to disbursing funds, and completing reconciliations. Additionally, the platform should include some level of automation to reduce rekeying and other redundant tasks that can slow down workflows and result in errors. The system should also provide admin-level reporting features so you can see order activity across the organization for improved business reporting and optimization.
2) INCREASE AGENT ACQUISITION
Client expectations are changing. We live in an “on-demand” society, where real estate agents and lenders expect immediate access to status, data, and documents. This allows them to scale their business, work more effectively as a team, and increase their referral base by providing a consistent repeatable customer journey. Your software should easily integrate with these agents’ workflows and help them deliver a reliable and secure experience for their clients.
3) IMPROVE EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION
Today’s workforce prioritizes flexibility and workplace advancement. An intuitive, easy-to-use software will vastly improve employees’ day-to-day work, freeing up their time to advance their soft skills to earn new business and focus on client experience. Cloud-based systems also provide employees the flexibility to complete tasks remotely, freeing up their personal time. You may also want to explore whether the software provider offers training & onboarding materials to help with team alignment and user adoption.
4) ENHANCE END-CONSUMER EXPERIENCE
As technology improves the homebuying experience further upstream (during home search and loan origination), consumers expect a similar streamlined, digital experience at closing. Instead of purchasing a consumer-facing application from an additional vendor (which will require engineering and configuration with your software), consider a software provider with an integrated consumer portal. Key features should include real-time order progress, secure communication, and document sharing.
5) INCREASE COMPLIANCE AND SECURITY OF DATA AND FUNDS
Failure to comply with regulations can quickly put your business at financial and reputational risk. Ensure the software meets requirements in your region by reviewing document templates and ensuring documents and workflows are compliant with RESPA and IRS regulations.
In addition, the security of the platform is paramount for the safe exchange of highly-sensitive data and funds. Dig-in to the specific security features of the software beyond a compliance checklist. For example, ask where data is backed up and physically stored (i.e. what some refer to as “off-site backup”). The provider should use data centers with physical security standards including professional security staff, safeguards from environmental threats, video surveillance, and intrusion detection systems.
You may also consider asking about the company’s security certifications. A few certifications relevant to the industry include ISO 27001 and SOC-2. These certifications validate the software provider’s claims of stringent security measures through a third-party audit.
6) REDUCED TECHNOLOGY INFRASTRUCTURE EXPENSE
Companies that move to the cloud enjoy the benefits of predictable costs over time. Unlike on-premise servers, there is no upfront investment to install physical equipment, no maintenance expenses, nor any need for in-house engineers to manage server upkeep. Cloud-based systems also allow for quicker, nearly-immediate software implementation.
7) INTEGRATION WITH PARTNER SYSTEMS
Relationships with underwriters, real estate agents, transaction coordinators, loan officers, and processors are vital to your organization’s operational drumbeat. The software provider should have the flexibility for custom integrations, plus demonstrate existing interoperability with a wide range of lenders, underwriters, eRecording services, and other vendors.