As the situation with the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, the title business is responding. Currently, the title business is not seeing many interruptions in business. For the most part, transactions are not being delayed or canceled due to current restrictions. Aside from a few inconveniences, it’s mostly business as usual in the title world.
Most Title Company Work Isn’t Public
More than 95 percent of the work a title company does is away from public interaction. The actual in-person, signing of documents is just a small piece of the entire closing process. In my office, tables are being wiped down after each closing. Doorknobs, counters and other areas of public contact are being cleaned throughout the day.
Many offices are requesting that only the people required to sign documents attend the closing of the transaction. Agents, lenders, and any other unnecessary parties should not come in. Demand for mobile notaries and in-home closings has increased while the availability of mobile notaries is in short supply. But there is no panic surrounding the ability to close a transaction.
Government Closings Affect Real Estate Closings
What may affect real estate transactions are coronavirus-triggered closings of local government offices. Currently, many county courthouses, district clerks, recording offices, registrars, and other depositories of public records are implementing temporary closures of an undetermined period. How ‘closed’ they are varies between cities and counties.
There are varying degrees of office closures. Some closures are basically “We’ve gone home and no one is here until we decide to come back.” For others, it’s business as usual, but only people who work there will be allowed in the building.
The title business relies on government offices to obtain and record vital legal documents. We record deeds and search ownership documents, liens, judgments, etc. through government offices. Fortunately, many county recording offices accept and process electronic recording of documents from title companies. Since that doesn’t involve face-to-face contact, hopefully the process won’t slow much.
Business Continuity is Critical
Government office closures are not the only concern. Private office closings may affect our ability to get mortgage payoffs, HOA documents, lien releases, and other information necessary for normal transactions. Hopefully, those companies want to keep working as much as the rest of us.
“We have put in place a business continuity plan so that we can continue to service our customers,” says Dawn Moore, CEO of Allegiance Title. “Currently, our offices remain open. The health and well-being of our customers and employees remain our first priority. To that end, Allegiance Title is taking every precaution to prevent potential service disruptions and do our part to slow the spread of the virus.”
Many title employees are able to work from home and remain accessible through normal channels including web-based tools, email or telephone. Social distancing is also possible given the layout of many title company offices.
Like other businesses, the buzzwords I’m hearing in the title world are ‘evolving’, ‘flexible’, ‘patience’ and ‘monitoring the situation.’ Regardless of the current situation, the people who want to buy or sell a home are still able to do it.