What the public should know about Remote Online Notarization (RON)

There are many changes happening in the world of real estate closings right now. Through everything the FNF Family of Companies offer, our title and closing agents have the tools and resources needed to best serve homeowners in every way. 

A big change in the real estate world is the adoption of more digital options for your real estate closing. One of the tech-heavy options for buyers and sellers like you is the use of Remote Online Notarization. At the most basic level, this type of closing allows your transaction to be finalized using a webcam and a secure internet connection. Like its name suggests, the parties involved in the deal do not have to be in the same room for the closing to be completed.        

RON, as it’s known in the industry, is not a new development – multiple states have been passing laws approving its use in recent years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely brought the topic to the forefront as title and closing companies throughout the country work to find innovative ways to make sure homeowners like you can still close real estate transactions safely during the era of social distancing. 

As your closing company’s trusted title insurance underwriter, we’re helping many of our title and closing agents use – or at least start exploring how to use RON – all the time. However, the FNF team hopes a blog like this helps answer some general questions prospective homebuyers (and sellers) may have about RON. We have adopted a specific process our title and closing agents must follow and a list of vetted tech vendors for them to use, so that your transaction is kept secure and valid. Keeping you and your money protected is everyone’s No. 1 priority.  

It is important to note legislation allowing for the use of RON can and does vary state by state, and not every transaction is a candidate for a remote notarization closing. We recommend that you contact a local FNF title and closing agent with specific questions. But to conduct a RON transaction, there must be a secure audio/video connection established first. This can be done using a computer that includes a webcam and a microphone using a high-speed internet connection. The latter is needed because the feed cannot be interrupted any time during the electronic signing process. While it may sound as easy as jumping on Skype or Zoom – and while in some ways it is – we use specific technology tools designed just for the remote notarization process that ensure a more secure and confidential process.

So how does the RON process look with your FNF-supported title and closing officer?  

  • You’ll answer some personal questions through a Knowledge Based Authentication (KBA) system. These will be questions generated from information from public records or credit bureaus. (For example; you may be asked to choose from a list of previous addresses, or how much your car payment is)
  • Just like an in-person Notarization, you will need your driver’s license or other government ID, which will be viewed and scanned. So be sure to have the valid identification within reach before your RON closing starts!
  • You will sign documents using an e-signature by clicking on the documents where you wish to sign.  

A RON transaction is a safe and secure option for parties who can’t be in the same room. However, it is just one of the closing options buyers and sellers who use an FNF title and closing agent have available to them right now.  Title and closing companies all over the country have adapted in great ways to meet customer and consumer needs during this time. From extra cleaning measures and limiting who can attend an in-person closing to curbside and drive-thru options to learning all about RON (in those legislatively approved states), your title and closing agent will help find the best option for you and your transaction. 

Just like our title and closing agents can lean on us for what they need, consumers can always trust that a title and closing agent underwritten by a FNF Family company is working for them!

Is your company remote because of COVID-19? Here are some WFH tips for you

The FNF team knows these last two weeks have been an adjustment period for everyone in the title industry. We commend our network of agents for staying strong and continuing to fulfill customer needs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic while caring for their teams and their families.

During this time, title companies have been deemed an “essential service,” by government officials, a designation supported by the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department. This distinction means your offices have remained operational, even in places where travel and business have been restricted. Of course, you’ve also taken plenty of health and safety measures to protect customers and employees. For many of you allowing parts of your team to work remotely (from home) has been one of those steps.

For those who have never worked from home for a prolonged period of time, there is a learning curve to getting it right. Given current events, we’re sure there has been little time to do said adjusting, so we wanted to provide some information on how to most effectively work from home.

There are plenty of tip sheets out there. (here and here, for example), but we wanted to focus this piece on security, team communication and remote employee well-being.

Security

When working from home – or anywhere outside the office – cybersecurity becomes doubly important. Hopefully, you already took steps to make sure employees had anti-virus programs and other security software installed on their laptops, two-factor authentication on their accounts and a secured internet connection at home before you allowed them to work remotely.             

Companies should also make sure that their IT support people can still be of assistance in a remote set-up. Think about how much you rely on them during a regular workday; you’re likely going to need them during this remote work period too. Lastly, make sure your team is backing up their work somewhere other than their primary computer and that your company has a well-known procedure in place in case of a cybersecurity incident.

Communication

This may be an area you and your team are still working on, which is understandable. But good communication will be key to the success of your remote-for-now workforce. Maybe, you’re one of the many outfits that have checked out Slack or Microsoft Teams. If not, one of these programs may be a good solution for you to streamline communication. Regular video calls, possibly using Zoom or something like it, can be good for team morale and socialization too, just don’t overdo it. 

After all, trust in your employees is a good communication practice too. If you’re the company leader, make sure your team knows that you’re available to support them anytime, but don’t feel the need to schedule an abundance of check-in meetings either. If your office thrives on autonomy and trust when everyone is physically together, there’s no reason not to have that same level of confidence in your people now. Having someone notify you every time they complete a task that normally doesn’t need your approval won’t benefit anyone.

Employee well-being

Here is the section for those of you actually working from home. Hopefully, you have all the tools you need from the office to thrive, but here are a few things to remember as you embark on this journey.

  • If you have a designated home work area – use it. If not, try to find some space. One of the most common complaints from people making this change is that they have a hard time separating work from the rest of their lives. Speaking of boundaries, set work-hour limits like you would have in the office. 
  • Along those same lines, try to keep your morning routine as much as possible. We know this pandemic may have brought you a slew of new personal tasks to take care of, but if you still practice your before-work ritual (minus the commute), do it. That will help get your brain in work mode. Plus, you stay on top of your hygiene, no matter how long this lasts.   
  • Don’t feel guilty about taking a break. Move around a bit, take care of an errand or just give your mind a chance to re-charge. Be honest, you’re not engaged in “work stuff” for eight straight hours in the office every day. You don’t have to do that at home either.
  • Remember, your colleagues and family members are adjusting to a new normal too.

The entire FNF team thanks our agents for all their hard work during this ever-changing situation. Protecting your health, your customers and your business is paramount during times like these, and the FNF Family of Companies are here for you to lean on for the support you need.

A message to our agents about COVID-19 from the FNF Family of Companies

All levels of the Fidelity National Financial Family of Companies are here to support our title agents amid the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic. The entire FNF team wants you to know that you can lean on FNF for the guidance and support you need during these uncertain times. 

We are aware that a few counties across the country are not currently allowing recording. The American Land Title Association (ALTA) is keeping a running list of such counties on a recently launched COVID-19 dedicated webpage (http://www.alta.org/coronavirus).     

Our National Agency Team encourages you to follow CDC recommendations and do what you can to protect the health and safety of your customers and fellow team members. Here are some measures ALTA recommended taking in a recent blog post. 

  • Encouraging all customers and visitors to use hand sanitizer and/or wash hands upon arrival and providing hand sanitizer in closing spaces and other common areas.  
  • Telling employees who feel sick to stay home and informing customers who are ill to either reschedule a closing or ask for a private closing room ahead of time.
  • Disinfecting all items in closing rooms, such as chairs, tables, and door handles, in between closings.  
  • Using new pens for each transaction and making sure to remove any pens, papers or other items from the table after a closing is completed.
  • Removing all reading materials, dishes and other re-usable items from your lobby or waiting area.
  • Practicing social distancing whenever possible by staying at least six feet away from others. Some companies are offering separate closing rooms for buyers/sellers and trying to minimize the number of people physically at a closing.  
  • Enhancing general environmental sanitizing practices and making sure after-hours cleanings are utilizing the appropriate germ-killing solutions
  • Allowing employees who can work from home without disrupting production and service continuity to do so.

No matter how long this situation continues, we want our agents to know that FNF is here for you. If FNF can be of assistance to you in any way, please reach out to your agency representative today. We are committed to staying connected (while practicing social distancing) as we all navigate these unprecedented times together.