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How the Coronavirus Has Shifted the Real Estate Closing Process

Because of the coronavirus, few industries have been forced into more change than the real estate and mortgage industry. Manufacturing, hospitality, and food services are certainly dealing with a massive list of challenges, and like the real estate industry, these challenges seem to shift on a daily basis.

In the real estate industry, the most noticeable change has been to the home-shopping experience. Previously, people could casually browse homes through showings and open houses. But the COVID-19 crisis has made the process far lass casual; showings need to be scheduled far in advance to allow for cleaning, and, quite frankly, the future of open houses is cloudy at best.

But it’s not just the home-search process that has changed. The purchase and closing process has changed as well. In fact, for those of us working in the mortgage and real estate industry, it seems the appraisal, notarization, and closing process has actually changed the most. The real challenge, it seems, is not finding a home to buy, it’s buying the home!

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Permanently Changed Appraisals and Notarization

It’s a situations that we saw frequently when the coronavirus started spreading across the country and states like California were forced into lockdown. Real estate agents would be in the process of closing a home, but because of stay-at-home orders, court buildings that hold registries and deeds were closed. Agents were not sure what to do, but some were able to work with attorneys who had access to electronic recording.


The traditional real estate process is becoming antiquated. Nothing demonstrates this more than the notarization process. In the recent past, a real estate transaction required in-person meetings for a variety of tasks, including the notarization of paper work, which obviously is not conducive to social-distancing.

Remote Online Notarizations, known in the industry as “RONs,” were already a rapidly-progressing trend in the industry. Numerous states were already allowing this process for the completion of a sale, but when the COVID-19 crisis came to America, several states which had not allowed it previously joined up. Now, buyers, agents, and sellers can take advantage of remove technology to notarize the required paperwork for a home sale, making the process more convenient, faster, and, in a year dominated by a contagious virus, much safer.

Accessing remote notarization is seen as such an important part of the modern real estate industry and housing market that the United States Congress has taken the initiative. In March, Senators introduced a bill called the “Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020,” which would allow for nationwide use of remote notarization technology. Instead of waiting for the states to go through the process of legalizing this type of notarization, the federal government is trying to make it a nationally-available option. Basically, if the bill becomes law, it would allow every notary in the United States to perform remote notarizations using video communications.

The Appraisal Process

Another aspect of the real estate process that is rapidly changing is the appraisal. Appraisals are a part of the transaction that require someone to be physically present at the property, but some institutions, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are allowing alternative methods for appraising a home. Some appraisers are even using drive-by methods, where they basically drive through a neighborhood, walk around the property, but don’t actually enter the home. They are also performing appraisals from a desktop, using public information and available data to create a value for the home.

These types of appraisals may not be as detailed as traditional efforts, but they provide a way for sellers and buyers to move forward with a transaction while limiting the spread of the coronavirus. People in the industry are doing their part, and this is just one of the many sacrifices buyers, sellers, and appraisers are taking to help with the pandemic.

On the surface, online appraisals can be fairly accurate. But there are issues at times. An online appraisal can’t spot fire damage, leaky pipes, or damage to walls, all of which could reduce your home’s value. They also can’t analyze updated accessories or remodeling work, which has the potential to increase your home’s value.

There are also websites that use an algorithm to estimate a home’s value. While these sites are useful for getting a general idea for your home’s value, they are usually not used for mortgage and transaction purposes.

What to Expect from the Closing Process

The coronavirus has made real estate closing much different.

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, you need to take precautionary measures to enhance the safety of yourself, your family, and those involved in the transaction. When an appraiser or signing agent arrives, physical distancing is important at all times; hand shaking is not recommended, so many professionals in the industry are simply avoiding this age-old greeting.

If an appraiser is coming to your house, they may inquire about your health, the health of people in the home, and whether or not you have recently traveled. All of these questions are not meant to invade your privacy, but simply to make sure everyone is safe.

With online technology, new safety precautions, and a focus on social distancing, the real estate and mortgage industries will continue to move forward!

Helping You Secure the Perfect Home Loan

If you are ready to find your next home, let us help. With a common-sense approach to mortgage underwriting, we can help you get the right loan for your specific needs.

Contact our staff today to learn how we are using safety and caution during the coronavirus pandemic to create a better buying experience!


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Chad Baker, CrossCountry Mortgage   
NMLS# 329451 | CCM NMLS# 3029