The closing date represents the finish line for a real estate transaction. It’s a day when, traditionally, all parties involved join together at the closing table and complete the necessary paperwork before the buyer receives the keys to their new home. But what happens when you throw the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing into the mix?
We asked our title insurance company, Proper Title, to answer that and a few other frequently asked questions about closing procedures amid the current crisis. Keep reading to find out how Proper Title has adapted their business to ensure home buyers and sellers receive the same high-quality experience with added safety measures. Please note the following Q&A pertains to transactions in Illinois (the process varies by state).
@home: Are closings still happening?
PT: Absolutely. We have been deemed an essential service in Illinois so we are still operating, making appointments, and closing transactions. It’s happening, just with some new procedures in place to make sure everything runs smoothly and to minimize the number of people who attend closings as we practice social distancing.
@home: What about the closing process has changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?
PT: We are strongly encouraging the buyer and the seller to obtain Power of Attorney from their respective attorneys so that they don’t need to physically be at the closing table. It’s important that they still remain available to answer any questions during their appointment, but they can do so safely from their homes using video apps like Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or even with a phone call.
We’re also offering curbside closings at all of our offices except for our downtown office in the Loop. For this type of closing, we send over all of the documents in advance so buyers and sellers can review with their attorneys ahead of time. Then at the time of their appointment, the buyer will drive up to one of our locations, where an escrow officer will meet them curbside and deliver the documents that need to be executed via wet signature. A valid ID and funds to close need to be provided prior to document signing. The escrow officer then takes the paperwork inside for processing while the buyers remain in their car the entire time.
In some cases, in-office closings, where social distancing guidelines are followed, are still taking place. Please note that a health form must be submitted for review prior to all closings taking place in an office or in physical proximity to any open Proper Title offices (including curbside closings).
@home: How fast can you close on a home right now?
PT: We have always prided ourselves on the level of service we offer clients and our ability to close quickly. That’s no different now. In fact, we are actually more efficient than ever before. Generally, a closing at Proper Title takes under 45 minutes on average, and now we’re able to close transactions in as little as 15 minutes if we have all of the parties’ respective documents and the lender’s funding approval.
Most closings are scheduled back to back, so it’s important for everyone to be on time for their appointment so we can ensure the process is as seamless as can be.
@home: Who should be attending closings now?
PT: It used to be common for the buyer, their attorney, the seller’s attorney, and the real estate agents to attend a closing. Sellers sometimes would attend. To limit in-person contact for the time being, it’s our preference that the only attendees be the people who have to sign the documents. That means buyers (if they are unable to obtain Power of Attorney) and their attorneys. Sellers in Illinois are not required to attend the closing.
@home: Are there any other changes that you anticipate as this crisis evolves?
PT: We are hoping that contactless closings or those involving remote notarization will soon be available in Illinois. This would enable all documents requiring wet signatures to be notarized remotely, and therefore only the closer would need to be in an office. With “contactless” closings being somewhat of a newer option, more information is to come.
In the meantime, we believe using a Power of Attorney and our curbside closings offer the best solutions as we keep everyone’s safety our top priority.
Since the situation is changing constantly, communication is essential. We’re keeping in touch with attorneys, lenders, and agents so they are aware of the changes in procedures and so we can all work together to continue successfully executing closings