There has been nothing quite like the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic in our lifetime and title agencies are having to navigate some unique challenges without a playbook on how to proceed. We are faced with running our businesses safely and effectively, all while complying with the orders and recommendations set forth by the government.
Whether your state is under a “Stay at Home” order or your state is merely suggesting compliance with CDC guidelines, title agencies have to stay focused on the things they can control. Even under the majority of the Stay at Home orders, closing loans has been deemed an essential function by the state governments issuing the orders, and our companies are given an opportunity to stay open and operational.
Of course, the most important consideration is the health and safety of our clients and employees. If you have not done so already, you should look to begin discussing within your company the ways your office can adapt your practices to stay ahead of this unique situation. Here are just a few ideas of practices that your office can implement to show your clients and employees that they come first:
- Essential Employees Only – decide within your company who can work from home and who is essential to be in the office. Anyone who does not have to be in the office should be required to work from home. Of course, this does not come without challenges. Worried about answering phones? Contact your phone service company to get phones forwarded to one or more designated persons. A reminder to our server-based customers, SnapClose is on the cloud, and that may be more important than ever, for more information – please contact us.
- Rethink the Closing Experience
- Remove Community Items – It has been advised to remove any community items that you would place out for the taking. If you provide snacks, candy, pens, etc., consider removing those items from the tables and closing rooms and provide them only upon request. If you are unable to hand out single-use pens, make sure to disinfect them after each use. Some people also may be comforted by the availability of disposable gloves.
- Separating Parties – request that no one, not even agents and lenders, other than the signing parties attend the closing. If the parties request it, they can be separated from one another as well. Witnesses from your office may be permitted but should stand at least 6 feet from the signer. Agents and lenders can make alternate arrangements to pick up their documents and checks.
- Think Outside of the Box – remote online notarization is not available in every state, so title agencies have had to get creative. Some title agencies are asking that parties call the front desk upon their arrival to the parking lot to “check-in”. After they’ve checked in, they can remain in their vehicles until the title company calls them back to let them know that their disinfected closing room is ready for them. At that time, they are escorted to the room.
Or, ever heard of a drive-through closing? Neither had I until COVID-19, but it’s a thing now. So long as you can operate the drive-through within your state laws as far as witnessing and notarization are concerned, you can have fun with this concept. Put out a tent, wear gloves and exchange and pass around as few items as possible (I.D.s, pens, etc). If you can figure out logistics, this drive-through practice may outlive the pandemic.
- Virtual Conferencing Software – Video conferencing software, like Zoom, has become extremely popular during this outbreak and they have capitalized on the opportunity – lowering the price of their subscriptions dramatically. If your company previously did face-to-face meetings, you don’t have to give them up, you just need a computer.
- Collaboration Software – Just like your face-to-face meetings, chances are some other in-person job functions have changed due to the stay-at-home order. Software again, can help. Collaboration software like Trello or Slack, allows you to collaborate on projects in real-time with your co-workers, mimicking the office experience. (Both software mentioned have free plans available).
This is also a time to build stronger relationships with your clients simply by communicating with them. For example, create a bulletin clearly outlining that you are open for business and the ways in which you are working to protect them and the individuals involved in these transactions. Consider emailing this out to all of your clients and also to post it on social media (if you have a presence there). It never hurts to post an image along with your post on social media to give them a visual of what you are doing to adapt. Your clients will appreciate your level of preparedness and responsiveness.
These are difficult times and nobody truly knows the best way to precede. Determine what practices work best for you and your customers and stay as safe as possible out there.
From all of us at SnapClose, we thank you for your business.