At Winged Foot Title, we take the health and safety of our clients and team members as seriously as we do the protection of property rights. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our team has innovated to keep closing real estate transactions in Southwest Florida and beyond efficiently and safely. If you have wondered how you can close your purchase or sale of Florida real estate safely, read on.
If you are selling real estate in Florida, you can do everything necessary to close from the comfort and safety of your own home. We facilitate this by using Remote Online Notarization (RON). RON is simply the signing and notarization of closing documents via video chat between the signers and the notary; the frequency of its use has skyrocketed since concerns about coronavirus have forced us to socially distance. Winged Foot Title was an early RON adopter and has continued to leverage this tool to keep sellers safe and able to close on time.
The standard RON closing goes like this. We draft your closing documents and upload them to the RON service provider. The notary connects with you to arrange a convenient time to conduct the closing, then we connect with you to review the documents and answer any questions you may have before signing. You’ll need internet access and a webcam or a smartphone of course. After you have signed, the service provider sends the signed and notarized documents to us and we are able to record those electronic documents. That’s it! From your deed to your bill of sale or any affidavits . . . anything that requires notarization can be done safely and securely via RON.
Buying real estate in Florida “remotely” is a slightly different animal. If you are buying with cash, you can sign all of your documents electronically without the need for notarization or RON. Very easy. If you are getting a mortgage to finance your purchase, the ability to close independently will depend on your lender, and what they will allow. Here are some options to consider as you shop for your mortgage:
- Fully Electronic Loan Closing
- A fully electronic loan closing (i.e., where the borrower may sign all of the loan documents electronically) is tough to come by. Unfortunately, the lending industry has been very slow to adopt fully electronic loan closings. If you are interested in closing your loan from home, then this is an option for you. Keep in mind that even if the fully electronic loan closing is available to you, the mortgage will need to be notarized. If your lender will allow the mortgage to be notarized remotely, you will need to sign the mortgage via RON.
- Hybrid Loan Closing
- A hybrid loan closing is one where a majority (in most cases!) of the documents may be signed electronically and a few must be wet-signed. Ordinarily, the Note (your personal promise to repay) and Mortgage (the security instrument that must be notarized in order to be recorded) must be wet-signed. And, the mortgage will need to be notarized or signed in front of a notary. For the wet-signed documents, there are a number of options which we’ll explore below.
- Complete Wet-Sign Closing
- More often than not, your lender will require that you wet-sign your loan documents. That is to say, you need to sign them on physical paper with a blue pen and in front of a notary when required. If this is the case, there are still options to keep you as safe and healthy as possible.
- If you’d like to sign at home, one option is to hire a mobile notary to come to your home. The notary will bring the documents to you and ensure that you sign properly. This is a fine option for remote signing but it does require that you invite someone into your space.
- If you are comfortable coming to our office, you are welcome to do so as long as you are able to follow our COVID-19-related guidelines. Here are some important points to consider:
- We will require that you wear a mask inside our building.
- We will set up your documents in a cleaned room for you and will not sit with you while you sign. We will, however, review your documents with you prior to your arrival and will be available for questions in a socially distanced manner.
- Common areas, including restrooms, are off-limits unless their access is an emergency.
- If you are not comfortable with a mobile notary or coming inside our office, you are also welcome to conduct a drive-by closing. Winged Foot’s “drive-by” closings have you coming to our building and remaining in your car to sign your documents. A team member will be available to witness and notarize your signatures as well as answer any questions by phone or in-person while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
- In all cases, we will provide electronic copies of your signed closing documents immediately after closing in order to avoid the transmission of anything physical.