4 posts categorized "Technology"


Survey Shows Consumer Demand to View Closing Documents in Advance, Sign Electronically

While consumer satisfaction with the real estate process is strong overall, homebuyers are interested in receiving updates about progress in their transaction and want the option to sign documents electronically, according to a survey from the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR). Nearly 1,100 homebuyers participated.

“The survey offers some very telling measures and provides guidance for the title industry on what is important to the consumer,” said Stewart Morris Jr., vice chair of Stewart Title Guaranty Co. and a member of ALTA’s Board of Governors. “With the new integrated mortgage disclosures and owner’s title insurance labeled as ‘optional,’ it will be vital for the title industry to get information to the consumer earlier in the home-buying process.”

Esigning graph

According to the survey, 40 percent of those who participated said they did not feel educated about the closing process. Of those who felt they did not receive enough information, two-thirds would have liked to know more about the closing process before hand. The survey found that 93 percent of the homebuyers were interested in receiving and/or signing documents that don’t require a witness in advance of the closing. As far as timing, the survey found that 90 percent of all transactions closed less than two months after an offer was accepted. The length of time to close a transaction was either as expected or shorter than expected, according to 74 percent of those polled.


For those who believed the closing took too long, the top causes were:

  • Mortgage company not cooperative
  • Some of the documents were incorrect and had to be redone
  • Other real estate agent was not organized
  • Title company was not cooperative
  • Inspection identified issues that had to be rectified

To improve the process, HAR provided the following suggestions:

  1. Make the documents available electronically, with the ability to sign some in advance
  2. Provide clear communication and updates on the process
  3. Properly explain documents and fees early in the process
  4. Complete documents accurately and on time
  5. More follow up and involvement from the title agent is needed


Online Tool Can Help Improve Title Shop Efficiency

Evernote Business   Evernote for your company   Evernote

Evernote Business Notebook in iOS 8

In part one, I introduced the basics of Evernote.  In part two, we will look closely at Evernote Business and the opportunities available for title industry professionals. 

Evernote Business creates a collaborative, shared workspace for an organization. Unlike Evernote Basic or Evernote Premium, Evernote Business incorporates an admin component that controls users within the account. The admin feature allows the company to maintain control of the data no matter how the team changes. Billing is also handled from a single point of contact. Evernote Business costs $10/month per user. Notes can contain 100MB of data, four times the amount allowed in Evernote Basic, allowing for high-res images and large files.  Evernote Business also comes with upgraded support designed to accelerate adoption.

One of my favorite Evernote uses is as a mobile distribution channel. Evernote allows for easy sharing of content in notes from phones/tablets to customers. Compare this to attempting to access a network marketing folder while in the field, and there’s no contest. Evernote wins.


A few examples of items to distribute are marketing flyers, articles of industry interest and videos. These items do not need to be protected behind secured firewalls. This does not mean Evernote takes security lightly, however. Data is protected by industry-standard TLS/SSL encryption and two-step verification.

As Evernote becomes the resource for information storage and creation, team members will be notified of similar content in other company notes. Forget re-inventing the wheel. Evernote Business simplifies collaboration among staff. Annotation and editing are available in notes as well. Also, Evernote has a built-in presentation mode. This allows team members to share content within the team or with clients without leaving Evernote for a presentation program.

Evernote is building a one stop workspace. No more attaching documents to emails for review or revision. No more creating presentations in another program.  Evernote makes it easy to add content to new or existing notes. 

Evernote communicate

Chat is built-in to Evernote Business. Productivity goes up when more can be done within one program.  

With the cloud-based capabilities of Evernote Business, it becomes a viable solution for smaller agency operations instead of expensive, cumbersome CRM products. It does not have all of the functionality of SalesForce or InfusionSoft. It does easily share content out to the sales team in the field, control access, add reminders to relevant notes and quickly collect business card information by snapping a picture.

Finally, becoming proficient with Evernote has an added benefit for any title operation.  In my experience, many clients and potential clients are hungry for help with Evernote implementation.  Adding value to the relationship by sharing a bit of knowledge is easy and cost effective. Improving your organization’s productivity and becoming a valuable resource for your customers is a no brainer. 

For more information, visit evernote.com/business.

RisserBill Risser is vice president of new media and education for Chicago Title Agency. He can be reached at 602-667-1000 or
 billrisser@gmail.com. Risser spoke at ALTA’s 2015 Social Media Summit in Philadelphia, on how to manage your online reputation.







Evernote Aids in Collaboration, Data Sharing

Bill Risser

With the impending changes in our industry, whether regulatory or technology driven, it is more important than ever to be connected as a company—important to be connected in a way that makes it easy to share and collaborate. Email and it’s “back and forth” nature is not effective enough. A simple, secure. cloud based tool is required. Evernote fits the bill perfectly.


Evernote has been around since 2008. I first explored Evernote in 2010. Like many others, I had a start, stop, start again, stop again relationship with the green elephant. I felt like I was “forcing” myself to use Evernote because it was cool. I didn’t see the value of conquering the learning curve for a simple note taking app.

A dance with cancer in 2012 opened my eyes to the power of Evernote.  Every single scan, report, EOB, appointment reminder, etc. is still in my account in a notebook labeled “C.”

I share my story because it resonates with many people that have the same love/hate relationship with Evernote.  You are not alone. My mission is to explain the features that are useful in our industry as well one’s personal productivity.

Evernote’s motto is “Remember Everything.” It is excels at that. In the last year or so, there has been a diligent effort at Evernote to build a business tool that redefines how employees collaborate. Evernote is striving to create “one work space” instead of the multiple programs we currently navigate. Evernote Business is the latest iteration, and I will cover that in part two.

Evernote makes it drop dead simple to gather data into “notes” which are further organized into “notebooks” within the program. There are numerous ways to get information into a note. These include typing, recording audio, dictating, clipping from the web, taking photos, dragging files, emailing and even tweeting. Notes are shared via email or social networks from any device.  Notes are assigned to a notebook and can be further identified with “tags.” The final level of organization is the Note Stack, which are a collection of notebooks. The organization within Evernote may seem limited to long-time Outlook users that have folders nested within folders that are nested within folders that are ... well, you know what I mean. Evernote relies on a superb search feature  to help users find content.  


Search in Evernote is powerful.  In the free version of Evernote, search scans all text and text within images added to notes. So, a photo of a broker sign can be found by searching for the name of the company found on the sign.  In the example below, searching through my business card notebook for Jeremy, you can see how Evernote search works.


Let’s discuss the types of Evernote accounts. There is a free version, and it is powerful enough for a new user. The free account allows 60 MB of data uploaded/month and a maximum note size of 25 MB.  The premium version costs $5/month or $45/year. At this level, the upload per month is 4GB/month, and maximum note size is 100MB. Each version allows 100,000 notes and 250 notebooks. One big advantage for premium is upgraded search. This allows for searches within pdf’s. Evernote Business is the last level. $10/user/month gets you even more upload capability, corporate data ownership, centralized user management and SalesForce integration.

Uses for Evernote in the title industry vary from clipping industry content from the web using the Evernote Web Clipper to recording a meeting with a potential customer. 


 INSERT Evernote Web Clipper

I also have all of our marketing flyers in a business account notebook, and they can be easily viewed and shared by the entire team. Travel confirmations, meeting agendas and conference schedules are easily accessed on the run. Evernote is not a tool for secure escrow/title file information storage, but it is outstanding for storing and sharing non-secure information with team members/customers.

Many smaller agents do not use an expensive CRM solution for the sales operation. Evernote is an inexpensive alternative for sharing information amongst the Sales/Marketing/Admin teams that is accessible via every platform. Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, even Blackberry’s have an Evernote solution.  The Evernote Premium account is required to make this effective. Premium allows Note and Notebook sharing, and the content is editable. 

If you found this blog informative, don’t miss Part two, which will focus on specific uses Evernote Business provides for our industry, especially smaller agencies looking for an online, collaborative solution.

RisserBill Risser is vice president of new media and education for Chicago Title Agency. He can be reached at 602-667-1000 or billrisser@gmail.com. Risser will speak at ALTA’s 2015 Social Media Summit, March 18 in Philadelphia, on how to manage your online reputation.


ALTA CEO Participates in Forum Addressing Mortgage Closing Process

ALTA CEO Michelle Korsmo participated in a public forum held by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday, April 23 to discuss efforts to improve the mortgage closing process.

Check out Michelle's remarks and answers to a few questions:


The event kicked off with featured remarks by Director Richard Cordray. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan concluded the event with additional comments.

Along with the forum, the CFPB released a report that finds many consumers are frustrated by the short amount of time they have to review a large stack of complex closing documents when finalizing a mortgage. As part of that research, in January 2014, the Bureau published a Request for Information about the challenges consumers face when closing on a home.

The request asked for input from market participants, consumers, and other stakeholders on ways to encourage the development of a more streamlined, efficient, and educational closing process that would be beneficial to consumers.

The Bureau heard about three major pain points for consumers during the closing process:

  • Not enough time to review: Many consumers are frustrated by the short amount of time they have to look over the closing documents. Often, they do not see the paperwork until they arrive at the closing table. Consumers reported feeling pressure to rush through the paperwork and sign—even when they did not understand the terms.
  • Overwhelming stack of paperwork: When consumers close on a home, they often face stacks of paperwork. Some of the forms are intended to help consumers better understand the costs and risks of their mortgages. Other forms are included by lenders as a result of their legal risk assessments. Remaining forms may fulfill federal, state, and local government requirements. The volume of paperwork varies from lender to lender.
  • Complexity of documents and errors: Most closing documents are full of legalese and technical jargon. The terms and acronyms are unknown to most consumers. In addition to having little time to read through and understand a large stack of paperwork, consumers often complained that they had little help from the others in the room. Consumers also mentioned that they found errors in their closing documents. Those errors often led to delays as closing agents had to redo the entire closing package.

In its report, the CFPB provided this interesting graphic that shows two sample closing packages and which parties were responsible for the documents.

Docs controlled by each party small


E-closings Pilot Project

The CFPB identified electronic closings as one solution to address the pain points outlines in its report. E-closings are already happening in the market today, but adoption is low. There is a lot of misinformation about the legality and feasibility of e-closings.

In addition to its pain points report, the CFPB released guidelines for a pilot project to study e-closings. The pilot project, which will launch later this year, is designed to enable the CFPB to better understand the role that e-closings can play in addressing consumers’ pain points.

Details on how to apply to be a participant in the e-closing pilot project are available in the Broad Agency Announcement.

The CFPB said e-closings can lead to a more knowledgeable consumer experiencing a better, more efficient process. However, e-closings may also present risks to consumers. For example, switching to an electronic process could reduce the amount of time consumers spend reading the closing documents and actively engaging in the process:

Here's graphic that the CFPB included in its report on mortgage closings that depicts an example of a potential end-to-end e-closing process

Sample eclosing process

ALTA members strongly support efforts to identify and alleviate the pain points consumers have experienced during the home closing process. While we are focused on technology and the ability to receive, sign and return, and retain electronic documents, it's important to not lose sight of the importance of personal interaction during the closing process.

"At the end of the day, consumers are not buying a home from a computer,” Korsmo said during the panel discussion.  “Improving the closing the process through technology by providing electronic documents to the homebuyer will help give the consumer more to time to digest the information about their purchase prior to the closing. We agree with the CFPB that any implementation of new technology in the home closing process should not reduce opportunities for consumers to ask information or replace the ceremony of the closing process which indicates the importance of the transaction. Based on our members’ unique vantage point working with all the parties at the closing table, the Bureau should not only focus on technological innovations but also on improving consumer education about the closing process. The new integrated mortgage disclosure forms that the CFPB developed and will be implemented in August 2015 will help ensure the personal interaction and explanation remains part of the closing experience for consumers.”

ALTA looks forward to continuing to work on this important initiative with Director Cordray and staff at the CFPB on this important consumer initiative.

Because e-losings offers both benefits and risks, the CFPB’s pilot project will evaluate whether electronic closings can increase efficiency, consumer understanding, and minimize surprises at the closing table. The guidelines list the minimum functionalities required of potential participants and highlight some advanced features the CFPB will be looking to test in the pilot. Pilot participants must submit proposals as a partnership between a technology vendor providing an e-closing solution and a lender that has contracted to close loans with that solution. 

The CFPB will work with participants to test many e-closing features, including those that may:

  • Enable consumer understanding: The CFPB plans to test whether educational materials like document summaries, term definitions, or process explanations that can be reviewed prior to the closing table help improve the process for consumers. The Bureau also plans to evaluate whether the order of the documents changes the consumer experience. 
  • Incentivize early document review: The CFPB plans to study the various technologies that would let consumers see the entire package of closing documents ahead of time. Within this pilot, the Bureau would like consumers to have at least three business days prior to closing to review the stack of documents. The Bureau wants to evaluate how early review of the documents may impact the closing process.
  • Facilitate error detection: The CFPB wants to test tools that will help both industry members and consumers spot errors and discrepancies in the closing documents. Such a tool could help consumers easily find the differences between their original estimate and their closing disclosures, preventing last minute surprises.

If interested in appying to be a participant in the e-closing pilot project, check out the Broad Agency Announcement.