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06/24/2020

40% Increase in RON Usage, Qualia Finds

In a study examining the effects of COVID-19 on real estate businesses, Qualia found nearly a 40 percent surge in remote online notarization (RON) usage from April to May. Survey

Qualia survey included 335 responses from real estate professionals.

Additionally, those surveyed identified a positive outlook for real estate as states began to open up, with 70 percent anticipating increased or the same volume over the next 30 days as compared to the previous month. This represents a 414 percent increase from April to May of businesses expecting their order volume to increase in the next 30 days.

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“This is an important time for real estate as the industry undergoes rapid change and a monumental shift in mindset,” said Nate Baker, co-founder and CEO of Qualia. “The real estate industry looks very different than it did just three months ago, and it will likely look very different in the next three months as we see remote work and remote online notarizations transition from temporary stopgap solutions to permanent options.”

To support contactless business operations, respondents report that they are conducting more e-recordings, remote online notarizations and hybrid remote ink-signed notarizations (RIN). About 33 percent of respondents report they used RON in the month of May, up from 24 percent the month prior. However, despite increased RON usage, the percentage of real estate professionals not using RON and having no plans to adopt a RON solution increased from 14 percent in April to 23 percent in May. While many states have enacted temporary or emergency remote online notarization guidance as a result of the pandemic, less than half of states have passed permanent remote online notarization laws.

“These results suggest that real estate professionals are settling into new routines for conducting business, whether they’re contactless in-person, digital or hybrid options,” said Baker. “Notably, a large majority of respondents remain interested in remote online notarization options, indicating that RON is likely to stay post pandemic and become a consumer expectation.”

With social distancing orders still necessitating remote work, the survey found that 65 percent of respondents are working remotely, with business owners considering continuing remote work options for employees in the future. For those that are or will return to the office, businesses will continue to social distance by staggering attendance in the office, wearing masks, disinfecting rooms after every closing, allowing entry by appointment only, limiting the number of customers allowed inside, taking temperatures, and continuing to have a percentage of the workforce working from home.

ALTA conducted a similar survey of nearly 400 title and settlement professionals in April. Results of that survey found that nearly 30 percent of title agencies were offering versions of digital closings.

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