We are observing a noticeable impact on the real estate industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Understandably, realtors are very concerned due to the economic uncertainty that comes along with the virus. Many states in the U.S. have announced “shelter in place” orders, which ultimately impose restrictions on realtors by prohibiting them from conducting physical meetings in the work environment. Just like brokerages and agents, we, as a technology company, are taking time to evaluate what we can do in the upcoming weeks and months so that we can come out of the crisis stronger.
In the meantime, during the slowdown, brokerages and agents may conduct the following activities:
1. Pay more attention to their existing customers while helping local communities.
2. Enhance their productivity by learning tech tools.
We have observed that the above activities have contributed to a positive trend for all platforms that have online collaborative workflows or conduct virtual closings, like Propy. The near future seems to involve bringing virtual and remote real estate activities to the front line. For the past several weeks, e-notarizing and e-signature service providers have experienced a considerable increase in demand. Furthermore, RON is gradually being accepted in the majority of U.S. states; RON was the last item that was required to digitize real estate transactions fully. Of course, there are still recorder offices that work with paper and reject e-recording functionality. However, the majority of recorder offices accept e-recording functionality and can operate in “shelter in place” environments.
At Propy, we have seen a spike of $100 million in transaction volume from Asian homebuyers investing in U.S. properties, as well as an increase in inbound requests from brokerages that want to use our transaction platform (in addition to SkySlope and Dotloop).
Virtual Closings for Real Estate
Now, more than ever, brokerages are forced to better virtual home searches, adjust to tech-enabled open houses, and consider virtual closing solutions. As our company is focused on processing offers and securing virtual closings (including notarizing online via webcam), we can share how technology helps to ensure the health of realtors and consumers.
Online closings are already being performed via emails and DocuSign. However, the process is extremely difficult for consumers, due to the need to review hundreds of emails with paperwork; additionally, the process can be risky, due to the potential for cyberattacks. Technology can help bring the entire process online by including steps like DocuSigning, notarizing via webcam, and seeing the work of agents and title companies being completed in real-time.
The Use of Blockchain Tech
At Propy, we take a very novel approach to unite all of the data points by utilizing blockchain, which is not visible to our users. Blockchain is particularly helpful due to its characteristics, such as immutability; it is practically impossible for any record or event to be altered by hackers. Also, one should not be afraid of the word “blockchain.” In fact, just like consumers do not have to know about TCP/IP protocols when they use the Internet, users do not need to learn about all of the aspects of blockchain tech because it stays in the infrastructure.
The promise of this technology is that, in the future, many participants will not have to do manual work; escrow agents will not need to verify payments manually, and recorder officers will not need to check grant deeds by hand. Instead, everything will automatically go to the databases, according to the specifics of the deal conditions. But, let us get back to what we can do today, during the pandemic.
Temporary Slowdown Due to the Pandemic
Today, we see that some recorder offices and escrow companies have temporarily stopped doing real estate deals. Agents are frustrated by the fact that they cannot sign deals in the escrow offices, but there are solutions to this issue.
Real estate professionals must guide consumers so that the entire property transfer process could be handled remotely, safely, and securely. Additionally, agents should conduct Facetime or Zoom calls with their clients to guide them through some of the tools or processes; clients who are not tech-savvy will require more attention. Even a simple demonstration of the DocuSign process can be beneficial.
Propy’s Transaction Management Software for Closing Properties Remotely
We were able to build a virtual closing software that processes all participant paperwork and wire payments. The transaction process is designed in a way so that the system guides its users throughout the entire real estate closing process; the technology “knows” when parties sign paperwork (this process on Propy is instant and secure), when wire transfers get initiated and completed, and when ownership is cleared. The end users do not need to be tech-savvy to use our platform. The software is easy to use.
A significant difference between traditional solutions and Propy is the extra security that is offered within the framework of our system. In some cases, especially with HNWI and remote customers, we have observed that homebuyers prefer to use Propy’s software instead of their emails when exchanging sensitive paperwork with other parties that are involved in the property transfer process.
Remote Real Estate Closings Simplified
Complete transactions from the comfort of your home.
Providing Peace of Mind to Brokers and Consumers With the Transaction Solution
In times of uncertainty, when brokerages and agents must make adjustments to their workflows and move their operations entirely online, there are a couple of challenges, including the following:
1. Some agents and consumers are not tech-savvy.
2. As everything moves online, it becomes tough to search through hundreds of emails for one particular transaction, especially in cases when there are as many as twenty people who are involved in a closing process and up to ten different tools that are used. The complexity leads to more cybersecurity risks, as well as more anxiety for agents.
Propy’s collaborative closing platform allows buyers, agents, brokers, title companies, and lenders to close transactions entirely paperlessly, remotely, and securely.
The brokerages enjoy features such as Task Management for compliance and audits, as well as quick and accurate commission payment distributions. Propy also has a special feature for HNWI clients who seek privacy and who want to avoid the exchange of emails during the transaction process. The feature is extremely powerful for remote and virtual closings; realtors now prefer to use this function for domestic and foreign buyers who purchase properties in the United States.
Another great feature that is offered on Propy is called Offer Management. The tool helps to collect and store all offers in one place, avoiding the use of email services and allowing sellers to get offers instantly in real-time while keeping control over the work environment. Many agents prefer the old-school way of physically meeting and presenting offers; however, this option is currently not possible due to the pandemic. To solve the problem and save time, agents can use online offer solutions for offer summaries. This way, consumers can be sure that no string of communications is missed.
Online offer solutions can also work as powerful marketing tools. As our customer, Courtney Poulos from independent brokerage ACME, stated, “Online offer management could be a great marketing tool to attract sellers.” Courtney also shared, “During this time, my company is focusing on strengthening backend systems and generating marketing plans for the upcoming inventory that will be safe for all in the short term.”