Our world was upended earlier this year when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, and businesses in all industries were tasked with identifying ways they could help decrease the spread, while others were asked to temporarily close to help protect the public.
As essential services, all aspects of the real estate industry remained operating to help people find and purchase homes, but with adjustments to regular operating procedures to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
For our home loan clients in St. Louis, Overland Park, and everywhere between and beyond, these changes included changes to home tours, notary authentication, and closing paperwork.
Virtual House Tours
Initially, many cautious homeowners requested buyers take only virtual house tours, either by watching a video posted on the real estate listing, or on video chat with the real estate agent representing them. Touring potential new homes in this way was less-than-ideal, especially for homeowners who were prioritizing room size and layout over other considerations.
Leary about the safety of open houses, some real estate agents opted to show homes on the market by appointment only, and required house hunters and the agent representing them to wear masks and use hand sanitizer before and after tours.
With the threat of coronavirus still as strong as ever and with Americans more aware of how carriers of viruses can transmit them, we anticipate safety modifications to home tours to continue for some time. However, we believe that thoroughly looking at a home and evaluating it based on your housing wish list remains incredibly important. We encourage our mortgage clients to do their due diligence before making an offer on a home for sale and only proceeding with a purchase that they feel comfortable and confident about, regardless of the country’s pandemic status.
Mortgage Application Procedures
If you work with a local mortgage company, like Homestead Financial, it is possible that your home loan lender will collect as much paperwork from you as possible through email or an online portal. This lessens the number of people coming into the office to drop off documents in support of their mortgage application.
Don’t be alarmed by this practice! Many national lenders without local or regional offices have followed this practice for years, and it is both perfectly safe and convenient for you. The ability to send copies of documentation saves you the time of driving to the lender’s physical location to deliver your paperwork, and gets the necessary information in your mortgage lender’s hands faster, too.
Still, other local lenders might have you perform a curbside drop-off of materials, or ask that you send them through other means, such as priority mail or fax.
As you search for a quality home loan lender for your next mortgage, ask them about how they handle paperwork collection. You can use their response as a means to determine whether you’re comfortable doing business with them. Know that Homestead Financial considers client safety of utmost importance during these uncertain times, and our representatives are happy to walk you through the mortgage process.
Notarizing Documents via Video Conference
To reduce the number of people sitting in a conference room or office while signing closing paperwork or handling other authentication, some notaries public have opted to perform their services remotely.
Instead of verifying identity in person, notaries in many states have been reviewing photo identification of home buyers in advance, through photographs or photocopies, and then watching them sign documents via live video stream. Later, when the paperwork is collected, the notary will sign and stamp the document to authenticate it.
While we do not anticipate the very important role of notaries public to change because of the coronavirus pandemic, the way their services are rendered during the pandemic have been both helpful and convenient for our home loan clients. Please note that notary processes can vary by notary public and by state, so be sure to ask your notary about their policies before enlisting their services.
Document Signing in Isolation
Signing closing paperwork is another process that has changed to reflect and accommodate the current state of affairs. Depending on where you sign your closing paperwork — at a title company or a real estate attorney’s office, for example — their procedures may be different than what is typical.
Some title loan companies in Kansas City, for example, have taken a hands-free approach to signing documents. Prior to closing paperwork appointments, the title company team calls the homebuyer to review a PDF version of the paperwork they’ll sign on their closing day. The day of closing, the title loan team sets up a conference room dedicated to the signing. They sanitize surfaces and lay out the paperwork in easy-to-understand piles. Printed instructions and other guidance accompany the paperwork, along with writing pens dedicated for the signing.
When a homebuyer arrives at the title company office, they call the receptionist and let them know they’re here. The receptionist then verbally directs the buyer to the appropriate conference room over the phone, where they will sit to sign their closing paperwork, leave a check for their down payment and closing costs, and take the pens with them as they leave. Afterward, a team member from the title company collects the signed paperwork and sanitizes the room in preparation for the next appointment.
Other title loan companies and real estate attorneys have opted for in-person, guided signings, with all parties wearing masks or face coverings to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The benefits of having experts on hand while signing closing paperwork are invaluable, especially for first-time homebuyers who are unsure of what to expect at closing.
In areas with high incidences of coronavirus cases, you can expect title loan companies and attorneys to be more prudent with the precautions they take. Areas with fewer cases may not be so stringent, but policies are up to the company or firm hosting your closing.
A Reliable Mortgage Company in Missouri and Kansas
Ready to take the plunge and purchase a new home? Whether you’re looking for conventional mortgages, FHA home loans, VA loans, or USDA home loans, Homestead Financial can help you achieve your dreams of home ownership. Contact us today to learn more about your home financing options by calling 636-271-4663 in St. Louis or 913-317-1000 in the Kansas City metro area. Homestead Financial also serves homebuyers in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.