Title companies still are closing deals even though COVID-19 has slowed real estate transactions to a crawl.
Transnation Title Agency, a Michigan real estate closing and title agency with offices in Grand Rapids, said it is adapting the real estate closing experience to ensure consumers can continue to buy and sell homes or refinance their mortgage during the evolving health crisis.
“We’ve been deemed an essential service during this pandemic and we certainly believe helping local homeowners close on their new homes or refinance their mortgage is an essential part of our community,” said Thomas Olson, CEO of Transnation Title Agency. “Many of these homeowners already selected new paint colors for bedrooms and boxed up their most precious belongings.”
Olson said Transnation has seen a slowdown in real estate activity stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. Some sellers might be putting their homes on the market, but potential buyers might not be able to leave to view the home. Additionally, being laid off from work will impact the number of potential buyers.
“There are still people out there who are able to buy,” Olson said. “You see realtors out there being innovative. They can’t be out there, but they’re using new technology — doing virtual showings, doing things online — they’ve just become more innovative.”
Despite the closure of some county records offices and other COVID-19 safety issues around the country, Transnation has instituted the following changes to best serve area homebuyers:
- Curbside closings to observe social distancing during closings and eliminate the number of closing participants by allowing only those individuals signing documents to be present during the closing
- E-sign options for transactions with lender approval
- Mailing documents ahead of time to customers when timing allows
Transnation also is following CDC sanitation recommendations, including cleaning each closing location after each transaction, providing hand sanitizer, tissues and individual pens, and conducting nightly cleaning of offices.
Transnation offices still are operational but are closed to the public.
Steve Barnum, vice president of sales for Transnation, said there also have been situations where selling agents have had sellers produce the virtual tour themselves with video cameras on their mobile devices.
Barnum added it’s still too early to determine the entire impact of COVID-19 on the real estate industry, because when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer enacted the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, transactions were still in the works and only now are being completed.
“When all of this hit, there were a lot of transactions still in the pipeline,” Barnum said. “It’s hard to see the actual impact of this because there are still closings going on.
“We may see people who are apprehensive, but we see people who are working and still have income, and they need to close.”
Transnation also can help with refinanced mortgages, whether it’s to liquefy assets or to take advantage of historically low interest rates.