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The Future of Real Estate: What We Learned from Digital Mortgage Trailblazers

There was a point in time where we as Americans didn’t know any other way than sending a letter through the mail in order to communicate, hailing a cab in order to get to your destination, or buying a home by visiting it in person.

Times have changed: sending a message is a text or email away, your ride arrives in minutes without ever having to flag a cab down, and buying a home can now all be done within the comfort of the one you’re currently in. But real estate and mortgage have a long way to go: whether commercial or residential real estate, the way people buy today has fundamentally changed and it’s up to the industry to meet those demands.

We recognized the need to help those who want to go digital and introduce them to those that have blazed their own digital trails: and so Digital Mortgage Trailblazers was born. The event brought together the top lenders, settlement agents, title underwriters, realtors, brokers, and notaries to peer into the industry’s crystal ball and discuss the future of real estate.

Here’s what we learned in three cities, alongside 1,000 of our peers, over 4,000 miles across Texas.

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1. The quickest growing segment of homebuyers expect tech throughout the real estate process. 

Every entity involved in the buying or selling of a home, from origination, to settlement, to underwriting, to escrow and beyond has the same obligation to the customer: make the most important transaction of their lives a great experience. One avenue the industry can take to make that happen is through real estate technology.

Notarize CEO, Pat Kinsel, shared with the audience that millennials now comprise a whopping two-thirds of the homebuying market today. And with that in mind, technology use during the real estate process shouldn't be treated as optional. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of all millennials own a smartphone and nearly all, 97%, reported they are regular users of the internet. It's a clear indication millennials are leading the way when it comes to tech adoption, with real estate being no exception.

Millennials are already using real estate tech on their own, everything from shopping for loans online to using VR to do virtual home tours. Historically, the last mile of the home closing was bogged down in paper. But with today's modern mortgage tools, millennials can now experience the fully online real estate process they've come to expect, home closing included.
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2. Education is key in propelling the industry towards digital. 

The real estate industry suffers from a case of the fear of the unknown. What’s the cure? According to United Wholesale Mortgage’s Jaime Borashko, Director of Wholesale Development: the fear of the unknown can be quelled by education.

“It all comes down to education: it’s up to us to help the industry adapt to technology and not be afraid of it,” says Borashko. The fear of being left in the dust behind competitors should also serve as a reason to get more familiar with new tech. David Pruitt of Coldwell Banker mentioned a cautionary warning to realtors: “If realtors aren't jumping on the tech train, they're going to be left behind.”

Tech education doesn’t start and end with lenders, settlement agents, underwriters, or brokers: it has to permeate through to the end customer experience. Angela Lozano, General Counsel and National Operations Manager at Title Forward, says doing away with paper and going digital ultimately fuels a better customer experience. “We have an overarching obligation to our customers to make the experience better. It was of the utmost importance for us to get away from the era of pen and paper.” Selene Kellam, EVP of Operations for Georgetown Mortgage adds that customer education plays a large part in getting clients familiarized with tech. “Showing that online closings are approachable and fun via social media has helped to shed light on this new offering for our customers.”

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3. Technology is no longer a nice-to-have: it’s a competitive advantage.

No two customers are exactly alike: so why should your offerings follow suit? Customers want options and an online closing affords them the most flexibility: they can close when and where they please.

Jaime Borashko of UWM says their brokers use technology as a way to differentiate themselves. Mark Holley of Westcor added, “There's going to be early-adopters (of technology), there's going to be really late-adopters. So the early ones are the ones that are going to make most of the money.” And despite the industry moving slowly towards innovation, those that are able to envision the end state, experience a profound eureka moment. 

“Tech implementation is a change management issue,” says Marvin Stone of Stewart Title. “A lot of people in the industry don't like change. It can be hard to envision - but once people can see it for themselves, they'll have an a-ha moment.”

So, why go digital now?

The movement towards digital is here. The technology that will help us deliver the best experience to our customers is no longer a hypothetical: it’s already exists.

New states are recognizing the need to modernize a centuries-old practice of notarization and are passing legislation to enable notaries to serve their customers online. Just this year alone, five states, Michigan, Tennessee, Minnesota, Vermont, and Indiana, have all passed legislation to empower their notaries with digital tools and we predict many more will join them.

How can you join in the digital movement? Talk to your lenders, underwriters, settlement agents, brokers, and customers and educate them on the tech you’re using today. As Notarize’s Jennifer Parker, GM of Digital Mortgage Solutions put it best: “Plug and play unfortunately doesn’t exist in mortgage: it will take the collective cooperation of the entire industry to make technology work.” 

Missed us in Texas?

If you missed us in Texas, not to worry. You can re-live the roadshow by checking out the event highlights. We also raised thousands of dollars in Dallas, Austin, and Houston but have a long way to go: help us raise $100,000 for the MBA Opens Doors Foundation. Is your city’s market moving towards digital and could benefit from Digital Mortgage Trailblazers? Let us know where we should go next.

We’d like to thank our speakers from Coldwell Banker, Georgetown Mortgage, Stewart Title,Title Forward, Westcor, and United Wholesale Mortgage for joining us in Texas.

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Posted in: mortgage

You have notarization questions, we have notarization answers. While we at Notarize pride ourselves on providing helpful resources (like this blog!) to demystify notarization, we’re not lawyers and don’t give legal advice. Pro tip: always check with your own attorneys, advisors, or document recipients if you have further questions about notarization or digitally notarized docs.

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