If COVID-19 was the No. 1 topic of conversation amongst real estate professionals in 2020, remote online notarizations was arguable No. 2, like lenders, title/settlement agents, and real estate agents all scrambled to keep their pipelines moving in the face of social distancing requirements and/or stay-at-home orders. As the pandemic extends into 2021, much remains uncertain, but with increased awareness of RON on both the business and consumer sides of the home buying process, the question that can (and should) firmly be answered this year is, “Why is the industry still pushing hybrid closing transactions?”
As the calendar rolled to Jan. 1, 2020, 22 states had enacted RON legislation or were slated to do so within the coming year, which meant nearly half the country lacked the legal authority to conduct document notarizations remotely (NOTE: Today, the number of states authorizing RON or with bills introduced stands at 30, per the American Land Title Association). The most common objections to RON centered around the security of the process and its associated technology and the perceived potential for an increase in fraud with a remote versus in-person notarization.
By March 2020, this state of affairs had quickly changed, with nearly every state rushing to issue temporary authorizations to allow some form of the socially distanced notarial act to occur. However, the misconceptions that had prevented many states from enacting permanent RON legislation prior to the pandemic were evident in these temporary authorizations, as several states opted to authorize remote ink notarization (RIN) rather than RON.