Remote Closing In Real Estate

Beginner’s Guide To Remote Closing In Real Estate

July 9, 2024

Produced by:
Richard Stevens

Richard Stevens is an active real estate investor with over 8 years of industry experience. He specializes in researching topics that appeal to real estate investors and building calculators that can help property investors understand the expected costs and returns when executing real estate deals.

Remote closings are becoming increasingly popular in the real estate industry due to the convenience and flexibility they offer. Advancements in technology have made it easier than ever to complete large transactions without parties being physically present.

Remote closings simplify the sales process and allow real estate investors to focus on finding more deals rather than rushing to the closing table for every sale. However, like any technology, remote closings have benefits and weaknesses. So, if you’re interested in utilizing this exciting new process, here is everything you need to know about remote closings.

Topics Covered

What Is Remote Closing?

A remote closing refers to the completion of a real estate transaction that doesn’t require the buyer and seller to be physically present. Traditionally, whenever a home was sold, the buyer and seller would meet at the closing table to sign the paperwork, exchange funds, and transfer ownership. However, new technologies have enabled buyers and sellers to complete this process without having to meet face-to-face.

In some cases, the entire process may be handled virtually from the initial showing to the contract signing, so the buyer and seller never actually come face to face. In others, it may be solely the closing or certain parts of the transaction. Either way, remote closings offer flexibility, convenience, and efficiency. Plus, the abundance of secure platforms and new technologies makes them just as reliable as a traditional closing.

Can You Close On A House Remotely?

Yes, it is possible to close on a house remotely. However, it’s only legal in certain states. Every state has unique laws regarding the remote closing process; some still require buyers and sellers to be physically present to complete a real estate transaction.

However, about 88% of states have approved remote online notarization (RON), the most common method for conducting remote closings.

States that don’t allow it include:

• Connecticut
• South Dakota
• Mississippi
• Alabama
• Georgia
• South Carolina

Even in states where Remote Online Notarization is not fully legal, there are also hybrid methods where remote closers can complete at least some of the steps virtually. So it’s essential to pay attention to the local laws before planning a remote closing but as long as you follow the necessary protocols in your area, it’s perfectly legal.

The Most Common Ways To Close Remotely

Most Common Ways To Close Remotely

You can use several different methods to close on a home remotely. Here are the most popular methods.

1 – Remote Online Notarization (RON): RON is the most popular method for completing the remote closing process and allows buyers and sellers to complete a transaction entirely online. Remote closers leverage video conferencing software to confirm their identity, remote notary services to verify the transaction, and e-signature software to complete the contracts. It’s the primary method used to conduct a true remote closing where the buyer and seller are never physically present at the closing table.

2 – In-Person e-Notarization (IPEN): IPEN is another method that’s common in states where RON isn’t legal. It involves using e-signature software and other digital technologies to complete the contracts. However, parties must be physically present at the closing table. While not truly remote, IPEN does allow parties to reduce waste by using digital technologies instead of paper.

3 – Hybrid e-Closing: A hybrid e-closing is a combination of both methods. It involves signing some documents remotely before the final closing and conducting a meeting with an in-person notary. Although not entirely remote either, it speeds up the process and allows for a timely closing.

Advantages of Remote Closing

Saves time: One of the major benefits of a remote closing is ease and efficiency. If the closing is fully remote, you can complete the entire process right from your living room. Remote closets don’t have to waste time traveling to a physical location or waiting for the other party to arrive and sign their documents, freeing you up to focus on other tasks.

Reduces waste: Digital tools and e-signing software can drastically reduce the amount of paper waste that is created by a traditional closing. Closing documents can often contain dozens if not hundreds of pages of paper, which can all be eliminated by signing the documents online. So the remote closing industry not only helps improve efficiency, it’s also good for the environment.

More time to review documents: Conducting a remote closing also allows you to complete the process at your own pace. When you’re at the closing table, you may feel pressured to go through the documents quickly because you only have a certain amount of time available. A remote closing alleviates that pressure and allows you to be as thorough as possible, which may be especially beneficial in complex transactions.

Good for investors who buy properties in different markets: Remote closing can also be helpful for investors with a portfolio extending across multiple states or even countries. Traveling to each market where you’re purchasing properties can be a major hassle, especially if you only need to spend an hour or so signing documents. Remote closings allow you to speed up the sales process and confidently invest in different markets without having to return to each location for the closing.

Disadvantages of Remote Closing

Not legal in all states: The biggest drawback of remote closings is that they are not entirely legal in every state. In some places, you’ll still need to be physically present at the closing table to finalize the transaction. Most states do allow remote closings, and as they become more accepted, it’s likely that others will follow suit. Plus, RON alternatives such as IPEN and hybrid e-closings offer some of the benefits of a true remote closing, which makes them legal in the states that require a physical meeting. However, you’ll still need to research state laws in the area where you’re looking to find out what is and isn’t legal.

Requires secure technology: Another potential disadvantage of remote closings is that they require secure technology and the skills to use it. You want to make sure no sensitive documents get leaked and that the tools you’re using are reliable and legitimate. Plenty of reputable online notary services, e-signing software, and other digital tools are available that make this perfectly manageable. However, you also need the technological literacy to choose the right software and know how to use it, which may be more challenging for older people.

Potential for fraud: As with most transactions that happen entirely online, there is the potential for fraud. It is possible for someone to pretend they own a home, conduct a showing virtually, proceed with a remote closing using phony contracts and tools, and disappear completely once the funds have been transferred. There is even something called title pirating, where hackers will forge documents to make it look like they own a property they have no right to.

You should always do your proper due diligence in any real estate transaction to verify the true identity of any other parties involved. However, remote closers should be especially vigilant because you may never meet the other person face to face. Proceed with extra caution if the offer seems too good to be true, or the other party is pressuring you to act quickly.

May feel impersonal: One of the less considered aspects of a remote closing is that it may feel a bit impersonal because everything is done online, and there is no direct connection with the other party. There is often something fulfilling about finalizing the closing process in person and experiencing the transfer of a property from one person to another that is lost in a remote closing. However, for many remote closers, the convenience is well worth the sacrifice.

Final Tips For Closing On A House Remotely

Conducting a remote closing can be a very convenient way to finalize a home sale. If you live in a state where remote notarization is legal, you can often complete the entire process without ever leaving your current home and have the rare ability to move at your own pace.

However, remote closing can present legal complications and logistical concerns that can’t be ignored. So if you plan on closing a home sale remotely, make sure you research the local laws, secure the right tools and proceed with caution to ensure that the process is legally valid.