In the midst of the current COVID-19 health crisis, lenders and settlement agents who schedule and conduct mortgage loan closings where a small group of people typically gather to sign documents and finalize a transaction should consider adopting a process that offers a safe place to conduct business.
A suggested checklist might include the following:
1. Speak with all parties who intend to appear at a live closing and inform them that you will be implementing a clean and safe environment.
2. Make sure that anyone who is displaying ANY symptoms of illness (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever) does not appear and where possible send a substitute professional (real estate agent, attorney, title agent, notary, escrow officer). Where a seller or buyer is ill, consider, with proper legal advice, whether you can close with a duly executed power of attorney.
3. Restrict the numbers of persons in the closing room. If necessary, mail checks to real estate agents, limit family members attending, and ask anyone not directly involved not to appear.
4. Clean the closing room thoroughly, clean all table surfaces, all chairs and the door handles (this must be done before each closing if more than one is taking place that day).
5. Make hand sanitizer available for everyone.
6. Make sure that the room is properly ventilated and open a window if possible.
7. Offer (new, unused) masks to anyone who may want to use one.
8. Be prepared so that the participants can get in and get out quickly. Have all documents ready to sign and notarize, have all copies made, have all checks cut and ready to distribute.
9. Have everyone bring their own signing pens so they are not shared around the table.
10. Ask the seller to clean keys, garage door openers and anything else being handed over to the buyer at the closing.
11. Keep the atmosphere pleasant, despite all the precautions the idea is not to create a “war room” environment, but simply to create a safe place where people can feel comfortable without being scared.
12. Lastly, consider learning more about e-mortgages and e-closings as well as remote notarization. These platforms are the wave of the future and will allow complex mortgage transactions to be managed seamlessly from a distance. Lenders and closing agents need to learn the e-process, however it is not too difficult, it just requires a change in the way you think about documents and signatures and notarization.
In the meantime, get out the cleaning products and masks and keep closing those loans!