2017: The Year in Tech (Part 1)

 

We can probably all agree that 2017 was an exciting year for everyone, but that was especially true for those of us in the real estate, mortgage lending, title, and escrow professions. As we bring the year to a close, I wanted to share some insights about the major trends we are tracking here at Stewart. Over the next couple of blog posts, I will be sharing my “Top 10,” but in this post, we will look at the first three – which just happen to be specific to our industries.

 

And so, without further ado, here are my top 3 real estate, mortgage, title, and escrow tech trends of 2017:

 

  1. eClosing

If there was ever a real estate-related technology that took time to gain adoption, it was electronic closing, or “eClosing” for short. eClosing is the name given to the elimination of the paper from the real estate and mortgage closing through the use of technology. As the CFPB pointed out in their eClosing Pilot of 2015, “eClosing is a win-win for consumers and industry alike.” In 2017, we saw rapid adoption of eClosing technology from mortgage lenders seeking to improve the consumer experience, while also eliminating common errors such as missed signatures. The major benefit for lenders is significant savings gained from being able to sell their loans faster. Last year also brought a new flavor of eClosing—the “Remote Online Notarization”—which allows the closer or notary to be in one location, while the buyers and sellers can sign from the comfort of their own homes. I am proud to say that Stewart was a partner in the successful completion of the first-ever online mortgage closing earlier this year. If your doctor can see you over webcam then certainly you will soon be able to close on that home you’re buying with the same convenience.

 

  1. Digital Mortgage

When I attended this year’s Digital Mortgage Conference in San Francisco, I saw a lot of new technology – and a lot of new players. This is great news for consumers who have long been saddled with gathering all kinds of documentation from numerous sources. Thankfully, the technologists have arrived. Many of the new, specialty tech firms are laser-focused on improving overlooked, yet troublesome and time consuming, aspects of the mortgage application process. After all, who likes looking for copies of W-2’s and bank statements, or having to make sure their employment is verified correctly?

 

  1. Real Estate Technology

The field of residential real estate technology is an unusual one because there is no “center.” There are conventions and conferences for all kinds of technology (e.g. digital mortgage, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, etc.) but you won’t find one for the wide range of disparate real estate technologies. Don’t let the lack of organization fool you, though. Real estate technology is here to stay and it is bringing bigger changes every day. Offerings range from tech-enabling the brokerage and home valuation to agent-matching and rental portals. Of course, others are counted among the growing number of search portals wanting to compete against giants like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. Expect this to grow, as TechCrunch reported in August that at least 108 real estate tech startups (just in North America) garnered over $400 million in funding. For my real estate agent and broker friends looking to enhance their fresh 2018 business plans with cutting-edge tech offerings, you may want to book a trip to Inman Connect in New York City coming up this January 22nd through 26th. You can see all of the familiar real estate tech mainstays, but also make sure to visit Startup Alley to see what new tech can bring you a competitive edge. Bring a jacket and I’ll see you there!

 

Wrapping up

In my next blog post(s), I will be covering some of the more mainstream technology trends that 2017 brought our way. Look forward to highlights about artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies, fintech, blockchain, and social media, all of which will continue to bring big changes to our industries.

Finally, you can also look forward to hearing about how I stood on an office desk in a Tokyo skyscraper, threw an executive chair out the window, then watched it plummet 30 stories to the sidewalk below – all in virtual reality.

Until next time,

Marvin

Marvin Stone serves as senior vice president, business integration for Stewart Title Guaranty Company. Marvin is currently focused on the digital transformation of the closing process through in-person and online eClosing. He is also a regular speaker at industry conferences and often reports on important technology trends on Twitter, mortgage and title trends on LinkedIn, and real estate business trends on Facebook.

 

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