Real estate in our increasingly virtual world
The COVID-19 pandemic forced most of us to do everything from home—working from home, learning from makeshift school desks, socializing over the computer (hello virtual chat rooms), working out in our living rooms—but what about buying and financing a home from home?
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate and mortgage industries quickly took advantage of existing technology and innovate new technology to make it possible to safely and securely buy or refinance a home while maintaining social distance.
At Guaranteed Rate, most of these practices were already in place prior to the pandemic, with technology originally created for convenience and efficiency suddenly reaching new levels of significance. With an entirely digital process, your mortgage experience can be 100% free of physical human contact, even through closing. So, how does this all work?
View by way of virtual tour
Virtual showings became extremely popular during the pandemic—providing video footage from inside a home and walking buyers through a virtual tour. This isn’t a video of still shots of a home that you may be used to seeing. The agent can actually walk you through the home while holding a camera or phone, and you can interact with him or her. By implementing live video-chat home touring systems, you can virtually “walk” from room to room—testing out utilities and even pointing out flaws—to ensure you can see every inch and crevice of your potential home.
New technology also allows for 3D virtual tours, so you can go back on your own and zoom in on certain areas. And if you have a VR headset, the technology has the capability to make you feel like you’re really moving inside a home, walking up the stairs, opening closet doors or stepping out into the backyard.
3d tours are proving to be extremely popular. A Zillow report has found that listings featuring a 3D tour were up about 200% and are 75% more likely to be “favorited” on the online platform than listings without the virtual tour.
The digital mortgage experience
The financing experience has also changed for the better during the pandemic. Through Guaranteed Rate’s Digital Mortgage, you can check real-time rates, pull credit and receive a pre-approval in 15 minutes or less.Never underestimate the power of a pre-approval! As rates dropped and competition has heated up this past year, a pre-approval makes you a more competitive buyer and also shows agents you’re serious about buying a home.
When it’s time to verify your information, this can all be done digitally. Through Transfersafe, our secure document imaging system, you can upload all your documents and financial statements, and ensure they’re collected in one, safe, easy-to-access place. Our automation tools then allow for digital verification of data with automated bank statement, income, and tax return gathering. No collecting paystubs or digging up old files.
A contact-free close
Our FlashCloseSM platform enables both full e-closings and hybrid options. Originally developed to expedite the closing process, it’s been a huge success, with over 23,000 loans closed through FlashCloseSM in 2019 alone.
The FlashCloseSM hybrid option allows borrowers to review and e-sign the majority of documents ahead of time and complete the notarization process in person. This can allow the closing to go much smoother—and faster.
Where applicable, our FlashCloseSM eCloseallows borrowers to complete the entire closing process from the safety of their own home. With use of a webcam, documents are e-signed, and a licensed remote notary is able to complete the notarization.
From 2020 to 2021, “we have seen a dramatic increase, of course, in both FlashClose Hybrid and eClose,” says Whitney Vogt, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Guaranteed Rate. And she only sees more adoption going forward.
“The industry has finally turned a corner in the use and understanding of digital technology at the closing table. Title, notaries and lenders now are more open to the change and see the benefit it brings to their business in terms of productivity and operational efficiency. The long-held views on paper are finally evolving. Signers know the benefits of living in the digital world and expect that experience to transcend into all aspects of daily life, including their mortgage experience.”
A new virtual reality
Guaranteed Rate, and the mortgage and real estate industries as a whole, continue to adapt in an effort to help you make your dream of homeownership a smooth experience. With the use of innovative technology, buying a new home from the comfort of your current home is now not only a possibility, but a better way to do it.