In New York Virtual Notarizations Lead To Virtual Closings in the Age of Coronavirus!

By | March 21, 2020

Critical Update March 24, 2020: While virtual closings including virtual notarizations are imminent in New York State, several critical issues still need to be resolved before the bottomline interests of all parties to a transaction are 100% confirmed!

These issues include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

The acceptable and timely acquiring of wet signatures by those parties getting notarizations, acceptability of these digital documents for recording by county clerks, the notary having a physical presence in New York State, the acceptable form of the Certificate of Conformity (in NYC) and the appropriate acknowledgement of the notary conforming to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order, to name just a few.

Stay tuned!

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By the time that you read this, the situation surrounding coronavirus, quarantine and social distancing will have hopefully already been resolved, but likely not!

If coronavirus and quarantine still represents business as usual, then the following information concerning virtual notarizations and closings, conducted with all parties in separate locations communicating through Zoom or some other meeting service, is critical.

Critical for homebuyers, home sellers, real estate agents, real estate attorneys, bank attorneys, mortgage lenders, title companies and, well, you get the idea.

Virtual Notarizations in New York

Not historically permitted in New York, on Friday, March 20th and through an Executive Order signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, virtual notarizations are now allowed (see excerpt below).

Of course for mortgages, whether or not this method for notarizing is acceptable, will be determined on a bank by bank basis (i.e. as of publication Wells Fargo is a no).

On March 19, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo released an executive order to allow virtual notarization of documents. This temporary order goes into effect March 20, 2020 to April 18, 2020, and it specifies the following: 
  • Any notarial act that is required under New York State law is authorized to be performed utilizing audio-video technology provided that the following conditions are met:
  • The person seeking the Notary’s services, if not personally known to the Notary, must present valid photo ID to the Notary during the video conference, not merely transmit it prior to or after;
  • The video conference must allow for direct interaction between the person and the Notary (e.g. no pre-recorded videos of the person signing);
  • The person must affirmatively represent that he or she is physically situated in the State of New York;
  • The person must transmit by fax or electronic means a legible copy of the signed document directly to the Notary on the same date it was signed;
  • The Notary may notarize the transmitted copy of the document and transmit the same back to the person; and,
  • The Notary may repeat the notarization of the original signed document as of the date of execution provided the Notary receives such original signed document together with the electronically notarized copy within thirty days after the date of execution.
While having the ability to utilize escrow or virtual closings is very helpful in significantly reducing the number of people that must attend a closing, there are still challenges in creating an environment free of physical interactions. For example, most government recording offices in New York State do not currently accept e-documents. Therefore, paper documents must still be signed and delivered to the government recording offices.

The Residential and Commercial Real Estate and Mortgage Refinance Closing Process in New York!

Because the Executive Order surrounding virtual notarizations was issued only on Friday, March 20th, the guidelines proposed by Hallmark Abstract Service for our clients could potentially be tweaked down the road, but at the present time this is how we visualize it.

ImportantALL remote participants to a real estate closing including, but not necessarily limited to, borrowers, buyers, sellers and/or attorneys MUST have the ability to be seen and participate via camera whether on a computer or on a phone!

For anyone with questions on any aspect of closing a deal, initiating a new deal or any other issue, please reach out to HAS CEO Mike Haltman at (516) 741-4723 or info@hallmarkabstractllc.com.

We shared the email below with the title closers that the firm works with, and it will give an accurate overview of the process as we see it.

As a closer for Hallmark Abstract Service we wanted to bring you up to date on the current status of closing a refinance or a purchase.

Governor Cuomo hours ago signed an Executive Order (see photo) authorizing virtual notarizations, pending individual bank acceptance.

Zoom and DocuSign

Closings will occur through a virtual hookup utilizing Zoom, where all transaction participants will be able to see each other and the closer will be able to witness signatures being executed through DocuSign, along with the signatories ID.

All participants in the closing will have a copy of the entire closing package beforehand and, Hallmark Abstract will receive all of the appropriate closing documents from all transaction participants prior to the closing as well, to be uploaded into DocuSign.

The borrower/purchaser will hold their ID up through Zoom for verification and sign whatever documents that are necessary**.

**Notarized SignaturesFor those signatures that need to be notarized, the appropriate page(s) requiring notarization will be removed from the hardcopy file that the participants received, and those signatures will be hand-signed and witnessed by the notary.

The signer of only those notarized documents will then either scan and email that signature page to the closer or take a picture of the document with a phone and email it, at that time.

The closer will notarize the pdf received from the signer during or directly after the closing, and the borrower/purchaser will have 30-days to get the original signature to Hallmark Abstract Service.

Payoff monies will have to be wired to the appropriate lending institutions and any other checks written and packages will be Fedex’ed/mailed to Hallmark at 23 Orchard Drive, Woodbury New York 11797 if the quarantine is still in effect.

Hallmark Abstract Service utilizes ERecording for documents and, for any County Clerks offices that are closed, the documents being ERecorded will be placed in a dated queue.

For those counties not utilizing online recording (i.e. Richmond County), those closing mechanics will have to be explored on a case by case basis.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Mike

Michael Haltman, CEO

Hallmark Abstract Service

(Main Office)

101 Sunnyside Blvd., Suite 103

Plainview, New York 11803

(New York City Office)

276 Fifth Avenue, Suite 704

New York, New York 10001

Office: (646) 741-6101

Mobile: (516) 521-3499

Hallmark Abstract Orders: orders@hallmarkabstractllc.com

Questions: info@hallmarkabstractllc.com

Agents for Chicago Title, Fidelity National Title, Commonwealth Land Title and AmTrust

 

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