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Story Summary: Keeping our eye on the prize…Getting commercial and residential real estate transactions to the closing table!
The Covid-19 pandemic brought to the forefront some of the potential roadblocks that can, under extraordinary circumstances, throw serious issues into the normal process that brings a New York State real estate transaction from contract to closing.
From the beginning of the pandemic-induced shutdowns, Hallmark Abstract Service has strived to be on the cutting edge of formulating ways to circumvent those roadblocks and get transactions to the closing table, while at the same time maintaining our laser focus on protecting the interests of the commercial or residential property buyer we represent.
Unfortunately some issues have persisted such as lack of access to records in offices that were closed or that now offer very limited access. In jurisdictions where records exist only in hard copy, not online, this can pose a major problem not only for moving the transaction forward, but for our clients who are accustomed to a much higher level of service and speed. And, rightfully so!
Moving forward, achieving online access for all records needs to be a focus!
Covid-19 has caused severe dislocation and hardship throughout the United States, and the New York real estate market is no exception!
Whether it’s the landscape of New York City in terms of office space, retail and even the apartment rental market, or the rise in prices in suburban markets, changes have been swift and in many cases severe.
And the truth is that we really don’t yet know what the longterm, post-Covid-19, environment is going to bring.
Unfortunately, the unintended consequences associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, has brought the quote below to life for many businesses…
‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.’
Replace five minutes with the word pandemic, and you start to recognize some of the issues surrounding what Covid-19 has meant for the process of closing a real estate transaction in New York.
But, at the same time, another famous quote also rings absolutely true in our business…
“We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.” ―Rudyard Kipling
Very, very true!
Throughout the past 6 or 7 months Hallmark Abstract Service has been on the leading edge of establishing alternative processes for getting the necessary documents notarized, signed and recorded. Very early on we established detailed methods for notarization that would pass muster with underwriters, attorneys as well as the jurisdictions where the documents were to be recorded.
All of the players in a real estate transaction including the buyer, seller, mortgage provider, buyer’s attorney and seller’s attorney are all operating with their eyes focused on one prize, closing the deal!
All of these parties to the transaction deserve to have the people who are critical in closing the deal, operating at the tops of their game.
Hallmark Abstract Service, as the title insurance provider, plays a key role in getting to the endgame and, we are typically brought in when the contract is signed.
Since we opened our doors in 2008 we have been proud of the fact that our turnaround time from receiving the order to getting the title report into the hands of the players mentioned above, has been rapid and seamless!
But enter coronavirus with its social distancing, face masks, quarantine and business closures becoming the norm, and the real estate market was thrown into flux along with every other industry.
Governor Cuomo quickly issued an EO that allowed for virtual notarizations, although many mortgage lenders were not, and remain, unaccepting with the process.
While closings were still taking place through the creativity of those involved, access to the offices where the necessary documents are stored and are needed in order to prepare a title insurance report, was for the most part unavailable for quite some time and then available only on an extremely limited basis.
Slowly these offices opened, but not with the same speed across the board.
Critically this lack of immediate access has affected the speed of turnaround times, that have slowed particularly in some jurisdictions such as Suffolk County or the Town of Hempstead.
The workarounds that exist are being used, but they do not solve all of the issues resulting in great frustration by the parties to a real estate transaction. This frustration is completely understandable and reasonable, as our clients are not being allowed to get to the closing table in the timeframe that they would like.
Moving forward the pandemic and associated restrictions will hopefully come to an end sooner rather than later, and all of our businesses will get back to normal!
While that may or may not be what happens, what this pandemic has brought to the surface is that businesses need to be brought into the 21st century so that if another situation were to arise resulting in a quarantine of some kind, the show can go on unabated!
If you have any thoughts or questions please feel free to contact me.
Michael Haltman, CEO
Hallmark Abstract Service