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Ask McEnearney: Where in the World Wide Web can I settle on my new home?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Ann Duff of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Ann at 703.965.8700 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Where in the World Wide Web can I settle on my new home?

Answer: It started in March 2020 — my first “drive-by” settlement in a parking lot with sellers getting a clipboard, papers and a clean pen through their car window. I was in another car watching with my phone on speaker. The buyers copied the process 15 minutes later — same parking lot, same paperwork plus loan documents. It worked. One-time event, right?

Au contraire — as in so many areas, the real estate world has permanently changed due to the pandemic and safety worries. Here are some distinct differences in today’s world.

In the olden days of pre-2020, the highest tech was a “mail-away” scenario where papers were sent to sellers to print and go to a bank to find a notary wherever they were.

Now, the notary will come to you (called a mobile closing or remote notarization). The title company will designate a company and have a trained human come in person to your dining room table to tackle the papers and authenticate the actual signing before scanning and shipping everything to the closing company. For my clients, with the keen cooperation between the lenders and the title company, my far-flung sellers have opened their doors to these live notaries and completed their work in places from Vancouver to Colorado Springs to Naples, Italy.

A remote company can also handle long-distance virtual seller signings, and this is called eNotary. Just this year, I have had legal electronic signings occur with a seller recuperating in a Paris hospital and others unpacking at their new home in Austin, Texas. No face-to-face human interaction — just phone connections and internet presentation of the documents.

Buyers can now occasionally join in on the long-distance, remote-signing fun. International settlements were recently tricky due to time zones and FHA/FreddieMac/VA loan requirements that everything be signed on exactly the same date, which meant staring at the door waiting for FedEx or DHL to appear before 5 p.m. Now, buyers can standby for that very long-distance call, ask their questions and make an appointment with the approved eNotary.

“Hybrid settlements” have increased exponentially. According to one title company, every month more and more diverse closing styles are taking the place of sitting around the table at the lawyer’s office or settlement company conference room. I miss the camaraderie and ceremony of the group meeting of the sellers and buyers, but times have changed… Some in-person, some electronic, some in-office, the variable scenarios do add up to the official transfer of property, just without the warmth, good cheer, key transfer and stories about the neighborhood cat everyone feeds or the wonderful UPS fellow who goes the extra mile.

So why not just have local someone else show up to sign, you ask? There are strict rules these days on granting a Power of Attorney (POA) to sign on your behalf. No one with a financial interest in the transaction can be given this responsibility, so you need to find a relative, trusted friend or hire another attorney not involved in this specific closing. And, that person needs to actually show up ready to perform the tasks. “Wet signatures” with real ink are still required on Deeds of Trust, though one-by-one some jurisdictions are allowing carefully controlled electronic signatures. Even so, worry remains about the potential for foul play or hacking.

The burden falls heavily upon the buyers, no matter where they are, to watch for emails several days prior to the official closing date and to actually READ the documents, check the math and ask the questions that might have normally come up around the table. Corrections can be made, but time is always a factor. I suggest doing the walk-through five to seven days before settlement so that any adjustments can be made without stress. They may still have to find a bank officer, military base legal office or embassy to notarize last-minute changes, but progress is being made at every turn.

Happily, complicated and simple home sales continue every day. However, with more settlement styles and options, the world has turned upside down for the better. Welcome aboard!

These thoughts and years of experience are brought to you by Ann Duff, Realtor, with McEnearney Associates. Based in Alexandria, Ann is busy day-in and day-out in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, listing, selling, and leasing distinctive properties with and for wonderful people — and all with a splash of fun! Let’s Get Busy… contact Ann at 703-965-8700 or visit her website

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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