Build It, For When They Come

May 28, 2019

By Cynthia Durham Blair NTP

While walking through his cornfield in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner’s character, Ray, hears a voice whisper, “If you build it, he will come.” The voice is accompanied by a vision of a baseball diamond in the cornfield. After twists and turns, and despite possible financial ruin, Ray plows under his cornfield to build the baseball diamond.

Baseball players of old—including his father—did show up. Ray’s desire and effort gave the men a second chance to experience living their dream of playing baseball.

The movie made me think of how the industry is in the middle innings of providing digital closings across the country to help consumers realize the dream of homeownership. At ALTA’s winter Board of Governor’s meeting in February, our innovation conversation focused on digital closings and the work of our new Digital Closing Committee. A survey of committee members found their top concerns are tracking remote online notarization (RON) legislation and monitoring trends in emerging digital technologies. You can track RON bills here.

As more states pass RON bills and promulgate rules, it’s important we keep the consumer experience a priority. Why? According to a recent Fannie Mae survey, consumers prefer using online services for simple banking tasks like paying bills. However, when it comes to complex tasks likes applying for and closing on a mortgage, their preference is still to talk to a live person. Fannie Mae found 79 percent of consumers prefer working one-on-one with when applying for a mortgage. Conversely, only 20 percent prefer applying online.

When we equate the digital mortgage and closing experience with buying on Amazon, we don’t consider that online shopping is impersonal. You find what you want and buy it. It’s do-it-yourself shopping. Most first-time homebuyers, on the other hand, are unsure of what they are doing. They want guidance and explanation. They need someone to help lead. Someone to use their real estate expertise to help them. These buyers want someone to deliver and help make sure things go smoothly. They want to feel protected.

Buying a home is exciting and people want an experience that matches their excitement. They want the Instagram moment. They want to celebrate getting their keys. They want you to provide a Field of Dreams. For some, a digital closing option may be the best option. For others, they may prefer a traditional closing.

As Ray found, people did come. If you build an operation that can handle digital closings, consumers might not demand that option. However, if you don’t build it, they won’t come. So, build it, for when they do.

Cynthia Durham Blair NTP is ALTA's 2018-19 president and founder of the law firm Blair Cato Pickren Casterline LLC.

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