I wish I had a dollar every time a client asked me at the closing table “Why so much paper?” or “I just bought my car signing on an iPad at the dealership, why can I not do that for my home?” These are valid questions. Most of what we do in life now is digital. I’m excited to say that we are moving closer and closer to Buyers having the option to close on a home virtually in North Carolina.
As you know, many documents dealing with purchasing a home require notarized signatures. Notarization historically required the signing to take place in the physical presence of the Notary. Many people in North Carolina are working hard to provide the consumer with great notarization options that embrace the digital world we live in. I’m on the NC Electronic Mortgage Closing Advisory Committee which, under the guidance of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, helps further the goal of making Electronic Closings a reality.
While COVID was certainly a catalyst to finding ways that signors didn’t have to be in the same room as the Notary, the Secretary of State’s Office has been hard at work for over a decade to enhance the notarization process. This enhancement has already allowed for notarizations in situations where never thought before and will ultimately improve the home buying process!
Here’s a brief rundown of three notarization options we currently have in North Carolina and then a fourth to look forward to in the future. While there may be some nuances that aren’t listed for each one, this is a general explanation on how documents can be notarized in NC.
Traditional Notary – Wet Signatures/Notary & Signors in same room – This is what most people are used to, in-person wet ink signing and notarization.
IPEN (In-Person Electronic Notary) – Digital Signatures/Notary & Signors in same room – While all parties are present in the same room in NC, the documents are filled out digitally and notarized electronically. Just envision the notary and signors all working off of the same laptop or tablet. The Notary must be commissioned as a Traditional Notary and an eNotary with the State of North Carolina.
EVN (Emergency Virtual Notarization) – Wet Signatures/Notary & Signors not in the same location but both must be in NC – A product of COVID, this allows the signor and the Notary to be in different locations in North Carolina. They join in via a web conference and the documents are signed while on the call. Then, documents are scanned to the notary same day and then the originals are put in the mail for the Notary to receive them. Once they are received, they are notarized pursuant to the EVN Statute. This law will expire once REN, below, becomes active.
REN (Remote Electronic Notarization) – Digital Signatures/Notary & Signors not in the same location and extended location for Signors – Coming no sooner than mid-Summer 2024, REN will allow Electronic Notarization to be done remotely, as in all parties can be in separate locations but all connect via a web conference. Also, the signors will be able to be located anywhere in the United States not just in North Carolina as with EVN.
TLDR – NC has the following notarization options: wet signatures in the same room, wet signatures but different locations in NC, digital signatures signed at the same location and, eventually, digital signatures signed in different locations.
So, what does this mean for you? It means you currently have a few options for notarization of documents and there is a more robust option coming down the pipeline. It’s important that people are educated what exactly REN will offer and how this will help improve the home buying process. This will not do away with in-person closings, but rather to help accommodate those that may not be able to be in-person or may prefer to do it from the comfort of their own home. North Carolina is working hard to enhance the notarization process and recognizes that notarization, even if virtual, can provide the safety and protection North Carolina consumers deserve.
With this knowledge, now you can rest easy!