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Today the Wall Street Journal reported on the growing trend of online real estate closings. Since the COVID lockdowns, the number of states that permit virtual notarization has nearly doubled.

Today, 43 states have laws permanently allowing remote online notarization, which underpins virtual closings, up from 22 at the outset of the pandemic, according to the National Notary Association. Seven remaining statesβ€”including California, Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolinaβ€”haven’t passed such legislation, although bills are close to becoming law in Delaware, Massachusetts and Washington D.C.

There are, in fact, two bills pending in the Massachusetts legislature. Both would permit virtual notarization and, thereby, give homebuyers the option of signing their closing documents online.

The bills are S.3086, reported to the Ways and Means Committee on July 30 of this year, and H.4716 which is currently with the Judiciary Committee.

I can say firsthand that the real-estate closing process has changed significantly since COVID, particularly here in Hampden County where the Registry of Deeds has indefinitely closed its central office in the Springfield Courthouse.

Before COVID, lawyers met in person to exchange paperwork and often visited the Registry of Deeds to recorded their closing documents. Today, almost every aspect of the closing–recording and exchanging documents, conducting the title exam, etc.–is handled virtually.

Unfortunately, many of the social aspects of the profession have disappeared.