Northwest Florida & Alabama Real Estate

SETCO Goes Green with Paperless Close

In a real estate transaction, the closing is the final step in which the purchase and financing documents are signed the title is transferred, title insurance policies are exchanged and the agreed-on costs are paid. The parties will often gather at the office of the closing agent as a near-end step toward finalizing the purchase of the new home or consummating a refinance – the closing. At the closing, your closing professional will enter the conference room with a sizable file full of documents for signing. As you laboriously go through and sign each document, you can only wonder how many times the lumberjack had to yell, timber,” in order to create enough paper to conduct a single closing.

To give you some perspective, when you consider all of the components of one closing transaction you will most likely consume upwards of 250 sheets of paper. For instance, there were 283 real estate closings in Walton County during the month of March according to Metro Marketing Trends. At an average of 250 pieces of paper per closing, approximately 70,750 pieces of paper were used by title companies alone to finalize purchases, excluding refinance transactions, for one month in one county. When you multiply that figure across the state, let alone the country, it becomes as incomprehensible as the national debt.

As an avid outdoorsman, I am conscious of the impact each of us can have on our natural resources and I take that responsibility very seriously both personally and professionally. For this reason, we have increased our efforts as a company to continually reduce consumption, not only cutting costs but establishing green initiatives.

SETCO went green long before “going green” was in vogue. As early as 2003, our company elected to make a substantial investment in state-of-the-art technology in the move towards making the “paperless office” a reality.

After exhaustive research, SETCO adopted a set of policies and practices intended to move the company forward in an ever-changing era of advancing technology. The first step in the implementation of that strategy was the acquisition of our “paperless closer” program. This program allows borrowers, purchasers, brokers and mortgage lenders to order title and closing services, access up-to-date status, communicate with each participant in the transaction, submit documents, assign and update status and task all with a 24/7 portal into the closing transaction.

After some period of internal adaptation and external education, the system quickly opened other technology opportunities. The State of Florida’s approval of electronic recordation and signatures lead to SETCO’s selection as a BETA site for testing this new technology in several Florida counties. We firmly believe when fully implemented these technological advances will ultimately eliminate the need for copies, or original documents, as they will no longer be required. In addition, the need for overnight fees and mailing fees, which have recently escalated, could very well be eliminated as well.

More recently, we have recognized document archiving as the next necessary step towards a completely paperless transaction, and one that is a great advantage for our customers. To accomplish this we have begun offering our clients the opportunity to forego the traditional but easily misplaced paper copies and discs, and replace them with a simple password into our system which allows for easy, 24/7 access.

As a company, we believe that the reduction in the amount of paper used in the course of a transaction contributes to the welfare of our environment. Too many trees have been sacrificed for the sake of our industry already. We are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to reduce our reliance on and consumption of paper which will in turn allow more of our precious resources to survive and flourish. That is what we do at SETCO Services, right down to our logo.

George T. Brannon, Jr. is the Senior Vice-President of Operations for SETCO Services, LLC. Mr. Brannon has been directly involved with the title industry for his entire career since opening his first title agency at the age of 19 while pursuing his undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Destin Chamber of Commerce and is the youngest member to ever serve in that capacity.