Texas county leads paperless real estate parade

January 27, 2005

Electronic system streamlines recording process

By Janis Mara
Inman News

A major bottleneck on the road to the paperless home sale may have been smoothed out – at least for one Texas county that just adopted an electronic recording system.

Brazoria County Clerk Joyce Hudman demonstrated the county's new Landata e-STAR Plus document records system to 12 local title companies Friday.

"As far as efficiency goes, this could be tremendous," said John Short of Angleton, Texas-based Alamo Title Company, which sent a representative to the demonstration. "Any time there are issues with title work and people want to close, it happens faster if it's electronic." He said Alamo definitely plans to use the system, though not for every filing.

There is no cost to submitters, whether title companies, attorneys or lenders, to use the system. The software can be downloaded over the Internet, installed by the company or sent on a CD, according to Alan Cellura, president and chief executive officer of Landata Technologies. The buyer and seller each pay a sum, for example $5, at the discretion of the title company, a portion of which goes to Landata.

Brazoria County is joining other real estate-related entities adopting digital processes as the industry moves toward the paperless home sale. As another example, last week First American Residential Group signed an exclusive agreement to provide Transaction Manager, an online transaction management platform, to Real Estate Business Resources, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Kansas Association of Realtors.

"We started selling our software in October 2004 and have already installed it in Brazoria and Bexar Counties in Texas and also in Washington, D.C.," Cellura said. Usage is growing, with five more installations planned in the next 3 months in Webb and Nueces Counties in Texas, Merrimac County in New Hampshire and York County, Maine, he said.

"Currently we are processing about 5,000 documents a month," Cellura said.

The new system is designed to streamline the recording process. After the closing documents have been signed and are ready for submission to the county clerk, instead of being physically taken to the county clerk's office, they are scanned in.

"The clerk's office is only open Monday through Friday, and title companies usually can only file during a certain block of time," said Cellura. "When you file electronically, you can do it anytime."

Once all the documents are indexed and scanned, the submitter chooses either to file immediately or later. In either case, the system creates an output Property Records Industry Association file, putting all the data and files involved in the order required by the clerk's office.

The system accesses the county's fee structure and calculates the fees. When the county clerk accepts the package, the system immediately transfers funds from the filer's account to the clerk's account.

"As it is now, we have to wait for the originals to come back from the courthouse with their stamp on it and then we can mail the copies back to the buyer. That can take a couple of months," said Alamo's Short, whose office has been in Angleton for about 25 years. "This way it will be a lot quicker."

The implications for the digital real estate transaction are major, Cellura maintains.

"The process allows the transaction to go through smoothly and quickly," said Cellura. "The buyer and seller benefit because it's more efficient. Title policies can be generated more quickly, benefiting the buyer and the title company. Lending agents can provide a more efficient process, which also generates mortgages quickly and helps the agents position mortgages in that secondary market."

Copyright 2005 Inman News

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.