AgentBrokerage

Zoccam gets rid of earnest money hassles for agents

Tool allows agents to securely capture and send electronic check images to title companies

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Takeaways:

  • Zoccam’s app allows electronic, third-party delivery of earnest money directly into a title company’s escrow account, saving agents time and money.
  • The app complies with federal regulations.
  • Zoccam has signed a deal with the second-largest title insurer in the nation.

Tired of driving across town — or even across the state — in rush-hour traffic to deliver a client’s earnest money check to a title company? New mobile app Zoccam aims to ease the hassle and costs associated with handling prospective buyers’ checks.

The brainchild of Ashley Cook, a Dallas-area real estate attorney who has spent her career representing title insurance companies and real estate brokers, Zoccam is a smartphone application that allows agents to process earnest money checks using mobile remote deposit capture technology.

Zoccam says it’s the first app in the industry to allow electronic, third-party delivery of earnest money directly into a title company’s escrow account.

ZOCCAM.Cook

Ashley Cook, founder of Zoccam

Cook, who started working for title companies as a runner at the age of 15 and continued to work in various title company positions throughout high school, college and law school, frequently speaks at industry events and teaches continuing education courses to real estate professionals.

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“I’m always thinking about what I can teach or do that actually has an impact for both the title side and real estate side,” she said.

The idea for Zoccam came to Cook one evening as she watched a commercial for a national pizza chain, which discouraged customers from telephoning their orders “the old-fashioned way” and encouraged them to use the chain’s online ordering system.

“I thought, wait a minute — why are we having agents drive earnest money checks, which are time-sensitive, to title companies?” Cook said.

She then set out to develop the technology in partnership with Jack Henry & Associates Inc., a technology provider for the financial services industry. Cook then pitched Zoccam to Wells Fargo to test it out.

“They were the first bank we went to,” she said. “I knew that Wells Fargo had been instrumental in helping to form the American Land Title Association’s best practices, and if they approved the process, we would be golden.”

The paperless transaction is securely processed by Zoccam’s partner, Jack Henry & Associates Inc. An agent downloads the Zoccam app and then uses it to capture an image of the front and back of the earnest money check. Those images are securely encrypted and sent to the bank, and then the agent, title company, seller and listing agents all get a notification that the check has been received.

It costs a title company $50 to $80 per month to use the technology, depending on how many branches they have.

Agents are charged a $7.50 per transaction fee, “which we feel is well worth the time and a lot cheaper than the alternative of driving the check, like using FedEx or a courier service,” Cook said. “The cost savings are substantial.”

The app not only saves agents time and money, but it also is consistent with federal regulations and eliminates potential liability problems associated with title company personnel affecting deposits.

“If a contract is executed on a Friday at 4:50 p.m., an agent is inclined to wait until Monday morning to deliver the check to a title company. The biggest benefit to the agent is the savings of time and money, and decreasing liability, because they aren’t driving around with time-sensitive checks,” Cook said.

The agent then returns the check to the buyer to keep in his files.

“We hear all the time about security breaches occurring, where agents make copies of checks and scan them into a software that is being stored in an unsecured cloud environment. That risk does not exist in Zoccam,” Cook said.

“We don’t give agents copies of the checks. Their email notification serves as their receipt.”

Until recently, Zoccam has been used by brokers and title companies across Cook’s home state of Texas, but after formally debuting the technology at the Texas Realtors conference on Sept. 2 in Fort Worth, Cook is gearing up for a national scale-up.

First American Title Insurance Co., the nation’s second-largest title insurer, is set to begin onboarding soon, and Zoccam is also working on integrating the technology with a software provider to enable agents to image-capture a check and then open and autopopulate a guaranty file.

“We expect to see huge adoption. In my nerdy, legal mind, I am so excited that we are the first company doing mobile deposit capture, which a lot of banks haven’t even rolled out on their own,” Cook said.

“To bring something so relevant and cutting-edge that makes sense to industries like real estate and title is something I am very proud of.”

Email Amy Swinderman.