Fidelity National Financial, which provides title and real estate transaction services, announced Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of people have used its secure transaction workspace just months after it debuted.
The workspace is called startSafe. It’s meant to offer consumers a safer, better way to conduct real estate deals than the traditional email-and-paper version that’s still common in much of the industry. In a statement Tuesday, Fidelity National Financial (FNF) said it has now delivered over 800,000 startSafe packages to consumers, more than 70 percent of which were opened.
Additionally, of the consumers that began working with the startSafe product, 85 percent completed the process.
In a statement, FNF CEO Randy Quirk called that level of adoption “a remarkable achievement.”
“This completion rate shows that consumers are ready to adopt a new real estate experience,” Quirk added.
FNF first debuted startSafe at the end of February. The product was an expansion of WireSafe, an educational program FNF created to help consumers avoid wire fraud. StartSafe was meant to form a safe workspace and digital portal to conduct real estate transactions, and among other things it includes multifactor authentication and a mobile-friendly interface. That interface eliminates the need to share emails or fill out forms.
In a conversation with Inman Tuesday, FNF Chief Digital Officer Jason Nadeau compared startSafe to TurboTax or a choose-your-own-adventure story. Consumers get access soon after signing a contract on a house, and a brief digital “interview” — really a series of questions consumers answer electronically — gathers the information they’ll eventually need to complete the deal.
Nadeau said the idea was both to improve security, as well as to “shave days off the time to closing.”
At the time of startSafe’s launch, Quirk also said in a statement that it “is our mission to advance, expand and protect the life changing experience of homeownership.”
“StartSafe represents a significant step towards this vision,” he added.
In Tuesday’s statement, Quirk also revealed that the company is expanding startSafe so that it can process homebuyers’ earnest money.
Nadeau said the new earnest money feature will let consumers scan checks with their smartphones, thus avoiding the need to physically drive those checks to broker or escrow offices.
The rise of startSafe also highlights how wire fraud and security have become major issues in the real estate industry. Last year, for example, federal officials revealed that they had tracked a 1,100 percent rise in real estate phishing scams. Officials also said that in 2017, criminals managed to intercept $1 billion from transactions.
A report from 2018 also suggested the real estate industry has become a target for fraud because it uses high-value transactions that take place online.
Meanwhile, Nadeau said Tuesday that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for online real estate services, meaning things like startSafe are more valuable than ever. He added that hitting 800,000 delivered startSafe packages is “certainly a nice milestone for us,” though it’s also “only the tip of the iceberg.”