The pandemic seems to be far from over, and there are still many unknowns we are all facing. However, as the State of Iowa has lifted restrictions, county offices have reopened to the public, each with their own set of screening protocols and procedures in place.
It’s also important to slow down and reflect on all skills and knowledge we’ve gained because of these uncertain times and to acknowledge that we are better prepared for future crises because of it.
Recording Is Essential
Early on during the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Reynolds stated that services provided by county recorders are essential and recorders have a “central role” in the real estate industry and the larger economy. She noted that the discontinuation of these services would have “a devastating impact on Iowa.” County recorders made various accommodations for their customers, some by providing access to their offices by appointment, others by helping with land record searches over the phone or via email. Circumstances differed by county, but it is important to note that every Iowa county has continued to provide recording services throughout the pandemic.
Technology Is Our Ally
For years the Iowa county recorders have successfully run an electronic land records management system. The pandemic pushed us all to take our technological skills to the next level. From counties handling increased e-submission volume and finding ways to serve customers old and new to customers learning a new system, we were all pushed to make technology our ally throughout the pandemic. The ability to perform our daily work functions remotely has also proved to be a yet another valuable skill that will serve us beyond the pandemic.
In 2019, more than 45% of all recorded documents in Iowa were electronically submitted. Our goal is to reach 50/50 by the end of 2020.
Through October, E-Submission volume has increased 38% over 2019 levels.
Customer Service Is Key
Although the pandemic temporarily shut down a lot of the activities in the world, it certainly did not shut down the real estate market. Counties were forced to think quickly on their feet and adapt to serving customers in a new, safe way. County recorder offices were doing everything in their power to accommodate customer requests, which made this difficult transition a little easier for customers.
Disaster Planning is Relevant
In previous years we all thought of disaster planning in relation to events like a floods, tornados, fires or an issue typically isolated to one county. The COVID pandemic forced us all to expand our horizons and to think about disaster planning in a whole new way. COVID-19 didn’t just impact one county, it impacted all counties at the same time, forcing everyone to develop a disaster plan on the spot so they could continue to serve customers and keep the economy moving. Being forced to think about these unique scenarios will serve all counties going forward.
Iowa Has a Unique Advantage
Iowa Land Records was established over 15 years ago, and because the system is controlled and managed by the Iowa county recorders it was easier to work together collectively to ensure that county recorders were open for business and didn’t miss a beat. Being technology leaders and having one system for all counties has served the State well during this time. The State of Iowa is fortunate to have a group of forward-thinking leaders that ensured that that real estate transactions were able to continue.
Although there are still some uncertainties ahead, most can say with confidence that although the pandemic seriously impacted them in several ways, the lessons learned during this time are truly invaluable and will only make us all better for the years to come.