The COVID pandemic seems to be far from over, and there are still many unknowns that we are all facing daily. However, as the State of Iowa has further lifted restrictions, over 75 counties have opened back up to the public, each with their own set of screening protocols and procedures in place.
Though the pandemic is not over yet, there are many things to look back and reflect on with an optimistic perspective to find a silver lining. It’s important to slow down and acknowledge that we all have gained skills and knowledge during this uncertain time and that we will be better prepared for the future because of it.
Recording is Essential
During the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Kim Reynolds stated that the services provided by county recorders are essential and that 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 COVID-19 pandemic.
Technology is Our Ally
For years the Iowa County Recorders Association has 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.
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 quick on their feet and adapt to serving customers in a new, safe way. New methods included emailing or faxing documents to customers, using drop boxes and encouraging customers to use the e-submission service to submit documents. 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 impact one county it impacted all counties at the same time, it forced everyone to come up with 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 and will ensure that they have a plan in place so that there is no future interruption in service to their customers.
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 Association it was easier to work together as a collective group 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 group of forward-thinking leaders that ensured that that real estate transactions were able to continue through the pandemic.
Although there are still some uncertainties ahead, most can say with confidence that although the pandemic inconvenienced them in several ways, the lessons learned during this time are truly invaluable and will only make us all better going forward.