Sic Transit Gloria Paper Checks

Ron Rothenberg
4 Buyers Real Estate



Few industries have defended their attachment to paper as ferociously as real estate law.  But the reign of paper may be ending, as digital contract signatures become more the norm than the exception.


One piece of paper that hasn’t gone away is the traditional $1000 binder that’s submitted with an offer – the offer can be completely digital, but no one in this area seems to accept anything but a paper check.  New York is so far ahead of us – there are brokerages there that accept Bitcoin payments as binders.


I was surprised for the first time a few weeks ago when a buyer tried to use a certified check, a real paper check, at a closing.


It turns out that the age of electronic funds transfer has finally come to the world of real estate, and there are closing lawyers who will not accept a certified check for more than a small portion of the cost of a house.


These checks have been the coin-of-the-realm at closings for as long as I can remember. It’s only been five years since some real estate attorneys wouldn’t even accept wire transfers.


Gone now are those days when we would advise the home buyer to stop at the bank a few days before the closing, and let the manager know that they would need a check, made out in the buyers name, to be endorsed to the closing attorney as soon as the seller delivered the deed.


At a modern-day closing, there’s so much more paper signed, printed, copied and wasted than 20 years ago.  But one piece of paper that has disappeared and that is the check.   Even a certified check takes at least a day to clear.


Maybe we can do something to limit the other reams of contracts, declarations and paper that are considered necessary to purchase a house?