E-Notary & Other Ways to Sign and Close on Your Real Estate Transacation While You Travel
About to close on your home? Maybe you are a Seller and decided to take a trip. Now you have an offer, and the buyer wants to close while you are out of town. You don't want to fly back from your Europeon vacation. Or maybe you are buying a home, but your spouse is in China visiting family.
So what do you do?
Don't worry. There are options.
But the best way is to communicate with your real estate agent and to escrow about your plans to travel before you go out of town so that escrow can help you close the transaction.
1. POWER OF ATTORNEY
A common situation I see, is a transaction with a husband and wife, where one or both will be travelling out of the country when the closing will occur.
If one spouse is staying, it's easy to give power of attorney to the other spouse. Your escrow company will prepare a very limited power of attornery specific to the address of the purchase or sale. (Talk to your attorney if you need a broader form of Power of Attorney.)
It's best to do that before you leave the United States, because then the remaining spouse can sign all the paperwork for both of you.
But sometimes there are changes in your plans. Someone has a last minute work trip abroad, or a family emergency.
If both spouses have to be out of town, you have other choices. Have a trusted person be your power of attorney (not your real estate agent - conflict of interests there) to sign on your behalf when you are out of the country or in a worse case scenario, you can sign at an embassy.
2. SIGN AT AN EMBASSY OR CONSOLATE
There are potential problems with signing at an embassy:
A. Travelling to get to the embassy or consolate - there is not a US Embassy in every city out there.
B. You may have to book an appointment. Some embassys require an appointment that will be several weeks out. C. Embassies usually charges PER PAGE to have your signature notarized. That can be all around expensive.
Hopefully, you will just need to be signing a Power of Attorney in an embassy - there are far fewer pages to sign.
Having your signature notarized through e-notary is a relatively new concept. As the "e" implies - it's done electronically. It's a process where you or title/escrow will upload your documents, the notary will verify your government issued ID, you will sign your documents - all while the notary is watching you sign over your web cam. You will need high speed internet access as well as web cam functionality on your device.
E-Notarty is different than Authentisign and Docusign. When you sign a document on Authentisign or Docusign, it's not a notarized version and no one is regulating you are who you say you are. That's why escrow verifies who you are as well as the notary company when you finalize the transfer of real estate.
Title/Escrow companies that use E-Notary software must hire a notary company in one of the few states that are licensed to do e-notary. So even though Washington State doesn't legally have e-notaries, a company in Washington State can hire an E-Notary company from Virginia, where it is legal to have e-notaries.
From what I can tell, it's mostly being used when you are the seller in the transaction, but as we become more digitalized as a society, I'm sure it will gain more momentum and soon become the norm.
4. MILITARY NOTARIES
Military bases often employ two types of Notaries: military personnel authorized as Notaries by the federal government, and civilian employees specifically commissioned by individual states for military work.
Military Notaries can only notarize documents when the signer is physically present, according to the U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance Web site. Title 10, United States Code, Section 1044a requires all states to accept the notarial acts of military Notaries in the same way as state-commissioned Notaries.
5. MOBILE NOTARY
If you are travelling within the United States and will be out of town - or - for that matter, if you can't physically drive or have to stay at your office late, a mobile notary can help. Talk to your escrow team. Often, they can arrange for a notary to come to you.
WHAT YOU WANT TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS: Speak with your real estate agent, escrow agent and/or attorney for further guidance.
It's important to get this done properly. If either party does not abide by the contract, you are in breach of the contract. And, when you read "breach" - think to yourself you are at risk of losing money. If you are a buyer and don't sign on time, you will be in default and the seller doesn't have to sign an extension. The seller could hae right to your earnest money. If you are a seller and don't close, you may have to return earnest money to the buyer and owe commission to the real estate agents of the contract.
So - let's not go there! Let's do the better (and less expensive option!) and plan ahead. Communicate with the people in the transaction.
And agents - talk to your clients so you can help them understand the importance of timelines on the contract.
Kristin Bushnell is Designated Broker of Bushnell Real Estate Solutions and Co-owner of Bushnell Craft Brewing Company in Redmond, WA. Check out my profile here.
If you are ever interested in chatting about real estate, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 425-559-1355. I'll buy you a beer (or non-alcoholic beverage, if you prefer!), and we can chat about real estate until your heart's content.