Why are Certified Funds required in Real Estate transactions?

Close up of hands giving house model to other hands with money.What are certified funds?  I’m buying/renting real estate and the company wants me to bring “cash or equivalent” or “certified funds.” Why can’t I just write a personal check?  The money is there!

Relax! The purpose of this blog post is meant to give a simple explanation of why “certified funds” are required in your real estate transaction and how to acquire and present them to the real estate office.

Certified funds are just that. They are a form of payment that is guaranteed (or certified) to clear, be valid, and are non-revocable.  When making certain types of transactions, such as real estate transactions, it’s required that the payment method used will satisfy the contractual obligations. To do this, certified funds will be required, usually in the form of:

Specifically, personal checks are NOT allowed, as the account may not have sufficient funds or they can be cancelled. Credit cards are NOT allowed, as the transaction may later be disputed or reversed. Checks sent by a bank bill payment service are NOT allowed, as they are the same as personal checks.

Simply put, once certified funds are issued, they cannot be recalled or cancelled by the bank.  The bank that wrote the cashier’s check or money order must by law, honor and pay the amount due in the document.  Therefore, it is the same as handing a person the equivalent amount of funds in cash.

Cash is, well, cash. It is absolute funds, and value has is transferred immediately to the holder.  There is no issuing bank to recall the funds.  It is the absolute transfer of value when given from one person to another.

1Personal checks, on the other hand, must “clear” the issuing bank before the payment is deemed absolute.  This could take as long as a week or more.

Certified funds are required because it assures that the funds are good, valid and present at the closing of the transaction and release of keys.  A closing is set for a certain day and if, for example, a personal check is presented, the company will have to wait at least 10 business days before giving the seller or landlord their proceeds.  If the seller or landlord does not receive their proceeds for weeks past the closing date, well, the parties have not really closed on the agreed upon date, right?  Therefore, keys cannot be released to the buyer or tenant. In order to ease this issue, certified funds are required so that proceeds may be disbursed to the seller/landlord, commissions to agents, etc. Real estate is a major investment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and can potentially cause all parties stress; however, certified funds give the assurance that funds are good and will clear to let money and keys go to the various parties entitled.

Where can I get a certified funds?

Here are some of the top places to get a certified funds, beginning with the cheaper options, that you may use as a guide.

  • Walmart: The big-box store offers money orders from MoneyGram, a money order provider, at a cost of 70 cents each for values up to $1,000.
  • Money transfer agents: You can buy money orders from companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram at convenience stores, drugstores, supermarkets, check-cashing outlets and elsewhere. The Western Union money order fee, as an example, is around 99 cents; charges vary by location. Single money orders are usually limited to less than $1,000.
  • U.S. Postal Service: Money orders to be sent within the United States are $1.20 for up to $500; $1.60 for amounts over $500 up to $1,000. There’s one exception: Military money orders, issued by postal military facilities, are 40 cents. An international money order with a value of up to $700 costs $8.25.
  • Banks and credit unions: Financial institutions sell money orders for around $5 each, with values typically up to $1,000. They often waive fees for customers with premium accounts.
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