Home buyer seeks advice on granting power of attorney abroad

Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Q: I recently signed a contract to buy a house. I am going abroad soon and have given a family member a financial power of attorney. I also gave them permanent power of attorney. Now I hear that when we bought the house, the title company may need a specific power of attorney for our purchase. Is it possible to issue a power of attorney electronically and have the document certified electronically?

A: So much has changed when it comes to buying and selling real estate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to COVID-19, many real estate industry practices have changed. One change particularly affects online remote authentication. But first we need to talk a little more about your power of attorney documents.

It was advisable to try to get a power of attorney before going abroad. Given some of the details in your question, we suspect you have a lender who is taking out a loan so you can complete the purchase of your home. Mortgage banks often want their borrowers to have specific authorization to buy a home.

Sam recently had a lender who wanted the document so specific to the transaction that the lender wanted a final list of the documents the borrower wanted to sign in the Power of Attorney. This lender is an anomaly as most lenders agree to accept a power of attorney specific to the property being purchased that includes the language for signing loan and related documents for a home purchase.

So if you have a lender and that lender wants a power of attorney tailored to your purchase, we understand what you are going through. With all of this in mind, the next question is whether you can sign a document and have that document certified online.

We are happy to announce that there are some places where homebuyers can sign and certify home purchase documents online instead of requiring a so-called “wet” signature. (We wrote in more detail about wet signatures at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

You make an appointment with a clearing house, an online certification company or a party to your home purchase and simply sign your documents online. The notary will watch your signature, usually through an online video call using a technology like Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams, review your identification documents, and record the transaction. The resulting document is an electronic document that has been certified and even certified by third parties through this online process.

But here’s the bad news: most lenders need to see the actual documents and want to see the original signed and notarized documents. They still may not accept electronic signatures for some of these documents. So please check with your lender and billing agent to see if online remote authentication is right for you in your situation. It is possible that it will work, but we don’t know for sure. We hope that COVID-19 brings some of these electronic enhancements to the industry to give buyers and sellers more flexibility in signing documents.

As an alternative position, you should know that you can prepare the power of attorney and have it sent to you by e-mail. Once you have the document, you need to print it out on paper and sign it, wherever you are in the world.

That might be the easy part. The next part can get tricky: if you have access to a United States consulate, you can make an appointment and have the consulate certify the document for you. If you cannot reach a consulate, you may be able to notarize or have the document certified by a government official or agency recognized and accepted by the clearing house and lender in the state where your closure is taking place.

If you can get the Settlement Agent and Lender to accept the agent’s legalization or notarization of the document abroad, you will need to ship the document back to the United States overnight as the original document must be on hand at closing.

We hope you can use the online method; However, if you cannot do this, you can at least give this power of attorney to someone else during your trip abroad.

Contact Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin through their website, ThinkGlink.com.

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