A new way of taking option fees?

Guest blog by Taylor Walcik

I recently received a text message from a good friend and fellow REALTOR® asking me about Venmo. An agent went under contract on one of her listings and offered to send the option fee using the app. My friend was concerned about how she would track the option fee and more importantly, how the buyer’s agent would get the fee to her sellers without directly contacting them.

I’ve used Venmo before on a few occasions- once to be reimbursed for concert tickets, another time to buy some art work from a friend, but never in a real estate transaction. Venmo is free to use for the recipient, the funds can be transferred to a bank account at no charge, there is a place to write a memo for the payment, and a receipt is automatically emailed to both parties. This technology provokes an interesting thought though, and raises an even more important question. As the world we live in becomes more and more digital, is the hand written option check becoming a thing of the past?

By definition, I am a millennial. I was born in the mid 80s, I don’t remember life without the internet or a cell phone, but I definitely don’t identify with most of the characteristics that describe millennials. I cling to the proverbial paper trail, I don’t have a twitter account, and the thought of trading in my cable box for a Netflix account terrifies me. It’s not that I’m technophobic- I, like many of my peers, get “comfortable” and sometimes I happen to like things as they are. Technology has made much of our industry easier to navigate, and more streamlined. Gone are the days of lugging around MLS books and delivering paper contracts from person to person to sling ink on the pages, so why shouldn't the option fee evolve as well? These days we can buy clothing, household items, even cars and groceries online without much of a hassle. It was really only a matter of time before the last archaic part of the real estate transaction caught up with the technological revolution.

Sending funds over the internet to make purchases is not a new idea. PayPal has been around for years and has experienced huge amounts of success. Companies like ZOCCAM are revolutionizing the way title companies receive earnest money. To use their app, the user simply takes a picture of the front and back of the check, after which the funds are sent electronically to the title company. ZOCCAM is currently developing a similar process for delivering the option fee to the seller. This feat has taken some effort to accomplish and it’s taken time to be embraced by the professionals in our industry. ZOCCAM eliminates the need to transport the check to and from either party, but not the need to actually write a check or carry a checkbook.

Like laser discs and answering machines, check writing as we know it is nearing extinction. The process of transferring funds is becoming more digitally sophisticated. Someday soon, perhaps, paper checks will be eliminated all together, but until then, hold onto your checkbook- especially if you’re in the market for a new home.