Does it matter how I write my signature?
There’s a lot of paperwork to sign when it comes to real estate. Contracts, documents, receipts, notices…page after page of your signature and initials. Almost every piece of paper that you will see in a real estate transaction will need some form of signature (for arguments sake, we’ll consider your initials a form of signature in this article). Most people don’t put a ton of thought into their signature – we’ve done it so many times that it’s an automatic process and we just scribble the same thing over and over again, day after day. When it comes to real estate, there are some things you should consider about your signature.
Make it legible. No, you don’t have to completely change your signature so that it doesn’t look like a doctor’s scrawl on a prescription pad, but you do have to take into consideration whether or not someone can read it. One of the biggest challenges we see in signatures on real estate contracts is that they don’t represent the way your name is written elsewhere on the contract. Let’s pretend your name is Mary Louise Smith. How do you sign? Mary Smith? Mary L. Smith? Mary Louise Smith? Those three differing versions can mean three different people, so you want to be sure that however you do sign, people can tell which version you’re using.
Keep it consistent. If you start a contract by signing Mary L. Smith, keep it that way until the transaction is finished. You want your signature to be the same on every piece of paper you sign. Sign one paper Mary Louise Smith and you might find yourself having to fill out that part of the documents all over again. Banks are notorious for rejecting signatures because they are not the same as something they saw previously.
Match your printed name and your signature. This one can be a little hard for some people. If the tax records show your name as Mary L. Smith, your agent is going to use that name to fill out the contracts. You are now known, for the purpose of this contract, as Mary L. Smith. Even though you sign your name normally as Mary Louise Smith, you are going to have to change the way you sign documents to match the way your name is printed. This is especially true if you’re involved in any sort of bank-owned sale – foreclosures or short sales. (Recently, I’ve been working on a short sale with Bank of America and we have had to resubmit documents three and four times to satisfy their need for the printed and signed versions of the buyer’s name to match.)
Read every document and be sure your name is written correctly. We’ve seen it too many times, someone typed the wrong info into a contract or document. We all make mistakes and although we try and catch them before it’s too late, you as a buyer or seller need to read through the documents and be sure your name is spelled correctly and written the way you sign. If you see a mistake, point it out and have it corrected before that paperwork winds up filed with the County or a bank. Fix it now while you have the chance.
image courtesy of Hammer51012
I once had a client who had long ago gotten into the habit of adding numbers after his initials, even though they didn’t stand for anything. When he went to sign closing documents on his new home, it became a problem because underwriters questioned whether those numbers changed his legal name (Think John Smith vs John Smith III) and he questioned whether initialing without them was akin to not providing his actual signature. In the end, he complied with the underwriter request, was who he said he was, and all was well. But even these little details can make a difference.
N. Camillo says
Does printing one’s name make that their “signature?” The new Treasury Secretary printed his name for placement on new $1 bills, claiming his actual signature was illegible. Many past Secretaries of the Treasury had signatures that were difficult to read, yet they still actually SIGNED.
Matt Stigliano says
With the lack of cursive writing in the world it would not surprise us if things moved in this direction.