Cuomo authorizes notaries to sign virtually

Governor's executive order allows real estate deals to keep moving

TRD New York /
Mar.March 20, 2020 12:20 PM
Governor Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Cuomo by Richard Drew-Pool/Getty Images; iStock)

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Cuomo by Richard Drew-Pool/Getty Images; iStock)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has authorized notaries in New York State to sign documents virtually — a move that will keep real estate moving on the heels of an announcement that only essential workers may go to work.

In an executive order signed Thursday night, Cuomo allowed notaries to sign documents using video conferencing through April 18, provided the parties can interact during the call. The order said notaries may need to present valid photo ID during the video conference, and those seeking notarization must physically be in New York State.

Brokers and attorneys said the move — which is good for business in general — would facilitate pending real estate deals, and prevent a logjam of closings.

“Thank goodness,” said Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber, who said without a virtual-notary option the industry would be at a standstill. “If you can’t get everyone in the same room, how do you transact?”

Haber said he knows of deals set to close next week. “The buyer is still moving forward, the banks are still there. If all parties are ready, willing and able, this relief will help get those transactions done.”

Sources said the Real Estate Board of New York pushed for the order, which takes effect Friday. In a statement, REBNY president James Whelan said finding an alternative to in-person closings was key to keeping “critical parts of our economy moving safely during this time of crisis.”

On Thursday, Cuomo said mortgage payments and foreclosures in New York will be suspended for 90 days in light of the pandemic. There will also be a grace period for loan modification, no negative reporting to credit bureaus and no late or online payment fees for the next three months.

Over the past week, many agents have shifted to virtual showings and open houses. (However, the industry is divided on whether firms should, as a policy, suspend showings.)

Attorney Bruce Cohen, of Cohen & Frankel, said he’s still seeing deals.

“It’s not the volume we saw before — or anything near it — but it’s not dead,” he said. “People need a place to live.”

Last week, he was involved in a sale at the Parc Loggia, at 15 West 61st Street. “No one went to the closing,” he said. “We mailed everything to the title company.”

Cohen said he’s all for anything that can keep business moving.

“You have to work in the environment you’re in,” he said. “In the real world, I do not know that I’d like any of these things but in this world it’s a really tough situation.”

Write to E.B. Solomont at [email protected]


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