Why do real estate lawyers ask for deeds to be signed in “wet ink”?

The facility agreement is finally agreed. The execution versions of the ancillary documents have been deftly zipped and are ready for email circulation to the wider team. A real estate lawyer interjects that the charge needs to be executed in “wet ink” and the original document sent by post. The invariable incredulity arises as to what makes real estate different from other areas of law, requiring hard copy documents and original signatures.

The situation is even more particular on pure real estate transactions such as the sale and acquisition of property, the completion of leases, deeds and easements etc. Execution version documents, referred to as “engrossments” by real estate lawyers, are sent out in hard copy for signing in original (the part signed by seller or landlord) and counterpart (the part signed by the purchaser or tenant). A typical journey of the counterpart engrossment would take it from the hands of: (1) the seller / landlord’s solicitor, to (2) the purchaser / tenant’s solicitor, on to (3) the purchaser / tenant for signing or executing, back to (4) the purchaser / tenant’s solicitor so the document can be dated, and then finally back to (5) the seller / landlord’s solicitor to retain the document or pass it to their own client.


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