A growing number of companies facilitate electronic payment of earnest money and commissions through the ACH network.

More than 1,400 New York real estate agents with HUNT Real Estate ERA will soon be able to help their clients make payments and binding offers faster through a partnership with electronic payments provider DepositLink.

DepositLink, which launched in October 2019, is one of a growing number of companies that facilitate electronic payment of earnest money deposits and commissions through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network, a program of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service. Competitors include Earnnest, Paymints.io and TrustFunds.

DepositLink claimed in January to be the first provider of same-day ACH payments to the real estate industry, and clients include brands such as Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Century 21 Real Estate, Compass, ERA, Home Services of America, HomeSmart, Keller Williams, RE/MAX and Sotheby’s International Realty.

“We look forward to working with DepositLink to provide all of our HUNT Real Estate sales professionals with a secure, hassle-free method for clients to send escrow funds directly to our account,” said HUNT Real Estate COO Charlie Hunt in a statement.

The pandemic may someday be remembered as the beginning of the end of the practice of writing paper checks for earnest money deposits and commissions.

Pottsville, Pannsylvania-based broker-owner Erica Ramus wrote about her experience with DepositLink in a March Inman guest column. During the pandemic, Ramus Recalled, trips to the bank became an even bigger hassle, and the U.S. Postal Service seemed to be taking longer to deliver paper checks or losing them altogether.

While Ramus found DepositLink to be “quick and easy,” she also lamented that “some buyer’s agents, title companies and even the buyers … refuse to use such a method, and some still insist on sending us paper checks.”

Mark Gibbons, DepositLink’s vice president of sales, said that since April 2020, the company has added 227 new clients, including over 20 title companies. The company provides services to clients employing more than 120,000 agents in all 50 states.

“When real estate and title companies see our proprietary technology, which guarantees good funds, they are eager to use our platform,” Gibbons said in an email. In many regions, he said, DepositLink has “become the standard for electronic payments,” with some clients having an adoption rate of over 90 percent.

DepositLink says it’s partnered with DWOLLA and PLAID to provide “bank level security” and real-time tracking of all transactions. Although some agents have expressed concerns that earnest money payments made through ACH could be reversed, DepositLink says that payments made to legally bind and execute real estate contracts “are considered authorized debits as defined by Nacha, and cannot be recalled, returned, or reversed.”

Nacha, which develops the rules governing financial institutions that participate in the ACH Network, says it processed 7.1 billion payments totaling $17.3 trillion in the first quarter of 2021. That’s a 19 percent increase in dollar volume from the same time a year ago. More than 141 million of those payments were same day transactions, up 88 percent from a year ago.

Although same day payments are currently limited to $100,000, that limit will be increased to $1 million on March 18, 2022, Nacha announced in April. Same-day ACH operating hours were extended in March, with payments now settled four times each business day.

Email Matt Carter

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