There are some things everyone knows, so no one explains them, and you somehow know you’d look stupid asking, so you never find out. This was the story of my sex life for a dozen years, but I write here of real estate closings.

Ninety-nine percent of you will just roll your eyes when you hear this, because of course you know it perfectly well. And the other 1% will pretend to be in that 99%. But I don’t care:

Do you know how much cash changes hands in an “all-cash” real estate deal?


No suitcases full. No wads of hundreds. Well, maybe $5 for the notary public.

Cash is one of those words — like lash, rash, dash or bash — that has more than one meaning. To most people, it means actual currency. Dollar bills. Clinking coins. But in the financial world, it means “as opposed to debt.” An all-cash deal means you sold the building without having to “take back a mortgage” (i.e., you got the full selling price all at once at closing) and without even having to worry whether or not the purchaser can get financing.

“I’ll pay $150,000 — cash” means I’ll write you a check or send you a wire, unless you happen to run drugs for a living, or run a nightclub, or be the doorman at some swank hotel. The maitre d’ at one of Miami’s most famous restaurants bought a major condo, all cash. Every once in a while, “all cash” means all cash.


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