‘Binder Boys’ in the 1920s Florida Land Boom

Many unique things happened during the great Florida land boom of the early 1920s. Among them was the use of so-called “binder boys” (actually young men and women) to start real estate transactions.
“During this boom, most people who bought and sold land in Florida had never even set foot in the state,” reports a University of South Florida website, Florida’s Land Boom. “Instead, they hired young, ambitious men and women to stand in the hot sun to show the land to prospective buyers and accept a ‘binder’ on the sale.” A binder was a non-refundable down payment on the land; the rest of the money due had to be paid within 30 days.
Many binder boys were college students skilled at tennis, according to the Florida History Internet Center’s (FHIC) website, Florida in the 1920s: The Great Florida Land Boom. Those athletic binder boys “demonstrated the desirability of some future real estate development by just playing a game of tennis for the tourists.” The website explains that some proposed developments had little more than an entrance way and a tennis court in an isolated field.
Binder boys didn’t get paid a commission until the binder check cleared the bank, sometimes several weeks later, according to FHIC. However, because real estate was booming, the binder boys could show their binder receipts at hotels, restaurants and nightspots and get instant credit. “It was exciting to be a young person with so much expected money going into your bank account,” FHIC reports.
As for the land buyers themselves, some had only enough money for the binder, and couldn’t actually pay the balance in 30 days, the website reports. But with land prices booming, they planned to sell at a profit before the final payment was due, and often did.