The Functions Of An Escrow

Buying or selling a home (or other piece of real property) usually involves the transfer of large sums of money. It is imperative that the transfer of these funds and related documents from one party to another be handled in a neutral, secure and knowledgeable manner. For the protection of buyer, seller and lender, the escrow process was developed.

As a buyer or seller, you want to be certain all conditions of sale have been met before property and money change hands. The technical definition of an escrow is a transaction where one party engaged in the sale, transfer or lease of real or personal property with another person delivers a written instrument, money or other items of value to a neutral third person, called an escrow agent or escrow holder. This third person holds the money or items for disbursement upon the happening of a specified event or the performance of a specified condition.

Simply stated, the escrow holder impartially carries out the written instructions given by the principals. This includes receiving funds and documents necessary to comply with those instructions, completing or obtaining required forms and handling final delivery of all items to the proper parties upon the successful completion of the escrow.

The escrow must be provided with the necessary information to close the transaction. This may include loan documents, tax statements, fire and other insurance policies, title insurance policies, terms of sale and any seller-assisted financing, and requests for payment for various services to be paid out of escrow funds.

If the transaction is dependent on arranging new financing, it is the buyer’s or the buyer’s agent’s responsibility to make the necessary arrangements. Documentation of the new loan agreement must be in the hands of the escrow holder before the transfer of property can take place. A real estate agent can help identify appropriate lending institutions.

When all the instructions in the escrow have been carried out, the closing can take place. At this time, all outstanding funds are collected and fees- such as title insurance premiums, real estate commissions, termite inspection charges- are paid. Title to the property is then transferred under the terms of the escrow instructions and appropriate title insurance is issued.

Payment of funds at the close of escrow should be in the form acceptable to the escrow, since out-of-town and personal checks can cause days of delay in processing the transaction.

The following items represent a typical list of what an escrow holder does and does not do:

THE ESCROW HOLDER:

  • serves as the neutral “stakeholder” and the communications link to all parties in the transaction;
  • prepares escrow instructions;
  • requests a preliminary title search to determine the present condition of title to the property;
  • requests a beneficiary’s statement if debt or obligation is to be taken over by the buyer;
  • complies with lender’s requirements, specified in the escrow agreement;
  • receives purchase funds from the buyer;
  • prepares or secures the deed or other documents related to escrow;
  • prorates taxes, interest, insurance and rents according to instructions;
  • secures releases of all contingencies or other conditions as imposed on any particular escrow;
  • records deeds and any other documents as instructed;
  • requests issuance of the title insurance policy;
  • closes escrow when all the instructions of buyer and seller have been carried out;
  • disburses funds as authorized by instructions, including charges for title insurance, recording fees, real estate commissions and loan payoffs;
  • prepares final statements for the parties accounting for the disposition of all funds deposited in escrow (these are useful in the preparation of tax returns).

THE ESCROW HOLDER DOES NOT:

  • offer legal advice;
  • negotiate the transaction;
  • offer investment advice.

Your local title company should be happy to provide additional information.

Article by CLTA

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Testimonials about Leah

Hiring Leah to be our realtor was the best decision we made when we sold our home in Oakland. We moved to Illinois for my work, and our relocation company required us to interview multiple realtors, all from the Oakland/Berkeley area. Leah was the first agent we interviewed, and while we completed our interviews with the other realtors, we knew right away that Leah was going to be our favorite. When Leah arrived at our house, she was full of enthusiasm and friendliness. She started off by making very positive comments about our location, the view, and her overall first impressions. Her opinions on how our location compared to different neighborhoods in the area meshed with our thinking exactly. Then she had us walk through the house, where she paid attention to every inch of every floor and walls and fixtures, asking lots of questions and taking notes and photos. After giving her the tour we sat down and Leah told us she thought our house could sell for just over 700K, and showed us the comps and discussed the trends that supported her position. She explained why certain lower comps were not applicable based on her research of those sales, and why buyers who had been in the hunt for a while (it's a seller's market in Oakland) would understand why our home had more value. She explained that she didn't think we needed to do any major repairs or upgrades, as they wouldn't increase the price of our home nearly as much as the investment we would have to put in. We left very impressed and excited (we had purchased the house a few years before for a much lower price and had expected it needed a lot of repairs). The other realtors we interviewed over the following week didn't show as much interest in our house, paid minimal attention to the details, and suggested that a lot of work was needed if we were going to get over 600k for the house. They used the comps that Leah had discounted, and scoffed at the idea that houses in the next neighborhood over would be comparable to ours. We agonized over the decision for a while. We liked Leah, we knew she would give 100% to sell our house, but what if it really wasn't worth as much as she thought? We reviewed the sales plans of each realtor, and in the end we came to the conclusion that we trusted Leah over the others, and even if she was wrong on the starting price, she would present out house in the best possible light because she understood it's value. But our fears were unfounded, Leah turned out to be completely right and worked harder than we had hoped to prove our trust was well-placed. Leah held 5 open houses and a realtor tour in 3 weeks before opening up for offers. She had a handyman make minor touches (fence repair, painting our mailbox) and paid for those repairs herself. She coordinated the cleaning, the carpet washing, the staging (she met with multiple stagers before choosing the one she felt fit our house right). While we focused on our new life in Chicago, she was back in Oakland meeting with 4 appraisers, 2 home inspectors, a termite inspector, a mold inspector, and coming to the house dozens of times to interview contractors for bids for termite work and mold remediation, and to inspect their work for thoroughness afterwards. She advised on us which contractors seemed the most professional, who was overcharging us, and made herself available whenever we scheduled a new one out for a competitive quote. When our buyer tried to get a discount after the first appraisal, she proved herself a shrewd negotiator and was able to work with the buyer's agent to avoid a significant price reduction. When our company-appointed relocation agent was slowing down the process, Leah set her straight so we could keep the deal moving. We sold our house for $705k. The other agents we had interviewed told us we'd need to do a lot of upgrades to even sell between 600 and 650, but Leah insisted our house was worth at least 700. We believed she was right. And she was right. I know the other agents would not have gotten us such a high price, and would not have showcased our best features like Leah did. Overall, I would definitely recommend Leah for anyone looking to sell their home. She puts your needs first, and will work tirelessly and enthusiastically to make sure you are happy. We used a relocation company who referred Leah (and the other realtors) to us but Leah made it clear that she worked for us, not for them. When the relocation company dragged out the process, Leah was positive, helpful, and remained enthusiastic, and we knew she had us covered. I really cannot express enough the gratitude my wife and I feel towards Leah, who took care of us so well and gave so much of her time and her own resources so that we would have the best experience and get highest sales price possible. Hire Leah. Justin R.
Thank you for lowering your fees to get our offer accepted. Thank you for paying for the home inspection and termite inspection to get it done quickly. Thank you for understanding that my deposit should not be put at risk if I don't feel comfortable. Every time I called with lender complaints you where there for me and got on the phone and straightened it out for me. You explained documents when lenders could not help me understand. You were the best buffer I have experienced. I trust you like family. I will use you again when it's time to buy or sell. Thank you so much. A.Wouldo, Buyer
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