Understanding Escrow

Purchasing a home involves a lot of money, many steps, and many documents. Because the transaction is complex, buyers and sellers do not exchange money directly with each other, but through a neutral third party in an escrow account. The escrow period begins when the seller accepts the buyer’s offer and the buyer puts down earnest money. The escrow officer, usually the title company or the listing office depending on what area of the country your sale takes place, holds the money and related documents until closing.

Other duties of the escrow officer includes keeping all parties aware of status of documents and funds related to the purchase; securing a title insurance policy, facilitating the requirements of the lender; prorating and adjusting insurance, taxes, rents and other fees; recording the deed and loan documents; and keeping track of all money owed and deposited.

During the escrow process, the sellers must carry out escrow instructions, including providing the deed to the property. They must also submit all other documents requested by the escrow officer, such as tax receipts, home warranties and insurance policies.

Buyers’ responsibilities include submitting a down payment and executing a deed of trust to secure the mortgage loan. They approve inspection reports, preliminary title reports and any other items specified in the sale agreement.

When the deed is filed and title to the property is transferred to the new owner, the deal is complete and the escrow is closed. The buyer and seller will receive a final closing statement which should be kept with their important papers. The documents will be needed the next time income taxes are filed.