What is Escrow?
Escrow is an arrangement in which a neutral third party holds onto funds and key documents involved in a home sale, and then distributes them according to the agreement between the buyers and sellers. The escrow period begins when a seller accepts a buyer’s offer, and ends at the closing table.
Purchasing a house isn’t like every day purchases; there’s a lot of money involved, a lot of steps to manage, and a lot at stake. So the buyers and sellers don’t exchange money and documents directly with one another. They do it through the escrow account.
Escrow ensures accountability. Buyers want to be sure all contingencies are met (inspection, title report, secured mortgage, etc.) before the sellers cash any checks. Sellers want to make sure they receive funds before they hand over the deed.
What happens during escrow?
An escrow account opens up when buyers put down earnest money to show the sellers that they’re serious about buying the home. An escrow officer – usually someone within a title company – is assigned to the account.
An escrow officer, or settlement agent, does the following:
• Holds funds and documents.
• Processes and facilitates the flow of documents and funds.
• Keeps all parties informed of progress.
• Responds to the lender’s requirements.
• Secures a title insurance policy.
• Obtains approval of reports and documents from all parties.
• Prorates and adjusts insurance, taxes, rents, fees, etc.
• Records the deed and loan documents.
• Keeps track of and holds onto money owed and money deposited.
Escrow closes when all the tasks, documents, and funds are performed or secured by the escrow officer.