Escrow is the process that buyers and sellers of homes use to complete the monetary and legal details of a sale. A neutral third party manages the escrow, called an “Escrow Officer,” who generally works for a title company. “Title” is the proof of ownership of a property. The title company ensures that all terms of the contract are adhered to before the sale is complete and money changes hands. In order to successfully bring an escrow to close, the title company will:
- Obtain a title report to ensure that the seller has the right to transfer ownership (title) to the buyer
- Ensure that any previous loans on the property have been paid off
- Acquire necessary loan and insurance documents
- Confirm that necessary inspection reports are on file
- Arrange for the buyer to sign all necessary paperwork to complete the close of escrow
When these details are complete, the Escrow Officer requests the funds to be released and instructs the title department to record the transaction at the County Recorder’s Office, thereby closing escrow.
While there’s no such thing as a typical home sale – each has a character and a flow of its own – there are certain aspects you can expect. While practices may vary, here are the basic activities that occur during the transaction, from receiving an offer to closing.
Once you have negotiated a contract and agreed on a sales price, the next phase of our job begins. Below is a list of some of the details I will be managing through this process.
- I will constantly check with the title company to assess when they need additional information and whether there will be any problems that could affect obtaining title.
- I ensure that both you and your Buyer receive copies of all documents pertaining to the transaction. I will have the Buyer sign to acknowledge that he/she has received his/her copies.
- I will make sure that the Buyer meets and removes all contingencies within the time limit provided or get an extension, if needed, signed by both you and the Buyer.
- I will keep you abreast of the Buyer’s application for a loan and the progress of the appraisal on your home.
- I will work with the appraiser to arrange for entry to the property and to answer any questions he/she may have about the home or neighborhood. I will also provide the appraiser with the most recent comparable sales in the area.
- I will make sure that the Buyer increases their deposit in a timely manner.
- I will coordinate and attend as many inspections as possible and keep you informed of all findings.
- Once the inspections are complete, I will negotiate for you if any problems arise.
- I will cooperate with the Buyer and others involved ensuring that corrective work is completed according to the terms of the contract.
- I will ensure that all documents are ordered and drawn, including your loan pay-off and insurance for the Buyer.
- I will do my best to have your closing papers drawn one week before Closing, so that if any problems arise, I can solve them while remaining within the time frame you expect. I am also happy to coordinate move-in dates. I am also happy to coordinate move-in dates.
During the escrow process, you must inform the buyer of specialized conditions that affect your home. These may include the following conditions:
Sellers of properties built prior to 1978 have the following obligations:
- Provide buyers with a HUD pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home”
- Disclose all known lead-based paint and related hazards and provide any available reports
- Include a standardized warning as an attachment to the contract
- Complete and sign statements verifying that requirements have been met
- Retain the signed acknowledgement for 3 years
If you’re selling a condominium, townhouse or other planned development (for purposes of this discussion, we will call them all “condominiums”), there are the buyer needs to know about common areas (such as greenbelts and recreational rooms) and the homeowner’s association.
The buyer will be required to make monthly payments, known as regular assessments, to maintain common areas, as well as special assessments to replace a roof or repair the plumbing, as determined by the homeowner’s association (HOA.)
Condominiums also may have regulations regarding architectural requirements, limitations on pets, and age restrictions (i.e., senior housing). These must be formally disclosed to the buyer during escrow. You may provide this information via the following documents, to the extent that they exist and are available:
- Declaration of Restrictions: Commonly known as “CC&Rs”, or Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions
- Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Association Bylaws All current financial information and related statements, including operating budget, estimated revenue and expenses, HOA reserves, estimated remaining life of major components (including roofs, plumbing etc.), and regular and special assessments
- A statement describing the HOA’s policies and practices in enforcing lien rights or other legal remedies for default in payment of its assessments
- A summary of the HOA’s property and general liability
- On existing HOA’s, a statement describing any restrictions on the basis of age, such as authorized senior citizen housing Many smaller HOAs will not have all of these documents, but must provide what they do have.
A major question in every closing is: “Who pays for what?” The answers vary by county ordinances and standard practices. What is listed below are “customary” practices. All fees charged are governed by terms of the sales contract and other written closing instructions. Note: on some FHA, VA or other government-backed loans, the seller will pay some fees that governmental regulations will not allow them to pay.
Seller’s Generally Pay:
Buyer’s Generally Pay: