The key to getting through escrow includes making time for the arduous task of reading reams of documents to make sure the dotted "Is" and crossed "Ts" are indeed dotted and crossed and to be certain you aren't signing anything you don't want to sign.
If there are any loan, sales contract, property transfer or related documents you don't understand -- or you just don't want to bother with the task -- you should seek the help of your real estate agent or other professional familiar with the escrow process and its documents to assist you go over every word.
You should not sign escrow papers until you understand what responsibilities they trigger for you and, bottom line, what the transaction truly costs.
"In this fast-paced real estate market, the escrow process is an integral part of the real estate transaction equation for consumers and real estate professionals. Because buying a home will likely be the largest financial transaction most people will make in their lives, escrow can feel intimidating. Being prepared and informed goes a long way toward making home ownership dreams come true," advises the California Escrow Association (CEA).
However, as important as the documents are, there are peripheral matters that also need your rapt attention.
Escrow is a process that provides for a fair and equitable transfer of real estate property from one person to another.
The process assures that the lender releases the home purchase funds at or about the same time the deed is recorded to reflect new ownership. To facilitate that goal, escrow provides the means for depositing, with a neutral third party, funds, documents and instructions necessary to complete the transfer.
Because the real estate transaction involves large sums of money and reams of documentation, escrow is not always a predestined, step-by-step process, but can become a confusing end game of details, nit picking and overlapping procedures.
Requiring special preparation, attention to detail, and desire from both sides to close the deal, escrow is perhaps the most complicated part of what's likely the most emotionally trying and intricate transaction you'll ever complete.
In addition to a host of other escrow information, the CEA offers these Top Five Tips To A Smooth Closing to help see you through close of escrow -- with your sanity intact.
- Work with a certified escrow professional who works for an escrow, title company legal firm or other entity which typically is licensed by the state to conduct the escrow proceedings. Shop around for the best rate, but also choose a professional based on referrals from family, friends, co-workers or others you trust who have also recently closed escrow with satisfaction.
- Do your part. Come clean, be honest, avoid potential problems. If you are a buyer with uncertain credit, let your mortgage broker or lender know ahead of time. They are qualified to assist you in getting your credit rating into shape. Sellers should let escrow officers know in advance about potential hurdles, such as any known judgments or liens or other encumbrances against the property.
- Be available while escrow is open. Don't unwittingly cause delays. To ensure a smooth escrow close, much cooperation and communication is necessary. Give transaction parties as many was as possible to contact you -- home and work phones, cell phones, email, pagers, etc. Always be responsive and timely regarding requests of the professionals assisting you. Don't go on vacation while in escrow, and if possible avoid taking on time-consuming tasks other than those associated with your normal job or day work. Don't otherwise get tied up and out of reach for long periods during escrow. Other parties involved in the transaction my need to reach you quickly.
- Get the property insured. The changing face of home owners insurance means some properties require special coverage, not always available from your friendly neighborhood insurance agent. Other properties may have had claims filed that makes a new policy difficult if not impossible to obtain. Older homes, homes in disaster prone areas, and homes with unpermitted work, as well as those with repeated water or moisture-related claims could cause problems and delay escrow. You should have home owners insurance coverage secured when you open escrow and it should be ready to take affect the day you close.
- Take a good look around the property you are buying. Complete all walk-through inspections such as home inspections, swimming pool/spa inspections, roof inspection, and those for termites, dry rot, and other wood-destroying fungi, prior to the escrow close. Hire professionals to do the work. Unless you are a general contractor, architect, or other expert familiar with a home's structure and its systems, let a pro give it the final once over.