One of the most confusing processes for the uninitiated to go through can be buying a home. At times it may seem that people are speaking a different language than they have ever heard before. This situation to often leaves a home buyer having to take on blind faith that the brokers, attorneys, escrow agents, inspectors and mortgage agents know what they are doing and acting in the buyers best interest.

What Is EscrowHere is a very short course to help spread a little light on the escrow process.

When Do You Enter Escrow

The escrow or closing process actually begins once you, the  buyer and the seller have agreed on a price and all the conditions for the sale. At the same time that the sales agreement is signed your real estate agent will collect an agreed upon percentage of the sale price from you and deposit it into an escrow account with an escrow agent.

This is known as earnest money and as the name implies it is to show that you are earnest in your desire to buy the property. Think of it as a deposit.

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What is an Escrow Agent

An escrow agent is a neutral third party who actually handles all of the funds and documents associated with the buying and selling of the property. Not being a party to the sale, in any way, their function is to make sure that all parts of the sale are executed in an equitable and legal manner. Like a referee or umpire the make sure the rules are followed and that everyone plays fair.

Steps of the Escrow Process

  1. Entering Escrow
    Set the sells conditions, sign the sells agreement, open and escrow account and deposit earnest money.
  2. Bank Appraisal
    You should be preapproved before you start looking for a home. Still the bank is going to want their own, independent appraisal to assure the property value will cover the loan amount. Note:  home buyer usually pays for this and if property cannot be sufficiently financed sale is cancelled and earnest money returned. This varies state to state and situation to situation. All is negotiable when creating the offers and counter offers.
  3. Good Faith Estimate
    Once financing is approved you will be given a good faith estimate detailing all of your finances (interest rate, closing cost, inspection fees, etc.) associated with the sale.
  4. Obtain inspections
    These may or may not be required depending on what area you are purchasing a home but a general home inspection is always a good idea. Some other inspections you may consider or be required to have are pest inspection, environmental inspection.
  5. Acquire Homeowners Insurance
    This is a condition of any mortgage but you don’t have to use their recommended insurance company. Shop around to find your best deal and coverage.
  6. Receive Title Report and Title Insurance
    These assure you that not one else other than the seller has any claim on the property. In real estate parlance, that the property is unencumbered.
  7. Final Walk-Through– One last look around the property.
  8. Closing
    The last step before you close. Where all the money and finale paperwork gets taken care of. Be prepared to spend half a day signing your name
  9. Keys
    You’ll get your keys after the property records. This is generally a day or two after signing.
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