Finding the right real estate agent to help you sell your home is critically important. No less important is choosing the best escrow partner for your specific needs and situation. When it comes to the complicated process of selling your house, this choice can make a world of difference.
So what should you look for in an escrow partner?
Ask around. There’s plenty of information online about escrow services, but combing through all that material takes considerable time and energy. In most cases, the first place to start is by asking your Real Estate agent for two escrow options that they have experience with and recommend. Secondly, canvas family members, friends, work colleagues and others who have recently sold a house. Who do they recommend? Who do they say to avoid? It’s entirely possible that someone in your personal or professional network can recommend an escrow agent who not only met, but exceeded their expectations. These methods should narrow your search to no more than 2-3 options.
Independent status. Equally important is the escrow partner’s status as an independent entity. The best escrow partner is someone who can serve as a completely neutral third party, with no ties to real estate companies or mortgage firms that might influence their actions. You should always ask more questions about “in house escrow” or shared ownership arrangements.
The California Department of Business Oversight can verify if an escrow agent is truly independent (meaning the individual and his or her company has “met and satisfied all of the licensing requirements” set forth by California escrow law). More valuable consumer information on licensed versus controlled escrow companies can be found on CADBO.
The right experience and resources. Once you have a couple of referrals, it’s time to dig deeper into your research. At the very least, you want an escrow partner who has substantial experience in this field. It is recommended that you make a quick call to review experience and make sure there is a good personality fit with your escrow team.
Beyond that, it’s important to learn about their distinctive value proposition and whether they have the resources to meet your specific needs. The most qualified escrow partner will use mobile technology to make things easier for you, including:
- E-signatures – Sending documents to you via email with the option of using a digital signature.
- Digital storage – Using a paperless system for quick and easy access to information in your file.
- Security/cloud technology – Servers and files stored in the cloud and monitored around the clock by a qualified data security provider.
It’s also helpful to know about their relationships with real estate agents and lenders in general, as well as their ability to handle any title issues that might arise during the sales process.
Location, location, location. Just as the right location is integral to the home sales process, it’s worth considering where the escrow partner’s office is located. After all, you’ll probably travel there to confer with the escrow agent, sign papers, deliver or pick up a check, etc. An escrow company that’s conveniently located near your residence or where you work can save a lot of time over the long run.
Compare costs. Any escrow partner worth checking out will be happy to provide an estimate of the costs involved in selling your house, including title insurance, escrow services, etc., so there are no surprises down the road.
What don’t you want in an escrow partner?
- Anyone who’s unwilling to take the time to answer your questions or thoroughly explain each step of the process.
- Anyone who can’t provide information in clear, everyday language.
- Anyone who schedules meetings at their convenience, not yours.
Service is the gold standard in the escrow business. Whether through referrals or research, make sure you select an escrow partner who always puts your needs first.