What is escrow in real estate?

Everything you’d ever
want to know about escrow.

Contents

CHAPTER 1

What is Escrow in Real Estate?
CHAPTER 2

Escrow Process Timeline
CHAPTER 3

Cost of Escrow
CHAPTER 4

Step 1: Open Escrow
CHAPTER 5

Step 2: Initial Deposit
CHAPTER 6

Step 3: Disclosure Signing
CHAPTER 7

Step 4: Buyer Performs Inspection
CHAPTER 8

Step 5: Obtain the Appraisal
CHAPTER 9

Step 6: Close Deal
CHAPTER 10

Step 7: Receive E&O Policy
CHAPTER 1:

What is Escrow in Real Estate?

Welcome to your ultimate guide on escrow in real estate.

We go over every part of the escrow process in-depth so you can feel safe during the biggest transaction of your life.

Let’s start with the basics.
what is escrow in real estate

Definition of Escrow

definition of escrow in real estate
Escrow for real estate is the seat belt you didn’t know you needed on the rollercoaster of real estate closing. It is the impartial third party charged with securing assets while home inspections are being completed and the deal is being finalized.
Long story short – there is a lot on the line in real estate transactions, both legally and financially. This is why a neutral middleman is required in order to make sure all of the paperwork is in order and respective funds are accessible. Escrow companies make sure all of the parties adhere to their agreed upon terms and everyone is safe.
What if you discover that your future house is termite infested? Or that water damage wasn’t disclosed? Or there was a discrepancy in boundary lines?

You’re going to appreciate having escrow in place.

Escrow When Buying a House:
When Do I Acquire Escrow?

Once the buyer and seller sign a purchase agreement, a real estate escrow account can be established to act as a neutral third-party during the remaining steps in the closing process, depending on the state.
In some states, as seen above, title companies or attorneys will act as third-parties in real estate transactions.
Like a giant, impenetrable safe, the escrow company holds all funds and documents (and trust us, there are plenty of them) until the finalization of the home closing process.

Lucky for our generation, homebuyers of the 21st century can enjoy the luxury of online escrow, meaning documents can be e-signed and virtually stored.
For New Venture Escrow clients: The process is 100% accessible from the palm of your hands with our mobile escrow experience.

What Happens During the Escrow Process?

If you’re wondering how escrow works when buying a house, the simple answer is: a lot of documents.

The seller must go through a series of hoops before selling his/her home to make sure all of the appropriate documentation is in place before transferring funds.

If you’re like most people, you’re probably not a fan of chasing papers (not that kind of paper). Real estate agents are well aware of this, so they partner with escrow companies to make the document process fast and easy.

But let’s put all of this paperwork, whether it’s digitized or démodé, into perspective.

Imagine you are the buyer of a home. Wouldn’t you want to know if your future home was free of termites, or that the home being sold to you rightfully belongs to the seller presenting it?

Imagine now that you are the seller. Wouldn’t you want to know that your buyer actually has the funds to purchase your home, or that they are legally allowed to purchase a home in the country?

This is why it is imperative to have all of the official documents in one place before closing on a home.

But what exactly are all of these documents necessary for closing on a home?

Documents Needed During
the Home Selling Process

Some of the most common documents required in a real estate escrow transaction include:

– Copy of the Offer
– Sellers Disclosure Packet
– Termite Certificate
– HOA Documents and Transfer Fees
– Contingency Removal Form
– FIRPTA Affidavit
– Prequalification Letter
– Proof of Funds
– Commission Instructions
– Wire Transfer Instructions
-Documents for Deed Transfer

Having all of your documented ducks in a row is one of the biggest parts of a successful escrow transaction. The documentation you’ll need to produce for your escrow agent will depend on whether you are the buyer or the seller. It’s always a good idea to confirm any and all paperwork that needs to be gathered with your real estate agent. Questions about documents or opening escrow?  CLICK HERE to contact us!

Disclosures and Home Inspections in Escrow

During the escrow process, there will be a gathering of disclosures to find out more about the property. Depending on the situation and the type of property being sold, the list of disclosures can be extensive.

The buyer can then have inspections conducted on the property, followed up by requests for repair or other supplemental measures in the case of unsatisfactory findings during the inspection.

If you have any doubts about repair requests or appropriate contingencies (which are conditions of the agreement of sale), ask your real estate agent to guide you through the process. They’ve been through it many times before and can give you the best advice for your specific scenario.

What Happens After a Home Inspection?

Buyers and sellers meet at the negotiation table. If the seller declines to work with the buyer’s requests they can walk away unscathed, recouping the earnest money from the deal (ouch).

If the seller and buyer are able to come to agreeance on changes and both parties want to proceed with the closing process, there is the option for a final walk-through of the property.

Closing the Real Estate Escrow Account

Closing is the final phase of mortgage loan processing where the property title passes from the seller to the buyer. Your escrow agent will help make this process painless for you! CLICK HERE to speak with one of our escrow professionals who can answer any questions you might have.


Real Estate Escrow Process Timeline Explained

How long will it take to make your way from opening an escrow account to handing the keys over to the buyer? Every situation is different but you can generally expect the escrow process to be an average of 30 to 60 days. You should establish an agreed-upon timeline with the buyer at the time of contract negotiation. Be sure to factor in potential fluctuation for your unique home closing journey. The following timeline depicts the process in more detail from start to close.
CHAPTER 2:

Escrow Process Timeline

How long will it take from opening an escrow account to handing over the keys?

You can generally expect the escrow process to be an average of 30 to 60 days.

You should establish an agreed-upon timeline with the buyer at the time of contract. Be sure to factor in potential fluctuation for your unique home closing journey.

How Long From Opening an Escrow Account to Handing Over the Keys to a Buyer?

Every situation is different but you can generally expect the escrow process to be an average of 30 to 60 days. 
You should establish an agreed-upon timeline with the buyer at the time of contract negotiation. Be sure to factor in potential fluctuation for your unique home closing journey.

What Should You Expect From
a 30 Day Escrow Experience?

See an estimated timeline of the escrow process below.​
Offer Accepted (Yes!)
Earnest Money Deposited into Escrow Account
Inspections Take Place (Termite, Agent Visual, Home, Lender Appraisal)
Repair Requests Made & Negotiated
Contingency Releases
Loan Approval Contingency Release
Seller Schedules Agreed Upon Repairs
Funding is Secured by Buyer
Buyer’s Final Walkthrough (House Icon)
Final Day: Close of Escrow (SOLD!)

What if My Escrow Closing Process
Takes More Than 30 Days?

Not all home closing processes are made equally, nor do they follow the same exact timeline.

To know how long your home closing process will be, make sure to consult your real estate agent about the specifics or your home purchasing contract, contingencies, and relevant timeline.

They are they to take support your best interests through this process!

Just like that you’ve closed on your home! Okay, so maybe it isn’t that simple…
CHAPTER 3:

How Much Does Real Estate Escrow Cost?

To calculate escrow fees, we have to consider both state laws and the price of the property involved in the transaction.

Let’s start with the basics.
Generally, both buyers and sellers pay an escrow fee. A typical escrow fee is calculated based on the purchase price of a property. In California, an average range looks like this:
($1.00-$2.25 per $1,000 of purchase price) + ($250-$500 base fee).
Imagine that the purchase price of a property is $450,000. For this example, we’ll use the California average base escrow fee $300 and a $1.60 per thousand dollars fee.
The calculation looks like this:
(450,000/1,000)= 450
(450 x $1.60) + $300 = $1,020

For a home sold at $450,000, the escrow fee for the seller would be $1,020

Make sure to watch out for additional fees that might get added onto the estimate, including wire fees, overnight shipping fees, storage fees, or courier fees.

Curious what other fees sellers need to think about when buying a home? Check out a full breakdown of the costs associated with selling a home in California.  We know this can be tricky, so CLICK HERE to speak with someone who can help you with your escrow fees questions.

Buyers & Sellers Beware:
Potential Problems in Escrow Post-Close

Buyers should complete all of their requests before the close of escrow, but there is always the risk that buyers come after sellers or realtors once the escrow has been closed. We’ll elaborate on why these issues arise below and the importance of acquiring an E&O seller’s insurance policy during the home closing process.
We get that it can be painstakingly difficult to know how to secure protection during the home closing process when your understanding of escrow is fuzzy at best. That’s why we’ve made it our goal to get you acquainted with the process without all the jargon.

Get your documents and e-pens ready, it’s time to dive in!
CHAPTER 4:

STEP 1: Open Escrow

Once prospective homebuyers have successfully bid on their future home and drawn up a contract with their real estate agent, they will then need to open a real estate escrow account (as opposed to an insurance or tax escrow account).

What Does It Mean to “Open Escrow?”

As mentioned earlier, escrow in real estate is the middleman throughout your home buying journey. The process of opening escrow is far less complicated than it seems.

You can contact an escrow company directly by giving them a call or via your real estate agent. The account will usually be opened within three days of your contract’s completion.

Who Sets Up Escrow Accounts?

Whose responsibility is it to set up escrow? There is no single answer.

Normally the real estate agent sets up escrow, but it could also be the buyer or the seller – essentially anyone involved in the sale of the home can open escrow.

Most prospective home buyers contract real estate agents to represent them, so they usually won’t have to open their own escrow accounts. This is because most real estate agents already work with specific title companies (companies that insure the legality of property titles and issue title insurance), who in turn work with specific escrow companies.

If you are selling your home FSBO (For Sale By Owner), a.k.a. selling your home without a real estate agent, you will choose with whom you would like to open escrow.

Even if you are working with a real estate agent, you can request to work with a specific escrow company that offers the perks and services you desire. But that begs the question… “what should I be looking for in an escrow company?”

What Should I Look for in an Escrow Company?

If you don’t even know what factors to consider when picking an escrow company, we suggest you start with these:

– Excellent customer service that is willing to walk you through the entire process

– An Errors & Omissions Policy to protect you after the sale

– Tech capabilities to help you e-sign documents & store them in the cloud

What is Needed to Open a
Real Estate Escrow Account?

In order to open an escrow account, home buyers will need to present their completed contracts and deposit their good faith money (see Step 2 for more information about the initial deposit).

At this point, the escrow company will assign the homebuyer an escrow number and an agent will lead him/her through the process to ensure everything is carried out correctly.
CHAPTER 5:

STEP 2: Initial Deposit Made

After prospective homebuyers establish escrow accounts, they will be assigned escrow agents to help them through the process. Their first step is to make the initial deposit, aka deposit their good faith money.

What is Good Faith Money?

What is Needed to Open
a Real Estate Escrow Account?

Good faith money, also called earnest money or earnest payment, is a deposit into an account (in this case, an escrow account) by a buyer to show that he/she has the intention of finalizing a deal.

What Happens When the
Initial Deposit is Made?

The initial deposit of good faith money sets into motion other escrow related events. At this time, money for any fees related to the escrow account will be paid. This is usually split between seller and buyer, the specifics of which are typically agreed upon in the initial contract.

Is Good Faith Money Refundable?

Good faith money may or may not be refundable if the deal doesn’t go through, but it is almost always applied to the purchase.

When Can a Home Buyer Back Out of a Purchase Agreement?

Homeowners have numerous opportunities to back out of purchase agreements. The deadlines that we outlined in the escrow process timeline can be negotiated by both the buyer and seller, and at almost every deadline, there is an opportunity that the potential home buyer can back out of their purchase agreement and still receive their earnest money.

Commonly disputed dates include the inspection contingency deadlines, title review deadlines, and loan contingency deadlines.

If you are unsure about your contingency deadlines, call your agent and ask them to walk you through the home closing timeline.

Home Inspection Contingency Deadline for Earnest Money

For inspection contingency, this is the date by which all of the home inspections must have been completed. If the buyer discovers something unsatisfactory about the property during this time that is a non-negotiable for them, they can drop out and receive their earnest money, and the house goes back on the market.

However, if the buyer discovers something he/she didn’t like after the agreed upon deadline, the seller often has the choice to refund the earnest money or not.

Title Review Deadline for Earnest Money

On the other hand, if the title review deadline draws near and the home is not proven to legally belong to the self-proclaimed owner, the buyer can reclaim their good faith money.

Loan Contingency Deadline for Earnest Money

This is often the last deadline set up by the buyer and seller because it usually takes the longest to secure a loan. It also happens to be where earnest money becomes non-refundable, because the seller has been relying on your “good faith” up until the loan approval. This is often where the legal line is drawn and sellers can decide to legally withhold the money.

What Happens if the Buyer and Seller Get Into a Dispute Over Earnest Money?

If there is a case where the good faith money enters into dispute, most likely if the seller doesn’t indicate to the seller in a timely manner their intent to not follow through with the sale, the escrow company will safely hold on to the disputed money until the parties have reached a resolution. This is to protect the parties from any liability.

If the parties can’t play nice, they might end up in small claims court or general jurisdiction, depending on the size of the good faith money deposit and the laws of the state they reside.

For an Easy Escrow Experience, Do This!

One tip that will help you breeze through the escrow process is to introduce the lender and the escrow company right away.

After the TRID laws (a.k.a. The Know Before You Owe Act), which were originally enacted to protect borrowers from rip-off lenders, were updated in 2017, they introduced a new series of timelines and guidelines on fee disclosure.

Simply put: The lender and escrow agents now rely heavily on each other for the safe, accurate, and timely disclosure of all fees.

The sooner you introduce the two parties representing you, the quicker your escrow process will move along! Questions?  Call us and let us help!

CHAPTER 6:

STEP 3: Disclosure Signing

New homebuyers always face disclosures with apprehension. History of water damage? Mold in the bathroom? Termites in the foundation? The last thing they want is to end up in a messy lawsuit. That’s where the disclosures come in.

What is the Real Estate Disclosure Process?

The real estate disclosure process is when the buyer finds out as much about the property as possible. Disclosures don’t only protect the buyer from a faulty home, but they also protect the seller in the future from any legal action the buyer might take against the seller.

Naturally, it behooves the seller to be as honest as possible during this process, making sure to mention any major renovations that would have taken place on the property or any note-worthy damage incurred by him/herself or by past owners. In some cases, documented communication between the seller and past owners/neighbors is required.

What are the Most Common
Disclosures in Real Estate?

These disclosures will vary based on the property type and the location of the property, as different states and counties have different laws surrounding disclosures. These documents can cover such anything from known flaws about the property, to prior improvements or repairs, and even potential environmental hazards.
California has some of the most strict disclosure agreements in the entire country. Common disclosures you might expect to encounter during disclosure signing include but are not limited to:

– Natural Hazards Disclosure Statements
– Market Condition Advisories
– State Transfer Disclosures
– Local Transfer Disclosures
– Megan’s Law Disclosures (sex offenders in area)

What Happens During Disclosure Signing?

During this step in the home closing process, the buyer will review and sign off on, either physically or electronically, any and all disclosures. The escrow agent’s job is to gather the documents and present them to the proper party for signing. This is generally from the seller to the buyer.

Signing disclosures protects the seller by having the buyer acknowledge any known issues with the property that might otherwise be considered a material fact. Acknowledging receipt of these disclosures allows both parties to move forward in the closing process.

Buyer Beware: 5 Common Scenarios That Arise from Disclosure Docs

Don’t let the sheer number of documents tempt you to skim. Be sure that you read all of the fine print or have your escrow/real estate agent explain to you what you are accepting. You should fully understand the implications of all the documents involved before agreeing to move forward.



Remember: Honest clerical errors can happen. We address a whole range of escrow “what-ifs” below.

1. What if the house I want to buy has termites?

Termites aren’t an automatic disqualifying factor when it comes to the purchase of a property.. When the termite damage or infestation is uncovered during inspection, the seller will need to schedule the necessary treatments and repairs.

However, if the seller refuses to have the problem resolved, then the seller has every right to walk away from the deal. Escrow will be there to prevent the seller from losing out on the money already invested.

It’s also important to note that uncovering issues such as termites opens the floor to negotiation. This will also give the buyer a chance to come back with a counter offer.

2. The seller didn’t disclose water damage. Now What?

This may come as a surprise, but water entering the foundation of homes is very common. According to Water Damage Defense, 14,000 Americans experience water damage each day.

While some sellers may not have been aware of the water damage and thus enable to disclose it in the first place, there are other sellers who try to sweep water damage under the rug. A fresh coat of paint and a strategically placed couch may keep their secret for a little while.

But now that you’ve uncovered this evasion, what are you next steps as a buyer? If the discovery happens before the sale is completed, then you have a few options.

The first option, Sellers can complete repairs, to the satisfaction of the Buyer by the close of escrow.

Second option, money or credit from Seller to Buyer, in lieu of water repairs, through Escrow.

3. Somebody died in the house I want to buy. Isn’t it illegal for the buyer not to tell me?

Every state is different when it comes to a home that has been stigmatized by a death. Many states don’t require that buyers disclose that there has been a death on the property. California, however, is not one of those states.

In California, expect to have any deaths, no matter the circumstance, disclosed to you as the seller. This is only required for deaths having occurred in the three years prior to the offer date. The only exception to this law is in the case of a death caused by AIDS (as this is classified as a disability and disclosure of this death could be deemed discriminatory).

If you find out that the seller has failed to inform you of a death that occurred in the three years prior to the date from which you made an offer on the home, you have slightly different options depending upon your place in the process.

If you have yet to finalize the sale, then according to California civil code 1710.2, you should be able to walk away from the deal unscathed due to a failure to disclosure said information.

However is you’ve already settled in when you uncover the news, you are within your rights to file a lawsuit against the Seller.

4. The seller didn’t disclose unpermitted work. What can I do?

You find out that your 3 bed/2 bath is actually a 2 bed/2 bath. At least that’s what the lack of permits would lead you to believe. Unfortunately, now your ‘bonus’ room comes with a bonus headache.

Now that you’re stuck with an addition made without a permit, you need to decide on your best move.

As a buyer, you can accept the deal and buy the home, risks and all. You can obtain permits and pay the necessary fees down the road.


Another option is to walk. You can then search out a different home without the headache of an illegal addition.

Finally, you can ask the seller to fix the issue before you close escrow. This may work in your favor, but if the seller is selling as-is they may not want to sink any money into correcting the non permitted work.

Each situation is a bit different. It’s best to consult with your real estate agent before moving forward.

5. I found mold in the house I want to buy and the owner tried to mask it with candles.

Mold is no small thing. In California, for example, sellers must give written disclosure of all material facts that may sway the decision or willingness of a buyer to purchase the home at a specific rate. To skirt around this requirement could result in serious legal repercussions.


Since you haven’t bought the house quite yet, you should be safe from during it out in the courtroom. If you are still certain you want to buy the home, then at the point of finding the mold you can present the problem to the seller with the understanding that it will be solved before closing continues.  Need more info about disclosures?  CLICK HERE and let us help.

What Happens if the Buyer and Seller Get Into a Dispute Over Earnest Money?

If there is a case where the good faith money enters into dispute, most likely if the seller doesn’t indicate to the seller in a timely manner their intent to not follow through with the sale, the escrow company will safely hold on to the disputed money until the parties have reached a resolution. This is to protect the parties from any liability.

Consult the purchase contract immediately if a dispute breaks out, which will almost always point the parties to arbitration or mediation. The escrow company will then be contacted to give their counsel, as they are the experts in the specific state laws in which they operate.

If the parties can’t play nice, they might end up in small claims court or general jurisdiction, depending on the size of the good faith money deposit and the laws of the state they reside.

I’m Pressed for Time: How Can I Read All My Disclosure Documents in Advance?

You can often request for documents in advance of loan sign-up to make sure you have ample time to read through all of the paperwork.

For the Procrastinators: Keep Document Deadlines in Mind

Since the escrow process has an average timeline of 30 days, there will be many documents flying around that are deadline-driven.

The home buying process is busy and there are plenty of dates and tasks to keep tabs on.

When you employ a mobile escrow app, such as VentureTrac, you will be able to track important deadlines from your mobile phone during every step of the escrow process. It comes with the added benefit of digital documents that can be signed anytime, anywhere.

Whether you need to push off disclosure signing until the last minute or want to have time to review the documents in detail, having everything at your fingertips and available for e-signing is an invaluable convenience for both the buyer and seller.

CHAPTER 7:

STEP 4: Buyer Performs Inspection

Inspections can uncover unfortunate and hidden damages with the property that can end up being quite costly.

This might either cause the buyer to walk or cause the seller monetary strain to meet the requirements set by the buyer.

Is a Home Disclosure the
Same as an Inspection?

The answer? No.

Disclosure is something that the seller him/herself documents for the buyer concerning their knowledge about the property for sale. An inspection, on the other hand, is conducted by an independent third party. Inspections may reveal defects in the home that even the seller wasn’t aware of.

For this reason, the buyer should never rely solely on the disclosures of the seller. A full property inspection should always be carried out before moving forward with the home purchase.

Sometimes, sellers might even hire a property inspector before trying to put their home on the market to advance the escrow process. If you’re working with a realtor, ask your agent for a personal referral of a home inspector near you.

What Kinds of Inspections
Happen During Escrow?

Various inspections will be carried out during the period of home inspection following disclosure signing. Common inspections to expect during this stage of escrow include a full termite inspection, ann agent visual inspection, a lender appraisal inspection, and a home inspection.

Home Inspections:
What Do Home Inspectors Check?

The home inspection is the most in-depth inspection during this stage. Third party home inspectors normally check that all systems and parts are functioning from the basement to the roof, which includes the following components:
– Air conditioning
– Heating
– Interior Plumbing
– Electrical Systems
– Visible Insulation
– Roof
– Attic
– Foundation
– Structural components

To be extra cautious, you can request a septic tank inspection be conducted, since these are often excluded from normal home inspections.

Print off our home inspection checklist to make sure you cover all of your bases.

What Happens During the Inspection Process?

Based on the outcome of inspections, buyers may elect to ask the seller for repair work, closing cost credits, or a reduction in the sale price due to flaws that were uncovered.

Sellers then have three options:

1. Agree to all of the buyers’ requests
2. Offer a modified solution back to the buyer
3. Decline to make any amends

In response, the buyer can continue to negotiate, accept the seller’s position, or in some cases, end the transaction and recoup their earnest money.

Let’s Talk Bad Inspection Results...

Imagine a hopeful home buyer discovers termites in their dream home. What does this mean?

While it depends on the severity of the situation, termites could be grounds for terminating a home deal.

If the buyer is lucky, the seller will set up the necessary treatments and clear the property of termites so the buyer doesn’t have to resort back to house shopping.

Because of the seller’s willingness to cooperate, home buyers can continue on to the next stop in the home closing process– obtaining the appraisal. Keep in mind, if things do not play out and the seller is not cooperative,, then the home buyer would have been able to walk away from the deal and recuperate their money.  Need more info on home inspections?  CLICK HERE for help.

CHAPTER 8:

STEP 5: Obtain the Appraisal

Before issuing a loan to a home buyer, the bank or lender conducts an appraisal to understand the true value of the home.

If the appraisal comes in low, the home buyer would get a chance to haggle, but the chances of that happening are incredibly low. We’re talking below 10%.

Home buyers start to worry when appraisals come in high. Why is that? Let us break it down for you.

What is a Home Appraisal?

Also known as a real estate appraisal, property valuation, or land valuation, the home appraisal is the process of discovering the actual value of a real estate property.

Most real estate transaction requires an appraisal because every property is unique, and simple factors like where a home is located simply cannot determine the exact value of a home. It needs to be appraised.

The lender wants to know what the property is actually worth and what the buyer has agreed to pay for it. Afterall, if a buyer defaults on his loan, the property then becomes the property of the bank, so lenders must do their due diligence to insure their investment

What Happens During the Inspection Process?

Let’s take a look behind the scenes of home appraisals.

Who is Responsible for Conducting the Home Appraisal?

The party responsible for holding your mortgage will be the ones ordering an appraisal. This could be either a bank or a lender.

The appraiser themselves will be an unbiased third-party. They need to carry an active license or certification and be familiar with appraising similar properties in the surrounding geographic area.

What Is the Appraiser Looking For?

The appraiser’s job is to identify areas of the home and features that may interfere with or benefit the home’s value. Elements that are considered during appraisal include:

– Property Size
– Property Location
– Exterior & Interior Condition
– Upgrades & Renovation
– Additions that Add Value
(Such as a Swimming Pool)

Keep in mind that the appraiser isn’t judging the home’s value on the color of the bathroom or the type of grass in the yard. Appraisers conduct market research to evaluate the home using a comparable sales price.

When Does the Appraisal Need To Take Place?

There’s an expiration date on your home’s appraisal. In most cases, that date is 120 days out from when it was initially conducted. The lender wants the appraisal and purchase date to happen as close together as possible to be sure they are extending no more in money than the worth of the home being bought.

But not to worry! If the process begins to draw out, you can possibly extend your home’s appraisal to 240 days with an addendum from the lender.

Why Is Home Appraisal Necessary?

Lenders and banks request appraisals as a way to protect themselves. If the home were foreclosed, they need to make up for their losses from the mortgage. By ensuring that the home is worth the price they are lending you, they can be sure they can make back that money if needed.

And if you were wondering, the answer is yes – in pretty much all cases a home appraisal will be required by your lender. Remember, they need to protect themselves too.

What is a Home Appraisal?

Home appraisal is another one of those ‘hidden’ fees in home buying. It’s a part of the real estate closing process that shouldn’t be forgotten about as it is coming out of the buyer’s pocket.

That’s right – in most cases, the buyer will be responsible for the appraisal costs as they are the ones taking out the mortgage.

How much should you prepare to spend on home appraisal costs? In California, the average cost of a home appraisal is $400 – $500. Keep in mind that prices may fluctuate depending on the location and property type.

If you don’t know whose responsibility it is to pay for the appraisal costs, consult your real estate agent.

Help! My Home Appraised for Less Than the Purchase Price!

You’ve made an offer on your dream home. You’re preparing paperwork and trying to figure out what color you’re going to paint the kitchen. Then it’s time to bring in the appraiser.

The bad news? The appraisal came in far lower than the purchase price.

The good news? You have options.

Whether the low appraisal is due to inflated rates, a declining market value, or the seller simply overpriced the home, you’re still left with the following options:

1. The seller can lower the price.
2. The buyer can pay for the difference.
3. A second appraisal can be requested.
4. You can collect a list of sale prices from recent local home sales that justify the agreed upon price (do this by contacting listing agents!).

CHAPTER 9:

STEP 6: Close Deal

When the deal is about to close, home buyers should be securing homeowners and title insurance, and deciding the best way to hold title. The seller, on the other hand, should be setting up for a final walk-through to happen the day before the keys are handed over.

Let’s take a look at what to expect on closing day.

Tying Up Loose Ends in the Closing Process

Providing that the title search was successful, closing day must be near! It sounds intimidating, and that’s simply because it is for many first-time and even veteran home buyers.

In order for escrow to close, all conditions must be met. This includes the loans being funded to the account and the property being legally handed over to the new owner.

You should be presented with a final closing statement at the close of escrow. This is a document that will be prepared by your real estate escrow agent. It is essentially an overview of the financials.

Time to Acquire Homeowners
& Title Insurance Policies

It is at this time that you should also purchase homeowners and title insurance policies.

In the way of homeowners insurance, don’t be surprised if it is a prerequisite established by your lender in order to close on your home. Title insurance will protect you from situations such as unpaid property taxes (where the property’s history could come back to haunt you in financially devastating ways!)

To avoid potential tax liens and other common title problems, we suggest acquiring title insurance.

What You Should Expect During a Final Walk-Through

The final walk-through is your last chance to spot breaks that need fixing before the fixes must be done by the new homeowner (a.k.a. you). Usually, final walk-throughs happen in the 24 hour period prior to closing.

Go into the walk-through with a mental checklist of what to look out for. Common issues to watch for include:

– Previously requested repairs are completed
– All appliances are in working condition
– Lights are working
– Water is running and there are no leaks
– Inspect all doors, walls and floors for new damage

How Does the Final Signing Play Out?

The final signing time will be a previously agreed upon time, date and location. Often final signing takes place at the title company office. Never feel pressured to rush through signing on documents. Read the fine print, it can have lasting effects on your experience as homeowners, as well as on your financial situation.

Both buyer and seller are at the final signing, alongside their real estate agents, an attorney, title company representative, the mortgage lender and escrow agent.

What Documents Will Be Necessary for Closing Escrow?

If you didn’t already expect an impressive stack of documents, this is the point where we break the bad news to you. The final signing will consist of quite a few signatures.

The major players to watch for when it comes to documents are:

Initial Escrow Disclosure: This disclosure breaks down the distribution of money out of the escrow account itself. It shows in detail what all funds will be attributed to.

Deed of Trust: If you don’t pay for your home, your home goes away. That’s essentially what this document states. This contract allows the lender or bank to foreclose on your property if you don’t meet the agreed upon terms of the mortgage.

Promissory Note: This acknowledges your commitment to pay your loan for the home mortgage. It will provide in-depth details of interest rate and month payment requirements.

Other paperwork to watch out for can include but is not limited to:

– An occupancy statement
– Seller concessions
– Appraisal acknowledgement
– & Truth-in-lending disclosure.

If you have any questions about legal jargon or about the terms described above, do not hesitate to reach out to an agent at New Venture Escrow before diving into the home buying process.  It’s also important to fully understand the costs of a slow escrow, so before we move on, CLICK HERE for more info on what choosing the wrong escrow company can cost you.

CHAPTER 10:

STEP 7: Receive E&O Policy

Imagine a disgruntled new homeowner finds mold in their house. Understandably, he/she would be furious and blame the seller for not disclosing the damage.

For this very scenario, sellers often secure Error & Omissions policies, otherwise known as E&O to save themselves from lawsuits and terrible monetary loss. But who all needs an E&O policy?

Who Needs E&O Insurance?

Real estate agents often offer E&O Insurance to their clients as a way to keep sellers safe during real estate transactions. However, the reality is that both sellers and real estate agents can benefit from E&O insurance.

If a dissatisfied buyer or client goes after either the seller or the agent with a lawsuit, the insurance will pay the settlement and judgment fees.

In the case of a lawsuit because of mold, as mentioned above, E&O would be there to help. Other situations sellers might find themselves in that E&O would cover include:

– Client claims you’ve lied
– Client claims you’ve withheld truth or acted criminally
– Client claims that you were not acting in their best interest

Although this shouldn’t come as a surprise, E&O policies will not cover fraudulent or malicious criminal actions.


When Should E&O Insurance Be Purchased?

The best time to purchase an E&O policy is before trouble strikes. You never want to wait until problems arise before you start scrambling for backup.

However, you can still get a policy after you have sold the home as either a real estate agent or as a FSBO seller.

Either way, before or after, the important thing is that you carry a policy. It never hurts to be a little extra careful.

How Much Does E&O Insurance Cost?

While E&O is not necessarily required, it is a wise investment to make. It is your buffer against liability claims and can prevent you from financial devastation. But what will it cost you to remain covered?

On average, an E&O policy in California costs a little below $65 per month. This varies by insurance company and the details of the policy itself.

New Venture Escrow partners: We include E&O Policies to both agents and sellers upon every transaction, so you can sleep easy!

Keep an E&O policy and stringent records surrounding all business actions to keep your record clean and provide solid backup in the case of a lawsuit.

Who Chooses the Escrow Company?

So, who is actually responsible for choosing the escrow company to handle the funds and paperwork?

Most homebuyers have no idea that they can choose their own escrow company (and many of them don’t even know what escrow is).

Because of that, listing and selling agents often choose the escrow provider for their clients. However, if you want to sell your house FSBO (without a real estate agent) or prefer to proactively choose an escrow company you trust, then you can get in contact with one directly.

Keep this in mind, homebuyers! If you ever want to refinance your home, having a trustworthy escrow company that already knows your situation and has your records on file will help greatly when it comes time to refinance your mortgage!

Do FSBO Sellers Have to Choose Their Own Escrow Companies?

Real estate agents do offer a plethora of resources and expertise when it comes to selling a home, but many home sellers decide to go the FSBO route to either save on costs or because they are highly familiar with the process.

Whatever the reason may be, FSBO sellers will still need to open an escrow account for a range of reasons: to have a third party hold earnest money, to clear title obligations, to order the mortgage payoff statements and more!

Choose New Venture For All
Your Escrow Needs in 2019

Wondering if New Venture is the escrow company for you? New Venture offers the most competitive escrow experience in California with completely paperless e-sign features with our VentureTrac app, a 6-month E&O Policy, and unbeatable customer service.  Last but not least, New Venture Escrow places the safety and security of your transaction as priority number one.  Real estate wire fraud has become a billion dollar problem in our time, and we are taking the proper measures to prevent and eliminate fraud for the benefit of our clients.  CLICK HERE to learn more about how to prevent real estate wire fraud and stay safe!

And don’t just take our word for it – check out some escrow testimonials from our esteemed clients to hear it directly from the source.

Call Us Today to Learn More!
(619) 327-2288

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