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Buying a house or an investment property often involves an escrow fund held by an escrow holder. It’s a special deposit account where all the funds or real estate deeds are kept safe until the final closing. Basically, an escrow account is used to keep your assets before they are finally transferred from the buyer to the seller. The escrow holder secures and releases these funds to the right party only after the terms and conditions are met.
Apart from real estate transactions, an escrow account can also be set up at the time of mortgage closing. The account can have funds for all future homeowners insurance as well as property tax payments.
Who is an escrow holder?
An escrow holder is part of a third party, usually a company, the representative of a company, or an entity such as a bank. Their role is to act as the stakeholder or neutral agent for a property buyer and seller. They have a fiduciary duty toward the principals of the escrow. The person or company is lawfully engaged to receive escrow money on behalf of the transacting parties.
Importance of an escrow holder
When you engage in a financial transaction, you – whether you’re a buyer, seller, lender, or borrower – want to know that the money and property are safe and that they will change hands only if and when the transaction’s conditions have been met properly and both parties agree on things such as closing costs, timelines, etc.
The escrow holder helps safeguard the funds and documents until then, all the while maintaining the privacy of the consumers involved.
Once the deal comes through and is finalized, the escrow holder disburses the funds and records of the documents conveying the title.
If the closing of a deal does not occur on or before the decided closing date, then the buyer or the seller may thereafter give a written notice to the escrow holder to cancel the escrow account or terminate the subject transaction.
The escrow holder who has been safekeeping the funds and documents until now distributes all monies and documents in their possession based on the mutual instructions of the parties involved.
How to choose an escrow holder?
Identifying the right escrow holder is a joint responsibility of both parties or principals. Your real estate agent may also give their input and recommendations.
There are laws regarding referral fees that help avoid conflicts of interest and safeguard all parties. In California, it’s usually the property buyer or the buyer’s real estate agent who chooses the escrow company. If the seller doesn’t agree with the buyer’s selection, they can counter with another choice. However, this selection is negotiable and is usually a smooth affair.
What are the responsibilities of an escrow agent or holder?
An escrow account is necessary in order to ensure that the funds, deeds, or property are transferred according to the written instructions, on schedule, and to the rightful owners. The escrow holder must abide by all the instructions provided by the parties.
They oversee the escrow account and are responsible for keeping any deeds and money, and releasing them when all the requirements are met. Most importantly, they honor the timeline of the financial transaction, manage the funds, communicate with both parties, and close the account once the money is disbursed.
It’s important that the escrow officer communicates promptly and efficiently with the buyer and seller every step of the way. This can help speed up the closing process.
The bottom line is, the escrow holder manages the earnest money, deposits, and withdrawals of funds during a transaction. Additionally, they have to communicate regularly with both parties.
A good escrow agent:
- Sets up an escrow structure
- Negotiates the escrow agreement with the parties
- Collects the necessary documents
- Accepts the deposits and invest them as per the agreement
- Reports the relevant taxes
- Hands over the funds to the correct owner
Who pays the escrow holder’s fees?
All closing costs, which include the costs of escrow services, are negotiable. In most states, the buyer and seller usually split the escrow. Of course, the exact practice and the escrow fees might vary from state to state.
Keep in mind that the escrow holder’s fees include their services, liabilities, and day-to-day expenses of overseeing the account. Generally speaking, the more effort- and time-intensive the account is, the higher is the holder’s fees.
- An escrow holder keeps an asset or funds for a buyer and seller. They then transfer them from one party to another on the closing of a financial deal.
- When the parties fulfill their contractual obligations, the holder disperses the assets to the correct owner, on schedule.
- Escrow is not just limited to a real estate transaction or a mortgage. It can be used in any situation that involves the passing of funds from one party to another. Today, you can use an escrow for securing high-ticket items such as art or jewelry too.
The escrow money is overseen by an account holder on behalf of people who are about to complete a transaction.
Read more: Common phrases for every homebuyer