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ESCROW. Why Does It Have To Be So Complicated? Or Does It?
You've found the house of your dreams, made an acceptable offer, and now it's down to the final details of ESCROW. Why does it have to be so complicated? Or does it?
Escrow may seem like a puzzling maze of red tape, questions and legal detail, but it doesn't have to be a mystery.
Just consider that the word comes from the French for "scrolls" and you'll understand that it stands for all those "scrolls" or business papers involved in the final step of the sales process. Escrow, in fact, is simply a collection point for holding all money and legal papers until your home sale closes.
Horror stories abound about escrow, and to be sure, with its paper trail and detail work, escrow is not always a glitch-free process. You can count on an annoying stumbling block, from minuscule to major, about half the time. But don't let that get you down. Negotiation, funding, and sometimes a little research generally clear up the problems.
You can ensure that your own escrow proceeds smoothly by doing your part (answering questions, providing information) expeditiously. It's prudent to respond to requests from the escrow officer as soon as possible. If you keep a busy escrow officer waiting, he may toss your case on the back burner and move on to the next one.
Your real estate agent can serve as your "guide" through escrow. The escrow officer, a neutral third party, acts as the project "director," funneling paperwork and money to the right parties. Here's a brief summary of what to expect on this paper-path to home ownership:
1. Termite and other inspections. Most lenders require a termite clearance before approving a loan. When there's evidence of termite infestation, the seller is responsible for repairs and fumigation, if necessary. Other city and county permits may be required that will also require inspections.
2. The buyer applies for a loan. This borrowing process includes all the details of a loan application -- a mandatory credit check, check of tax and employment records, and property
appraisal. Unexplained credit problems or records of bankruptcy can disqualify a buyer, so it's important to get your financial house in order before applying for a loan. If you have questions in your credit history, seek help in resolving them.
3. Home Inspection Report. Generally, the buyer is responsible for commissioning this report to identify any physical problems with the property. In the past, home inspectors had no legal guidelines to follow, but now many states have laws regarding home inspection requirements. These inspections generally require an examination, according to set standards, of essential components such as mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Buyer and seller will negotiate the repair of any problems that are uncovered during the inspection. A seller may refuse to make any corrections, in which case the buyer may accept the property as-is or cancel his purchase agreement.
4. Insurance. The buyer is required to purchase fire insurance during escrow and may wish to buy homeowners' insurance as well. Addressing these needs early will help expedite the process.
5. Preliminary Title Report. Ordered by the escrow company, this report uncovers any outstanding liens, deed restrictions, easements, or the existence of unpaid fines or payments due by the owner. Sellers can eliminate hassles by eliminating surprises. Letting escrow officers and brokers know up-front about any liens or judgments against the property will help defer delays that are sure to surface.
When a property is located in a community with a homeowners association, the association will be contacted to determine outstanding bills, litigation or other issues. The escrow company will also determine if there is an outstanding loan balance from the seller's lender, or unpaid property taxes due.
To help expedite your escrow, take steps to (1) eliminate any surprises (such as credit questions), (2) supply information requested by the escrow officer as soon as possible, (3) (buyers) address insurance needs immediately, and (4) (sellers) attend to required inspections promptly.
Remember that, once in escrow, a buyer has legal options to cancel escrow without penalty. A seller, on the other hand, must proceed once a contract is signed.
"Real Service in Real Estate." For a personal consultation on buying or selling real estate, Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor® can be reached at (610) 642-3744, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors® is an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.
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