When Is Escrow Considered Open?

What is the First of the Three Most Important Documents My Escrow Officer Will Need?

Why the Right Closing Date Can Make a Difference?

How long does a title search take?

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What should a purchase agreement include?

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What happens on the day of closing and can I move in on that day?

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When Is Escrow Considered Open?

Choose Right Settlement Agent for a Quick Closing

In spite of the recent shift in the real estate market, seeing sales slowing down in many areas, savvy Buyers are looking for well-priced properties which may now be available to them. Not wanting to loose out to a competitive Buyer, many borrowers want to know how to make settlement go as smoothly, and quickly, as possible. The right choice of a settlement agent is one way in which you can speed up your closing.

The settlement agent is the person who coordinates all the paper-pushing that goes into a closing. Generally, the agent has some sort of connection to a title insurance company.

Closing agents, however, are not all alike. You may have heard that title insurance rates and closing fees can vary from company to company, but you may not be aware of the differences in service you will receive from one company to the next.

Many borrowers also are not aware that they have the right to choose title insurance agents. Under the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the seller cannot require you to buy title insurance from a particular title company. The lender may request that you use a title company it finds acceptable, and it likely will recommend some companies, but in most cases you have the choice. The lender usually always agrees with your pick.

This power of choice is a tool you can use to be sure your closing goes as smoothly and quickly as possible. Depending on where you live, you may choose among a title company, an escrow company, a lawyer or a real estate agent. Whichever entity is used, you will want to ask some basic questions before making your choice.

Your choice of closing agent will largely be determined by the state in which you live. In a number of eastern states, a lawyer will probably close your transaction. In South Carolina, North Carolina, Delware, Connteticut, Main and Vermont, lawyers are technically required to handle the settlement. In other states (approximately 16) an attorney is required to prepare the deed, although the lawyer can generally be employed by the title agency or insured branch office. In the western part of the country, escrow or title companies typically handle closings. In many states, including Virginia and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, there are attorney-assisted closings, title company closings and closings assisted by real estate agents.

Closing is about preparation and service. Expect good service, and ask for it. Making the right choice ahead of time will be the magic key that opens the door to a speedy settlement.

Ask how quickly a title search can be performed. Ask the turnaround time for issuing a title commitment or title report. Ask who will communicate with the lender, appraiser, real estate agent, inspector and lawyer, if one is involved. Some title officers or closing agents don’t have assistants to help them get the reports out quickly. They can become bogged down with files, and yours may be on the bottom of the stack.

Ask if the title company or agent uses a “transaction-management system” or other means of internal or Internet software system to transmit information, or even documents, electronically. Many lenders have what is called “digital document delivery systems,” which means they can transmit your loan documents to your closing agent by way of the computer. The title company can receive your loan documents almost instantaneously. Funds to close escrow can be received electronically.

What this means is that if there is a change to the documents, a last-minute correction or addition, it can be handled within minutes.

When selecting a title company or closing agent, ask if they use this means of rapid document delivery. Ask if they use a system of instant communication for reports and documents. Ask ahead of time what kind of service you can expect.

The five major national title insurance companies are Fidelity National Financial Inc., First American Corp., LandAmerica Financial Group, Old Republic Title Co. and Stewart Title Co. Among them, they issue about 90 percent of the title insurance policies, said James Maher, executive vice president of the Washington-based American Land Title Association. Regional and one-state companies handle the remaining policies, he said.

All the national companies have transaction-management systems in place. This is important because information can be exchanged, approvals obtained and errors corrected almost instantaneously. In some cases, title reports can be read on a hand-held communication device or on cell phones so that most of the parties to the settlement have access to the information. In some cases, home buyers and sellers as well as professional service providers can log in.

Many regional insurers and larger closing agents have their own systems.

If you use a lawyer to handle your closing, you will want to ask how frequently the law office handles title searches, how large the staff is that will process your file and how quickly the closing date can be arranged.

Many law offices do not rely on real estate closings as a primary source of income, but rather as a way to accommodate clients or to generate further business. Be sure your lawyer has the staff available to quickly process your file. Ask if the lawyer will provide the closing documents to you one day before closing.

Many borrowers arrive at a closing only to find the lawyer or closing agent reading through the documents for the first time. Make it clear that you would like your closing documents to have been read and reviewed before you come in for signing. If there are discrepancies, these can be resolved before closing.

Do not be afraid to exercise your power of choice. Even if your lender recommends you use the title company that normally handles its closings, get several quotes on your own.

If you find a closing agent or title company that offers you a savings on title insurance, closing costs, title exam, search or courier fees, let your lender know. They may agree to match those cheaper fees. Get your quotes in writing, and present them to your lender. Your savings could be substantial.

You may be entitled to a discounted rate on your title insurance policy. If the previous title policy was written in the past two to five years, ask if you qualify for a “reissue rate.” Title companies may not offer the discounted rate unless you ask for it. The savings could be 20 percent or more of the original title policy, so be sure to ask. In Florida, for example, there is a “Butler rebate” law which passed several years ago, allowing title insurers to deeply discount their fees on title insurance. They probably will not offer this information to you, you will have to ask for it.

Compare reissue title rates. Lawyers are not regulated by the state’s insurance agency and may charge a different rate from that of a title company. (offer to discount their “profit” portion of the title insurance policy.) Similarly, reissue rates may vary from title company to title company.

How to Choose a Title Insurance Company?

Choosing the right escrow officer or title attorney to handle your sale can mean the difference between a smooth and rapid closing or a complicated, delayed closing, fraught with anguish. Most often either the buyer or seller may choose the closing agent, depending on your local custom, but whoever it is, there are several important criteria which should be considered.

Selecting an escrow closing agent, whether it be an escrow officer in an independent escrow office or a real estate attorney in a law firm or title company, is a choice which should be made carefully. This choice will be one of the most important steps in your escrow and closing process as you will be working closely with this person, often daily, throughout the entire 30 or 60 day period of your real estate sale or purchase. Whoever you choose, that person will become your personal secretary, complying with the terms and conditions of your instructions, and they will keep your funds safely deposited in an escrow account. They will strive to be as confidential as possible, answer your questions, and clear up any title problems which may arise.

Let’s look at four important criteria to consider when choosing an escrow officer or title attorney. The first criteria is the reputation of the company in the community. The first place to begin your search is to ask your friends and acquaintances who have had recent experience with real estate transactions to recommend a company or an individual they have been pleased with, one who met all their expectations. Inquire among friends as to the reputation of the individual officer or title company in your local community. Ask your friends if the escrow agent they recommend returns phone calls promptly, explains details in everyday, understandable language, inspires confidence, and is knowledgeable and acts in a professional, courteous manner.

The second criteria to look at is the managerial experience of the escrow agent you are choosing. Look at the professionalism in the escrow agent or title company you are considering. Your escrow agent should be knowledgeable, efficient, friendly, and confidential. Above all else, ask lots of questions when interviewing your potential escrow closing agent. Ask about their previous experience. Have they handled many FSBO transactions? Do they have a good working relationship with lenders and are they experienced in handling loan documents? Do they have experience in handling possible title problems that may be found in the title report?

The next criteria which we will consider is the location of the office of the closing or escrow agent. Since you will have to visit the escrow agent’s office in person at least once and perhaps several times to prove your identity, sign numerous papers, and deliver or pick up a check, try to select an agent with an office conveniently located near your home or work so you can reach it during normal business hours in just a few minutes.

The final criteria to consider is the fees that your escrow or closing agent is going to charge. Fees charged by escrow agents and closing attorneys do vary, and the decision on who pays which fees will also vary from state to state. The seller may be paying for the title insurance, as in Florida, for example, or the buyer may be paying the escrow fees, as in California. Whoever is responsible for paying for each individual fee should be determined well ahead of the closing, and before you choose your escrow or title agent. You will want to try to select the most reputable and professional escrow or closing agent you can find, combined with the one who also charges the most reasonable fees. Several fees, such as recording fees, transfer tax fees, are non-negotiable and will be the same statewide. Title insurance fees and escrow fees can vary from company to company.

You can expect your escrow officer or closing agent to do several specific things for you. Included in the cost of the escrow and title fee will be the following: ordering of the preliminary title report, securing payoff demands/and or beneficiary statements from existing lenders and requesting full reconveyances of any deed of trust or mortgages to be paid off in escrow, obtaining instructions and loan documents from the new lender, obtaining documents to clear any outstanding liens against the property, issuing receipts for deposits of documents and holding funds in a separate account, prorating taxes, interest, rents, etc., preparing buyers and seller’s escrow instructions and seeing that all documents are properly executed, determining when everything is going to be completed so the transaction can close, obtaining title insurance for the buyer and or the lender, arranging timely transfer of the fire insurance policy or seeing that the buyer secures a new policy, recording the necessary documents, such as grant deeds, deeds of trust, powers of attorney, substitutions of liability, and reconveyances, when all the conditions of the transaction have been met, and finally, disbursing all funds to the proper parties, delivering documents and preparing the final closing statements.

After looking at the reputation of the escrow or title company in the community, the managerial experience of the office, the location of the office and the fees charged, choose the closing or escrow agent that you would feel most comfortable working with, asking questions, going over documents and discussing all aspects of your closing process with in detail. Your choice of escrow or closing agent may be one of the most important decisions you make to arrive at your final goal of a timely real estate sale or purchase.

How You Close on a Mortgage Is Your Call


As the record-setting volume of home purchases and mortgage refinancing continues, many borrowers are becoming concerned about how to make settlement go as smoothly as possible. The right choice of a settlement agent is one way you can speed up your mortgage closing.

The settlement agent is the person who coordinates all the paper-pushing that goes into a closing. Generally, the agent has some sort of connection to a title insurance company.

Closing agents, however, are not all alike. You may have heard that title insurance rates and closing fees can vary from company to company, but you may not be aware of the differences in service you will receive from one company to the next.

Many borrowers also are not aware that they have the right to choose title insurance agents. Under the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the seller cannot require you to buy title insurance from a particular title company. The lender may request that you use a title company it finds acceptable, and it likely will recommend some companies, but in most cases you have the choice. The lender usually always agrees with your pick.

This power of choice is a tool you can use to be sure your closing goes as smoothly and quickly as possible. Depending on where you live, you may choose among a title company, an escrow company, a lawyer or a real estate agent. Whichever entity is used, you will want to ask some basic questions before making your choice.

Your choice of closing agent will largely be determined by the state in which you live. In a number of eastern states, a lawyer will probably close your transaction. In the western part of the country, escrow or title companies typically handle closings. In many states, including Virginia and Maryland, as well as the District, there are attorney-assisted closings, title company closings and closings assisted by real estate agents. None of the local jurisdictions require a particular type of closing agent.

Closing is about preparation and service. Expect good service, and ask for it. Making the right choice ahead of time will be the magic key that opens the door to a speedy settlement.

Ask how quickly a title search can be performed. Ask the turnaround time for issuing a title commitment or title report. Ask who will communicate with the lender, appraiser, real estate agent, inspector and lawyer, if one is involved. Some title officers or closing agents don’t have assistants to help them get the reports out quickly. They can become bogged down with files, and yours may be on the bottom of the stack.

Ask if the title company or agent uses a “transaction-management system” or other means of internal or Internet software system to transmit information, or even documents, electronically. Many lenders have what is called “digital document delivery systems,” which means they can transmit your loan documents to your closing agent by way of the computer. The title company can receive your loan documents almost instantaneously. Funds to close escrow can be received electronically.

What this means is that if there is a change to the documents, a last-minute correction or addition, it can be handled within minutes.

When selecting a title company or closing agent, ask if they use this means of rapid document delivery. Ask if they use a system of instant communication for reports and documents. Ask ahead of time what kind of service you can expect.

The five major national title insurance companies are Fidelity National Financial Inc., First American Corp., LandAmerica Financial Group, Old Republic Title Co. and Stewart Title Co. Among them, they issue about 90 percent of the title insurance policies, said James Maher, executive vice president of the Washington-based American Land Title Association. Regional and one-state companies handle the remaining policies, he said.

All the national companies have transaction-management systems in place. This is important because information can be exchanged, approvals obtained and errors corrected almost instantaneously. In some cases, title reports can be read on a hand-held communication device or on cell phones so that most of the parties to the settlement have access to the information. In some cases, home buyers and sellers as well as professional service providers can log in.

Many regional insurers and larger closing agents have their own systems.

If you use a lawyer to handle your closing, you will want to ask how frequently the law office handles title searches, how large the staff is that will process your file and how quickly the closing date can be arranged.

Many law offices do not rely on real estate closings as a primary source of income, but rather as a way to accommodate clients or to generate further business. Be sure your lawyer has the staff available to quickly process your file. Ask if the lawyer will provide the closing documents to you one day before closing.

Many borrowers arrive at a closing only to find the lawyer or closing agent reading through the documents for the first time. Make it clear that you would like your closing documents to have been read and reviewed before you come in for signing. If there are discrepancies, these can be resolved before closing.

Do not be afraid to exercise your power of choice. Even if your lender recommends you use the title company that normally handles its closings, get several quotes on your own.

If you find a closing agent or title company that offers you a savings on title insurance, closing costs, title exam, search or courier fees, let your lender know. They may agree to match those cheaper fees. Get your quotes in writing, and present them to your lender. Your savings could be substantial.

You may be entitled to a discounted rate on your title insurance policy. If the previous title policy was written in the past two to five years, ask if you qualify for a “reissue rate.” Title companies may not offer the discounted rate unless you ask for it. The savings could be 20 percent or more of the original title policy, so be sure to ask.

Compare reissue title rates. Lawyers are not regulated by the state’s insurance agency and may charge a different rate from that of a title company. Similarly, reissue rates may vary from title company to title company.
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