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Opening the Escrow With First American Title

To open escrow, be prepared with the following information:

  • Proper spelling of buyers’ and sellers’ names
  • Property address and parcel number, if available
  • Names, companies and phone numbers for other agents, parties to the transaction
  • Terms of the sale (especially close of escrow date)
  • Marital status of the principals
  • Existing loan information (helps with First American’s title search and in ordering payoffs), especially loan number and lender’s address
  • New lender, contact person and phone number
  • Social Security Numbers
The Preliminary Report

First American Title’s escrow officer will order a preliminary report from the title department. Each title company has a “title plant” where the public records can be searched and a written report is issued of their findings. When you receive the report, review it to verify that the information the seller has given you matches the information of the report. Check the vesting to ensure all the proper parties have executed your contract. Verify that all the loans are reflected properly and check the map to verify the property description.

The Statement of Information

When title is searched, all names of parties involved are run on the “general index.” The general index is an index of recorded liens against individuals and not specific to a certain property. They attach to properties which are owned by the people that they are against, hence a concern to title insurers. Because of common names, and to verify marital status, the escrow officer often orders a statement of information or “S.I.” This is used to eliminate liens that are not against our party. The recorded liens contain identifying information like a social security number or a phone number for an attorney who can be contacted to obtain identifying information.

If the escrow officer sends a request for an S.I. to you for your client to complete, have your client do so as soon as possible and return to the escrow officer for processing to avoid last-minute lien problems. The information is strictly confidential.

Inspections and Invoices

When you are ordering any of the following, ask the company to send a copy of the report and billing to First American Title if report fees or work are to be paid through escrow:

  • Termite inspection
  • Roof inspection
  • Pool/Spa inspection
  • Home inspection
  • Home warranty application
  • Property disclosure reports/geological inspection
  • Any other inspections
Unusual Circumstances

The best way to avoid last-minute problems on your escrow is to be aware of what is considered an unusual circumstance and then to advise the escrow officer or loan agent up front. Some examples are:

Preparing your home for market does not stop at the outside. Preparing your home inside is just as important. Just as you cleaned up the outside, the inside should be just as clean. Put away any items that would contribute to a cluttered appearance. While family pictures and other treasures have meaning to you, to a potential buyer they are just things which tend to make a room seem smaller. Make sure that the lights are on and the window coverings are open when a buyer comes into your home. Light and cheerful is much better than dark and cheerless when it comes to showing your home. Sort out closets and arrange things neatly. It will make your closets look bigger, and further contribute to the sense of tidiness. Pride in your home will be seen by a potential buyer, and hopefully make them want to buy your home.

  • Rentback by sellers, or buyers moving in before close and paying rent through escrow
  • Holdbacks or credits in escrow
  • Parties out-of-town during crucial times (like the sign-off).  Discuss options with the escrow office, like the possibility of papers being sent out for signature or arrange for the party to give Power of Attorney to someone.  (Remember that Power of Attorney forms must be approved by First American Title, and the escrow officer will need instructions from the principals to use the Power of Attorney.)
  • Estate sales, bankruptcy, divorce cases
  • Non-English speaking clients (arrange for an interpreter in advance)
  • Parties conveying title or acquiring title as partnerships, corporations or under trust agreements.
  • Married men or women taking title as their sole and separate property.
Note: If your clients are new to the escrow process (e.g. first-time homebuyers or sellers, non-English speaking) or haven’t bought or sold a home for many years, it may be helpful for them to review in advance some of the “standard” documents they will be required to sign later (for example, escrow instructions, grant deed, etc.)


A good escrow officer communicates often with his or her clients, but a good escrow officer also has a lot of clients. To help your escrow officer help you, keep him/her advised of what is happening in your transaction, via either the phone, or written notes and messages. Advise your escrow officer if terms of the sale have changed. Let the escrow officer know when to expect loan documents. If your manager requires a certain form for the commission demand or other special documents for your office escrow file, the escrow officer will need to be informed.

Advise your buyers that deposits are not normally placed in interest-bearing accounts. However, if the client has a large deposit or a long escrow period, you or your client may want First American Title to open an interest-bearing savings account for the buyers’ deposit. If so, call the escrow officer to get the proper forms completed for opening a savings account. Verify the title company’s charges for opening a savings account.

Advise your buyers that they will be asked how they wish to hold title. First American Title can provide them a flyer entitle “Ways of Holding Title.” However, the escrow officer, like you, is unable to advise them on this. If after reviewing the flyer they are unsure, have them consult with an attorney or CPA.

Advise your buyers of good funds requirements. If you are unsure, put your client in touch with the escrow officer.

Have the buyers talk to a hazard insurance agent early along the way. Tell the buyer to give the escrow information (escrow number, escrow officer’s name, phone number etc.) to the insurance agent. Please also give the name and phone number of the insurance agent to the escrow officer.

Issues to Consider

As the close of escrow date draws near, the flurry of activity and the number of people who play key roles in getting the transaction closed on time increase.

Hopefully, at least a week before closing, loan papers will arrive at First American Title (usually, the lender calls the title company, who must then arrange for delivery of documents to First American Title). The escrow officer needs some preparation time to draw his/her papers and compile all documents for the sign-off. The lender usually has a 24 to 72 hour “funding time.” The fire insurance agent needs some time to prepare and evidence of insurance, and a courier must be arranged for delivery.

Since your client has come to rely on you to follow up on all of these details, any errors or problems become reflections on you. To avoid any problems, be aware of all the timing and work with your escrow officer to expedite the transaction. Consider overnight mail and special messengers if time is short. Often the price of these is insignificant compared to the headache any delays could cause. If problems develop, work constructively with those who can solve them.

The Sign-Off

Arrange a mutually convenient time for signing of escrow papers between you, the escrow officer and the principals. Try to arrange for the earliest possible time. If you want the escrow officer to call your principals to schedule the sign-off, let him/her know in advance.

To help you and your clients prepare for the sign-off, keep in mind:

  • It normally takes about 30 minutes for sellers to sign and 60 minutes for buyers.
  • If possible, review the instruction page and estimated closing statement before signing.  Have your clients arrange for a sitter, if possible, (title companies are usually boring places for small children).
  • Proper I.D. will be required for notarization of grant deeds and deeds of trust.  A valid driver’s license, with picture or I.D. card or U.S. Passport are best for this.  Call the escrow officer early to discuss alternatives if the client doesn’t have one of these.
  • Good funds requirements and California law.
  • Buyers will be asked how they wish to hold title (refer to “Ways of Holding Title”).
  • Sellers will be asked how proceeds are to be disbursed.
  • This will be the time to verify that all funding conditions have been met; check with the loan agent to be sure.
The sign-off is a good time to solidify your relationship with your clients and escrow officer. Try to be present for the sign-off, as this can be a stressful time for your clients. Your soothing presence and attention to detail can help them ease their stress. Let your escrow officer know what you expect at the sign-off, so that he/she can adjust his/her “technique.” For example, you may wish to review everything with your clients first or you may with her to go through everything in detail, as your may have nervous first-time buyers. If you sellers are getting divorced, you may want to schedule separate times and inform the escrow officer that people may be emotional or overly stressed. Communication will help you look good with your clients and will help the escrow officer to make you look good with your clients too.

Requesting Loan Funds

After the buyers and sellers have signed, the escrow officer will request funds from the new lender. The escrow officer does so by filling our First American Title’s “Request for Funds” form and making copies of all documents the lender wishes to review before funding (including copies of the buyers’ and sellers’ instructions).

The escrow officer will have the package delivered by messenger if the lender is local or make arrangements for overnight nail if not. Stay in touch with the escrow officer to verify that the lender’s time requirements coincide with your clients.

Good Funds

Familiarize yourself with California’s good funds law. Both the buyer and lender need to deposit to escrow, usually the day before scheduled recording, good funds are prescribed by law. Cashiers or teller’s checks and wires are the best way to ensure that funds won’t delay the closing. If you are aware that your client cannot obtain one of these, discuss as early as possible with the escrow officer. Be aware that some mortgage companies’ checks are not considered cashier o teller’s checks. Find out early and involve your escrow officer in dealing with funding problems.

Closing Procedures

After funds are ordered, the escrow officer submits to First American Title’s title plant the documents for recording a request to issue title insurance. The documents are reviewed by the title officer and the property and “general index” are “run-to-date.” In other words, the records are checked once again from the date of the preliminary report right up to the date of closing for any documents, which may affect your escrow.

If nothing unusual is fond in this “date-down” and funds are received, the recording clerk for the title company will record the documents on the morning of close of escrow. Upon completion of recordation of all documents by First American Title that morning, the clerk will call the escrow officer with “confirmation” of recording. At this point, the escrow officer is ready to disburse funds. He/she will call you to inform you of this, and at this point you can send your sellers in to pick up their check, deliver keys to buyer and discuss delivery of or pick up of your commission check. Let your escrow officer know if your bookkeeping department has a deadline for delivery of commission checks. If special arrangements need to be made for the sellers to get their check, let the escrow officer know in advance.

At close of escrow, copies of closing statements and pertinent documents are mailed or delivered to the parties involved.

Post Closing Procedures

Hopefully you won’t have to deal with this too often, but occasionally if funds are held for work or rent, there will be a need for continued communication on your escrow. Your escrow officer calendars “funds held files” to follow up after the allotted time frame for holding funds. Your can impress your clients by doing the same and following up on the completion of any work on the property after close of escrow and disbursement of funds held in escrow. Stay in close communication with the escrow officer and your clients to tie up all the loose ends.

Now that your have completed what hopefully has been a smooth escrow process or are about to work diligently on opening an escrow, we at First American Title hope you will choose us to be your providers of title and escrow services. We offer the full range of our resources to help you and your clients achieve successful closed escrows. Thank you in advance for your support.

Compliments of First American Title
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GINGER  HOPP   BROKER CFS #01240587        Realtor Since 1998


Placer County CA ~ Nevada County CA, Sacramento County, Marin County CA, Sonoma County CA, Napa County CA plus few other cities 

 (707) 790-0022 


Ginger@HomesRwe.com "Certified Foreclosure Specialist"  
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