Amy Cimetta, Vista Sotheby’s International Realty

The Escrow Process

Typically you will sign your escrow instructions at a branch office of the title company. However, on occasion you may go to your real estate agent’s office or some other location agreed upon by all parties.

Your Appointment

An appointment is required for the sign-off. Please call your escrow officer to arrange a convenient time. Please expect the process to take approximately one hour. There are several acceptable forms of identification which may be used during the escrow process. These include:

  • A current driver’s license
  • Passport
  • State of California Department of Motor Vehicles ID Card

One of these forms of identification must be presented at the signing of escrow in order for the signature to be notarized.

Paying Off Your Existing Loans

Any funds required to close escrow by either buyer or seller will need to be in the form of a cashier’s check made payable to the title company or by wire transfer. A personal check will delay the closing, as the Title Company is required by law to have “good funds” prior to disbursing. Similarly, an out-of-state check could cause delay in check clearance.

Disclosures and Contingencies

Unless the buyer takes over your existing loan(s), they will be paid off at the close of escrow. You will need to furnish complete information to your escrow officer and real estate agent on each loan against your property. Please be prepared to provide the name of each lender, the loan number, address and phone number of each lender. Your escrow officer will need this information to order the loan payoff demands, so the loan(s) may be paid off correctly at the close of escrow.

During the process of selling your property, you will be asked to fill out a property disclosure form which is now required by law. In this document, you will inform the buyer of any significant facts you have about the condition of the property. If you are moving out of California, other disclosures may be necessary. Your real estate agent will assist you with these.

What Is Next After the Buyer’s Loan Is Approved?

There will be various contingency dates in your real estate sales contract. You should be very aware of these and be sure that the actions required are performed in a timely manner. Such contingencies include the buyer’s loan approval, approval of the Preliminary Title Report, approval of structural pest control and other inspections. Stay closely in touch with your real estate agent regarding these important dates. It signifies the legal transfer and recording of title to the property from the seller to the buyer and is the culmination of the transaction.

How do I open an escrow?

The escrow officer takes instructions based on the terms of your Purchase Agreement and the lender’s requirements. The escrow officer can hold inspection reports and bills for work performed as required by the purchase agreement. Other elements of the escrow include hazard insurance, and the grand deed from the seller. Escrow can’t be completed until these items have been satisfied and all parties have signed escrow documents.

Either your real estate agent or the buyer’s agent may open escrow. As soon as you execute the Purchase Agreement, your agent will place your initial deposit into an escrow account at the Title Company.

Where does the buyer’s money go?

Written evidence of the deposit is generally included in your copy of the sales contract. The funds will then be deposited in a separate escrow or trust account.

What information do I need to provide?

You may be asked to complete a Statement of Identity as part of the paperwork. Because many people have the same name, the Statement of Identity is used to identify the specific person in the transaction through such information as date of birth, social security number, etc. This information is considered confidential and will be treated as such.

How long will this take?

The amount of time necessary to complete the escrow is determined by the terms of the purchase agreement. It is normally 45 to 60 days, but can range from a few days to several months.

What happens next?

Unless he/she is paying cash, the next step will be for the buyer to apply for a mortgage loan. Your real estate agent will be able to keep you informed about the progress of the loan application. During the escrow process, you are still required to make your payments on existing loans so that you don’t incur late fees or damage your credit rating.

Escrow instructions

Escrow instructions define the events that must take place prior to an escrow closing. The escrow instructions are your written instructions to the escrow holder acknowledging the terms and conditions of the sale. An itemized statement is included with your instructions, reflecting all agreed upon debits and credits.

A Grand Deed is the document that legally transfers title to the property of the new owner. The seller will sign the Grant Deed as part of the escrow instructions and the escrow officer or another notary public will notarize your signatures. Proper identification is needed for this procedure, (which must be a picture I.D.) The Grant Deed is recorded at the time escrow closes, and thus transfers title.

When the loan is approved and the loan documents are sent to the escrow officer or the escrow assistant handling your transaction, the escrow instruction and Grant Deed will be prepared.

After the sign-off

After all the parties have signed the necessary instructions and documents, the escrow officer will return them to the new lender for a final review. Following the review, which usually occurs within a few days, the lender is ready to fund the buyer’s loan, and advises the Escrow Officer. At this time the escrow holder compiles all the documents required to record and successfully close the transaction.

What is “Close of Escrow”?

It signifies the legal transfer and recording of title to the property from the seller to the buyer and is the culmination of the transaction.

When do I receive the proceeds from the sale?

A final settlement statement and a check for the proceeds will be available to you the day of recording. The buyer will be provided the keys at this time.

What happens after Escrow Closes?

After the loan has been finalized, the documents signed and recorded, and the financial settlement completed, there are still several steps which must be accomplished to complete the transaction.

If your existing loan is being paid in full from the escrow, the lender is required by law to issue a full conveyance of their loan. The lender will send to escrow a deed of reconveyance which removes the Deed of Trust from the property. It will be recorded and the original returned to you. This normally takes several weeks.

What happens to funds held in escrow?

In some cases the escrow holder will be instructed to hold funds in escrow to pay for future events. An example might be funds held for termite repairs. Upon completion of the repairs and receipt of the proper documentation an/or releases, the escrow officer will disburse the held funds according to instructions.

Amy Cimetta

Amy Cimetta

Broker Associate, MBA


License: 01774767

Vista Sotheby’s International Realty

2501 N. Sepulveda Blvd, 2nd Floor
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

310.542.9054 direct

310.428.8804 cell

“I have bought and sold many houses and Amy is the best agent I've ever had.”

-Jeannette Christensen
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