The Officiating Escrow Officer Is a Neutral Team Member

By Eric Tyson, Ray Brown

Even the simplest house sale involves many details that must be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction before the sale can be completed. Without someone to bridge the gulf between mutual buyer and seller distrust that exists in most transactions, deals would grind to a halt.

Bridging that gulf of distrust, real estate (like other team sports) engages the escrow officer, a referee who keeps the game civilized. Escrow officers aren’t on anyone’s team; they’re neutral. They act as a disinterested third party for buyers and sellers without showing favoritism to either party.

After you and the buyer have a signed contract, all the documents, funds, and instructions related to your transaction usually are given to the escrow holder specified in your purchase agreement by the buyer’s agent.

Buyers and sellers often select an escrow holder based on the recommendations of their real estate agents. Depending on the location of your property, local custom dictates whether your escrow is handled by a lawyer, bank, real estate broker, or the firm that issues the title insurance.

Escrow fees range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars and are based on your property’s sale price. Once again, local custom nearly always determines whether the buyer or seller pays for escrow, or whether escrow fees are split 50/50.