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Important Escrow / Settlement Terms

By Sandy Gadow—Whether buying or selling a home, you may encounter some terms you are not familiar with when speaking with your real estate agent, loan officer or signing agent. Here’s a list of the basic terms you should understand.

Broker: This is the person who represents the buyer/seller during a real property transaction. When buying or selling real estate through a broker, you are protected by dealing with a party who is operating under state license.

Escrow: This means to deposit money and documents with an escrow agent, usually in the form of a corporation, to be used as specifically described in the written instructions of the parties.

Escrow Officer: This person writes the written instructions of the parties for the escrow agent. These instructions govern the use of money and documents given by the parties involved.

Preliminary Report: This report shows preliminary ownership and encumbrance information. It is given to the escrow officer after the escrow is opened.

Taxes: The prorating of county, city, and irrigation district taxes and the calculation of bonds and special assessments requires skillful handling.

Insurance: At the time of closing, all premiums must be adjusted and all policies transferred. All changes must be made and the insurance companies must be notified.

Prorate: The division of proportionate shares of rent, insurance, taxes, etc. between the parties involved. This is usually calculated by an escrow officer.

Revenue Stamps: These are put on deeds to show that taxes have been paid at a certain transfer rate based on the sale price. The escrow officer uses these when appropriate.

Deed: This is a document that is used to transfer the ownership of land from one person to another. The form of the deed may vary.

Title: The right by which the owner of the land has possession of the property. Publicly recording a deed is a common way to establish a title.

Title Insurance: A policy which protects your rights as owner of a property, and will reimburse for any problems with the title to the property. Your real estate professional can provide free information about title insurance.

Sandy Gadow, president of Escrow Publishing Company, is a nationally recognized author and expert on escrow and title insurance, with 25 years in the industry. Sandy has appeared on CNN’s “Open House” show as a commentator covering real estate and her articles have appeared in the Washington Post and other regional newspapers. Sandy is a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the California Escrow Association, and a member of the National Advisory Council for GoGetNotary.com. For more information, go to EscrowHelp.com.