Escrow is a critical component of the home sale that typically takes between 30 and 45 days — but for many buyers it seems to stretch on for centuries. What should you do?
1. Keep a close eye on all communication channels
To make sure everything closes on time and everyone is happy at the end of the day, it's critical for buyers to manage communication.
2. Order the appraisal
It's usually the escrow manager's job to book the appraisal. Appraisers can be in short supply, and as the buyer you have a right to ask about timelines and how the appraisal went, so check in with your escrow manager to ask about the plan.
3. Get the inspection
A qualified and certified home inspector will walk through the house and check for potential problems. Talk to your agent or your escrow manager about who's responsible for ordering the inspection — you probably want to be there.
4. Consider secondary inspections
Some inspections might not be as necessary in certain areas as others. Additional inspections could include:
Plumbing and water
5. Request any repairs
If the seller manages any necessary repairs for you, you'll save your own money upfront — but there's no guarantee that the seller will opt for a high-quality repair. So it's not necessarily always to your advantage to get the seller to pay for it.
6. Secure homeowners' insurance
Now is the time to find a good insurance agent if you're not already working with one. You’ll need recommendations for how much you'll need in coverage, which will cover not just the structure but all the contents (in other words, your belongings), plus your liability if someone gets hurt on your property.
7. Manage your utilities
There's no time like when you're stuck in escrow for tying up loose ends. Set up your:
8. Make sure your financing is in order
Work with your mortgage broker to make sure you're handing over all the documents they need, when they need it, so there are no delays in financing.
9. Don't change jobs
Any major changes to either your income or expenses could cause a snag in your mortgage loan.
10. Refrain from making major purchases
You've got years to come in your new place to start kitting it out, so take a deep breath instead of pulling out your wallet. (This includes putting a big purchase on a credit card!)
11. Wait to buy furniture
On the same note, buyers often can't help but think of all the furniture they'll need (but don't yet have) in their new home. Not only is your credit score a factor, but there’s also the risk of the unknown — what if something happens before you get to closing?
12. Keep track of all your bank deposits
If you're getting a big windfall in the form of a gift or an inheritance, let your mortgage broker know as soon as possible what's going on, and ask how you need to document it with the lender.
13. Pay your debts on time
Make sure that you aren't behaving in any ways that might cause a big dip in your credit score. This includes ensuring that your bills are all paid on time and in full.
14. Review the title reports
The title report documents the home’s ownership and any liens on the property. A title will also give you details about additional anomalies like any easements on your soon-to-be home, which is always good to know before you move in.
15. Track your transaction costs
Make sure your finances are in order and track your transaction costs so that you aren't caught by surprise (and unable to pay) when a bill for the appraisal or inspection arrives, or when you’re at the closing table and have to pay closing costs.
16. Book the final walk-through
Work with the seller and your agent to arrange a time for a final walk-through before you both sit down at the closing table. If there’s a problem at walk-through, talk to your agent about your options.
17. Triple-check over the phone before sending any money
Wire scams exist in real estate. If you get a legitimate-seeming email from someone asking you to wire money, pick up the phone to make sure they really sent it.
18. Keep tabs on your closing responsibilities
There's a lot going on in escrow, even if it seems to take forever, and the best way that buyers can get through the process is to make sure they're staying on top of any responsibilities they have to move the transaction forward.