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What is closing or escrow and what is involved in opening escrow?

Closing (also referred to as "settlement" or "escrow" in many parts of the country) is the process whereby an impartial third party, such as an attorney, an escrow company or a title company, is entrusted with the job of seeing that the transfer of ownership from the Seller to the Buyer takes place according to the terms of the written contract agreed upon by all parties involved. The closing agent keeps or holds any funds or documents safely until all the details have been settled and disburses them to the proper parties at the proper time. At the actual time of the closing, whereby all the parties come together to sign their appropriate documents, the seller will be asked to provide clear title to the property and the buyer will be asked to provide the funds needed to close the sale. If there is a mortgage or loan involved, the closing of the mortgage also takes place at this time.

Opening escrow or starting the closing process, simply involves visiting the office of any firm that handles closings, then handing over the deposit money and giving instructions for the transaction. Anyone who is involved in the transaction may "open escrow." Generally, the real estate agent takes the initiative and opens the escrow. In for-sale-by-owner transactions, in which no agent is involved, either the buyer or the seller or both together may open escrow.

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