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What is an escrow?

An escrow is an arrangement between a buyer and a seller of real estate in which a disinterested third party, called the escrow holder, holds legal documents and funds on behalf of the buyer and seller, and distributes them according to the buyer’s and seller's instructions. This arrangement provides both parties with increased levels of protection and convenience.

The buyer can instruct the escrow holder to disburse the purchase price only upon the satisfaction of certain prerequisites and conditions. The seller can instruct the escrow holder to retain possession of the deed to the buyer until the seller’s requirements, including the receipt of the purchase price, are met. Both rely on the escrow holder to carry out faithfully their mutually consistent instructions relating to the transaction and to advise them if any of their instructions are not mutually consistent or cannot be carried out.

An escrow is convenient for both the buyer and the seller because they can move forward separately and simultaneously in providing inspections, reports, loan commitments and funds, deeds, and many other items, using the escrow holder as the central depositing point.

If the instructions from all parties to an escrow are clearly drafted, fully detailed and mutually consistent, the escrow holder can take many actions on their behalf without further consultation. This saves much time and facilitates the closing of the transaction.

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