Here’s a useful primer by the California Department of Real Estate: Surviving the Real Estate “Escrow” Process in California: Important Things and Tips You Should Know, and Mistakes to Avoid.
The sale or purchase of a single-family home is often the most significant financial transaction in a person’s lifetime. If you are buying or selling a home or refinancing, you will want to make certain the process is relatively stress-free and goes as smoothly and reliably as possible. In order to do that, you will want to select and use a licensed, qualified, and competitively priced escrow agent. While the escrow process in California is not necessarily easily understood, it is the most commonly used procedure by which real estate is bought, sold, and refinanced in the State. To many home buyers and sellers, escrow is more like a mysterious experience where sums of money and legal documents change hands, and real estate is magically transferred to another at the “close” of escrow.
While escrow transactions can be and many are fairly complex (with pitfalls and complications for the unwary), and there are books, real estate law sources, and other in-depth informational materials that explain the principles, procedures, and laws regarding escrows, the California Department of Real Estate (“DRE”) has published this informational pamphlet discussing escrow fundamentals in an effort to (i) provide you with general escrow know-how, including the basic language and terminology, (ii) shed light on how the escrow process works, (iii) familiarize you with common practices and expectations, and to (iv) provide you with helpful tips in selecting and managing escrow transactions and spotting potential fraud.