An escrow officer is an important role in any real estate closing. They help make sure that the real estate transaction goes smoothly and act as an impartial third party to securely hold on to funds from purchasers. Escrow Officers are considered a neutral third party and are typically employed by a title company. Their main purpose is to manage the escrow process making sure funds or deeds aren’t exchanged until finalization is complete. If you want to work in the real estate field in a more administrative position, you may consider a career as an escrow officer.
Here, we explain what an escrow officer is and what they do, provide steps to becoming an escrow officer and discuss the national average salary for the position.
What is Escrow?
Escrow is a legal term that means a deed, deposit, fund, or property is in the custody of a neutral third party. These third-party companies can include an escrow company, title company, or a law firm that services escrow. During the home buying process, these companies mediate the real estate deal and hold money and the property “in escrow” until all the conditions from the purchase and sale agreement have been met. After the deal is complete, your mortgage lender will create an escrow account. This account will manage property tax and insurance premium payments on your behalf.
The main purpose of an escrow is to ensure that everybody sticks to their end of the bargain. It can be seen as a mediator of the transaction. It asserts that the transfer of assets only happens when all the obligations of the transaction have been met.
What is an Escrow Officer?
An escrow officer (also known as an escrow manager or an escrow agent) is a professional who acts as a third party during real estate closings and transactions. They do not work for the buyer or the seller of the property and must remain impartial to ensure that transactions are handled fairly and legally. If the closing is successful, the escrow officer will also approve and handle the disbursement of all involved funds.
As a key part of the closing process for real estate transactions, an escrow officer works with all parties to make sure the necessary money is in escrow and the transaction can continue without major issues. Escrow officers work for title agencies, real estate firms, real estate attorneys and lending companies, and typically work normal business hours, although they may need to work late to complete a real estate closing.
Who Does the Escrow Officer Work For?
The escrow agent is a neutral third party, meaning they do not work for the buyer or the seller. Their job is to serve the contract and ensure that all terms of the contract are followed. Everything they do is in the best interest of both the buyer and the seller.
What Does An Escrow Officer Do?
Escrow officers essentially close real estate transactions, but they also handle funds that have been deposited, monitor the status of earnings on those escrow funds to make sure they are returned to the party who deposited the monies and review contracts and titles to ensure proper filings with local assessors and county records officers. An escrow officer is the person who performs the final steps in property acquisition.
Escrow officers typically work for title companies, mortgage lenders or credit unions. During a home’s closing process the escrow officer is responsible for processing any necessary paperwork, witnessing the document signings and explaining the companies’ services to prospective home buyers. The primary function of the escrow officer, however, is to establish escrow accounts for home buyers and to maintain the funds and records of such accounts. Because of the nature of escrow proceedings, many officers have knowledge of both finance and real estate.
An escrow officer has several responsibilities, including:
- Meeting with clients to explain the escrow process and answer questions
- Holding money from real estate buyers in an escrow account
- Writing clear escrow instructions so clients know the steps they must take to deposit their escrow
- Researching the validity and insurability of the title to a real estate property
- Providing settlement updates and estimates to real estate agents and clients
- Making sure all sales and escrow documents are in compliance and meet lender requirements
- Obtaining clients’ signatures on escrow documents
- Scheduling and preparing for closings
- Approving the disbursement of escrow funds during closing
- Providing all parties with an escrow balance statement
- Following title insurance laws and all state regulations
How to Become an Escrow Officer
Follow these steps to become a successful escrow officer:
- Get an Education
If you’re interested in becoming an Escrow Agent, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. Approximately 44% of Escrow Agents have a bachelor’s degree and approximately 3% have master’s degrees. Even though some Escrow Agents have a college degree, it is possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.
Consider majoring in a topic like business, real estate, finance or a related field. You can take electives in information technology, business ethics, accounting and business management or other subjects that will help you build knowledge to support your career.
- Build Your Skill Set
You can share your skill set with hiring managers on your resume, within your cover letter and during an interview, so explore how you can build your skill set to appeal to an employer and show them why you are a good fit for the company’s open position.
Some skills to develop to become a successful escrow officer include:
- Time management
- Computer skills
- Critical thinking
- Customer service
- Gain Relevant Experience
Many states require you to work in the field for at least a year before you can start the licensing process. An entry-level position in a title insurance or real estate attorney’s office also gives you on-the-job training in your chosen field.
- Some states require you to work for a specific period of time, while others require you to have worked for a set number of hours. Keep that in mind if you’ve got a part-time job at a title insurance office or real estate attorney’s office.
- You’ll also want to make sure that the work you’re doing is something that qualifies under your state’s insurance law as relevant experience.
- If you’re unsure, explain to your employer (or potential employer) that you want to become an escrow officer, and ask if the job you have meets the state licensing qualifications.
- There may be an affidavit or other form that must be completed by your employer to verify that you have the required work experience.
- If the form is called an affidavit, this generally means it must be signed by your employer in the presence of a notary public.
- Apply For a State License
Most states have an exam that you must take and pass with a specific minimum score before you can apply for a license to work as an escrow officer. You can find out about your state’s licensing exam by contacting your state insurance board or other regulatory authority.
Once you have passed your exam, you will receive information on what you need to do to apply for a license. In some states, you must get a title underwriter to sponsor your application. The requirements for this will be set forth by your state’s insurance board.
- Obtain Insurance
To become an escrow officer, you may need to obtain a surety bond, which is a kind of insurance that gives clients the ability to get their escrow funds back if there is a contract break or someone doesn’t fulfill their obligations. Many employers that hire escrow officers require this insurance so they can provide their clients with confidence that the real estate transaction will go as smoothly as possible.
- Become a Notary Public
While you may not need to be a notary public to work as an escrow officer, many hiring managers prefer it. Having the ability to notarize important documents, particularly in a real estate transaction, means you’ll be able to assist in a greater capacity. If you are a notary public, it is another way to stand out from your competition when applying for positions.
Become an Escrow Officer at Citrus Heritage Escrow
If you choose to become an escrow agent, it is advisable to know that it is a responsible job with many important responsibilities. An agent’s job does not require fieldwork, but meeting deadlines and preparing for closing. Therefore, an aspirant must always self-evaluate oneself and confirm if he is ready to accept and face the challenges underlying this profession and fits all the requirements for acquiring the job. If you meet the criterion listed above, give us a call to see if we have an opportunity that meets your career goals (951) 335-7200.