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1. Know what “escrow” is, and who’s dealing with it for you.

You will hear the term "escrow" quite a bit during the home buying process. So, what is escrow?

Escrow (or “settlement service”) describes the process of a third party holding money or property in trust for another until certain conditions are met. An example is any amount given to your real estate agent to accompany your offer on a house. That money goes into an escrow account until you close. Likewise, the settlement agent holds your down payment and your lender’s loan proceeds in escrow until closing.

You also might keep money in escrow with your mortgage company for as long as you’re paying for your house, so the mortgage company can pay your homeowners insurance and real estate taxes for you.

2. Know what is meant by “closing.”

Closing (or "settlement" ) is the point where all the title research is completed, the mortgage loan is approved, and all the paperwork is ready to be signed and recorded. Once all of the documents have been signed, the funds disbursed and the deed and mortgage recorded, the transaction has “closed.” In most cases, after closing, the house is all yours.

3. You need title insurance to protect both yourself and your mortgage lender.

The purpose of title insurance is to protect you and your lender from defects in the title to your home. Your lender will require title insurance before your loan is funded. Without title insurance for yourself, your down payment and any equity created over time is at risk should title defects surface. And once you have title insurance, you are protected from title problems and claims against your property even if they do not surface for decades.

4. You choose your title insurance company.

When it comes to title insurance, you have the right to choose whatever company you’d like. Although many people just rely on their attorney, mortgage lender or real estate agent to pick a title insurance company for them, ultimately the decision is yours.

5. Title insurance is a one-time cost.

You don’t pay monthly or annual premiums to keep your title insurance – you pay it just one time, typically at closing. Then you’re covered for as long as you own your home.

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