Q: What is escrow?


A: Very simply stated, escrow is where funds and documents are exchanged between parties upon a particular event.  In a real estate transaction, this means the event is when all terms of the purchase and sale agreement have been met. When all funds for closing the transaction have been deposited into escrow (closing funds and loan proceeds, if applicable) by the purchaser (and lender, if applicable) and the deed conveying title has been placed into escrow by the seller, the escrow agent is authorized to record the deed and disburse funds (close the transaction). As escrow agents, we do not represent either the buyer or the seller.  We are a disinterested, neutral third party.


Q: Who pays the escrow fee?


A: Most purchase and sale agreements, state that the escrow fee will be split between purchaser and seller. However, costs can be negotiated. On a Veterans Affairs (VA) transaction, the seller pays the total escrow fee.


Q: Can I write a personal check for closing funds?  


A: Per Washington State Law, closing funds must be in the form of a cashier’s check that is drawn by, and payable through, a Washington State Bank, or via Wired Funds. A Cashier’s check must be made payable to Columbia Escrow LLC, and must be deposited at least one day prior to the closing date.   If you would like to wire funds, please contact us for our wiring instructions.


For your information, below is the specific RCW pertaining to funds deposited into escrow:


RCW 18.44.070 “An escrow agent shall not make disbursements until the next business day after the business day on which the funds are deposited unless the deposit is made in cash, by interbank electronic transfer, or in a form that permits conversion of the deposit to cash on the same day deposit is made.”


Q: Who and When will I be provided with the amount of funds to close the transaction,  and who will notify me?


A: When the loan documents are sent to escrow, the closing agent can calculate the exact amount of funds to close. If it is a cash transaction, once the preliminary commitment for title has been issued, the escrow agent can most likely provide you with that figure.


Q: When do I sign my documents?


A: For purchasers: When loan documents have been sent to escrow, we will contact you to schedule an appointment for signing.  We will provide the amount of funds to close, as well as any other conditions of the loan.  We do not schedule signing appointments prior to receipt of loan documents. If you have a difficult schedule, you may schedule a tentative appointment, that we will confirm upon receipt of your loan documents.


You will sign most likely a few days prior to the closing date. Most lenders require that your signed documents be returned to them for review. Usually, lenders require 24-48 hours to review the returned documents in order to fund the loan.  You are not required to come back to the office on the day of closing.


For sellers:  If the loan that your purchaser is obtaining does not contain documents that you need to sign, you can sign prior to the receipt of loan documents. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and VA transactions will have documents that require the seller’s signature(s).


Q: What do I bring to the closing?


A: For purchasers:  Valid Photo ID (e.g., a driver’s license), and closing funds, if depositing closing funds in the form of a cashier’s check. 


For Sellers:  Valid Photo ID, and if you request that your proceeds be wired, please provide wiring instructions. If the proceeds are being wired into a checking account, you may provide a “voided” check. However, please confirm with your bank that the routing number is correct for wire transfers.  Some banks (e.g., Bank of America and Wells Fargo) often have a different routing number for wire transfers than what is shown on your check.


Q: Who will attend the closing?


A: Usually, you will be signing with the closing agent. Selling and listing brokers, and loan officers are welcome to attend closing, however, this may not be their practice. If you prefer them to attend, please contact us, so that we may inform them of the time you have scheduled.


Q: When do I get the keys to the house, and who will I get them from?


A: Once the deed transferring title has been recorded and the loan proceeds have been wired to escrow (if applicable), the real estate agents will release keys.  The actual time of possession may be as late as 9:00 PM.  Please consult your broker.   If it the transaction is a for sale by owner transaction, the seller will provide the keys.


Q: When do I have to be out of the house? 


A: The purchase and sale agreement will stipulate the date the purchaser will take possession. On that particular date, the time of day has been typically recognized as 9:00 PM.


Q: When do I receive my proceeds?


A: If you request a check, in most cases, your check will be available in the afternoon on the day of closing. Please note that the proceeds check will be a trust account check, not a cashier’s check. If you request that your proceeds be wired, it will be wired the next business day.


Q: What utilities are paid by escrow?


A: Within the City of Seattle, this includes the combined utility bill (water/sewer/garbage) and Seattle City Light (electricity).


If your property is outside the City of Seattle, usually water and sewer companies have lien rights.  Private garbage companies and the gas company, Puget Sound Energy, do not have lien rights and must be paid directly by the parties.


It is always the responsibility of the buyer to open and the seller to close all of their utility accounts.  Columbia Escrow will only pay the estimated amounts provided by the utility companies.


Q: What should I expect after closing?


A: If the property is located in King County, the County Auditor will mail you the original deed directly to you within approximately 6 months. The title company will send you the Owner’s Title Insurance policy in the mail as well. You will also will receive a final settlement statement from escrow a few days after closing. The lender will send you a monthly statement or coupon book for you to make your monthly mortgage payments.


Q: I just paid off my house, now what?


A: If you paid off your house, and your lender was an institution (bank or mortgage company), you may receive a letter from your lender congratulating that you have paid the loan off. In most cases, the lender will send the “Full Reconveyance” directly to the County Auditor.  This is the document that shows that the promissory note was paid in full and the Deed of Trust has been released from the property. If the lender sends you the original “Full Reconveyance,” and it has not been recorded, you must record it with the County Auditor.  


If you paid off a private individual and your security instrument was a deed of trust, you must obtain from this individual the following documents:


1. Original Promissory Note

2. Original Deed of Trust

3. Executed Request for “Full Reconveyeance” Original signature from beneficiary


These documents must be forwarded to the trustee with a check for their reconveyance fee.


If you paid off a private individual and your security instrument was a Real Estate Contract, you must obtain the original Fulfillment Deed and record it at the County Auditor; otherwise, you will not hold fee simple title to your property.