3 Things Sellers Should Always Do Before Entering Into Escrow

If you're about to sell a home, there are probably a thousand things racing through your mind. Though your real estate agent should be able to advise you on many of these items, there are a couple things that most sellers either forget to do or are never told to do before the sale of their home. Any of these issues could potentially cause the escrow process to fall through, forcing you to go through the process again from the very beginning.

1. Check For Any Liens Against Your Property

When you first enter into escrow the escrow company will do a preliminary title report, which should show any liens. It should. It may not -- that's what makes it preliminary. But that's when you're entering into escrow. It's better to pay the company to do the preliminary title report much earlier in the process so that you have time to fix it.

Say you find out that your property has a lien out that is in error; $40,000 that you already paid off or that doesn't even belong to you. This is a situation that can easily take more than 30 to 45 days to fix. If you don't want to extend out escrow, you need to know as soon as possible.

2. Request Your Balance Statement From Your HOA or AOAO

If you have a homeowner's association or an association of apartment owner's, it's a good idea to request a balance statement immediately before or while entering into escrow. Why? Because just before escrow closes -- usually two weeks or even one week prior -- the escrow company will add the amount you owe your HOA or AOAO to your documents. And this amount will need to be paid if escrow is to go through. You have no choice in that; you'd have to cancel or extend escrow if you wanted to argue with them.

Most of the time this is fine. But if your HOA or AOAO reports the wrong amount or thinks you owe more than you really do, you're going to end up being blindsided. Often the homeowner will simply pay the HOA or AOAO fines just to get escrow to go through. 

3. Get Your Own Property Inspection

During the process of escrow you will go through both a property inspection and an appraisal. There is value to doing these on your own, often before the property even sells. These items are both only a few hundred dollars in cost but will prevent you from being surprised by anything that a subsequent inspection or appraisal finds. Otherwise you can be in the middle of escrow to discover the electricity is not up to code or the appraisal is too low for the bank loan to go through. 

If all your ducks are in a row, you should be able to get out of escrow in 30 to 45 days. Sometimes you can expedite escrow to be only 15 days, but this is in very rare cases. Either way, it's always better to be over-prepared rather than under-prepared.