How to Choose an Escrow Officer: 14 Questions to Ask (& One BIG Thing to Notice)

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We have all heard the importance of building your team and how you cannot take on the world of investing solo. This is very true, but having a dysfunctional team is worse than not having a team at all.

I recently had an area of my team that was creating obstacles and damaging the credibility of my business and my image personally. In business having a bad name is the worst thing that can happen. I had to take steps to eliminate this dysfunction completely, or it would have destroyed everything I’m building. I worked diligently to evaluate the problem and held the party accountable. Once the issue became a recurring problem, I knew that it was time to make a change.

My prior title company was the issue. I thought maybe it was just the escrow officer. I was trying to give the title company the benefit of the doubt, but after working with the escrow officer’s manager, I finally came to the conclusion that this was not an independent incident, but a company culture issue. I would not receive responses to emails in a timely fashion, docs for closing were not submitted until the eleventh hour, and communication with the sellers was horrendous, which pushed closings back weeks (yes, I said weeks).

Related: What is Title Insurance? The Real Truth About How Title Insurance Works

This was killing any referrals the sellers were willing to give me. I had to facilitate transactions through the end, and I did not enjoy being a transaction coordinator. I finally decided to move to another title company after talking with a partner agent of mine. I thought this would be a simple process. I could call a few escrow agents with whom I closed a few deals and just move on right.

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Wrong.

I would call to set up appointments to meet with them, and I would not get a return phone call. I would email them… no response! I could not believe it, but I have learned throughout my life that some things and some relationships are not meant to be and not to press the issue, or it will become a bigger issue.

After receiving the referral from a partner agent in my brokerage, I decided to vet the escrow officer like I would vet a seller. I arrived early, and I had all my questions on my iPhone, ready to see how she and her team would respond. They did exceptionally well.

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How to Choose an Escrow Officer: One BIG Thing to Notice

Always arrive to the appointment early. I do this to talk to the receptionist to get a feel for the company culture. If he/she seems too busy and stressed to have even limited conversation, then I assume he/she is either behind on work or busy helping the escrow officers get caught up. Uh, lightbulb moment, they are not efficient, and customer service is not a priority.

You can tell a lot about a company from observing the receptionist.

The receptionist’s primary duty is to receive new/existing clients to the company. This person is responsible for providing the first impression you receive. If this reception is not warm and welcoming, turn around and leave. Your service from other company employees will likely mimic that initial impression. This is not true in all cases, but who wants to take the time to find out?

In cases such as this, I either leave and notify who I was scheduled to meet with and inform them about the lackluster reception I received from the employee, or I continue with the scheduled meeting, but make sure I politely inform them of the level of professionalism of the receptionist. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not some primadonna, but I understand my business is important, and I want those who are affiliated with my business to have the same demeanor.

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Related: 2 Unexpected (But Invaluable) People to Add to Your Real Estate Team

14 Questions to Ask Your Escrow Officer

  1. What are your office hours? If they reply with standard business hours, this is not the place for you. You need someone who is willing to stay late for clients.
  2. If needed, can you meet a client for a signing away from your office? This is to identify if the client’s best interest is at heart.
  3. Do you have an assistant? Are they familiar with the files? This is for accessibility.
  4. Do you have multi-lingual capabilities? This is a must, especially in the Southwest.
  5. With what methods and frequency do you communicate the status of your files and to whom?
  6. What recording times are scheduled for your company?
  7. What are your rates?
  8. What are your escrow fees, including wire transfers, recording charges and delivery?
  9. Do you have a mobile notary available?
  10. Do you offer couriers to pick up EM?
  11. What is the method and turnaround time for property profiles?
  12. What other services do you have that I may not be aware of?
  13. What was your worst nightmare file, and how did you solve it?
  14. What do you expect from me?

Do not feel overly obsessive when asking these questions. The team will see that if you come prepared, their level of preparedness needs to match yours. When I sat and interviewed the escrow officer’s team, they were impressed at how prepared I was, and I was impressed at their level of knowledge.

Remember, those who are affiliated with your business should match your level of desire, intensity, and preparation.

Do you have a certain method you use to evaluate your team members?

If so, let us know with a comment!

About Author

Marcus Maloney

Marcus Maloney G+ is the Executive Officer of Equity Realty & Investments as well as 3rd Generation Management & Holding LLC, both are family owned and operated real estate investment firms. The firms' goal is to provide affordable solutions in real estate while providing exceptional opportunities for community redevelopment for the residents of Phoenix, Arizona and Chicago, Illinois. You can follow Marcus on Twitter

4 Comments

  1. Mindy Jensen

    Marcus, what a great article! Thanks for sharing.
    Before I got my RE license, I always thought you just got who you got and that was that. I have had good escrow agents, and I have had unresponsive, uninformed agents. I like the good ones better!
    A good real estate agent will have had closings before, and will know who is good to use, and who should be skipped. Once I got licensed, I learned from other agents in my office about individual agents and entire companies as a whole.
    Thanks for a comprehensive list of questions to ask.

    • Marcus Maloney

      Mindy,

      You are exactly right its good to lean on the expertise of your fellow Agents. I like to process everything in my head before it actually happens; so I try and see myself and my clients(sellers & buyers) through the process mentally before it physically happens so they will know what to expect. However when you get a terrible Officer that is extremely difficult to do, and its your credibility at stake. Thanks for reading.

      “Enjoying the Journey”

  2. Evelyn Forrest on

    Hi Marcus,

    Thank you for sharing the questions to ask proposed escrow companies. I wonder if I could get a copy of it ? I am a beginning investor.

    Thank you.
    Evelyn Forrest

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