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The Title & Escrow Process of Buying a Home

Title & Escrow are two different parts in a real estate transaction. “Title” refers to your legal right in property, including the right to sell or transfer the property.  Your title to property is evidenced by a Deed, which is a form of documentation that legally proves a homeowner rightfully owns property, though title can be impacted by other interests or claims.  “Escrow” is a term that describes the neutral third-party handling of funds, documents, and tasks specific to a real estate closing, also known as settlement.  In Massachusetts and Connecticut, the buyer’s attorney will usually serve as the escrow agent, though that role can be filled by a separate company, independent title officer, or a specific title / escrow attorney.  The purpose of escrow is to facilitate the transaction by managing the disbursement of funds and documents.

Escrow Agent’s Duty

The escrow agent’s duties can consist of arranging and keeping track of requirements and contingencies within the purchase contract. Some examples include home inspections, the purchase of homeowner’s insurance, the completion of negotiated repairs, and financing requirements. Once all transaction contingencies are met, including the execution of all documents necessary to complete the transaction, the escrow company will disburse funds to the seller and other parties, in accordance with the purchase agreement.  While the escrow agent’s duty is to handle funds from both parties, it is not uncommon to see a disagreement between the parties regarding money.  Situations like this require the agent to maintain the money being held until the parties resolve their dispute.

The Process

The title and escrow process begins when a sales contract is signed by the buyer and seller.  The contract is then delivered to the closing agent, usually with a deposit check. At this stage, the sales contract will be accepted by an escrow agent. When the escrow agent receives the contract, they will then order a title examination. A title examination is a public record search that includes deeds, tax records, mortgages, liens, wills, child support agreements, bankruptcy filings, divorce agreements, and other publicly available interests, claims, or liens on the property.  The title examination will look for any type of documentation that will negatively influence the property at hand.

During the title examination, the lawful owners of the property are verified and any outstanding debts on the property are identified, so they can be paid at closing.   If issues arise during the title examination, they must be cleared before issuing the title. Once cleared, the lender and buyer receive a document that is called a title commitment, and this document outlines the terms of title insurance.  The closing agent then reviews the legal and loan documents, which also include the Closing Disclosure.  The Closing Disclosure is a document that provides information regarding the mortgage and closing costs, charges, adjustments, and other expenses that may be involved in the transaction. The escrow agent then schedules the signing and closing.  Normally, the Closing Disclosure must be provided to the buyer three (3) days prior to the closing date so they can review documentation.

After the signing has been completed, the escrow or settlement agent will forward payment to any prior lender and pay all parties who performed services in connection with your closing (if they have not been paid). The transaction documents are recorded in the county or town in which the property is located.  From start to finish, a closing involving a residential lender can take 3-6 weeks, though closings that don’t involve a lender can often be completed much sooner.

Legacy Title & Escrow represents parties involved in residential or commercial real estate transactions, including buyers, sellers, developers, contractors, landlords, banks, and other lending institutions.  We will work closely with you to provide quality legal services designed to protect your investment while avoiding undue costs and delays.  Contact us at 413-527-0517 or email at

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