Becoming an Escrow Assistant: Job Description and Duties
Wielding my literature degree as I dove into an uncertain ocean of job applications and interviews, I never expected my attempts to escape retail I would land me working in escrow. In fact, I'd never actually heard of escrow until I applied for the job on a whim. Almost two years into my desperate search for a career, I was making frantic Google searches and choosing the best outfit for an interview for a chance to start a career I knew nothing about.
Lucky for me, getting started as an escrow assistant didn't require anything more than a degree just for the sake of having a degree. For those, like me, with degrees that don't have the best reputation out there for being "useful" in the job world, escrow can be a great start. In fact, the person I am working as assistant for doesn't even have a high school diploma. Not all escrow companies are the same, however, so they may require a degree or licensing in a related field, such as banking or real estate in order to become an escrow assistant. They may also require experience in those related fields for those who don't have the educational background.
If you are considering becoming an escrow assistant, I have provided a brief overview of what the job entails here, as well as a description of escrow for those who may never have heard of it before. Remember, every escrow company is different and requirements for escrow vary by state. What I have listed here is based on my own experience becoming an escrow assistant so the company you may choose to apply for may have somewhat different expectations for the job duties of an escrow assistant.
What is Escrow?
If you have no idea what escrow is, that's okay. Most people who come through the office I work for have no idea who we are or what we do either, even on the day of closing. What escrow does and how they do it differs from state to state and company to company. Basically, escrow is the impartial middleman (or woman) between two parties (the buyer and seller, borrower and lender, etc). Escrow officers and escrow assistants act only under instructions to deliver papers, complete and record documents, and receive and disburse funds.
Becoming an Escrow Assistant
Have you ever worked as an escrow assistant?
As an escrow assistant, the most basic element of the job description for this position is that you act as a detective alongside an escrow officer, piecing together everything into one neat package that is ready to go come the day of closing for a transaction. There are a few basic pieces of information that an escrow officer needs in order to open a transaction, most of which an escrow assistant must piece together for them as soon as possible:
- Street address and parcel number (if available)
- Sales price
- Full names of all buyers and sellers
- Marital status of all buyers and sellers
- Contact information for all buyers and sellers (mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses)
- Existing lender name, loan number, and contact information
- New lender contact information (if applicable)
- Homeowners Association information (such as address, management company information, and dues)
- Commission amounts
Being detail oriented is one key aspect to the job description of an escrow assistant. As I already mentioned, escrow works only under instructions, which usually comes in the form of a purchase and sale agreement, an order form, etc. You do not need to read everything word for word, just make sure to look for the key parts of each document that are essential to keep the transaction moving forward. Did the seller provide all of his/her contact information? Are the buyers single or married? These are just two of many questions you want to ask yourself when first opening up a new transaction.
As an escrow assistant, you will most likely be the one to send out letters and checks and make any necessary phone calls for various files at different stages in the transaction. Be prepared for a lot of multitasking, with plenty of time on the phone and typing up emails while preparing and/or shipping out documents.
The third most essential component of the job description for an escrow assistant is that you must have great customer service skills. Don't be surprised if people call you a little anxious or stressed out about deadlines or other aspects of a transaction that may become a little more difficult than anticipated. The best advice that I received from the escrow assistant who retired just after I was hired on was that you can only do so much at a time. She said to remember to take things one step at a time and never rush because you may make a mistake and just make things worse.
In addition, you must remember to never make a promise to a customer for something that is more than you can do or provide advice for something you know nothing about. Escrow officers and escrow assistants should never give legal advice. When in doubt, refer the customer to someone related to the question or concern they have such as their real estate agent, attorney, or lender, rather than try to answer something yourself.
For example, one of the most common questions I get once a sale has closed is "okay, where are my keys?" This is a question that the real estate agent would be able to answer, considering that they are the ones who have the keys to the property. Usually, they provide the keys on the same day, which I let the customer know, but it's always best for the customer to still ask the real estate agent just to be sure.
Would you ever consider becoming an escrow assistant?
Duties of an Escrow Assistant
As I have already mentioned, an escrow assistant does a lot of detective work, locating documents, gathering information, and sending out the right information to the right people to keep the transaction moving forward. Every company is different, but there are some basic duties you may expect to have as an escrow assistant, which are as follows:
- Mailing letters
- Gathering contact information
- Gathering financial information
- Sending out and/or delivering documents
- Inputting information into a computer system
- Writing up documents
- Answering phones and emails
- Disbursing funds
- Setting up appointments
- Responding to information requests
- Conduct signings
- Order title reports
As an escrow assistant, it is important to become familiar with the different types of documents as well as laws and regulations concerning real estate transactions. For those, like me, who are able to acquire this job without experience or related education, this can seem daunting, but, reading through documents as you get them will help familiarize yourself with them fast.
Escrow assistants must be quick multi-taskers, able to handle multiple tight deadlines and still keep that smile on their face for the customers who come in to sign. The description and job duties and of an escrow assistant may seem somewhat daunting, but, it can be a really fun job, especially when you get to help people achieve their dream of buying their first home.
© 2013 LisaKoski