Think of the escrow company as the middle-man. Once your offer has been accepted by the seller, nearly all transactions in this state will involve an escrow company. Escrow holds on to the written contract you have with the seller, as well as the deposit/earnest money that you have put down for the purchase. Escrow is in charge of facilitating the loan documents from the bank so that you can close on the purchase of your property, as well as helping all parties to sign the required documents to complete the transaction.
Among other things, the title company’s job is to check that the title to the property is free and clear of such things as liens, encumbrances or defects so that ownership can be freely transferred from the existing seller to you. If the title report comes up clear for transfer, they will issue you and your lender a title insurance policy. Various types of title insurance grant you and the bank different levels of protections in the case that defects or unrecorded issues are later discovered or are found to have been overlooked. Buyers pay for a title insurance policy for their mortgage provider and sellers pay for a policy for the buyers. You will receive a preliminary copy of the property’s title report, listing such things as easements and any liens against either party in the transaction within the first couple of weeks after acceptance of your offer.
Title and escrow fees are regulated by the State of Washington and the fees of various companies are fairly similar. Some law offices also offer escrow and closing services, but our experience has been that the larger, professional, full-time title and escrow companies offer superior insight, experience, convenience and service.