Hawaii Randy's Real Estate Opinions: King For a Day Series – Escrow Officers

King For a Day Series – Escrow Officers

King For a DayIf I were king for a day what changes would I make to the escrow industry to better protect the public or remove stress from the process of buying and selling real estate? 

First, I know several were waiting for me to pick of real estate agents.  That one is coming.  Secondly the reason I chose to write about escrow officers is that they are an extremely important part of this process and probably the most forgotten among industry experts and the news media. 

A few years back my wife and I bought the home we are living in. I apologize of the story gets long winded.  At the time I was not licensed to sell real estate in Hawaii, but was many years before and disclosed that on our Purchase Contract (known at that time in Hawaii as the DROA).

The entire escrow process was a mess.  I have written about it before in other blog posts.  It was the reason I got back in the industry.

So let's focus on the escrow side of it.  First of all almost every document I received from escrow was riddled with errors.  The escrow officer blamed everyone else for the mistakes.

Here is a list of some of the errors:

  • My name spelled wrong.
  • The wrong address for the property.
  • The wrong sale price.
  • Missing credit from the seller to the buyer.
  • Had me listed as the buyer instead of the seller.
  • Wrong tax map code.
  • The HUD statement was a mess.  It took 3 days and several revisions to get it right.
  • Wrong closing date.

How hard is it to pull this information from the Purchase Contract?  It was correct on the contract.

To complicate things even worse, my wife and I were at the closing table with no loan officer and no real estate agent.  I forgot to mention my red pen and an escrow officer that did not want to be there.  After three attempts and a forced extension on our closing we finally got in the home.

The escrow officer never answered her own phone and we got a different assistant every time we called.  None of them seemed to have any knowledge about our transaction.

I am sure we can all tell several other stories about transactions that have taken strange turns due to things happening at the escrow company.

If I were King Here Are a Few Things I Would Change:

  • Not allow real estate companies to own escrow companies or visa versa.
  • Require escrow officers to return phone calls.

Ok I know many were disappointed.  This list was short and I took it easy on escrow officers.  I think the escrow companies are already heavily regulated so I am not sure of any further needed regulation is needed, at least here in Hawaii.  I can also say that most of the escrow officers and escrow companies I have worked with are really good at what they do and are extremely professional.  I rarely have a complaint.  Any problems at all are immediately addressed in most cases. 

There are however a few, very few escrow officers and companies that I find absolutely scary.

Other King For a Day Posts:



Randy L. Prothero, REALTOR®

Broker-in-Charge, ABR, AHWD, CRB, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, MRP, SFR

eXp Realty

Team Leader - "The Prothero Group"

Randy Prothero is well established as an expert in working with military / VA clients and first time home buyers.  His home seller's (listing) campaign is one of the most aggressive marketing programs in the area.  His luxury home listings sell faster and for more money.

Based out of Mililani, Hawaii. Randy services the island of Oahu (Honolulu County) Performs mediations and ombudsman services for the Board of Realtors.  To improve overall professionalism in his area Randy also offers classes for real estate agents. 

www.HawaiiRandy.comOahu (Honolulu County) Property Search  Hawaii Military Relocations

Comment balloon 15 commentsRandy Prothero • October 30 2007 03:16PM


Sorry you had such a terrible experience.  If you are ever in need of an escrow office in Michigan I will be glad to facilitate that closing for you.  And yes, I do return phone calls.  

Posted by Michelle Barker (Lakeland Title of Mecosta County) over 11 years ago

That is one pet peeve of mine....I put in an offer and the seller's agent said they wanted us to choose their escrow company because they knew this or that. I felt awkward through the whole transaction to say the least and this company was not only owned by the RE company but was in the same offices. This company also has their own "affiliation" for a mortgage co.

All in one. Don't like it. Conflict of interest.

Posted by Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman, (RA) AHWD CRS ePRO OAHU HAWAII REAL ESTATE (Liberty Homes) over 11 years ago
What a horrid experience Randy, I have really liked this series thus far.  I look forward to your next one:-)
Posted by Jason Sardi, Your Agent for Life (Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina) over 11 years ago

Randy, so far the title company and the escrow officer I use have been wonderful. If they make a mistake it's corrected before I know anything about it. I know my time is probably coming, but they've just been awesome to work with. I've heard, like your story, that it can be the dickens when it doesn't work right.

I enjoy this series!

Posted by Linda Scanlan (A Fan of AR) over 11 years ago
Randy, interesting.  Here in Connecticut we are an Attorney State and the Attorney handles the Title and Escrow, so in my case I am always concerned about the Attorney doing the Closing if I am not familiar with him/her.  I would say that at least 95% of the Closings that I have been to have gone very smoothly, but there have been a few that the Attorney seemed clueless as to what he was doing.  Those were not very comfortable Closing table to be sitting at.
Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) over 11 years ago
Escrow officers know they have more to lose because they are watch on a more regular basis. Too bad others can't work like that.:)
Posted by Neal Bloom, Realtor CRS-Weston FL Real Estate (eXp Realty) over 11 years ago

Well, THAT was a let down....

Just kidding. OK, first, on the HUD. On one hand, HUDs are complicated documents and sometimes contracts that have been faxed back and forth 5 or six times between parties are hard to read. People make mistakes. What are ya gonna do? On the other hand, (this is something my fellow LOs will most likely heartily disagree with) I feel as though it is our (ultimately my) responsibility to review the HUD, both sides, for accuracy. I'll go through it and note the corrections that need to be made and send it back to title until they get it right, BEFORE I let my processor send it to my closing department. Why? 1. Because bet I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that a preliminary HUD came over from ANY title company 100% right the first time. 

2. Because I know the transaction, my closer doesn't. She's closing 10 or 15 a day. She's approving what Title sends her, as long as our side balances. My processor and I, on the other hand, know  the transaction thoroughly. I got funny looks from people at first, when I would tell title to send the HUD straight to my processor and copy me. That is, until I saved my closer a bunch of unneccesary work, kept title from making an embarrassing mistake, and gave my Realtor one less thing to wig out over..

When I feel good about it, I ask Teri (processor) to send it to closing, I go over it with her (Barbra), we approve it, I send out a final approved HUD to the agents and the buyers and seller, we close smoothly and everybody gets paid.

I look at it this way, a missed closing is a missed closing, regardless of who's fault it is and six eyes are better than two. It's a simple thing for Teri and I to bounce it back and forth for 5 minutes, check for mistakes, it's actually kind of fun... An approved HUD is cause for celebration. No? Otherwise, I'd just be sitting around watching LendingTree commercials! Ha! :-)

P.S. By the way, my FAVORITE part of this job is getting to send that email to all parties with the subject line : APPROVED HUD ATTACHED

Posted by Tom Cunningham (Agent Support 360) over 11 years ago

Michelle - Glad to hear.  Let me reassure everyone.  That experience is an extreme exception.

Sally - That is a huge one.  I had one like that and it was a rotten experience.

Jason - Thank you.

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) over 11 years ago

Linda - The escrow officers I normally work with are extremely professional a pleasure to do business with.  I have run into a couple of them that are scary.

George - In our state attorneys aren't normally present at closing.  I have done signing at other locations, like my office, the loan officer's office, the hospital and a couple of them on military bases.

Neal - I have to say the escrow officer in is rarely a problem. 

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) over 11 years ago
Tom - Good points, you may have noted the loan officer and the real estate agent were both absent from closing.  I deleted part of the story because it was getting too long.  I left out the part where escrow lost my papers twice.  All of the professionals involved including the seller's agent were not doing their jobs.  That fiasco is what got me to get my license.  None of my clients will ever live through that.
Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) over 11 years ago
Yeah, mine either as long as I have a pulse..
Posted by Tom Cunningham (Agent Support 360) over 11 years ago
Tom - That is the difference between a professional and those who need to find another line of work.
Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) over 11 years ago

I agree with your proposed changes!   Actually there are some escrow companies who are realizing this and are hungry for business - I hear one of them is required to have a headseat on at all times and pick up the phone every time no matter where in the office they are!

This is a fun series you have.  Nicely done!

Posted by Pete C, Hawaii Mortgage Loan and Refinance (TBA) over 11 years ago
I appreciate that and quite honestly, I wish that I could say that I think this market is going to shake out the slackers and slime balls. Unfortunately I'm afraid that the opposite is true. Rate may be a commodity, service however is not. If the prevailing wind, the devaluation of service, doesn't change direction, I'm afraid it will be the professionals seeking opportunity elsewhere. I know a lot of really good LO's who are looking for an exit as we speak. Kids to feed, bills to pay.. You know the drill.. 
Posted by Tom Cunningham (Agent Support 360) over 11 years ago

Pete - My favorite escrow officer has always been good at answering her phone and returning e-mail.  If she is signing a closing she always gets back promptly.  Her assistant is knowledgeable and responsive also.

Tom - The lending shake up is impossible to predict at this time for me.  I am watching a waiting for the shake out.  I have mostly worked with primary lenders, so I haven't felt the impact on my business as much as others.  I also do a large percentage of my business with VA buyers.

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) over 11 years ago

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