Closing on a home can be intimidating as well as exciting. Before opening escrow, which exists to keep all parties’ funds safe, you should know that regulations vary from state to state. The escrow agent is a neutral party equally responsible to both sides. In some states, escrow agents will solely handle the funds. In others, they will be in charge of the entire closing process. Their responsibilities will be clearly legally defined, and parties should be familiar with regulations before entering into a contract.

Real estate agents will often recommend an escrow agent, but you do not have to follow their lead and may also find an escrow agent on your own. This can lead to savings, as escrow agents will charge significantly varying fees. You will want an escrow agent with experience of the area and knowledge of the property itself.

Should the closing not proceed as planned, the next steps will also vary. The funds may continue to be held in escrow beyond the closing date unless one of the parties takes steps to void the contract, and parties other than the contracted parties may hold first claim to portions. These can include your real estate agent.