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First we’ll define some of the basic terms. ESCROW: Written instruments, money or other items which are deposited by one party with a depositary for delivery to another party upon the performance of a specified condition or the happening of a certain event. SETTLEMENT SERVICES: Variety of functions which may be performed by the settlement agent in closing real estate transactions.  These would include sale and loan transactions as well as the performance of escrow responsibilities. SETTLEMENT AGENT: May be referred to as Depositary or Escrow Agent. This should be a third, disinterested party who will preside over the closing. CLOSING: Refers to the event when the performance of all conditions required for the exchange of instruments and money has been completed and the settlement agent is authorized to and does deliver instruments and disburses funds as instructed. Settlement service is a generic term which encompasses a wide variety of services that are related to closing real estate transactions; paying off prior liens and mortgages and disbursement of new loans.  Escrow services are treated as part of the over-all settlement services.  However, it does not precisely describe many loan closing services and the term is less than satisfactory, especially in those markets which base their instructions on the sales contract. Escrow services are provided based upon written instructions mutually agreed to by all parties. Oral instructions are not accepted either initially or as an amendment to the written instructions. The ability of the settlement agent to coordinate the closing with the title insurance coverage is a very valuable consideration by which the consumer chooses a particular settlement agent.  Usually, they are motivated to choose an agent as much by the helpful nature of the staff, as the quality of his/her performance.  They also want a skilled, qualified agent to handle their transaction.  Trust and confidentiality are obviously of utmost importance. Remember, the settlement agent will do what he/she is instructed to in writing.  Those instructions come not only from the contract and any addendums, but also from the lender. To prepare for the closing, the Settlement Agent should:     Review all closing instructions.     Do a checklist review.     Secure information (loan number, etc.).     Schedule time and place for Buyer & Seller.     Review Title Insurance requirements.     Review Title Exceptions     Review Documents. On To Completing The Closing