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What Is An Escrow Holdback, And How Can It Help You Close On Time?

January 27, 2022


Min Read
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In the case of a home purchase, buyers and sellers may sometimes encounter repairs that could tie up the closing process.

As a result, lenders often require customary holdback provisions to be 120% of the repair costs. In addition, lenders will often implement an escrow holdback agreement to ensure the repairs are completed even after the loan officially closes.




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An escrow holdback is a portion of the property price held back by a third party. Meanwhile, these funds are being set aside for necessary repairs. What this often does is incentivize buyers or sellers to complete the repairs, to be then refunded for the expense. Some common reasons for an escrow holdback agreement are:

• Issues uncovered by the home appraisal

• Incomplete repairs or renovations that were agreed upon by the seller

• To ensure buyer or seller gets their refund after repairs are complete

• Appraiser or underwriter requires repairs as a condition of a loan

• Satisfy health and safety requirements for the property

Escrow Holdback Agreements Explained

The existing agreement, or real estate contract, can be amended to include repairs or renovations needed. Additionally, costs associated with the repair may be listed in the contract so that buyers and sellers can see how the completion deadline will factor into the process. Laborers who will complete repairs join the picture to ensure payment, though escrow holdback parties may also choose to complete any repairs themselves.

The buyer and seller must sign the agreement before going to the financing entity. As long as the underwriter is satisfied with the terms of your contract, the escrow holdback will receive approval. From there, lenders designate an in-house escrow account for the funds.

The Role of the Seller

Naturally, sellers are enthusiastic about closing dates. Since they are generally responsible for setting aside funds for the escrow, the holdback agreement is valuable since they can close while repairs are in progress. The buyer receives the money in the account if the repairs do not align with the contract, which keeps things running smoothly. The property sale may also fund the escrow account if the seller needs the deal for funding.

How an Escrow Holdback Helps Buyers 

Pushing back the closing day on your home is not ideal. However, when repairs are needed or a health and safety condition must be met, you don't want to be stuck footing the bill. Finalizing the transaction can still occur, and an escrow holdback can ensure that the repair is done. Setting aside funds will usually incentivize a seller to bring the state of the property up to a standard determined by a lender or between buyer and seller. The funds are then held in a lender's escrow account. Not having to dip into your savings account to complete these repairs is invaluable.

A home might require simple landscaping or extensive septic repair before a purchase is finalized. These conditions can be written into an agreement to set aside funds for the repairs. The seller is providing funds, so a cushion over the projected repair costs is often required if the repairs cost more than anticipated. Working with a professional team can help educate you on your options under escrow holdbacks.

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Escrow Holdbacks Can Help You Close 

Outside of home repairs, a lender might also want to minimize any risks to your health and safety before providing funds for the property sale. They are invested in the property as well, and if the property poses a threat to borrowers, it's not promising for business.

Resolving those health and safety issues can help buyers and sellers secure a closing that might have faced persistent delays otherwise. Safety features like support fencing, railings, and a lack of heat or running water. An escrow holdback can help secure these repairs. 

A final verification that the conditions have been met is required, and a final inspection will verify this before the escrow account releases the funds. 

Holdbacks and Taxes

Holdbacks are not taxable until the completion of the project, and a seller may defer a portion of their tax liability until they receive that payment. 

Loans from HUD and VA Loans

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans have some conditions around repair costs when supplying the financing. Limitations usually involve amounts towards repairs not above $5,000. Beyond that amount, an FHA escrow holdback is not possible, though a 203(k) rehabilitation loan may carry a 'rehab escrow' that could work in that scenario.

VA loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs require up to 150% of expected repair costs to be set aside in escrow.

Government Sponsored Enterprises and Escrow Holdbacks

After loans are closed, the mortgages are eligible for purchase by GSEs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Your original lender will need to know how companies like these handle escrow holdbacks. Fannie Mae may purchase the mortgage before the repairs are made, even with an escrow holdback, so long as the repairs aren't structural. Lenders will need to prove the level of repair to the company if the repairs are structural.

Other things that can impact your holdback eligibility are state laws that regular property appraisal. If your county or region you live in has appraisal guidelines, those will need to be under consideration as well. Ensuring inspections are completed under those guidelines will be vital to keeping your closing date. Add in lenders and their expectations, and you should be aware of a few moving parts in the process. Again, advisors or brokers can help you navigate these realities and ensure you have a positive buying or selling experience.

Talk with your lender about escrow holdback to find out if your home might be in danger of missing your ideal closing date. Partnering with these professionals could keep things on track and make success a planned event.

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