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When you purchase a home with the help of a lender, the lender will likely set up an escrow account for you as well. The lender collects the money from you on a monthly basis for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, holds it in the escrow account, and then pays those bills on your behalf when they come due. For the lender, the main purpose of an escrow account is to protect their lienholder interest in your home. The borrower benefits by spreading out payments on a monthly basis for bills that are due semi-annually or annually.
How does an escrow account work?
When establishing an escrow account, your lender will calculate the total annual payments for your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. The annual amount will then be divided by 12 to calculate your monthly escrow payment. This monthly amount is added to your principal and interest payment to make your total mortgage payment. You might hear your full monthly payment referred to by the acronym “PITI”, for Principal, Interest, Taxes & Insurance. Lenders also typically require you to maintain a cushion of two months of escrow payments in the account at all times.
Every year, your lender will review your escrow account to ensure it has the right amount of funds. The lender will recalculate your payments based on the previous year’s property tax and insurance costs. If there were a shortage within your account, your lender would require you to make a one-time payment or have an increased mortgage payment the following year. If there was an overage in your account, your lender will give you a check for that amount and might decrease your escrow payment for next year.
Advantages of escrow accounts
Disadvantages of escrow accounts
Avoiding an escrow account
If you would prefer to not have an escrow account, you will need to negotiate it with your lender. The lender might be willing to allow you to manage your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance payments rather than using an escrow account. Typically, you’ll need to have put at least 20% down on your home, be a prior homeowner, or have a large cushion in your bank account. If you choose to forego the escrow account, you should budget carefully to ensure you have the money available to make your property tax and homeowner’s insurance payments when they are due.