We often get questions from the public about real estate transactions at the Board of REALTORS®. While we do not ,and cannot, give legal advice, we can try to clarify and confirm information a consumer has been given. A frequently asked question is about the escrow deposit after a deal has fallen through and one or both sides are claiming that they are entitled to the money.

An escrow, or earnest money, deposit is part of the buyer’s purchase offer to the seller. It indicates that the buyer is acting in good faith and has financial resources. The parties to a transaction are free to determine whether and/or to what extent deposits will be made. The money is placed in a designated escrow account typically held by either the listing or buyer broker in the transaction. In some cases, it is held by one of the attorneys in the transaction.

Upon the seller’s acceptance of a purchase offer or contract the right to any deposits is governed by contractual agreement of the parties. Up until the seller accepts the offer, the prospective purchaser can revoke the offer and reclaim the deposit. Purchase contracts generally have a short time period for the buyer and seller attorneys to review the contract. The contract is not considered final until the attorney review period has elapsed.

A problem can arise when the buyer or seller decide to withdraw from the contract after acceptance. Purchase contracts are frequently conditioned upon the fulfillment or waiver of various contingencies. New York state license law recognizes that there are situations where it is not possible, or appropriate, for a broker to make an evaluation as to the entitlement of the buyer or seller to a deposit. The New York State Department of State, which governs licensees, has indicated that brokers should act responsibly where there is no bonafide question regarding who is entitled to the deposit. Similarly, where the buyer refuses to go forward, without any claim of justification under a contract, under most purchase contracts the seller would be entitled to the deposit.

In the event of any genuine issue involving entitlement to the deposit, the broker is required by law to hold the deposit in escrow while advising the parties that it will be released upon the determination of a court or the mutual agreement and releases of those involved. This can sometimes lead to a broker holding deposits, usually in a non-interest bearing account, for a long time and leads to frustration on all sides while buyer and seller and their attorneys try to come to a settlement.

The Tri-County Women’s Council of REALTORS® Network held its Top Producer event, sponsored by St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union, on Sept. 23 for members of St. Lawrence County Board of REALTORS®.The award was based on unit sales of single-family homes, two-to-four family homes, commercial buildings, land, farms, and seasonal properties sold between Sept. 1, 2020 to Aug.31, 2021 as recorded in the St. Lawrence County Multiple Listing Service (www.slcmls.com). The top 20% of REALTORS® were awarded a Top Producer Certificate as either Gold (11%-20%) or Platinum (top 10%) Producers.It is not necessary to be a WCR member to be recognized.

Lucille Kassian, Kassian Real Estate, was recognized as the top producing REALTOR®. This is the seventh year in a row that she has won this honor.

In addition to Ms. Kassian, the “Platinum Producer” list included (in alphabetical order) Gail Abplanalp, Christine Amo, Tracy Bernard, Rick D. Cutway, Amanda Fiacco, Rowena General, Debbie Gilson, Michael Kassian, Brittany Matott, Erin Meyer, Martha Morrison, Philip Paige, Timothy Post, Rhonda Roethel, Lori Snyder, Nicholas Sterling, Jennifer Stevenson, and Scott Woods.

The “Gold Producers” honored (in alphabetical order) were Sharon Alford, Colleen EB Ayers, Angela Bickelhaupt LaJoy, Penny Bogardus, Brittany Bush, Nikki Coates, Katie Geidel, Nicole Hayes, Marcia Henry, Ariane Palmer, Doreen Radway, Mildred Recore, Kim Scharff-Snyder, Margaret Sherman, Wendy- Jane Smith, Tania Sterling, Diana Thayer, Elizabeth Trego, and Cheryl Yelle.

The Tri-County (NY) Network of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® was founded in 2008.The members live in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Its mission is to work to advance women and men as real estate professionals and leaders in business, the industry, and in the communities they serve.

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