Escrow

 

VineOnBrick is a building industry platform with escrow for small construction projects and accompanying project management tools. It is made for homeowners and professionals in the building industry – architects, designers, engineers, builders, real estate agents, vendors….It helps them take control of their projects.

Online escrow is usually set up between a homeowner on one side and a contractor or architect or any other service provider on the other side. It can also be set up between a contractor and his subcontractor.

Instead of giving an advance payment to the contractor before work starts, the homeowner would deposit funds for the whole project into the escrow account on VineOnBrick. The contractor can start working, and as he finishes certain tasks he would send requests for payment and homeowner would release payments for completed work.

This process protects the homeowner from situations where he made an advanced payment to the contractor and the contractor is postponing start of the work, but homeowner can’t take the money back.

This process protects the contractor because he can see that money is available, and since homeowner can’t take money back without raising a dispute, contractor is going to be paid if he delivers as promised.

In the ideal situation, the homeowner would put funds for the complete project in the escrow at the beginning, but for larger and longer projects he can do it in installments. The important part for both sides is to define stages and milestones that need to be met before the release of funds. The important part for the homeowner is to define stages in such a way that he can keep the option to cancel the contract. The important part for the contractor is to have funds in the escrow a few weeks before he starts the next stage, so he doesn’t need to prepare to stop the works at the end of the current escrow.

In a complex process like construction with many moving parts, every small improvement counts. Using escrow and other tools on the platform reduces distrust and stress between homeowner and contractor. It increases transparency and accountability on both sides.


 


Importance of Using Project Management Tools

 

We encourage our customers to use other tools available for them on our platform during the construction, but especially during the work that is covered by the escrow. Data collected along the way will be used in case of the dispute and we will rely exclusively on the data that is already on the platform in the process of making an arbitration decision. 

Timeline

Posting messages on the timeline leaves a record of discussions and decisions made. This record is very important in discussions of what was agreed on few weeks ago.

File Depot

We encourage clients to use FileDepot on our platform for exchanging files, drawings, documents, etc. It provides trackable history of decisions and provides record that can be accessed in time for the next remodel.

App and PhotoDepot

The VineOnBrick app is available for homeowners and contractors on iPhone and Android. It allows them to take pictures which are automatically uploaded to the platform as a record of the activity on the construction site. Ideally at the end of each day and by each participant: homeowner, contractor, subcontractor and each tradesman. But also, for documenting any other event that might be of interest e.g. arrival of material, insides of a wall before closing, labels of materials used etc.)





Pricing

 

We charge homeowners 1.5% of the escrow amount at the beginning of the escrow, and contractors 1.5% of the escrow amount at the end. We accept electronic check (ACH) payments from homeowners and deposit funds via same method to contractors account. We can accept credit card payments, but we need to charge 2.9% extra to recover our cost.




 

 

Details of How the Escrow Works

 

Initiating the Process

 

Contact 

The Homeowner and Contractor can meet and negotiate an agreement on the platform or offline. One of them can request that transaction be handled using escrow on VineOnBrick. Even though we list service providers on our platform, we don't guarantee for them.

Contract 

The Homeowner and Contractor should sign an agreement offline and upload it to the platform. An agreement defines their mutual relationship and is informational, but not obligatory for the VineOnBrick arbitration process.

Defining A Task 

The Homeowner and Contractor need to identify a task -goods, and services - that need to be delivered by the contractor. The task has 3 crucial parts:

  • Scope-description of services or goods to be delivered. Our recommendation is that the Homeowner and Contractor put an effort to make as precise and detailed description as possible. Also, it is beneficial that both of them craft a description together, including exclusions and “what if’s”. A detailed scope description very often prevents dispute and helps significantly in the case of a dispute.
  • Time-timeframe in which services or goods need to be delivered. Our recommendation is to define “what if” in the case of late delivery of service in the scope part of the task.
  • Price-price is tightly connected with the Scope and should reflect all and only work that is defined in the scope. For each additional scope (work) that needs to be done Homeowner and Contractor should make a new task.

The negotiation part of the task will stay on the platform as a record. Everything that is uploaded to the platform will serve as a record of the agreement, instructions, decisions, work done. Both, the homeowner and Contractor own the information and can use it after the project is done and make it public, unless otherwise agreed.

 

The Escrow Process

 

Funding the Escrow

When you fund your escrow, the transaction, all funds and your financial information (credit card numbers, account number...) are handled by our partner AssemblyPayments.com.

AssemblyPayments.com are registered with the State of California as an online escrow company. The money that you deposit in the Escrow goes to their escrow account.

VineOnBrick doesn't handle, store, nor has access to your financial information. Your funds never get to our account. The Escrow fee is forwarded to VineOnBrick by AssemblyPayments.

Work and Records

After funding the Escrow, the contractor can start with the work. Our strong recommendation is that the Homeowner and Contractor use VineOnBrick platform in several ways:

to communicate between each other about the work done, request information and post decisions made, upload files, drawings, documents, photos and other material related to the work done, and also, encourage their employees, consultants and family members to do the same. The quality and abundance of records on the platform aid in avoiding disputes and help significantly in the case of a dispute.   

Request for Payment

After work defined in the scope is completed, Contractor should upload an invoice to the platform and make a request for payment.

VineOnBrick will release funds to the Contractor 2 days after the Homeowner approves the payment. VineOnBrick will release funds to the Contractor's digital wallet account on the platform. Contractor needs to request transfer of funds from the digital wallet to his bank account. That process takes few days depending on the payment processing company and the bank.

Digital Wallet Accounts on the VineOnBrick Platform

Every user engaged in money transactions will have a digital wallet account on the platform where he can hold funds. Funds in the account are not committed to the Escrow and can be transferred to user’s bank account at any time. From digital wallet account, users can allocate funds to the Escrow. Funds in the Escrow will be locked in the Escrow and can be transferred only per Escrow rules.

 

Refunds or Special Circumstances for Payment

 

Refunds

VineOnBrick will release funds back to the Homeowner when 2 days after the Contractor approves the payment. For example, this can happen when the Homeowner and Contractor decide to change the scope, and new scope is smaller than original or if the Contractor didn't complete all the services defined in the Scope or if the Homeowner and Contractor negotiated a discount.

In case that you need to release funds in more than one payment

The Homeowner and Contractor should create a separate Escrow for each payment.

In the case of additional work

In the case when the Contractor needs to do more work than initially planned, the Homeowner and Contractor should create a new Escrow in addition to an existing one. 

Disputes

From time to time it might happen that the Homeowner and Contractor cannot agree on the amount that needs to be paid. As a solution for this situation, VineOnBrick will provide an arbitration procedure that will result in a decision on how the remaining escrow money will be distributed.

After one of them raises a dispute, the Homeowner and Contractor will have 5 working days to submit a written argument. After they both submit arguments, VineOnBrick will decide in 10 working days and distribute the remaining amount. The decision will be based solely on the information that is already present on the platform at the time of the dispute. No outside sources and submittals will be taken into account.   




 

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