It varies per county. In Santa Clara County it is standard for the seller to pay escrow fees and transfer taxes for the the county. The city transfer tax is split between buyer and seller.
There will be some confusion in the answers you get because of the terminology. There are fees paid out of the escrow account like transfer taxes and title insurance. Those are not exactly escrow fees. Escrow fees are the charges paid to the escrow compaqny for handeling the escrow.
The fees for the escrow comapny and title insurance are regulated by the California Department of Insurance and are clearly stated and not very competitive. The other fees paid from escrow are calculated in a number of ways and are paid by either the seller or the buyer based on local custom. For example in San Francisco the seller pays transfer tax in parts of San Mateo County the seller pays county and the buyer pays city transfer taxes. There are variations, in probate sales the buyer pays all the fees. Ask your agent and ask the escrow officer for the local usual and customary lists.
Typically, Buyer pays escrow fees except transfer tax in the Bay Area. Keep in mind that fees vary widely from one city/county to another. Transfer taxes in Alameda are really high, and many cities require sellers to do different things that can cost a lot of extra money. That said, it is a customary practice, not a rule, so it can be negotiated. If you have a specific property in mind I could get you an estimate.
Lance King/Managing Broker