Glossary of Real Estate Terms

  • Abstract of Title: The summary of the public records relating to the ownership of a particular piece of land. It represents a short legal history of an individual piece of property from the time of the first recorded transfer to present.
  • Acceptance: Consent to an offer to enter into contract.
  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): A mortgage in which interest and payment rates vary periodically, based on a specific index, such as 30-year Treasury Bills or the Cost of- Funds index.
  • Adjustments: Money credited or debited to either/both buyer and seller at closing, including real estate taxes, association fees, garbage fees, rents, etc.
  • Agency: A mutual-consent, legal relationship in which a seller or buyer engages a broker-agent in the sale or purchase of property.
  • Agent/REALTORĀ®: A licensed person who represents the seller (and/or buyer) and who provides market assessment, offers sales or buying strategy, recommends various services and sources important to the seller or buyer, is a member of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), and subscribes to NAR's strict Code of Ethics.
  • Amortization: A method by which monthly mortgage payments are equalized over the life of a loan, despite the fact that the proportion of principal to interest changes.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The total finance charge (interest, loan fees, points) expressed as a percentage of the mortgage amount.
  • Appraisal: A professional and unbiased written opinion of a property's value that is based on recent, comparable sales; quality of construction and current condition; and style of architecture.
  • Appreciation: Increase in value to any cause.
  • Asking Price: The price at which a property has been placed on the market for sale.
  • Assessed Value: The established value of a property for tax-assessment purposes, which may or may not reflect market value.
  • Assumption of Mortgage: The taking of title to property by a grantee, wherein he or she assumes liability for payment of an existing note secured by a mortgage or deed of trust against the property, becoming a co-guarantor for the payment of a mortgage or deed for trust note.
  • Balloon Mortgage: A short-term mortgage, generally at a fixed rate of interest, to be paid back in predetermined, equal monthly payments with a large final payment for the balance of the loan to be paid at the end of the term.
  • Broker: A person licensed to represent home buyers or sellers for a contracted fee. Managing Brokers manage real estate offices and employ broker associates to sell properties.
  • Bridge Loan: A short-term mortgage made until a longer-term loan can be made; it's sometimes used when a person needs money to build or purchase a home before the present one has been sold.
  • Building Codes: State and local laws that regulate the construction of new property and the rehabilitation of existing property.
  • Cap: A limit on the total amount an interest rate can be increased in a specified time and over the lifetime of an adjustable-rate mortgage.
  • Capital Gains: The taxable profit derived from the sale of a capital asset. A gain is the difference between the
    sale price and the basis of the property, after making appropriate adjustments for closing costs, fix-up expenses, capital improvements, allowable depreciation, etc.
  • Closing: The final settlement at which time the title is transferred from seller to buyer, accounts are settled, new mortgages are signed, and all fees and expenses are dispersed or satisfied.
  • Closing Costs: All fees, taxes, charges, commissions, surveys, lender fees, inspection fees, and other costs paid by the buyer and/or seller at the closing.
  • Commission: A previously agreed upon percentage of the home's sale price paid to the listing and selling agent(s).
  • Comparables: Similar properties in type, size, price, and amenities that have sold recently, been adjusted, and are used for comparison in the appraisal report.
  • Condominium (Condo): Real estate ownership in which a property owner has title to a specific unit but shared interest in common areas.
  • Contingency: A condition that must be satisfied before a contract is binding.
  • Contract: An agreement to do or not to do a certain thing.
  • Contract for Deed: A contract ordinarily used in connection with the sale of a property in cases where the seller does not wish to convey title until all or a certain part of the purchase price is paid by the buyer.
  • Contract of Title: A summary or digest of the conveyances, transfers, and any other facts relied on as evidence of title together with any other elements or records that may affect the marketability of the title.
  • Conventional Mortgage: Most popular home financing form not insured by Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by Veteran's Affairs (VA). Available from many lenders at varying rates, terms, and conditions.
  • Conversion Clause: Clause in an ARM permitting conversion from an adjustable loan to a fixed-rate loan.
  • Counteroffer: An offer made by a buyer or seller to the other party, responding to the asking price or a subsequent adjustment to that price to complete a purchase of sale.
  • CRY: Certificate of Reasonable Value. A document of appraisal issued by VA establishing their opinion of the maximum value.
  • Curb Appeal: A term used by REALTORSĀ® that encompasses all that a buyer sees from the street that may induce the buyer to look more closely at the property.
  • Deed: A legal "instrument" that conveys the title to a property from seller to buyer.
  • Disclosure Laws: State and federal regulations that require sellers to disclose such conditions as whether a house is located in a flood plain or if there are any known defects that would affect the value of the property.
  • Discount Points: Additional charges made by a lender at the time a loan is made. Points are measured as a percent of the loan, with each point equal to one percent. These additional interest charges are paid at the time a loan is closed to increase the rate of return to the lender so as to approximate the market level.
  • Down Payment: The buyer and lender determine the down payment requirements during the pre-qualification process. The down payment is usually expressed as a percentage of the purchase price: e.g., 0%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 25%, 30%.
  • Earnest Money (Escrow Deposit): Money paid by the buyer and held by the broker at the time an official offer to purchase is submitted to the seller, intended to demonstrate the good faith of the buyer to complete the purchase. Earnest money is applied against the purchase price when the sale is finalized. Under certain conditions, the earnest money may be forfeited if the buyer fails to complete the purchase under the terms of the sales contract.
  • Easement: A right to use the land of another.
    • Encroachment:
      • A condition that limits the interest in a title to property such as a mortgage, deed restrictions, easements, unpaid taxes, etc.
      • Situation regarding property line, such as a driveway crossing a property without an official easement.
  • Equity: The difference between the sale price of a property and the mortgage balance owed on the property.
  • Equity Mortgage: A mortgage based on the borrower's equity in their home rather than on their credit worthiness.
  • Escrow Account: A third-party account used to retain funds, including the property owner's real estate taxes, the buyer's earnest money, or hazard insurance premiums.
  • Exchange: The trading of equity in a piece of property for equity in another property.
  • Fair Market Account: The highest price an informed buyer will pay, assuming there is no unusual pressure to complete the purchase.
  • Fannie Mae: The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) is a privately owned corporation created by congress to buy mortgage notes from local lenders and provide guidelines for most lenders to use to qualify borrowers.
  • Fee Appraisal: The act or process of estimating values of real estate or any interest therein for a fee.
  • FHA-Insured Mortgage: A loan made by a local lending institution and insured by the Federal Housing Administration, whereas the buyer pays the premium.
  • Firm Commitment: A lender's agreement to make a loan to a specific borrower on a specific property. An FHA or Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) agreement to insure a loan on a specific property, with a designed purchaser.
  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage: A mortgage with a set interest rate for the entire term of the mortgage.
  • FMHA Loan: A loan insured by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), a federally controlled and operated corporation to support the secondary mortgage market.
  • Foreclosure: A legal procedure whereby mortgaged property is seized and sold as payment for a debt in the event of default.
  • Freddie Mac: The nickname for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), Freddie Mac is a federally controlled and operated corporation to support the secondary-mortgage market. It purchases and sells residential conventional home mortgages.
  • Graduated-Payment Mortgage: This mortgage offers low initial monthly payments that increase at a predetermined rate and then cap at a final level for the duration of the mortgage.
  • Home Inspection Report: A qualified inspector's report on a property's overall condition. The report usually includes an evaluation of both the structure and mechanical systems.
  • Home Warranty Plan: Protection against failure of mechanical systems within the property. Usually includes plumbing, electrical, heating systems and installed appliances.
  • Homeowner's Policy: A hazard insurance policy covering, at the very least, the appraised value of a house and property.
  • Inspection Contingency: A written stipulation contained in an "offer to buy" that makes the sales contract predicated upon the findings of a professional home inspector.
  • Installment Debts: Long-term debts that usually extend for more than one month.
  • Interest: The predetermined charge or fee paid to a lender by the borrower for the use of monies loaned.
  • Investor: The holder of a mortgage or the permanent lender. Any person or institution that invests in mortgages.
  • Joint Tenancy: An equal undivided ownership of property by two or more persons. Upon the death of any owner, the survivors take the descendant's interest in the property.
  • Land Contract: A contract ordinarily used in connection with the sale of property in cases where the seller does not wish to convey title until all or a certain part of the purchase price is paid by the buyer.
  • Lease Purchase Agreement: The buyer makes a deposit for the future purchase of property with the right to lease the property in the interim.
  • Lien: A legal claim against a property that must be paid when the property is sold.
  • Listing: A contract through which a seller agrees to terms and fees with an agent who will sell the property to a buyer.
  • Loan Commitment: A written promise by a lender to make a loan under certain terms and conditions. These include interest rate, length of loan, lender fees, annual percentage rate, mortgage and hazard insurance, and other special requirements.
  • Loan-to-Value Ratio: The relationship between the amount of a home mortgage and the total value of the property.
  • Lock-In Rate: A commitment made by lenders on a mortgage loan to "lock in" an interest rate pending mortgage approval. Lock-in periods vary.
  • Market Price: The actual price at which a property is sold.
  • Market Value: The price that is established for a property by existing economic conditions, property location, size, etc.
  • Marketable Title: Merchantable title, free and clear of objectionable liens or encumbrances.
  • Mold: Mold is a superficial and often woolly growth produced on damp or decaying organic matter or on living organisms. Go to the EPA's website for a guide that provides information and guidance for homeowners and renters on how to clean up residential mold problems.
  • Mortgage: A legal claim received by the lender on a property as security for the loan made to a buyer.
  • Mortgagee: The lender of money or the receiver of the mortgage document.
  • Mortgage Broker: An independent, third-party, licensed broker who arranges loan transactions between lenders and borrowers by facilitating the application and approval process.
  • Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP): The consideration paid by a mortgagor for mortgage insurance either to the FHA or a PMI company. On an FHA loan, the payment is one half of one percent annually on the declined balance of the mortgage. It is a part of the regular monthly payment and is used by the FHA to meet operating expenses and provide loss reserves.
  • Mortgagor: The borrower of money or the giver of the mortgage document.
  • Multiple Listing Service (MLS): A system through which participating brokers agree to share commissions on a predetermined percentage split on the sale of properties listed on the system.
  • Origination Fee: A fee or charge for work involved in evaluating, preparing, and submitting a proposed mortgage loan. The fee is limited to 1% for FHA and VA loans.
  • Personal Property: Any property which is not real property: e.g., money, savings accounts, appliances, cars, boats, etc.
  • PITI: Principal, interest, taxes and insurance.
  • Point: An amount equal to 1% of the principal amount of the investment or note. The lender assesses loan discount points at closing to increase the yield on loan discount points at closing to increase the yield on the mortgage to a position competitive with other types of investments.
  • Prepayment: When a borrower pays off an entire mortgage before the scheduled payoff date.
  • Prepayment Penalty: A fee charged to a mortgager who pays a loan before it is due. Not allowed for FHA or VA loans.
  • Prequalification: An informal estimate of the "financing potential" of a prospective borrower.
  • Principal: The amount of money borrowed against which interest and possibly fees will be charged.
    OR: One of the parties to a contract.
  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Insurance written by private companies protecting the lender against loss if the borrower defaults on the mortgage.
  • Promissory Note: A written contract that contains a promise to pay a definite amount of money at a specific time in the future.
  • Pro-ration: Proportionate division of expenses based on days or time occupied or used by the seller and/or buyer.
  • Purchase Agreement: A written, legally binding contractual agreement between a buyer and a seller for the purchase of real estate.
  • Qualification: Ability of a borrower to satisfy a lender's mortgage-approval requirements.
  • Radon: A colorless, odorless gas formed by the breakdown of uranium in sub-soils. It can enter a house through cracks in the foundation or in water and is considered to be a hazard. Your REALTORĀ® can supply a radon brochure.
  • Real Property: Any land and whatever by nature or artificial annexation is a part of it.
  • Referral: The recommendation by one agent of a potential buyer and/or seller to another agent either locally or long-distance.
  • Refinancing: The process of applying for a new mortgage to gain better terms or use of equity.
  • Relocation Specialists: A firm or person specializing in advising buyers or sellers on relocating to different and/ or new communities. There are designations for REALTORS that indicate additional educational training. Look for the Certified Relocation Professional (CRP) designation.
  • RESPA Statement: The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act requires a precise listing of all closing costs for both sellers and buyers.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): The profit gained as the result of money spent on an improvement or addition to a home or property.
  • Settlement Disclosure Statement: A statement or list providing a complete breakdown of costs involved in finalizing a real estate transaction prepared by the lender's agent prior to closing and reviewed at closing by the buyer and seller.
  • Survey: The process by which a parcel of land is measured and its area ascertained. Title companies study the survey to check for encroachments.
  • Title: A legal document that defines the property, right of ownership, and possession.
  • Title Defect: An outstanding claim or encumbrance on property that affects marketability.
  • Title Insurance: An insurance policy that protects the buyer against errors, omissions, or any defects in the title.
  • Title Search: A highly detailed search of the document history of a property title for the purpose of identifying any and all legal encumbrances to the property prior to title transfer to a new owner.
  • VA Mortgage: The Department of Veterans Affairs has made guaranteed mortgages available through banks and other lending institutions to active military personnel, veterans, or spouses of veterans who died of service-related injuries.
  • Variance: A special suspension of zoning laws to allow the use of property in a manner not in accord with existing laws.
  • Walk-Through Inspection: The final inspection by the buyers, usually in the company of the buyers' real estate sales agent, to ensure that all conditions noted in the offer to purchase and all seller-related contingencies have been met. This inspection is most often completed immediately prior to the closing and after the seller has vacated the premises.
  • Zoning: Virtually all local communities have established specific restrictions for land use, new construction, and remodeling activity. These are available to you through a local regulatory department such as the Building Inspector's Department or office or the Planning and Zoning Board.