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Real Estate Law Definitions

Abstract (of Title): A historical summary of all the recorded transactions that affect the title to the property. An lawyer or a title company will review an abstract of title to determine if there are any problems affecting the title to the property. All such problems must be resolved before the buyer can be issued a clear and insurable title.

Abutting: Bordering upon or next to; the joining or touching of adjoining land; sharing a common boundary.

Acceleration Clause: A loan provision giving the lender the power to declare all outstanding sums due immediately upon the violation of a specific loan provision. Actions that can trigger an acceleration clause include the sale of the property or the failure to make loan payments on time. For example, the acceleration clause may be triggered if John sells his property to Mary, who takes over John’s mortgage payments, without notifying the lender of this transaction. If the lender finds out that the title to the property has transferred the lender can call the loan. John will then become liable to pay his lender in full.

Acceptance: An offeree’s consent to enter into a contract and be bound by the terms of the offer. In a real estate transaction, an offer is made by the buyer to the seller. If the seller accepts the offer within the prescribed time limit, a binding contract is created. Acceptance is documented by the seller signing and delivering the signed document.

Accretion: An addition to land caused by natural forces such as wind or water. Soil carried by a river then deposited on land is an example.

Acknowledgment: Formal declaration before a public official (typically a notary public) that one has signed a document. Required before recording real estate legal documents, such as a deeds of trust.

Acre: A measure of land equal to 43,560 square feet.

Additional Principal Payment: A payment by a borrower of more than the scheduled principal amount due in order to reduce the remaining balance on the loan.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): Also known as a variable rate mortgage. The interest rate on these mortgages changes periodically.

Adjusted Basis: The adjusted basis figure is the value used to determine capital gains when you sell real property. It is equal to the original cost of a property plus the value of any capital expenditures for improvements to the property minus any depreciation taken.

Adjustment Period: The length of time for which the interest rate is fixed in an adjustable rate mortgage. If the adjustment period is six months, the interest rate will remain fixed for six months after which time it will adjust.

Affordability Analysis: A detailed analysis to determine whether you can afford to purchase a home. An affordability analysis takes into consideration your income, liabilities, available funds, the type of mortgage you plan to use, the area where you want to purchase a home, and the closing costs that you should expect to pay.

Agreement of Purchase and Sale: A written signed agreement between the seller and the purchaser in which the purchaser agrees to buy certain real estate and the seller agrees to sell according to the terms of the agreement. Also known as contract of purchase, purchase agreement, offer and acceptance, earnest money contract or sales agreement.

Amenity: A feature of real property that enhances its attractiveness and increases the occupant’s or user’s satisfaction, even though the feature is not essential to the property’s use. Natural amenities include a pleasant or desirable location near water or scenic views of the surrounding area. Human-made amenities include swimming pools, tennis courts, community buildings, and other recreational facilities.

Amortization: A gradual paying off of a debt by periodic installments that include payments of principal and interest.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The effective rate of interest for a loan per year. This rate is typically higher than the note rate because closing costs are taken into account. Comparing the APR is one way to compare loan programs offered by different lenders but it is important to be aware that the APR is sometimes computed differently by different lenders and can be misleading.

Application: A form used to apply for a mortgage loan and to record pertinent information about the borrower and the proposed security.

Appraisal: An opinion or estimate of the value of a property at a given point in time.

Appreciation: An increase in the value of a property due to changes in market conditions or for other reasons, such as additions and renovations. Opposite of depreciation.

Arm’s length transaction: A transaction among unrelated parties in which each party acts in his or her own best interest. A transaction between a father and his son would NOT be an arm’s length transaction.

Assessed Value: The valuation placed on property by a public tax assessor for purposes of taxation.

Assessment: The process of placing a value on property for the purpose of taxation. Assessment may also refer to a levy against property for a special purpose, such as the installation of a street or traffic light or sewer hookup.

Assessment Rolls: The public record of taxable property.

Assessor: A public official who establishes the value of a property for taxation purposes.

Assignment: The transfer of a mortgage from one person to another.

Asset: Anything with a dollar value that you own. Banks consider your assets when determining how much you can borrow.

Assumable Mortgage: A mortgage loan that allows a new home buyer to take over the obligation of making loan payments from the seller with no change in the terms of the loan. Assumable loans do not have a due-on-sale clause but the lender still has to be notified and agree to the assumption. The lender may require the buyer to qualify for the loan and may charge an assumption fee. The seller should obtain a written release from the lender stating clearly that he/she is no longer liable to make mortgage payments. See also “Subject To.”

Lawyer In Fact: One who is authorized to act for another under a power of lawyer. The authorization may be general or may be limited in scope. Example: John wants to sell his house but has to be out of the country for four months. John gives authorization to Mary to sign the grant deed to sell the property to a buyer. Mary becomes John’s lawyer in fact.

Back-end ratio, or debt ratio: The amount you pay in monthly debt (car payments, credit cards, student loans, etc.) divided by your gross monthly income.

Balloon (Payment) Mortgage: Usually a short-term fixed-rate loan that involves small payments for a certain period of time and then, at a time specified in the contract, one large payment for the remaining amount due.Example: A balloon mortgage for $25,000 has interest only payments for five years at 12 percent ($250 per month), with the full principal of $25,000 due and payable after five years

Bankruptcy: The financial inability to pay one’s debts when due. An individual typically files for Chapter 7 (in which all debts are wiped out) or Chapter 13 (in which the debtor establishes a payment plan to pay off debts). A bankruptcy stays on an individual’s credit report for seven years.

Basis Point: One one-hundredth of a percentage point (0.01 percentage point).100 basis points are equal to one percentage point and 25 basis points are equal to one-quarter of one percentage point.

Beneficiary: The person who receives or will  receive the benefits of certain acts.Example: The lender is named as the beneficiary on a mortgage loan. Example: John has a life insurance policy for $100,000 with Jane as his beneficiary. If John dies, Jane will receive benefits in the amount of $100,000.

Betterment: An improvement that increases property value, as distinguished from repairs or replacements that simply maintain value.

Bill of Sale: A written document that transfers title to personal property.

Binder: 1. A title insurance binder is the written commitment of a title insurance company to insure a property’s title subject to the conditions and exclusions shown in the binder. 2. Preliminary agreement, normally secured with earnest money, between a buyer and a seller as an offer to purchase real estate.

Biweekly Mortgage: A mortgage that requires the borrower to pay half the normal monthly payment every two weeks. Over the course of the year, twenty-six half payments are made, which is equivalent to thirteen full mortgage payments. As a result of this extra payment, the loan amortizes much faster than a loan with normal monthly payments

Blanket Insurance Policy: A single policy that covers more than one piece of property (or more than one person).

Blanket Mortgage: A mortgage covering more than one piece of property. Example: A developer subdivides a tract of land into lots and obtains a blanket mortgage on the whole tract.

Blended Payments: Equal payments consisting of both an interest and a principal component. Typically, while the payment amount does not change, the principal portion increases, while the interest portion decreases.

Bond: 1. A debt instrument in the capital markets. The U.S. government, corporations and municipalities use bonds to raise money. Bonds can also be backed by mortgages. The most well known bond is the 30-yr. Treasury bond issued by the U.S. government. 2. A sum of money given to a court to guarantee against a loss. For example if there is a lien on a property, the owner may remove the lien by posting a bond.

Borrower (mortgagor, trustor): Someone who applies for a loan secured by real estate and who is responsible for repaying the loan (mortgage).

Breach: To break or violate a binding agreement.

Bridge Loan: An interim loan typically used when a buyer is unable to sell his/her house but needs money to close the transaction on the house he/she is buying. The bridge loan is made on the buyer’s current residence to finance the buyer’s new residence. The loan is paid off when the buyer’s current residence is sold.

Broker: See Real Estate Broker or Mortgage Broker.

Browser: Short for web browser, a software application used to locate and display web pages. Examples of web browsers include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari.

Building Code: Local regulations that control the design, construction, and materials used in construction. Building codes are based on safety and health standards.

Building Line or Setback: Distances from the ends and/or sides of the lot beyond which construction may not extend. The building line may be established by a filed plat of subdivision, by restrictive covenants in deeds or leases, by building codes, or by zoning ordinances.

Buydown: Obtaining a lower interest rate (buying down the rate) by paying additional points to the lender. The lower rate may apply for the full duration of the loan or for just the first few years. A buydown may be used to qualify a borrower who would otherwise not qualify since a buydown results in lower payments.Example: A very popular buydown is the 2-1 buydown. If the interest rate on the note is 9 percent, the buydown results in the rate being 7 percent (9 percent minus 2 percent) for the first year, 8 percent (9 percent minus 1 percent) for the second year, and 9 percent thereafter.

Buyer’s Broker: An agent hired by a buyer to locate a property for purchase. The broker represents the buyer and negotiates with the seller’s broker to get the best possible deal for the buyer.

Buyer’s Market: Market conditions that favor the buyer such as a market in which there are more sellers than buyers. Because of market conditions, a buyer has an excess supply of homes to choose from and can negotiate a lower price. A buyer’s market may be caused by an economic slump or by overbuilding.

Buying Your Home: Settlement Costs and Information (HUD guide): A booklet that provides an overview of the lending process and that must be given to consumers after a loan application is completed.

Bylaws: A set of regulations that govern how an organization conducts its business. Example: A condominium association prepares bylaws establishing a minimum number of owners who must be present in order to conduct a meeting to decide policies.

Call Option: A clause in a mortgage that gives the lender the right to “call” the mortgage due and payable .

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC): CMHC is a federal crown corporation that administers the National Housing Act (NHA). Among other services, they also insure mortgages for lenders when the loan value is greater than 80 percent of the purchase price or value of the home. The cost of insurance is paid for by the borrower and is generally added to the mortgage amount. These mortgages are often referred to as “High-Ratio” mortgages.

Capital Expenditure: The cost of an improvement made either to extend the life of a property or to increase its value.

Capital Gains: When you sell a capital asset such as real estate at a profit, capital gains are the difference between the amount you sell the asset for and your cot basis, which is usually what you paid for the asset.

Capital Improvement: Any item, structure or addition that is a permanent improvement to the property.

Caps (interest): Limits on the amount that the interest rate in an ARM can change per year and/or during the life of the loan. Payment caps limit the amount that monthly payments for an ARM may change.

Cash Flow: The amount of cash derived over a certain period of time from an income-producing property. The cash flow should be large enough to pay the expenses of the income producing property (mortgage payment, maintenance, utilities, etc.).

Caveat Emptor: A legal term meaning “let the buyer beware.” It means the buyer must examine the property and buy at his/her own risk.Example: A property may be offered in an “as is” condition with no expressed or implied guarantee of quality.

CC&R’s – Covenants, conditions, and restrictions: The basic rules establishing the rights and obligations of owners of real property within a condominium, townhouse, PUD, subdivision or other tract of land. An association is organized for the purpose of operating and maintaining property commonly owned by the individual owners. The association is normally made up of property owners.

Certificate of Deposit: A certificate from a bank stating that the named party has a specified sum on deposit, usually for a given period of time at a fixed rate of interest.

Certificate of Eligibility: The document issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs to those who qualify for a VA loan that can be used to buy a house with zero down. Certificates of eligibility may be obtained by sending the form DD-214 to the local VA office, along with VA form 1880.

Certificate of Occupancy: Document issued by a local governmental agency stipulating that a property meets the local building standards for occupancy and is in compliance with public health and building codes. This document is normally required by a lender prior to closing a loan.

Certificate of Reasonable Value (CRV): An appraisal performed by a VA approved appraiser that establishes the property’s current market value. This value establishes the maximum VA mortgage loan principal.

Certificate of Search or Abstract of Title: A document setting out instruments registered against the title to the property, e.g. deed, mortgages, etc.

Certificate of Title: An opinion rendered by an lawyer regarding the status of title to a property based on public records. This certificate does not provide the same level of protection as title insurance.

Certificate of Veteran Status: The document given to veterans or reservists who have served 90 days of continuous active duty (including training time). This document enables veterans to obtain lower down payments on certain FHA-insured loans.

Chain of Title: The chronological order of conveyance of a parcel of land from the original owner to the present owner.Example: An abstractor can research title to property going back to the date that the property was granted to the United States.

Chattel: Personal property.

Clear Title: A marketable title that is free of clouds and disputed interests. Most lenders require a clear title prior to closing.

Closed Mortgage: A mortgage that cannot be prepaid or renegotiated for a set period of time without penalties.

Closing: The final meeting between the buyer, seller and lender (or their agents) at which the property and funds legally change hands.

Closing Costs: Expenses incurred by the buyer and seller in a real estate or mortgage transaction. There are two types of costs: recurring and non-recurring. Non-recurring costs are one-time transactional costs that include

  • Discount and origination points
  • Lender fees: underwriting, processing, document preparations, flood certificate, tax service, wire transfer, courier, etc.
  • Title insurance fees
  • Escrow, lawyer or closing agent fees
  • Recording fees
  • Inspection and appraisal fees
  • Real estate brokerage commissions

Recurring fees are costs associated with owning a property that recur month after month. These costs may include hazard insurance, interest, property taxes, mortgage insurance (PMI), and association fees. A pro-rated amount of these fees may have to be paid at closing including:

  • Pre-paid interest – interest charges from the date of closing to the end of the month
  • Property taxes, if due
  • Hazard insurance, fire insurance or homeowners insurance, which has to be paid for one year
  • Mortgage insurance (PMI), which may be required if the loan amount is equal to more than 80 percent of the value of the property. In the past, a whole year of PMI had to be paid up-front, however in recent years, many PMI companies only require one-to-two months up-front. Mortgage insurance premiums are then paid every month with the loan payment


Closing Date: The date on which the new owner takes possession of the property and the sale becomes final.

Closing Statement – HUD1: A detailed written summary of the financial settlement of a real estate transaction showing all charges and credits made, as well as all cash received and paid.

Cloud on Title: An outstanding claim or encumbrance that, if valid, would affect or impair the owner’s title. Compare with clear title.

COFI: A monthly cost-of-funds index (COFI) reflecting the average interest rate paid by 11th Federal Home Loan Bank District savings institutions for savings and checking accounts. The 11th district covers Arizona, California and Nevada. The index is published on the last day of the month and reflects the cost of funds for the prior month. This rate is used by lenders to determine the index rate for some variable-rate loan products.

Collateral: An asset (such as a car or a home) that guarantees the repayment of a loan. The borrower risks losing the asset if the loan is not repaid according to the terms of the loan contract.

Collection: The efforts used to bring a delinquent debt current and, in the case of a mortgage loan, the efforts to file the necessary notices to proceed with foreclosure when necessary.

Co-Maker: A person who signs a promissory note along with the borrower. A co-maker’s signature guarantees that the loan will be repaid because the borrower and the co-maker are equally responsible for repayment. See endorser.

Commission: The fee charged by a broker or agent for negotiating a real estate or loan transaction. A commission is generally a percentage of the price of the property or loan.

Commitment: A written document provided by a lender in which the lender agrees to issue a loan on specific terms to a borrower or builder.

Common Area Assessments: Levies against individual unit owners in a condominium or planned unit development (PUD) project for additional capital to defray homeowners’ association costs and expenses and to repair, replace, maintain, improve, or operate the common areas of the project.

Common Areas: Those portions of a building, land, and amenities owned (or managed) by a planned unit development (PUD) or condominium project’s homeowners’ association (or a cooperative project’s cooperative corporation) that are used by all of the unit owners. The owners share in the common expenses of the operation and maintenance of common areas. Common areas include swimming pools, tennis courts, and other recreational facilities, as well as common corridors of buildings, parking areas, and means of ingress and egress.

Common Law: An unwritten body of law based on general custom in England and used to an extent in the United States.

Community Home Improvement Mortgage Loan®: An alternative financing option that allows low- and moderate-income home buyers to obtain 95 percent financing for the purchase and improvement of a home in need of modest repairs. The repair work can account for as much as 30 percent of the appraised value.

Community Land Trust Mortgage Loan: An alternative financing option that enables low- and moderate-income home buyers to purchase housing that has been improved by a nonprofit Community Land Trust and to lease the land on which the property stands.

Community Property: A form of ownership in some western and southwestern states under which property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be owned jointly unless acquired as separate property by either spouse.

Community Seconds®: An alternative financing option for low- and moderate-income households under which an investor purchases a first mortgage that has a subsidized second mortgage behind it. The second mortgage may be issued by a state, county, or local housing agency, foundation, or nonprofit organization. Payment on the second mortgage is often deferred and carries a very low interest rate (or no interest rate at all). Part of the debt may be forgiven incrementally for each year the buyer remains in the home.

Comparables: An abbreviation for “comparable properties” that are used for comparative purposes in the appraisal process. Comparables are properties that have recently been sold that are similar to the property under consideration. Comparables are typically  reasonably the same size, in the same location, and have similar amenities. Comparables help the appraiser determine the approximate fair market value of the subject property.

Compound Interest: Interest paid on the original principal balance and on the accrued and unpaid interest.

Comps, Comparables: Comparable properties; properties used to determine the value of a property by comparison.


  • Taking private property for a public use under eminent domain. Used by governments to acquire land for streets, schools, or freeways, etc. and by utilities to acquire necessary property.  Compensation must be paid to the owner.
  • Declaring a structure unfit for use because of violations in housing codes or other reasons.


Conditional Commitment: A written document provided by a lender agreeing to make a loan as long as certain conditions are met prior to closing.

Conditional Offer: An offer to purchase, subject to conditions. These conditions may relate to financing or to the sale of an existing home. Usually a time limit is stipulated in which the conditions must be satisfied.

Conditional Sales Contract (Land Contract): A real estate sales contract in which she seller (vendor) agrees to convey title to the buyer (vendee) after certain conditions have been met.

Condominium: A type of ownership interest in which each unit owner has title to a unit in a building, an undivided interest in the common areas of the project, and sometimes the exclusive use of certain limited common areas.

Condominium Conversion: Changing the ownership structure of an existing building (usually a rental project) to a condominium form of ownership.

Condominium Hotel: A condominium project that has rental or registration desks, short-term occupancy, food and telephone services, and daily cleaning services and that is operated as a commercial hotel even though the units are individually owned.

Construction loan: A short-term loan used to pay for the construction of buildings or homes. These loans typically provide periodic disbursements to the builder as each stage of the building is completed. When construction is completed, a take-out or permanent loan is used to pay off the construction loan.

Consumer Reporting Agency (or bureau): An organization that prepares reports used by lenders to determine a potential borrower’s credit history. The agency obtains data for reports from a credit repository as well as from other sources. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax are the three main repositories.

Consideration: Anything of value given to induce another to enter into a contract. Earnest money deposit on a sales contract is a form of consideration.

Contingency: The requirement that a particular event occur before a contract is binding. For example: The sale of a home can be contingent upon the buyer obtaining financing.

Contract: An agreement between competent parties to do or not do certain things for consideration.To have a valid contract for the sale of real estate there must be:

  • an offer
  • an acceptance
  • competent parties
  • consideration
  • legal purpose
  • written documentation
  • description of the property
  • signatures by principals or their lawyer-in-fact


Contract of Sale: See Agreement of Sale

Conventional Loan: Any mortgage loan other than a VA or an FHA loan. A conventional loan may be conforming or non-conforming.

Convertibility Clause: A clause in some ARMs that allows the buyer (borrower) to change to a fixed-rate mortgage at a specified time.

Conveyance: The transfer of title of real property from one party to another.

Covenant: A clause in a mortgage that obligates or restricts the borrower and that, if violated, can result in foreclosure.

Conventional Mortgage: A mortgage loan with a value equal to up to 80 percent of the purchase price or the value of the property. A mortgage exceeding 80 percent is referred to as a “High-Ratio” mortgage and the lender will require insurance for that mortgage.

Cooperative (Co-op): See Stock Cooperative.

Convertible Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): Some variable loans come with the option to convert to a fixed loan based on a pre-determined formula and during a given time period. For example the 1 Year T-Bill ARM may be converted to a fixed rate loan during the first five years from the adjustment date. One could convert during the thirteenth, twenty-fifth, thirty-seventh, forty-ninth or sixty-first month of the loan.

Credit Life Insurance: A type of insurance often bought by mortgagors because it will pay off the mortgage debt if the mortgagor dies while the policy is in force.

Credit Report: A report detailing a borrower’s credit and payment history including: revolving and installment accounts; public records such as tax liens and judgments.

Credit Repository: An organization that gathers, records, updates, and stores financial and public records information about the credit records of individuals. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax are credit repositories.

Credit Score: A credit score is a snapshot of a person’s credit risk at a particular point in time. It is used by lenders to help determine if a borrower qualifies for a loan. There are three main credit reporting companies that issue credit scores. Experian calls the score the FICO score; TransUnion calls it Empirica; and Equifax calls it the Beacon.

Credit Scoring: A system that assesses a borrower’s credit worthiness based on data about judgments against the party, open and closed credit accounts and past payment history.

Creditor: A person or entity (a bank or other lender) who funded a loan and to whom a debt is owed.

Cul-de-sac: A dead-end street with a turn-around space at the end. These are attractive to some homeowners because the dead-end cuts down on “thru” traffic and speeding.

Debt Ratio: A ratio used by lenders to determine if a borrower qualifies for a loan. The debt (-to-income) ratio is calculated by taking the borrower’s monthly debt payments, including house payments as well as payments on credit cards and personal loans, and dividing it by borrower’s the monthly income.

Deed: A written document showing property ownership and used when transferring title of property from one owner to another. The deed should contain an accurate description of the property being conveyed, should be signed and witnessed according to the laws of the State where the property is located, and should be delivered to the buyer at closing.

Deed-in-lieu: A deed given by a mortgagor (homeowner) to the mortgagee (lender) to satisfy a debt and avoid foreclosure. Also called a “voluntary conveyance.” This avoids the foreclosure process, however it may still be considered a negative mark on your credit and affect your credit scores.

Deed of Trust: A security instrument (document describing the rights and duties of the lender and borrower) used in real estate transactions in many states. The parties to a deed of trust are: trustee (third party), trustor (borrower), beneficiary (lender).

Deed Restriction: A clause in a deed that limits the use of land. Example: A deed might require that a road cannot be built on the land.

Default: Failure to meet legal obligations in a contract, such as the failure to make the monthly mortgage payment.

Defective Title: Any recorded instrument that would prevent a grantor/seller from giving a clear title.Example: The seller has a contractor lien on the property that was filed when he/she failed to pay the contractor for a kitchen remodel. The seller may obtain clear title by paying the contractor and removing the lien.

Deferred Interest: Unpaid interest added to the loan balance. This is common in a negative amortized or option ARM loan program. The minimum payment is less than the interest charged. The interest that is not paid is added to the balance.

Deficiency Judgment: Personal claim against the debtor when the sale of foreclosed property does not yield sufficient proceeds to pay off the mortgages, accrued interest, legal fees, etc.

Delinquency: Failure to make payments on time. A Notice of Default is normally sent and the foreclosure process begins after you are delinquent for a few months.

Demand Loan: A loan where the balance must be repaid upon request.

Deposit: A sum of money deposited in trust by the purchaser upon making an offer to purchase. When an offer is accepted by a vendor (seller), the deposit is held in trust by the listing real estate broker, lawyer, or notary until the closing of the sale, at which point it is given to the vendor. If a house does not close because of the purchaser’s failure to comply with the terms set out in the offer, the purchaser forgoes the deposit, and it is given to the vendor as compensation for the breach of the contract (the offer).

Depreciation: When related to the appraisal of property, depreciation is a decrease in value resulting from any cause. When related to taxation, “book depreciation” is a steady decrease (calculated using mathematical formulas or schedules) in the owner’s tax basis. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): An independent governmental agency that guarantees long-term, low- or no-money-down mortgages to eligible veterans.

Discount Points: Fees paid to a lender to reduce the interest rate.

Documentary Tax Stamps: Stamps affixed to a deed showing the amount of transfer tax.

Dower: The rights of a widow or child to part of a deceased husband or father’s property.

Down Payment: The amount paid for the purchase of a property by the borrower, instead of by the mortgage lender. The down payment does not include the value of any closing costs.Example: John buys a house for $100,000 and obtains a loan for $80,000. His down payment is $20,000.

Dragnet Clause: A provision in a mortgage that pledges several properties as collateral. A default in the mortgage could lead to foreclosure proceedings on any of the properties in the dragnet.

Due on Sale Clause: A clause in the deed of trust or mortgage that states that the entire loan is due upon the sale of the property.

Earnest Money: A deposit made by a buyer of real estate towards the down payment as evidence of good faith. This money is typically held by the real estate brokers or by the escrow company.

Easement: The right to use the land of another for a specific purpose. Easements may be temporary or permanent. Example: The utility company may need an easement to run electric lines.

Eminent Domain: The right of the government or a public utility to acquire property for necessary public use by condemnation. Proper compensation to the owner is required.

Encroachment: A building, part of a building, or an obstruction (e.g., a fence or wall) that physically intrudes upon or overlaps upon the property of another.

Encumbrance: Any interest or right in real property possessed by a stranger to the title that affects the owner’s property value, but that does not prevent the owner from transferring title. Encumbrances may affect title, condition or use of the property.

Entitlement: VA home loan benefits are known as entitlement and/or eligibility.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): A federal law that requires lenders and other creditors to make credit available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, or receipt of income from public assistance programs.

Equity: The market value of real property less the amount of any liens. Equity is often expressed as a percentage of the property value.

Equity Sharing: Joint ownership of a property shared among the owner/occupant and the owner/investor that results in tax advantages for both parties. Upon sale of the property, the joint owners split profits based on the percentage they own.

Escheat: The reversion of property to the state in the event that the owner dies without leaving a will and has no legal heirs.

Escrow: 1. A deed or bond kept by a third party until a specified condition is fulfilled.

Escrow Account: The account in which a mortgage servicer holds the borrower’s escrow payments prior to paying property expenses.

Estate: The ownership interest of an individual in real property. The sum total of all the real property and personal property owned by an individual at time of his/her death.

Eviction: The lawful expulsion of an occupant from real property. The legal process of eviction is different in each state.

Examination of Title: The report on the title of a property from the public records or an abstract of the title.

Exclusive Listing: A written contract that gives a licensed real estate agent the exclusive right to sell a property for a specified time, but that reserves the owner’s right to sell the property on his/her without the payment of a commission.

Executor (Executrix: feminine for Executor): A person named in a will to carry out its provisions for the disposition of the estate.

Fair Credit Reporting Act: A consumer protection law that regulates the disclosure of consumer credit reports by consumer/credit reporting agencies and that establishes procedures for correcting mistakes on one’s credit record.

Fair Market Value: The highest price paid by a buyer who is willing but not compelled to buy, and the lowest a seller, willing but not compelled to sell, would accept.

Fannie Mae-Backed Security rates: Fannie Mae pools large quantities of mortgages, creates securities with them, and sells them as Fannie Mae-backed securities. The rates on these securities influence mortgage rates very strongly.

Farmer’s Home Administration (FmHA): An agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers assistance programs for purchasers of homes and farms in small towns and rural areas.

Fed: Federal Reserve Bank

Federal Discount Rate: The rate that the New York Federal Reserve charges for loans to member banks.

Federal Funds Rate: The rate banks charge each other for overnight loans.

Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB): Provides financing to farmers.

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC, Freddie Mac): Freddie Mac maintains a nationwide secondary market primarily for conventional loans originated by banks, thrift institutions and other HUD-approved lenders. Freddie Mac finances most of its operations through the sale of mortgage participation certificates.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA): An agency within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). FHA offers mortgage insurance programs to protect lenders in the event of default. Because lenders are insured against loss, they can make affordable financing available to borrowers who would not otherwise qualify.

Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA, Fannie Mae): Provides a secondary market for FHA, VA and conventional loans. Fannie Mae issues mortgage-backed securities and guarantees timely payment of their principal and interest to investors.

Federal Reserve System: The central federal banking system that regulates and provides services to member commercial banks. Also has the responsibility for conducting federal monetary policy.

Fee Simple (Fee Absolute or Fee Simple Absolute): Absolute ownership of real property. The owner is entitled to the entire property with unconditional power of disposition during his/her life. Upon death, the property descends to the owner’s designated heirs.

Fico: Fair Isaac Corporation. This credit score is reported on your Experian (formerly TRW) credit report. A FICO score is a snapshot of a person’s credit risk at a particular point in time.

Fidelity Bond: An assurance, generally purchased by an employer, to cover employees who are entrusted with valuable property or funds.Example : A landlord employs a clerk who collects rents. To safeguard these funds during the collection process, the landlord purchases a fidelity bond to cover the clerk.

Fiduciary: A person in a position of trust or responsibility with a duty to act in the best interest of a client. A real estate broker is a fiduciary for his/her clients.

Finance Charge: Interest charged by a lender.

Firm Commitment: A lender’s agreement to make a loan to a specific borrower on a specific property. This is usually given as a written loan approval from a lender.

First Mortgage: A mortgage that has priority as a lien over all other mortgages. In the case of a foreclosure, the first mortgage will be satisfied before other mortgages. See also second mortgage.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage: A mortgage for which the interest is set for the term of the mortgage.

Fixture: Personal property attached to the land in such a way as to be considered part of the real property.

Flood Insurance: An insurance policy that covers property damage due to natural flooding. Flood insurance may be required on properties in a flood zone.

Foreclosure (Repossession): A legal process in which the rights of possession, title and interest of a mortgagor or trustor in real property are terminated by the lender selling the property. The proceeds are used to satisfy liens.

Framed Page: In HTML, refers to dividing the browser display area into separate sections, each of which is really a different Web page.

Free and clear: A property that has no liens.

Freddie Mac, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC): A quasi-governmental agency that purchases conventional mortgage loans from insured depository institutions (savings and loans) and HUD-approved mortgage bankers.

Forfeiture: The loss of money, property, rights, or privileges due to a breach of legal obligation.

Front-end Ratio: Total monthly mortgage/housing payments (PITI, principal, interest, taxes and insurance) divided by your gross monthly income. This comes out to a percentage that a lender uses to get an idea of how much of your income will be going towards paying your loan. Most programs require a maximum ratio of 28-33 percent. A lower ratio is better.

FSBO: For sale by owner. A property being sold that is not listed with a real estate broker.

Fully indexed rate: A fully indexed rate is the value of an index plus a margin. See adjustable loans.

General Warranty Deed: A deed in which the grantor (seller) agrees to protect the grantee (buyer) against any other claim to title of the property. See also warranty deed.

Good Faith Estimate (GFE): The form that lists the settlement charges a borrower must pay at closing. The lender is obligated to provide the borrower this form within three business days of receiving the loan application.

Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA, Ginnie Mae): A government corporation that guarantees mortgage-backed securities issued by approved lenders. GNMA mortgage-backed securities are considered by many to be as safe as Treasury securities.

Grantee: The party on the deed who is the buyer or recipient.

Graduated Payment Mortgage (GPM): A trust deed or mortgage requiring increasingly higher payments during the life of the loan. Negative amortization may occur under some circumstances.

Grandfather Clause: The clause in a law permitting the continuation of a behavior/use of property that was permissible but that, because of a change in the law, is now no longer permissible.

Grantor: That party who is the seller or the giver.

Gross Debt Service (GDS) Ratio: One of the mathematical calculations used by lenders to determine a borrower’s capacity to repay a mortgage. It takes into account the mortgage payments, property taxes, approximate heating costs, and 50 percent of any maintenance fees. This sum is divided by the applicants’ total gross income. Ratios up to 32 percent are acceptable.

Guarantor: A person with an established credit rating and sufficient earnings who guarantees to repay the loan for the borrower if the borrower does not.

Hazard Insurance (Fire Insurance, Homeowners insurance): A type of real estate insurance providing protection against loss due to fire and other risks.

High-Ratio Mortgage: A mortgage that exceeds 80 percent of the purchase price or appraised value of the property. This type of mortgage must be insured. To avoid the cost of the insurance, a first mortgage equal to up to 80 percent can be arranged along with a second mortgage for the balance for a total loan value equal to up to 90 percent of the purchase price.

Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM): A special type of mortgage that enables older homeowners to convert the equity they have in their homes into cash by using a variety of payment options to address their specific financial needs. Unlike traditional home equity loans, a borrower does not qualify on the basis of income but instead qualifies based on the value of his or her home. The loan does not have to be repaid until the borrower no longer occupies the property. This is commonly known as a reverse mortgage.

Home Equity Line of Credit: A mortgage loan that allows the borrower to borrow against the equity in a home at his or her discretion, up to an amount that represents a specified percentage of equity in a property.

Home Inspection: A thorough inspection that evaluates the structural and mechanical condition of a property. A satisfactory home inspection is often included as a contingency by the purchaser. Contrast with appraisal.

Home KeeperSM: Fannie Mae’s adjustable-rate conventional reverse mortgage that allows older homeowners to borrow against the value of their homes and receive the proceeds according to the payment option they select. The amount available is based on the number of borrowers, the borrowers’ ages and the adjusted property value. Anyone 62 years or older who either owns his or her own home free and clear or has very low mortgage debt is eligible.

Home Page: The main page of a web site. This is usually the first page that comes up on the computer screen. Typically, the home page serves as an index or table of contents to other documents available on the site. It is also referred to as the index page.

Home Warranty Plan: Insurance that covers appliances, heating systems, etc. Typically purchased at the time of closing.

Homeowners Association: An association of homeowners in a particular subdivision, planned unit development (PUD), or condominium organized to manage the common area of the development and to enforce the association rules and regulations.

Homestead: Status provided to a homeowner’s principal residence that protects the home against certain types of judgments.

Homestead Exemption: A statutory exemption shielding real homestead property against the rights of certain creditors. Regarding taxation: an exemption reducing the assessed value of a principal residence for the purposes of calculating property tax. E.g., John’s principal residence is assessed at $100,000 and the homestead exemption is $7,000. His property taxes will be based on $93,000.

Housing and Urban Development: A U.S. government agency established to implement certain federal housing and community development programs.

Housing Code: A local government ordinance that sets minimum standards of safety and sanitation for existing residential buildings.

HTML: Short for Hyper Text Markup Language, HTML is the authoring language used to create documents on the world wide web

HUD 1: A closing document required by HUD that outlines the settlement cost of a loan. The closing agent prepares this document and sends it to the buyer upon closing.

Hypothecate: To pledge a property as security without having to give up possession of it.

Impound Account: That portion of a borrower’s monthly payments held by the lender or servicer to pay for taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, lease payments, and other items as they become due. Also known as reserves.

Improvements: Additions to raw land such as buildings, streets, etc. that add value to the land.

Income (Capitalization) Approach: An appraisal method used for the valuation of income-producing property in which net income is capitalized.

Income Property: Real estate that generates rental income. Examples include apartment buildings, office buildings and shopping centers.

Index: A statistic that indicates some current economic of financial condition. Indexes are used to make adjustments in variable rate loans.

Inflation: In economics, inflation is an increase in the general level of prices. General inflation is a fall in the market value or purchasing power of money within an economy and is referred to as a rise in the general level of prices.

Ingress and Egress: The right to pass through a piece of property. See Easements.

Installment Sale: 1. Re. Taxation: When selling real property and receiving one or more payments in subsequent years, the taxpayer may report the sale as an installment sale. This allows the taxpayer to defer the recognition of gain over many years and save taxes. 2. Installment sale land contract. See Conditional Sales Contract.

Interest Adjustment Date (IAD): The date on which the mortgage term will begin. This date is usually the first day of the month following the closing. The interest cost for the days from the closing date to the first of the month is usually paid at closing. That is why it is always better to close your deal towards the end of the month.

Interest Only: An interest-only loan program is a loan program that has an interest-only payment option. The loan can be a fixed rate or variable rate loan. The interest only monthly payment is equal to the amount of the interest rate multiplied by the original loan amount divided by twelve. No principal is paid and the loan balance does not decrease. You may pay the interest-only payment amount or pay the fully amortized payment amount. The interest-only payment option is only available in the initial years of the loan term. Conforming loan programs have the interest-only term for ten to fifteen years. Jumbo programs vary from three years up to ten years.

ISP: Internet Service Provider, a company that provides access to the Internet for a monthly fee.

Joint and Several Liability: Several individuals have a shared obligation and a creditor can demand full repayment from any and all of those who are obligated or liable. Each borrower is liable for the full debt, not just the prorated share.

Joint Tenancy: Ownership of a property by two or more people, each with an undivided interest and with the right of survivorship.Example: John and Mary own a house in joint tenancy. Each owns half of the entire (undivided) property. If John dies, Mary will own the entire property and vice versa.

Judgment: The decision of a court of law declaring that one individual is indebted to another and fixing the amount of indebtedness. Judgments, when recorded, become a lien on real property owned by the defendant.

Judgment Lien: The claim on the property of a debtor resulting from a judgment.

Judicial Foreclosure: A type of foreclosure proceeding used in some states wherein the foreclosure is handled as a civil lawsuit and conducted entirely under the auspices of a court.

Jumbo Loan: Loan size that is larger than the conforming loan limit established by the Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Junior Mortgage: A mortgage subordinate to another mortgage. In the case of foreclosure, a senior mortgage will be paid prior to a junior mortgage.

Kicker: A payment required by a mortgage in addition to normal principal and interest. Sometimes known as a participation loan.

Land Contract: See Conditional Sales Contract

Late Charge: The penalty a borrower must pay when a payment is made a stated number of days (usually 15) after the due date.

Lease: A written agreement between the property owner and a tenant that stipulates the conditions under which the tenant may possess the real estate for a specified period of time and specified rent payment.

Leasehold Estate: Tenant’s right of possession for a specific period of time under a lease agreement.

Lease with Option to Purchase: A lease agreement under which the lessee has the right to purchase the property. The option may run for a portion or for the full length of the lease

Legal Description: Legally acceptable identification of real estate by one of the following:

  • the government rectangular survey
  • metes and bounds
  • recorded plat (lot and block number)

Lessee: A person to whom property is rented under a lease. (Tenant)

Lessor: A person who rents property to another under a lease. (Landlord)

Libor: London Interbank Offered Rates. Average London Eurodollar rates. The Libor Index rate is used in many variable loan programs.

Life Estate: An estate in real property for the life of a living person. The property reverts back to the grantor or to a third party upon death.

Lien: A claim against the property for the payment of a debt, judgment, mortgage or taxes. Example : Unpaid contractors may file a mechanic’s lien.

Line of Credit: An agreement by a commercial bank or other financial institution to extend credit up to a certain amount for a certain time to a specified borrower. See home equity line of credit.

Lis Pendens: Latin for “lawsuit pending.” Recorded notice that litigation is pending on a property. Most lenders will require the clearance of the Lis Pendens prior to closing.

Listing: Real estate properties for sale are usually considered listed when posted in the multiple listing service (MLS) for the local region. Properties may also be listed using an Internet listing service online, which can be done directly by the homeowner.

Liquid Asset: A cash asset or an asset that is easily converted into cash.

Loan Application: A document required by a lender prior to loan approval. An application asks for detailed information about the borrower and the property.

Loan Origination Fee or Points: Charge by a lender or broker connected with originating a loan. This is different from discount points, which are used to buy down the rate of interest.

Loan Servicing: The act of collecting loan payments, handling property tax and insurance escrows, foreclosing on defaulted loans and remitting payments to the investors.

Loan to Value Ratio (LTV): The loan amount divided by the value of the property.

Lock-in: A written agreement in which the lender guarantees a specified interest rate if a mortgage goes to closing within a set period of time. The lock-in also usually specifies the number of points to be paid at closing.

Lock-in period: The time period during which the lender has guaranteed an interest rate to a borrower. See lock-in.

Margin: A fixed number added to the index to compute the rate on an adjustable rate mortgage.

Marketable Title: Title that is free of liens, clouds and other legal defects and hence is readily acceptable by a buyer.

Market Value: The highest price that a buyer would pay and the lowest price a seller would accept on a property. Market value may be different from the price a property could actually be sold for at a given time.

Master Association: A homeowners’ association in a large condominium or planned unit development (PUD) project that is made up of representatives from associations covering specific areas within the project. In effect, it is a “second-level” association that handles matters affecting the entire development, while the “first-level” associations handle matters affecting their particular portions of the project.

Maturity Date: Last day of the term of the mortgage agreement.

Mechanics Lien: The right of an unpaid contractor or subcontractor to file a lien against a property to recover the amount due to him/her.

Merged Credit Report: A credit report that contains information from three credit repositories. When the report is created, the information is compared for duplicate entries. Any duplicates are combined to provide a summary of your credit.

Modification: The act of changing any of the terms of the mortgage.

Mortgage: A written instrument that creates a lien against real estate as security for the payment of a specified debt.

Mortgage Backed Security (MBS): A bond or other financial obligation secured by a pool of mortgage loans.

Mortgage Banker: Specializes in originating and servicing loans. They generally sell their loans to investors, but may continue to service them.

Mortgage Broker: Arranges financing for a borrower by placing loans with lenders. Mortgage brokers are paid a fee by the borrower or the lender when a loan closes.

Mortgage Life Insurance: A type of term life insurance often bought by mortgagors. The amount of coverage decreases as the mortgage balance declines. In the event that the borrower dies while the policy is in force, the mortgage debt is automatically satisfied by insurance proceeds.

Mortgagee: The lender.

Mortgagor: The borrower.

Mortgage Insurance: See private mortgage insurance (PMI)

Mortgage Note: A written agreement to repay a loan. The agreement is secured by a mortgage, serves as proof of indebtedness, and states the manner in which the debt shall be paid. The note states the actual amount of the debt that the mortgage secures and renders the mortgagor personally responsible for repayment.

Mortgage Term: The number of years or months over which you pay off a mortgage.

Multidwelling Units: Properties made up of separate housing units that provide housing for more than one family although they secure only a single mortgage.

Multifamily Mortgage: A residential mortgage on a dwelling that is designed to house more than four families, such as a high-rise apartment complex.

Negative Amortization: An increase in the balance of a loan that occurs when the monthly payments do not cover all of the interest cost. The interest cost that is not covered by the payment is added to the unpaid principal balance.

Net Effective Income: The borrowers’ gross income minus federal income tax.

No-Doc Loan: A loan requiring very little loan documentation. These loans usually require large (25 percent) down payments.

Nonconforming loan: Loans that do not comply with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines.

Notary Public: One authorized to take acknowledgments of certain types of documents, such as deeds, contracts, and mortgages.

Note: The note is a promissory note that is signed along with loan documents and that states the loan amount, interest rate and loan terms.

Notice of default: A letter sent to the defaulting party as a reminder of the default.

Offer: An expression of willingness to purchase a property at a specified price.

Offeree: One who receives the offer. When the buyer makes an offer to the seller, the seller is an offeree.

Offeror: One who makes the offer. When the buyer makes an offer to the seller, the buyer is an offeror.

Office of Comptroller Currency: The oldest federal financial regulatory body that oversees the nation’s federally chartered banks.

Office of Thrift Supervision: The OTS charters federal thrift institutions and is the primary regulator of all federal and many state-chartered thrift institutions.

Open-end Mortgage: A mortgage permitting the mortgagor to borrow additional money under the same mortgage, with certain conditions.

Open House: A method of showing a home for sale to prospective buyers where the home is left open for inspection by those who may be interested in making a purchase.

Open Mortgage: A mortgage that can be repaid at any time during the term without any penalty. For this convenience, the interest rate may be between 0.75-1.00 percent higher than a closed mortgage. This is a good option if you are planning to sell your property or to pay the mortgage off entirely.

Option Arm: The option arm loan program, commonly referred to as a negative amortized loan, has a low starting payment rate, which is typically between one and two percent. The initial monthly loan payment is calculated based on the starting rate but the note rate will adjust to the index plus the margin after the first one to three months. The payment remains the same for the entire year, and is only adjusted yearly on the anniversary date. Since the interest charges may exceed the monthly payment, the interest that is not paid is added to the loan balance. This increases the loan amount, rather than decreasing the loan balance as in a fully amortized loan. Thus negative amortization, or increasing loan balance, occurs during the initial years of this loan.

Optionee: One who receives or purchases an option.

Optionor: One who gives or sells an option.

Oral Contract: A verbal agreement. Verbal agreements for the sale or use of real estate are normally unenforceable.

Origination Fee: See Loan Origination Fee.

Owner Financing: A property purchase transaction in which the property seller provides all or part of the financing.

Owner of Record: The individual named on a deed that has been recorded at the county recorders office.

Owner Occupant: A tenant of a residence who also owns the property.

Package Mortgage: Mortgage covering both real and personal property.

Paper: A mortgage, deed of trust or land contract provided in lieu of cash.

Partial Release: A provision in a mortgage that allows some of the property secured to be freed from serving as collateral.

Participation Mortgage: A mortgage that allows the lender to share in part of the income or resale proceeds.

Pass-through Certificates: Interests in a pool of mortgages sold by mortgage bankers to investors. Money collected as monthly mortgage payments is distributed to those who own certificates.

Permanent Loan or Mortgage: A mortgage with a long repayment term. Often the term is used to refer to the mortgage that pays off a construction loan on a completed property.

Permit: A document issued by a government regulatory authority that allows the bearer to take some specific action. An occupancy permit allows the owner of a building to occupy or rent the building.

Phishing: Email phishing, also referred to as brand spoofing or carding, is a variation on “fishing.” The term is used to signify that bait is thrown out with the hopes that, while most will ignore the bait, some will be tempted into biting. An example is a request for information using a bank’s website header so it looks like the request is coming from the bank when it is actually a fake.

PITI: Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance. Your mortgage loan payment usually includes the principal and interest amounts. When you borrow more than 80 percent of the value of your home, lenders usually require that you also pay the taxes and insurance payments with your loan payment.

Planned Unit Development (PUD): A zoning classification that allows flexibility in the design of a subdivision. PUD’s include individually owned units as well as some common space that is jointly owned.

Plat: A plan or map of a specific land area.

Plat Book: A public record containing maps of land and showing the division of the land into streets, blocks, and lots. A plat book indicates the measurements of the individual parcels.

Pledged Account Mortgage (PAM): When the borrower places money in a pledged savings account and these funds, plus interest earned, are gradually used to reduce mortgage payments.

Points: Fees paid to lenders. One point is equal to one percent of the loan amount. On a $100,000 loan, one point is equal to $1000. Points may be further classified into origination points or discount points.

Portable Mortgage: An existing mortgage that can be transferred to a new property. One would want to port their mortgage in order to avoid any penalties or in the event that the interest rate is much lower than the current rates.

Portfolio Loan: A loan that is held as an investment by a bank or savings and loan, and NOT sold on the secondary market to investors.

Power of Lawyer: A written document authorizing a person to act on the behalf of another person. That person does not have to be an lawyer. See Lawyer-In-Fact.

Prepaid Interest: Prepaid interest is the interest charged to borrowers at closing to pay for the cost of borrowing for a balance of the month. For example, if a loan closes on the 19th of the month and the first payment is due on the 1st of the following month, the lender will charge 12 days of prepaid interest.

Prepayment: Full or partial payment of the principal before the due date. This might occur if the borrower makes extra payments, sells the property, or refinances the existing loan.

Prepayment Penalty: Fees paid by the borrower if he or she pays the loan before its due date.

Pre-Qualification: The process of determining how much money a prospective homebuyer will be eligible to borrow before he or she formally applies for a loan.

Primary Mortgage Market: Companies that originate and service mortgage loans (banks, savings & loans, credit union, mortgage bankers, institutional lenders) make up the primary mortgage market. See also secondary mortgage market.

Prime Rate: The rate offered to a bank’s best customers.

Principal: Depending on the context, principal could be the outstanding balance on a loan or the original amount of a loan, before interest.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): In the event that you do not have a 20 percent down payment, lenders will allow a smaller down payment – as low as two percent in some cases. With the smaller down payment loans, however, borrowers are usually required to carry private mortgage insurance. Private mortgage insurance payments are normally made annual or monthly. An impound account may be required.

Probate: Court process to establish the validity of the will of a deceased person.

Property Tax: A government levy based on the market value (as assessed by the county assessor’s office) of a property.

Public Sale: An auction of property with notice to the general public.

Purchase Agreement: A real property agreement between a buyer and seller specifying the price and terms of the sale.

Purchase Money Mortgage: A mortgage used to finance the purchase of a property.

Qualification Rate: Rate of interest used to calculate whether or not a borrower qualifies for a mortgage.

Qualification Requirements: Guidelines used by lenders to decide whether to loan money to an applicant.

Qualified Acceptance, Conditional Acceptance: Acceptance for a loan (or other contract) provided that certain conditions are met.

Qualified Buyer: A person who has been pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

Qualifying Ratios: Calculations that are used in determining whether a borrower can qualify for a mortgage. They consist of two separate calculations: calculating housing expense as a percent of income ratio and calculating total debt obligations as a percent of income ratio.

Quiet Title (Action): A court action to settle a title dispute.

Quit Claim Deed: A deed that transfers whatever interest the maker of the deed may have in a particular parcel of land. A quitclaim deed is often given to clear the title when the grantor’s interest in a property is questionable. By accepting such a deed, the buyer assumes all the risks. A quit claim deed makes no warranties as to the title, but simply transfers to the buyer whatever interest the grantor has.

Radon: A radioactive gas that seeps up from the ground and can cause health problems. A radon test is often part of a home inspection.

Rate Commitment: The number of days the lender will guarantee the mortgage rate on a mortgage approval. This can vary from lender to lender and is usually anywhere from 30 to 120 days.

Real Property: Land and appurtenances, including anything of a permanent nature such as structures, trees, minerals, and the interest, benefits, and inherent rights thereof.

Realtor ® : A real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors.

Real Estate Broker: An individual who is licensed to represent a buyer or a seller in a real estate transaction.

Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act (RESPA): A law that states how mortgage lenders must treat those who apply for real estate loans on property with one to four units.Example : A lender is required to provide a good faith estimate of closing costs within three days of an application being filed.

Recapture tax: Some government sponsored or insured programs, such as HUD Low Income Housing programs, require that the buyer occupy the property and retain ownership for a specific period of time. If the buyer sells the property or, in some cases, moves out of the property, the tax benefits or subsidies received are charged to the homeowner..

Recession: A recession is usually defined as a fall of a country’s real Gross National Product in two or more successive quarters of a year. A recession may also involve falling prices that can lead to a depression. In a free market economy, recessions come and go at fairly regular intervals, often every five to ten years, in what is known as the business cycle.

Reconveyance: When a mortgage is paid in full, the lender conveys the property back to the owner.

Recording: The act of entering into a book of public records instruments detailing title to the real property. A lender requires that a deed of trust or a mortgage be recorded to evidence the debt against the property.

Recording Fees: Money paid to the lender for recording a home sale with local authorities, thus making it public record.

Recision: The cancellation of a contract. When refinancing a mortgage on a principal residence, the law gives the homeowner three days to cancel the contract.

Recourse: The right of the holder of a note secured by a mortgage or deed of trust to claim money from the borrower in default above and beyond the property pledged as collateral.

Redlining: The practice of refusing to provide loans or insurance in a certain neighborhood.

Refinance: Obtaining a new mortgage loan on a property already owned, often to replace existing loans.

Regulation Z (Reg Z): A federal regulation requiring creditors to provide full disclosure of the terms of a loan including the terms of the loan and the annual percentage rate (APR).

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT): A trust that uses investors’ money to purchase and manage real estate. Investors realize some of the tax advantages in owning real estate.

Renewal: When the mortgage term has concluded, your mortgage is up for renewal. At this time, prepayment in part or in full may be an option, or you may be able to renew with same lender or transfer to another lender at no cost (we can arrange).

Restrictive Covenants: Private restrictions limiting the use of real property. Restrictive covenants are created by deed and may “run with the land,” binding all subsequent purchasers of the land. They may also be “personal” and binding only between the original seller and buyer.

Reverse Annuity Mortgage (RAM): A mortgage in which the lender makes periodic payments to the borrower using the borrower’s equity in the home as collateral.

Reverse Mortgage: A mortgage used by the elderly that provides income from home equity for as long as they live. Payments made cause the loan principal to increase.

Right of First Refusal: A portion of an agreement that requires a property owner to give one party the opportunity to buy or lease the property before the property is made available to other potential buyers.

Right of Ingress or Egress: The right to enter or leave designated premises.

Right of survivorship: The right of a surviving joint tenant to acquire the interest of a deceased joint owner.

Rollover Loan: A loan that is amortized over a long period of time (e.g., 30 yrs) but the interest rate is fixed for a short period (e.g., 5 yrs). The loan may be extended or rolled over at the end of the shorter term based on the terms of the loan.

Sales Agreement or Sales Contract: See Agreement of Sale.

Savings & Loan: Depository institutions that specialize in originating, servicing and holding mortgage loans primarily on owner occupied residential property.

Second Home: Also known as a vacation home. This home is different from an investment property as it is not rented but is instead used occasionally by the owners.

Second Mortgage: A subordinated lien created by a mortgage loan issued separately from the first mortgage. Second mortgages generally carry a higher rate than a first mortgage since they represent a higher risk for an investor.

Secondary Mortgage Market: The market where banks, savings & loans and mortgage bankers can sell mortgages to investors such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Section 1031: The section of the IRS that deals with tax-free exchanges of certain property. General rules for tax free exchanges are The properties must be :

  • Exchanged
  • Similar
  • Used for business or as an investment

Section 8 Housing: Privately owned rental units participating in the low-income rental assistance program. Landlords receive subsidies on behalf of qualified low-income tenants, allowing the tenants to pay a limited proportion of their incomes toward the rent.

Security: Property that serves as collateral for a debt.

Servicer: An organization that collects principal and interest payments from borrowers and that manages borrowers’ escrow accounts. The servicer often services mortgages that have been purchased by an investor in the secondary mortgage market.

Servicing: The act of billing, collecting payment, filing reports, managing impound accounts and handling defaults on a mortgage.

Settlement Cost (HUD guide): See Buying Your Home: Settlement Costs and Information (HUD guide)

Settlement Statement: See HUD 1

Shared Appreciation Mortgage: A residential loan with a fixed, below-market interest rate in which the lender is entitled to a specified share of property appreciation during an agreed-upon time period.

Sheriff’s Deed: A deed given at the sheriff’s sale as part of the foreclosure of a mortgage.

Simple Interest: Interest that is computed only on the principal balance.

Single Family Home (SFR): A type of residential structure designed to include one dwelling. Example : Town houses, detached units.

Soft Market: A market where houses aren’t selling quickly, driving sale prices lower than the asking (listing) price. It’s a good time for buyers to buy, but not the best time for prospective sellers to sell.

Spec House: A single-family dwelling constructed by a builder in anticipation of finding a buyer.

Special Assessment: A special tax imposed on property, individual lots or all property in the neighborhood to pay for improvements such as street lights, sidewalks, etc.

Special Warranty Deed: The grantor does not warrant against title defects arising from conditions that existed before he/she owned the property. The seller warrants that he/she has done nothing to impair title.

Specific Performance: A legal action in which the court requires a contract party to perform his/her obligations under the terms of the agreement.

Stock Cooperative: A common interest development in which a corporation holds title. Stock and exclusive right to occupancy are given to individual members (stock holders) of the stock cooperative.

Standard Uniform Loan Application (Form 1003): A standard loan application widely used in the mortgage industry.

Subdivision: A tract of land divided into lots suitable for home building purposes.

Subject To Clause: A clause stating that the grantee takes title “subject to” an existing mortgage or trust deed. The original mortgagor remains responsible for any deficiency in the event of foreclosure. See Assumable Mortgage.

Subordinate Financing: Any mortgage or other lien that has a priority lower than that of the first mortgage.

Subordination: A loan in a lower priority, such as a second mortgage that is subordinate to a first.

Subsidized Second Mortgage: An alternative financing option known as the Community Seconds® mortgage for low- and moderate-income households. An investor purchases a first mortgage that has a subsidized second mortgage behind it. The second mortgage may be issued by a state, county, or local housing agency, foundation, or nonprofit corporation. Payment on the second mortgage is often deferred and carries a very low interest rate (or no interest rate). Part of the debt may be forgiven incrementally for each year the buyer remains in the home.

Survey: Map made by a licensed surveyor who measures land and charts the boundaries, improvements and relationship of land to the property surrounding it.

Sweat Equity: Value added to a property due to improvements made personally by the owner.

Switch: To transfer an existing mortgage from one financial institution to another. We can have this arranged for you at no cost to you.

Takeout Financing: A commitment to provide permanent financing upon completion of construction. The take out loan normally pays off the construction loan.

Tax Lien: Lien for nonpayment of taxes.

Tax Sale: Public sale of a property at an auction by a government authority as a result of non-payment of taxes.

Teaser Rate: A low initial interest rate on a mortgage.

Tenancy at Sufferance: Tenancy established when a person who had been a lawful tenant wrongfully remains in possession of property after expiration of a lease.

Tenancy at Will: A license to use or occupy land and buildings at the will of the owner. The tenant may decide to leave the property at any time or must leave at the landlords will.

Tenancy by the Entirety: A form of ownership by husband and wife whereby each owns the entire property. In event of the death of one, the survivor owns the property without probate.

Tenancy for Years: Created by a lease for a fixed term, such as six months, two years, etc.

Tenancy in Common: Ownership of a property by two or more persons, each of whom has an undivided interest, without the right of survivorship. Upon the death of one of the owners, the ownership share of the deceased is inherited by the beneficiary designated in the owner’s will.

Tenancy in Severalty: Ownership of property by one person.

Term: The period of time a financing agreement covers. The terms available usually range from six months to ten years and the interest rates are fixed for the full chosen term.

Time Share: A form of property ownership under which a property is held by a number of people, each with the right of possession for a specified time interval. Time-sharing is used mostly for vacation properties.

Time is of the Essence: Legal phrase in a contract requiring all references to specific dates and times noted in the contract be interpreted exactly.

Title: Evidence that the owner of the property is in lawful possession. Evidence of ownership.

Title Insurance: An insurance policy that protects the insured against loss arising from defects in title. Title insurance policies are typically obtained for the buyer and the lender.

Title Report: A document indicating the current state of title. The report includes information on the current ownership, outstanding deeds of trust or mortgages, liens, easements, covenants, restrictions, and any defects.

Title Search: An examination of the public records to determine the ownership and encumbrances affecting a property.

Total Debt Service (TDS) Ratio: A mathematical calculation used by lenders to determine a borrower’s capacity to repay a mortgage. It takes into account the mortgage payments, property taxes, approximate heating costs, 50 percent of any maintenance fees, and any other monthly obligations (i.e. personal loans, car payments, lines of credit, credit card debts, other mortgages, etc.). This sum is then divided by the gross income of the applicants. Ratios up to 40 percent are usually acceptable.

Total Expense Ratio: Total obligations as a percentage of gross monthly income. The total expense ratio includes monthly housing expenses as well as other monthly debts.

Town House: Residence that normally has two or more floors and is attached to other similar units. Town houses are commonly found in planned unit developments (PUDs) and condominiums.

Tract: A parcel of land generally held for subdividing.

Trade Equity: Equity that results from a property purchaser giving his or her existing property (or an asset other than real estate) as trade to serve as all or part of the down payment for the property that is being purchased.

Transfer Tax: Tax paid to the city, county, state or other government entity upon sale of a property.

Transfer of Ownership: Any means by which the ownership of a property changes hands. Lenders consider all of the following situations to be a transfer of ownership: the purchase of a property “subject to” the mortgage; the assumption of the mortgage debt by the property purchaser; and any exchange of possession of the property under a land sales contract or any other land trust device. In cases in which an inter vivos revocable trust is the borrower, lenders also consider any transfer of a beneficial interest in the trust to be a transfer of ownership.

Treasury Bill: Treasury bills are short-term debt instruments used by the U.S. Government to finance their debt. Commonly called T-bills, they come in denominations of three months, six months and one year. Each Treasury bill has a corresponding interest rate (i.e. three-month T-bill rate, one-year T-bill rate). The rate determines the T-bill Index rate, which is used in many variable rate loan programs.

Triple-Net Lease: A lease in which the tenant pays all operating expense of the property. The landlord receives the net rent.

Trust Account: A separate bank account maintained by a broker or escrow company to handle all money collected for clients. A broker may not commingle these funds with his/her own funds.

Trust Deed: See Deed of Trust.

Trustee: A party who is given legal responsibility to hold property in the best interest of or “for the benefit of” another. The trustee is one placed in a position of responsibility for another. This responsibility is enforceable in a court of law.

Truth in Lending: See Regulation Z.

Two-Step Mortgage: A mortgage in which the borrower receives a fixed rate for a specified number of years (most often five or seven), and then receives a new interest rate based on the terms in the note.

Two- to Four-Family Property: A property that consists of a structure providing living space (dwelling units) for two to four families, although ownership of the structure is evidenced by a single deed.

Underwriting: The decision whether to make a loan to a potential homebuyer based on credit, income, employment history, assets, etc.

Undivided Interest: An ownership right to use and possess a property that is shared among co-owners with no one co-owner having exclusive rights to any portion of the property.

Unimproved Property: Land that has received no development.

Unencumbered Property: Real estate with free and clear title.

Unrecorded Deed: A document that transfers title from the grantor to the grantee without recording (i.e. providing public notice).

Usury: Charging a rate of interest greater than that permitted by law.

Vacation Home: See second home.

VA Loan: Home loan guaranteed by the U.S. Veterans Administration enabling a veteran to buy a home with no money down.

Variable Rate Mortgage: See Adjustable Rate Mortgage.

Vendor Take Back (VTB) Mortgage: A mortgage provided by the vendor (seller) to the buyer.

Verification of Deposit (VOD): A document signed by the borrower’s bank or other financial institution verifying the account balance and history.

Verification of Employment: A document signed by the borrower’s employer verifying his/her starting date, job title, salary and probability of continued employment.

Waiver: The voluntary renunciation, abandonment, or surrender of some claim, right, or privilege.

Walk-Through Inspection: A final walk-through immediately prior to closing to verify that no changes have taken place and no new damage has occurred.

Warehousing: Mortgage bankers and other financial institutions make loans that are then periodically sold on the secondary market. After the loan is made but before it is sold, the loan is said to be in the lender’s warehouse.

Warranty Deed: A deed conveying the title to a property with a warranty of a clear marketable title.

Wear and Tear: Normal use and the resulting reduction in value of a property.

Web Portal: Commonly referred to simply as a portal, a web portal is a web site or service that offers a broad array of resources and services. Examples include e-mail, forums, search engines, and on-line shopping malls. The first web portals were online services, such as AOL, that provided access to the web, but by now, most of the traditional search engines have transformed themselves into web portals to attract and keep a larger audience.

Wraparound Mortgage: A loan arrangement whereby the existing loan is retained and a new loan is added to the property. Example : The seller sells his/her property for $200,000. The buyer puts $80,000 down. The seller has an existing loan balance of $100,000 for a remaining period of twenty-five years at an interest rate of  six percent. The seller then makes a wraparound mortgage to the buyer, (where the seller acts as a lender) for $120,000 at 8 percent. The seller has to continue making payments on his old loan. They buyer has to pay the seller on the new loan. The buyer may, at a later date, refinance the property and close both loans.

WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get. Computer software may display data on the computer screen with a format and color scheme that is different when you print the page or when you view it in a web browser. Software that is WYSIWYG will print and look the same as what you see on the screen in the WYSIWYG.

Zero Lot Line: A form of housing where individual units are on separate lots, but are attached to one another. Example: PUD, townhouse.

Zoning: Areas may be zoned to specify use of a property i.e. residential, commercial, agricultural. These zoning ordinances are normally enforced by the city or the county.