Buying and selling a home can be a scary experience, even if it isn’t your first one. Use this glossary to make yourself more prepared for the professionals and documents you’ll encounter in your real estate experiences.
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abstract of title
A condensed version of the title history to a piece of land or property. Lists any transfers in ownership and any liabilities attached to it, such as mortgages.
Bordering upon or next to; the joining or touching of adjoining land; sharing a common boundary.
Allows the lender (mortgage company) to demand immediate payment of the outstanding loan balance (interest and principal) if the borrower (mortgager) defaults, misses payment(s), or when/if the home is sold (in this case, also know as the due-on-sale clause).
An addition to or expansion of land through natural causes. An increase of land along the shore of a body of water through water-borne sediment.
A measurement of land equal to 4,840 square yards or 43,560 square feet.
additional principal payment
Monies paid by the borrower in addition to the principal amount due, usually monthly. If you have extra money occasional months, it’s a good idea to make additional principal payments in order to more quickly reduce your remaining balance.
adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)
Mortgage loans in which the interest rate is adjusted periodically based on predetermined factors such as an assigned index or designated market factor (such as the weekly average of US Treasury Bills over a one-year period). There is typically a limit to how often and by how much the interest rate can fluctuate. Also known as renegotiable rate mortgages or variable rate mortgages. The adjustment date is the date the interest rate changes. The adjustment interval (or adjustment period) is the time between changes in the interest rate and/or the monthly payment (typically one, three or five years).
Original cost of the property plus capital expenditures for improvements minus depreciation.
Any money that the buyer and seller “credit” each other at closing, such as taxes, down payments, etc.
In proportion to the value, according to value.
The loan payment is made up of two parts: one portion will be applied to pay the accruing interest on a loan and the other portion is applied to the principal. Over time, the interest portion decreases as the loan balance decreases, and the amount applied to principal increases so that the loan is paid off (amortized) in the specified time. Typical amortization periods are 15 or 30 years. Therefore, an amortized mortgage is one that requires periodic payments that include both interest and principal. An amortization schedule is a table that provides a breakdown of the principal and interest payments and the amount owed at any given point during the amortization period.
annual percentage rate (APR)
An interest rate reflecting the cost of a mortgage as a yearly rate. Because it takes into account points and other credit costs, the APR is likely to be higher than the mortgage rate. It is a basis of comparison for mortgage loan costs.
A detailed analysis of the borrower’s ability to buy a home, made up of factors such as: income, holdings, debts, the type of mortgage that will be used, the location of the home, and closing costs.
A feature of a home (like a pool or a garage) which isn’t crucial to the home’s existence. Things like a roof and doors are not amenities.
appraisal, appraised value
An appraiser’s estimate of the value of the property. Banks require appraisals to determine how much money it will lend you.
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.
A local tax levied against a property for a specific purpose, such as a sewer or streetlights. An assessor is a public official who establishes the value of a property for taxation.
Anything with a dollar value that you own. Banks consider your assets when determining how much you can borrow.
The transfer of a mortgage from one person to another.
A mortgage that can be taken over by the next buyer of the home. The agreement between buyer and seller in which the buyer takes over the payments on an existing mortgage from the seller is called an assumption. Assuming a loan is usually beneficial to both seller and buyer. Because it is an existing mortgage debt, it lessens the costs and red tape involved, unlike a new mortgage where closing costs and new (possibly higher) interest rates may apply. However, the lender usually charges the buyer an assumption fee if the buyer assumes an existing mortgage.
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, term mortgage
A short-term fixed-rate loan which involves small payments for a certain time period and then one large payment (the balloon payment, for the remainder of the loan) at a predetermined date.
An improvement (such as renovations and additions) that increases a property’s value, different from routine home maintenance and repairs.
bill of sale
A written document that attests the transfer of the ownership (title) of personal property.
biweekly payment mortgage
A mortgage in which you make payments every two weeks instead of once a month. The result is that instead of making 12 monthly payments during the year, you make 13. The total amount you pay equals the amount of 13 payments, because you pay a total of 26 half-payments (one every other week) rather than 12 whole payments (one every four weeks or so, depending on the month). The extra payment helps you reduce the principal, substantially reducing the time it takes to pay off a 30-year mortgage.
A mortgage covering two or more pieces of real estate.
A repayment method by which the same amount is paid each month, but the composition of the interest and principal changes with each payment. With each payment, the amount allocated to the principal increases as the amount allocated to interest decreases. Most mortgages use blended payments because it provides a consistent monthly payment amount for the borrower.
Authentic; made or carried out in good faith; real; sincere; genuine.
One that mortgages property; a person who applies for and receives a mortgage loan.
To break or violate an agreement.
A mortgage broker is an individual whose business is to help arrange funds or negotiate contracts for a client but who doesn’t loan money himself. A real estate broker (real estate agent) helps you find a house. See realtor.
Local regulations regarding the design and construction buildings.
A fixed-rate mortgage where the interest rate is “bought down” for a temporary period, usually one to three years. After that time, the borrower’s payment is calculated at the note rate. In order to temporarily buy down the initial rate, a lump sum is paid to the lender and held in an account used to supplement the borrower’s monthly payment. These funds usually come from the seller as an incentive to induce someone to buy their property.
A clause in the mortgage that gives the lender the right to “call” the mortgage due and payable at the end of a given length of time, for whatever reason.
The cost of an improvement made either to extend the life of a property or to increase its value.
Any item, structure or addition which is a permanent improvement to the property.
Limits on the amount that the interest rate on 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.
The ratio between the net operating income produced by an asset and its capital cost (the original price paid to buy the asset) or alternatively its current market value. For more information, see our blog post explaining cap rate.
The amount of cash gained over a period of time from an income-producing property. It should be enough to pay the expenses for that property (mortgage payment , maintenance, utilities, etc.)
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
A document given to qualified veterans entitling them to VA loans for homes or businesses.
certificate of reasonable value (CRV)
An appraisal issued by the VA showing a property’s current market value.
certificate of title
A document which confirms that the title to a property is legally held by the current owner.
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 history of all of the title transfers (conveyances and encumbrances) to a piece of real estate.
The frequency of payment and/or interest rate changes in an ARM, usually expressed in months.
A title that is free of liens and mortgages.
The final meeting between the buyer, seller and lender (or their agents) at which the property and funds legally change hands.
Expenses incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property, such as an origination fee, taxes, title insurance, transfer fees, points, title charges, credit report fee, document preparation fee, mortgage insurance premium, inspections, appraisals, prepayments for property taxes, deed recording fee, and homeowners insurance.
A detailed written summary of the financial settlement of a real estate transaction, showing all charges and credits made, all cash received and paid.
cloud on title
Anything found by the title search which indicates that a property is not owned free and clear by the purported owner.
Something of value (such as a car or a home) deposited with a lender to guarantee the repayment of a loan. The borrower risks losing the asset if the loan is not repaid properly.
Forcing a borrower to pay what he owes on a loan.
The compensation paid to a real estate broker (or by the broker to the salesman) for services rendered. It is usually a predetermined percentage of the selling price.
A promise by a lender to make a loan to a borrower or builder, or a promise by an investor to purchase mortgages from a lender.
Comparable properties; properties in close proximity which have sold recently that are about the same size with similar amenities, used to determine value of a property by comparison.
Interest computed on the principal and the unpaid accumulated interest of a loan.
A building (or group of buildings) in which individuals own separate portions of the building(s) and possibly share common areas.
construction loan (interim loan)
A loan to provide the funds necessary to pay for the construction of buildings or homes. The lender advances funds to the builder at periodic intervals as the work progresses.
A specific condition that must be met before a contract is legally binding. Usually that the house must pass the home inspection and the borrower must get a loan.
contract for deed (conditional sales contract, installment contract)
A contract for the sale of real estate where the deed (title) of the property is transferred only after all payments have been made. This is a risky contract, because buyers can lose their entire investment if the owner declares bankruptcy before the deed has been transferred.
contract of sale
Agreement between the buyer and seller which conveys title after certain conditions are met, outlining purchase price, terms, etc.
A mortgage loan not insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA.
A clause in some ARMs which allows the buyer (borrower) to change to a fixed-rate mortgage at a specified time.
A written document (such as a deed or lease) that transfers ownership interest in a property from one person to another.
Residents of co-op housing complexes own shares in the cooperative corporation that owns the property. Each resident has the right to occupy a specific dwelling, but they don’t actually own it–they own shares in the corporation that owns it.
A person or entity (a bank or other lender) who funded the loan and to whom a debt is owed.
A dead-end street with a turn-around space at the end. These are attractive to some homeowners because the ending street cuts down on “thru” traffic, speeding, etc.
The ratio (expressed as a percentage) which describes a borrower’s monthly payments on long-term debts divided by their “net effective income” (for FHA and VA loans) or gross monthly income (for conventional loans).
deed of trust
Used in place of a mortgage to secure the payment of a note (not in every state).
Failure to make your monthly payments.
Unpaid interest added to the loan balance.
Failure to make payments on time.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
An independent governmental agency which guarantees long-term, low- or no-money-down mortgages to eligible veterans.
A decline in a property’s value.
discrimination in advertising
HUD does not allow the use of words of a discriminatory nature in any printed or published material. For example, adult building, Jewish home, restricted, private, integrated and traditional.
Usually 10-20 percent of the sales price (on conventional loans) paid by the buyer at the time of purchase. Comprises the difference between the purchase price and the mortgaged amount.
A mortgage clause that allows a lender to call a loan due and payable upon the transfer of the property. Known as “paragraph 17” in FNMA/FHLMC mortgages.
A provision that allows a lender to demand the immediate repayment of the mortgage balance if the borrower sells the home.
Money given by a buyer to a seller as a form of deposit (part of the purchase price) in order to bind a transaction or to ensure payment.
A right of way which gives people other than the owner access to a property.
An illegal intrusion on someone else’s property.
A lien or claim on a property.
VA home loan benefit are known as entitlement and/or eligibility.
Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)
A federal law that requires lenders and other creditors to make credit equally available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, or receipt of income from public assistance programs.
The value an owner has in real estate over and above the debt of the property. For example, if a homeowner owns a house valued at $100,000 and has a mortgage balance of $20,000, the homeowner’s equity is $80,000 (the value minus the mortgage balance). The homeowner’s equity increases or decreases accordingly as the value of the house increases or decreases. The lender’s equity is equal to the value of the outstanding loan.
Funds that are set aside and held in trust. Usually used for payment of taxes, insurance, etc.
Fannie Mae, Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA)
A corporation created by Congress that purchases and sells conventional, FHA and VA residential mortgages. Makes mortgage money more available and affordable.
Farmers Home Administration (FmHA)
An organization that finances loans for farmers and other qualified borrowers who are unable to obtain loans elsewhere.
Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
A division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which insures residential mortgage loans made by private lenders and sets standards for underwriting mortgages. FHA loans are insured by the FHA and open to all qualified homebuyers for moderately priced homes almost anywhere in the country. Borrowers need to be able to put 3-4 percent down, and higher qualifying ratios make it easier to qualify for FHA loans. FHA mortgage insurance is a way of insuring an FHA loan. It requires a small fee (up to 3.8 percent of the loan amount ) paid at closing or a portion of the fee added to each monthly payment. Also requires an annual fee of 0.5 percent of the current loan amount, paid in monthly installments . The lower the down payment, the more years the fee must be paid.
The mortgage which is the primary lien against a property.
A mortgage with a set interest rate for the entire loan, regardless of interest rate fluctuations. This creates consistent, predictable payments, but it’s not always the cheapest option.
A type of real estate investment strategy in which an investor purchases properties with the goal of reselling them for a profit. Profit is generated either through the price appreciation that occurs as a result of a hot housing market and/or from renovations and capital improvements. Investors who employ these strategies face the risk of price depreciation in bad housing markets.
A legal process through which the lender forces the sale (or repossession) of a mortgaged property because the borrower has defaulted on (not met the terms of) the mortgage.
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.
Your prospective monthly mortgage payments divided by your gross monthly income. This comes out to a percentage, and a lender uses this percentage to get an idea of how much of your income will be going to pay your loan. If they like the number (say, below 29%) then they will be more inclined to sell you the loan.
Ginnie Mae, Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA)
A governmental agency that provides sources of funds for residential FHA-insured or VA-guaranteed mortgages.
A mortgage insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA or the Rural Housing Service (RHS).
graduated payment mortgage (GPM)
A type of flexible-payment mortgage where the payments increase for a period of time and then level off.
guaranteed mortgage, guaranteed loan
A mortgage guaranteed by a third party.
An agreement by which one person assumes responsibility of assuring payment or fulfillment of another’s debts or obligations, or something given as security for the execution, completion, or existence (or payment) of something else.
A form of insurance that protects the insured from specified losses due to hazards such as fire, flood, wind damage, etc.
home equity line of credit
A loan against the amount of equity you have in a property. The equity serves as security for the new loan.
A complete and thorough inspection of the physical condition of a property, including all major systems and structural elements, conducted by someone who knows what to look for and who will disclose the findings to you.
An insurance policy required by many lenders when you take ownership that combines personal liability insurance and hazard insurance for the home as well as its contents.
A warranty provided by the seller (or the builder on new homes) as a condition of the sale. Covers repairs to specified parts of a house for a specific period of time.
A market in which houses are selling fast. Also known as a seller’s market, because the seller will benefit by selling their house at or above their asking price because, theoretically, high demand drives the price up.
housing expenses-to-income ratio
A borrower’s housing expenses divided by his /her net effective income (for FHA/VA loans) or gross monthly income (for conventional loans). Expressed as a percentage.
HUD-1 statement, closing statement, settlement sheet
An itemized listing of whatever costs must be paid at closing, such as real estate commissions, loan fees, points, and initial escrow amounts.
A portion of the monthly payment held by the lender to pay for things like taxes, hazard insurance and mortgage insurance as they become due.
A published interest rate against which lenders measure the difference between the current interest rate on an ARM and that earned by other investments (such as one-, three-, and five-year U.S. Treasury security yields, the monthly average interest rate on loans closed by savings and loan institutions, and the monthly average costs-of-funds incurred by savings and loans).
initial interest rate, start rate, teaser
The interest rate of the mortgage at the time of closing.
The amount of money charged for the use of the money borrowed.
If the closing (the date on which the buyer takes possession of the property) occurs at a time of the month other than the date on which the mortgage payment is due, the borrower will pay an amount to cover interest from the interest adjustment date.
interest rate ceiling
The maximum interest rate for an ARM loan.
interest rate floor
The minimum interest rate for an ARM loan.
A construction loan made during completion of a building or a project which is replaced by a permanent loan once the building is completed.
A source of money for a lender to loan.
A loan which is larger than the limits set by the FNMA and the FHLMC.
The one property in a development that is key to the entire development’s success.
kicker, equity kicker, lender participation
A lender or investor’s right to share any income from a property, in addition to loan payments.
lease-purchase mortgage loan
A way for homebuyers to lease a home with an option to buy from a nonprofit organization. A portion of each month’s rent payment goes toward principal, interest, taxes, insurance and a down payment.
London Inter-Bank Offer Rate (LIBOR)
The interest rate that the banks charge each other for loans. The LIBOR is officially fixed once a day by a small group of large London banks, but the rate changes throughout the day.
A claim upon real or personal property for the satisfaction of some debt or obligation.
The price at which a house is listed for sale; the asking price.
The relationship between the amount of the mortgage loan and the appraised value of the property.
A written agreement from the lender to offer a specified interest rate if the mortgage closes in a certain time period.
The amount a lender adds to the index on an ARM to establish the adjusted interest rate.
The amount that a seller may expect to obtain in the open market.
The date at which a note or bond is due.
A conveyance of or lien against property until it is paid or until other stipulated terms are met.
An individual who originates mortgages for resale in the secondary mortgage market.
An individual or company that offers loans to borrowers from numerous sources and is paid a commission for their services.
Money paid to insure the mortgage when the down payment is less than 20 percent.
mortgage insurance premium (MIP)
The 0.5 percent borrowers pay each month on FHA-insured mortgage loans. It is insurance from the FHA to the lender against incurring a loss on account of the borrower’s default.
The lender; one who holds a mortgage.
The borrower or homeowner; one who mortgages.
When your monthly payments are not large enough to pay all the interest due on the loan, the unpaid interest is added to the unpaid balance of the loan. The homebuyer ends up owing more than the original amount of the loan.
negotiable rate mortgage
A loan in which the interest rate is adjusted periodically.
net effective income
Gross income minus federal income taxes.
A loan requiring very little loan documentation. These loans usually require large (25%) down payments.
A statement in a mortgage contract forbidding the assumption of the mortgage without the lender’s approval.
A signed obligation to pay a debt.
The fee (usually a percentage of the loan) a lender charges to prepare loan documents, make credit checks, inspect and sometimes appraise a property, etc.
A long-term mortgage (10 years or more).
Principal, interest, taxes and insurance.
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.
Prepaid interest assessed at closing by the lender. Each point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. (2 points on a $100,000 mortgage would cost $2,000 )
power of attorney
A legal document authorizing one person to act on behalf of another.
Money necessary to create an escrow account or to adjust the seller’s existing escrow account. Can include taxes, hazard insurance, private mortgage insurance and special assessments.
A privilege in a mortgage which allows the borrower to make payments before they are due.
Fees for early repayment of debt, allowed in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
primary mortgage market
Lenders making mortgage loans directly to borrowers such as savings and loan associations, commercial banks, and mortgage companies. These lenders sometimes sell their mortgages into the secondary mortgage markets such as FNMA or GNMA, etc.
The amount of debt, not counting interest, left on a loan.
private mortgage insurance (PMI)
Default insurance for conventional loans, normally required with smaller down-payment loans.
Rate of interest used to calculate whether or not a borrower qualifies for a mortgage.
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.
A person who has been pre-approved for a mortgage loan.
A quantity or amount, a specified portion.
quit claim deed
A document that transfers a title, right or claim to another person, giving up all claims to a possession.
A radioactive gas which seeps up from the ground and can cause health problems. A radon test is often part of the home inspection.
A real estate broker or an associate holding active membership in a local real estate board affiliated with the National Association of Realtors.
The cancellation of a contract.
Money paid to the lender for recording a home sale with local authorities, making it public record.
Obtaining a new mortgage loan on a property already owned, often to replace existing loans.
Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)
A federal law that allows consumers to review information on known or estimated settlement costs once after application and once prior to (or at) settlement.
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.
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.
The price at which the house actually sold. The difference between a home’s sale price and the listing price is useful for buyers in making offers on comparable homes.
satisfaction of mortgage, release of mortgage
The document issued by the mortgagee when the mortgage loan is paid in full.
A mortgage made subsequent to the primary mortgage.
secondary mortgage market
The market in which primary mortgage lenders sell their loans to obtain more funds to originate more new loans.
Interest that a lender takes in the borrower’s property to assure repayment of a debt.
The operations a lender performs to keep a loan in good standing, such as collection of payments and payment of taxes, insurance, property inspections, etc.
shared appreciation mortgage (SAM)
A mortgage in which a borrower receives a below-market interest rate and, in return, the lender (or other investor) receives a portion of the future appreciation in the value of the property.
Interest which is computed only on the principal balance.
A market where houses aren’t selling much or quickly, so the sales price is likely to be significantly 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.
A detailed measurement of a property, including the location of the land in reference to known points, its dimensions, and the location and dimensions of any structures on the land. Prepared by a registered land surveyor.
Equity created by a purchaser performing work on a property being mortgaged.
The lifespan of the contract to repay a loan.
A document that gives evidence of an individual’s ownership of property.
Insurance, usually issued by a title insurance company, which insures a homebuyer against errors in the title search. The cost of the policy is usually a percentage of the property value.
The examination of municipal records by a title company to determine the legal ownership of property.
A federal law requiring disclosure of the APR to homebuyers shortly after they apply for the loan.
two-step mortgage, premier mortgage
A mortgage in which the borrower receives a below-market interest rate for a specified number of years (7 to 10) and then receives a new interest rate adjusted (within limits) to market conditions at that time.
The decision whether to make a loan to a potential homebuyer based on credit, employment, assets, and other factors, and the matching of this risk to an appropriate rate and term or loan amount.
Interest charged in excess of the legal rate established by law.
A long-term, low- or no-down-payment loan guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs restricted to those qualified by military service or other entitlements .
VA mortgage funding fee
A premium of up to 1-7/8 percent (depending on the size of the down payment) paid on a VA-backed loan.
To give up a claim or right voluntarily, to relinquish. A waiver is a document that evidences that relinquishment.
A final walk-through immediately prior to closing to verify that no changes have taken place and no new damage has occurred.
wear and tear
Normal use and the resulting reduction in value of a property.
A mortgage that encompasses the balance of one mortgage plus an additional mortgage loan. Payments are then made to the mortgagee of the wraparound mortgage, who forwards appropriate portions of that money to the mortgagee of the first mortgage.
City regulations determining the character or use of property. Zoning laws divide cities into different areas according to use, from single-family residences to industrial plants. Zoning ordinances control the size, location, and use of buildings within these different areas.