Common words used for Homeownership




ABANDONMENT — The voluntary surrender or relinquishment of possession of real property with the intention of terminating one's possession or interest, but without vesting this interest in any other person.


ABATEMENT — A reduction or decrease in amount, degree, intensity or worth.


ABSTRACT OF TITLE — A concise, summarized history of the title to a specific parcel of real property, together with a statement of all liens and encumbrances affecting the property. The abstract of title doesn’t guarantee or assure the validity of the title of the property. It merely discloses those items about the property which are of public record, and thus doesn’t reveal such things as encroachments, forgeries, and the like.


ACCELERATION CLAUSE — A clause in a promissory note, agreement of sale, or mortgage that gives the lender the right to call all sums due and payable in advance of the fixed payment date upon the occurrence of a specified event, such as a sale, default, assignment, or further encumbrance of the property.


ACCEPTANCE — The expression of the intention of the person receiving an offer (offeree, usually the seller) to be bound by the terms of the offer.


ACCESS — A general or specific right of ingress and egress to a particular property.


ACCRETION — The gradual and imperceptible addition to land by alluvial deposits of soil through natural causes, such as shoreline movement caused by streams or rivers.


ACCRUED — That which has accumulated over a period of time such as accrued depreciation, accrued interest, or accrued expenses.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT — A formal declaration made before a duly authorized officer, usually a notary public, by a person who has signed a document.


ACRE — A measure of land equaling 43,560 square feet; 4,840 square yards; 160 square rods.


AD VALOREM — Latin for "according to valuation," usually referring to a type of tax or assessment.


ADHESION CONTRACT — A contract that’s very one-sided and favors the party who drafted the document.


ADJUSTABLE-RATE MORTGAGE (ARM) — A mortgage loan where the interest rate, initially fixed, begins to fluctuate after a certain amount of time based on some financial index, usually on an annual basis.


ADVERSE POSSESSION — The acquiring of title to real property owned by someone else, by means of open, notorious, and continuous possession for the statutory period of time (20 years in Hawaii).


AFFIDAVIT — A sworn statement reduced to writing and made under oath before a Notary Public or other official authorized by law to administer an oath.


AGENCY — A relationship created when one person, the "principal," delegates to another, the "agent," the right to act on the principal's behalf in business transactions and to exercise some degree of discretion while so acting. An agency gives rise to a fiduciary relationship and imposes on the agent, as the fiduciary of the principal, certain duties, obligations and high standards of good faith and loyalty.


AGENT — One who is authorized to represent and to act on behalf of another person (called the principal). A real estate broker is the agent of his client, be it the seller or buyer, to whom he owes a fiduciary obligation. A salesman is the agent of his broker and does not have a direct personal contractual relationship with either the seller or buyer.


AGREEMENT OF SALE — An agreement between the seller (vendor) and buyer (vendee) for the purchase of real property.


AIR RIGHTS — The rights to the use of the open space or vertical plane above a property. Ownership of the land includes the right to all air above the property.


ALIENATION CLAUSE — A clause in a promissory note or mortgage which provides that the balance of the secured debt becomes immediately due and payable at the option of the mortgagee upon the alienation of the property by the mortgagor.


ALLODIAL SYSTEM — The free ownership of land by individuals.


ALLOWANCES — In construction or remodeling, a line item in the contractor’s bid when the exact product, brand, or cost is yet to be determined. An estimate or placeholder for an expense.


AMENITIES — Features, both tangible and intangible, which enhance and add to the desirability of real estate.


AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) — First enacted in 1990, ADA is a broad-based civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on physical or mental disability. Among its many provisions, ADA requires that most public facilities meet certain accessibility guidelines. "ADA compliant" means that the product, fixture, or material meets the standards as outlines by the act.


AMORTIZATION — The gradual repayment of a debt by means of systematic payments of principal and interest over a set period, where at the end of the period there is a zero balance.


ANNUAL FUEL UTILIZATION EFFICIENCY — Measures the percentage of the fuel that is converted to heat rather than being lost up the chimney or through other inefficiencies in homes.


ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE — The relationship of the total finance charge to the total amount to be finance as required under the Federal Truth-in-Lending Law.


APPRAISAL — The process of estimating, fixing, or setting the market value of real property. An appraisal may take the form of a lengthy report, a completed form, a simple letter, or even an oral report.


APPRECIATION — An increase in the worth or value of property due to economic or related causes, which may prove to be either temporary or permanent.


ARBITRATION — The non-judicial submission of a controversy to selected third parties for their determination in the manner provided by agreement or by law.


ASSESSED VALUATION — The value of real property as established by the state government for purposes of computing real property taxes.


ASSESSMENT — A specific levy for a definite purpose, such as adding curbs or sewers in a neighborhood. Individual condominium owners are subject to special assessments benefiting the project as a whole and not funded through regular maintenance charges.


ASSIGNMENT — The transfer of the right, title, and interest in the property of one person, the assignor, to another, the assignee. In real estate, there are assignments of mortgages, contracts, agreements of sale, leases, and options, among others.


ASSUMPTION OF MORTGAGE — The act of acquiring title to property, which has an existing mortgage on it, and agreeing to be personally liable for the terms and conditions of the mortgage, including payments.


ATTACHMENT — The legal process of seizing the real or personal property of a defendant in a lawsuit, by levy or judicial order, and holding it in the custody of the courts as security for satisfaction of the judgment which the plaintiff may recover in any action upon a contract, express or implied.


ATTORNEY-IN-FACT — One who is authorized by another to act in his place under a power of attorney.





BALLOON PAYMENT — The final payment of a note or obligation, which is substantially larger than the previous installment payments, and which repays the debt in full; the remaining balance, which is due at the maturity of a note or obligation.


BALUSTRADE — Support columns for a handrail on stairs, sometimes referred to as banisters. An individual post is called a "baluster."


BARGAIN AND SALE DEED — A deed which recites a consideration and conveys all of the grantor's interest in the property to the grantee.


BASE LINE AND MERIDIAN — An imaginary set of lines used by surveyors to locate and describe land under the Rectangular Survey Method of property description used in most mainland states.


BASIS — The financial interest which IRS attributes to the owner of an asset for purposes of determining annual depreciation and gain or loss on sale of the asset.


BILL OF SALE — A written agreement by which one person sells, assigns, or transfers his right to, or interest in, personal property to another.


BIOMASS STOVE — Wood-burning or pellet-burning stoves designed to radiate heat into a room or act as a home heating source.


BLANKET MORTGAGE — A mortgage, which is secured by several structures or a number of lots. A blanket mortgage is often used to finance proposed subdivisions or development projects, especially cooperatives.


BOARD-AND-BATTEN SIDING — In construction, vertical wooden boards with battens--thin wood, metal, or plastic strips--covering the seams.


BOUNDARIES — The perimeters or limits of a parcel of land as fixed by legal description which is usually a metes and bounds description.


BREACH OF CONTRACT — Violation of any of the terms or conditions of a contract without legal excuse; default, non-performance, such as failure to make payment when due.


BROKER — One who acts as an intermediary between parties to a transaction. A real estate broker is a properly licensed person who, for a valuable consideration, serves as an agent to others to facilitate the sale or lease of real property.


BROKERAGE — That aspect of the real estate business which is concerned with bringing together the parties and completing a real estate transaction. Brokerage involves exchanges, rentals, trade-ins and management of property, as well as sales.


BTU — British Thermal Unit. A measure of energy, roughly equivalent to the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. Commonly used as a measure for power in heating and cooling systems such as air conditioners, stoves, and grills.


BUDGET MORTGAGE — A mortgage with payments set up to cover more than interest and principal reductions.


BUFFER ZONE — A strip of land separating one parcel from another.


BUILDING PERMIT — A written permission granted by the County Building Department and required prior to beginning the construction of a new building or other improvement (including fences, fence walls, retaining walls and swimming pools).


BUILDING RESIDUAL TECHNIQUE — A method of determining the value of an improvement normally used in appraising income property.


BUNDLE OF RIGHTS — An ownership concept describing all those legal rights which attach to the ownership of real property, including the right to sell, lease, encumber, use, enjoy, exclude, will, etc.





CANTILEVER — A projecting beam or overhanging portion supported at one end only.


CAPITAL GAIN — The taxable profit derived from the sale of a capital asset.


CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT — Any structure that’s erected as a permanent improvement to real property; any improvement that’s made to extend the useful life of a property, or to add to the value of the property.


CARBON FOOTPRINT — Used to describe the total amount of greenhouse gases released by a person, house, event, or product over the course of a year. Usually includes both direct emissions, such as exhaust from a car, and indirect emissions, such as the emissions from the electric utility providing power. Sometimes known as "environmental footprint."


CASEMENT WINDOW — Windows that attach to their frame by hinges, usually on their sides, so they can swing open.


CERTIFICATE OF REASONABLE VALUE (CRV) — A certificate issued by the Veterans Administration setting forth a property's current market value estimate, based upon a VA approved appraisal.


CERTIFIED CHECK — A check, which the bank guarantees to be good, and against which a stop payment is ineffective.


CERTIFIED PROPERTY MANAGER — A professional property manager who has qualified for membership in and is a member of the Institute of Real Estate Management, and is designated a CPM.


CHAIN OF TITLE — The recorded history of matters that affect the title to a specific parcel of real property, such as ownership, encumbrances, and liens, usually beginning with the original recorded source of the title.


CHANGE ORDERS — In remodeling or construction, when a change is made to construction materials or a plan.


CHATTEL — Personal property that’s tangible and moveable.


CLAMPING VOLTAGE — The amount of electrical surge that will trigger a surge protector to divert power from your equipment to the electrical ground.


CLAPBOARD — Exterior siding consisting of horizontal wooden boards where the board above overlaps the board below. Also known as "weatherboard."


CLEAR TITLE — Title to property that’s free from liens, defects, or other encumbrances, except those which the buyer has agreed to accept, such as mortgage to be assumed, the ground lease of record, and the like; established title; title without clouds.


CLIENT TRUST ACCOUNT — An account set up by a broker to keep client's monies segregated from the broker's general funds.


CLOSING — The final stage of consummating a real estate transaction when the seller delivers title to the buyer, in exchange for the purchase price.


CLOSING COSTS — Expenses of the sale which must be paid in addition to the purchase price (in the case of the buyer's expenses), or be deducted from the proceeds of the sale (in the case of the seller's expenses).


CLOSING STATEMENT — A detailed cash accounting of a real estate transaction prepared by an escrow officer or other person designated to process the mechanics of the sale, showing all cash that was received, all charges and credits which were made, and all cash that was paid out in the transaction; also called a settlement statement.


CLOUD ON TITLE — Any document, claim, unreleased lien or encumbrance which may impair or injure the title to property or make the title doubtful because of its apparent or possible validity.


CLUE REPORT — A list of all claims filed on your homeowners insurance as maintained in the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, an insurance industry database. The number of claims will affect whether you can get insurance for your home, how much coverage you can get, and how much you will pay in premiums.


CLUSTER DEVELOPMENT — The grouping of housing units on less than normal size home sites, with the remaining land being devoted to common areas.


CO-TENANCY — A form of concurrent property ownership in which two or more persons own an undivided interest in the same property.


CODE OF ETHICS — A written system of standards of ethical conduct. The Code of Ethics of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, first written in 1913, establishes the high standards of conduct for members of the REALTOR® community.


COLLATERAL — Something of value given or pledged as security for a debt or obligation. The collateral for a real estate mortgage loan is the mortgaged property itself, which has been hypothecated.


COLOR OF TITLE — A condition that has the appearance of good title, but which in fact is not valid title, as where title is founded on some written document that on its face appears valid and effective, but which is actually invalid.


COMMINGLING — To mingle or mix; for example, to deposit client funds in the broker's personal or general account. A licensee found guilty of commingling can have the license suspended or revoked by the Real Estate Commission.


COMMISSION — The compensation paid to a real estate broker (usually by the seller) for services rendered in connection with the sale or exchange of real property.


COMMITMENT — A pledge or promise to do a certain act, such as the promise of a lending institution to loan a certain amount of money at a fixed rate of interest to a qualified buyer, provided the loan is obtained on or before a certain date.


COMMON AREAS — Land or improvements designated for the use and benefit of all residents, property owners, and tenants.


COMMON ELEMENTS — Parts of the property that are necessary or convenient to the existence, maintenance, and safety of the condominium, or are normally in common use by all of the condominium residents.


COMMON WALL — A wall separating two living units.


COMMUNITY PROPERTY — A system of property ownership based on the theory that each spouse has an equal interest in property acquired by the efforts of either spouse during marriage.


COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHTING (CFL) — Lighting or lamps that use energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs instead of the standard incandescent bulb. CFLs use less electricity and last longer than standard incandescent lights.


COMPARABLES — Recently sold properties, which are similar to a particular property being evaluated, and which are used to indicate a reasonable fair market value for the subject property.


COMPOSITE DECKING — Lumber made from a mixture of wood--either sawdust or other cellulose scrap material--and recycled plastics that can be extruded into a variety of shapes and sizes. More expensive to install than pressure-treated wood, composite decking has lower annual maintenance costs.


COMPOSITION ROOFS — A roof covered with shingles made of asphalt, fiberglass, or other composites, designed to resemble everything from wood shakes to ceramic tile.


COMPOSTING — The recycling of organic matter, such as yard or food waste, to improve soil composition or to provide nutrients.


COMPOUND INTEREST — Interest which is computed upon the principal sum plus accrued interest.


CONDEMNATION — Either a judicial or administrative proceeding to exercise the power of eminent domain, i.e., the power of the government to take private property for public use.


CONDENSATE DRAIN AND TRAP — An outlet for the moisture or water collected in a heating or air-conditioning system.


CONDOMINIUM OWNERSHIP — An estate in real property consisting of an individual interest in an apartment or commercial unit, and an undivided common interest in the common areas, such as the land, parking areas, elevators, stairways, and the like.


CONSIDERATION — An act or forbearance, or the promise thereof, which is offered by one party to induce another to enter into a contract; that which is given in exchange for something from another.


CONTINGENCY — A provision placed in contract that requires the completion of a certain act or the happening of a particular event before a contract is binding.


CONTRACT — A legal agreement between competent parties who agree to perform or refrain from performing certain acts for a consideration. In real estate, there are many different types of contracts, including listings, contracts of sale, options, mortgages, assignments, leases, deeds, escrow agreements, and loan commitments, among others.


CONVENTIONAL LOAN — A type of mortgage loan made by a bank or other financial institution on its own terms, not underwritten by a government-insured program such as FHA or VA. Conventional loans can be both conforming--written to the underwriting standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--or nonconforming.


CONVEYANCE — The transfer of title to real property by means of a written instrument, such as a deed or an assignment of lease.


COOL ROOF — A roof with a highly reflective surface which lowers the heat absorbed by the building from sunlight.


COOPERATING BROKER — A broker who joins with another broker in the sale of real property.


COOPERATIVE OWNERSHIP — Cooperative ownership of an apartment unit means that the apartment owner has purchased shares in a corporation which holds title to the entire apartment building.


COUNTEROFFER — A new offer made as a reply to an offer received from another; this has the effect of rejecting the original offer, which cannot thereafter be accepted unless revived by the offeror's repeating it.


COURTESY TO BROKERS — The practice of sharing commissions with cooperating brokers.


COVENANT — A written agreement or promise of two or more parties by which either pledges to perform or not to perform specified acts on a property, or which specifies certain uses or non-uses of the property.


COVENANTS AND CONDITIONS — Covenants are promises contained in contracts, the breach of which would entitle a person to damages. Conditions, on the other hand, are contingencies, qualifications, or occurrences upon which an estate or property right would be gained or lost.


COVENANTS RUNNING WITH THE LAND — Covenants that become part of the property and benefit or bind successive owners of the property.


CREOSOTE — A flammable byproduct of combustion that can form on the inside of chimneys and stove pipes over time, leading to fires.


CUL DE SAC — A street that is open at one end only, and which usually has a circular turnaround; a blind alley.


CURB APPEAL — The attractiveness of the exterior of a house or building from the street.


CURTAIN DRAIN — A shallow sloped trench filled with round gravel and perforated pipe that’s used to divert groundwater away from a house.


CUSTOMER TRUST FUND (CTF) — An impound account maintained for the purpose of setting up a reserve to pay certain periodic obligations such as real property taxes, insurance premiums, lease rent, and maintenance fees.





DEALER — An IRS designation for a person who regularly buys and sells real property.


DEBT SERVICE — The amount of money needed to meet the periodic payments of principal and interest when a debt is amortized.


DECLARATION OF RESTRICTIONS — A statement of all the covenants, conditions, and restrictions ("CC&R's") that affect a parcel of land.


DEDICATION — The application of privately owned land to the public for no consideration, with the intent that the land will be accepted and used for public purposes.


DEED — A written instrument by which a property owner "grantor" transfers to a "grantee" an ownership in real property.


DEED OF TRUST — A legal document in which title to property is transferred to a third-party trustee as security for an obligation owed by the trustor (borrower) to the beneficiary (lender).


DEFAULT — Failure to fulfill a duty or promise or failure to perform any obligation or required act. The most common occurrence of default on the part of a buyer or lessee is non-payment of money.


DEFERRED COMMISSIONS — Commissions that are earned but not yet fully paid.


DEFICIENCY JUDGEMENT — A judgment against a borrower, endorser, or guarantor for the balance of the debt issued when the security for a loan is insufficient to satisfy the debt.


DENSITY — A term, frequently used in connection with zoning requirements, which means the maximum number of building units per acre or the number of occupants or families per unit of land area (acre, square mile, etc.); usually the ratio of land area to improvement area.


DEPOSIT — Money offered by a prospective buyer as an indication of good faith in entering into a contract to purchase; earnest money; security for the buyer's performance of a contract.


DEPRECIATION (APPRAISAL) — A loss in value due to any cause; any condition which adversely affects the value of an improvement.


DEPRECIATION (TAX) — For tax purposes, depreciation is an expense deduction taken for an investment in depreciable property.


DEPTH TABLE — Tables of percentage designed to provide a uniform system of measuring the additional value to lots that accrues because of added depth, with the extra depth valued according to the added utility which it creates.


DESCENT — The acquisition of an estate by inheritance, where an heir succeeds to the property by operation of law. Descent literally means the hereditary succession of an heir to property of an ancestor who dies intestate.


DESCRIPTION — The portion of a conveyance document that defines the property being transferred.


DEVELOPER — One who attempts to put land to its most profitable use by the construction of improvements.


DEVISE — A transfer of real property under a will.


DISCLAIMER — A statement denying legal responsibility, frequently found in the form of, "There are no promises, representations, oral understandings, or agreements except as contained herein."


DISCOUNT POINTS — An added loan fee charged by a lender to make the yield on a lower-than-market-interest VA or FHA loan competitive with higher interest conventional loans.


DOMICILE — The state where an individual has his true, fixed, permanent home and principal business establishment and to which place he has the intention of returning whenever he’s absent.


DORMER — Windows that jut out from the roof of a home and have a roof of their own.


DOUBLE ESCROW — An escrow set up to handle the concurrent sale of one property and purchase of another property by same party.


DOUBLE HUNG WINDOWS — Windows that have two separate panes, one hung above the other with two grooves on the sides, allowing the individual windows to be moved independently of each other. The most common of residential window types.


DOWER — The legal right or interest a wife acquires in property her husband held or acquired anytime during marriage.


DRAINAGE SWALES — Shallow, sloped channels designed to collect and move surface runoff toward streets or holding ponds and away from buildings or houses.


DUAL AGENCY — Representing both principals (buyer and seller) to a transaction.


DUE ON SALE CLAUSE — A form of acceleration clause found in some mortgages, especially savings and loan mortgages, requiring the mortgagor to pay off the mortgage debt when selling the secured property, thus resulting in automatic maturity of the note at the lender's option.


DUPLEX — A structure that provides housing accommodations for two families by having separate entrances, kitchens, bedrooms, lanais, living rooms, and bathrooms. A two-family dwelling.





EASEMENT — A property interest which one person has in land owned by another entitling the holder of the interest to limited use or enjoyment of the other's land.


EASEMENT IN GROSS — The limited right of one person to use another's land (servient estate), which right isn’t created for the benefit of any land owned by the owner of the easement; that is, there’s no dominant estate, as the easement attaches personally to the owner, not to the land.


EAVE — The edge of the roof of a building, usually overhanging.


ECO-COALITIONS — Organized groups of people that are dedicated to the preservation of the environment.


EFFLORESCENCE — A chemical process, caused by water seepage, which results in salt deposits.


EMINENT DOMAIN — The right of government, both state and federal, to take private property for a necessary public use, with just compensation paid to the owner.


ENCROACHMENT — An unauthorized invasion or intrusion of a fixture or other real property wholly or partly upon another's property, thus reducing the size and value of the invaded property.


ENCUMBRANCE — Any claim, lien, charge or liability attached to and binding upon real property which may lessen the value of the property but won’t necessarily prevent transfer of title.


ENERGY STAR — A voluntary labeling program created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products, including major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, and more.


ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORS — Flooring material composed of a thin veneer layer of solid wood that is laminated to plywood backing, allowing the planks to withstand temperature and moisture fluctuations without warping like solid wood.


ENTIRETY, TENANCY BY — A form of joint ownership of property between husband and wife with the right of survivorship.


ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT — A report which includes a detailed description of a proposed development project with emphasis on the existing environment setting, viewed from both a local and regional perspective, and a discussion of the probable impact of the project on the environment during all phases.


ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) — Established in 1970, the EPA is a U.S. government agency charged with protecting human health and the environment.


EQUITY — That interest or value remaining in property after payment of all liens or other charges on the property. An owner's equity is normally the monetary interest over and above the mortgage indebtedness.


ERRORS AND OMISSIONS INSURANCE — A form of insurance that covers liabilities for errors, mistakes and negligence in the usual listing and selling activities of a real estate office or escrow company.


ESCHEAT — The reversion of property to the state when a decedent dies intestate and there are no heirs capable of inheriting, or when the property is abandoned.


ESCROW — The process by which money and/or documents are held by a disinterested third person (a "stakeholder") until the satisfaction of the terms and conditions of the escrow instructions (as prepared by the parties to the escrow).


EVAPORATIVE COOLER — Also known as a "swamp cooler," these are devices that cool the air in a room by means of water evaporation. Evaporative coolers are well suited to hot, dry climates like the American Southwest.


EXCHANGE — A transaction in which all or part of the consideration for the purchase of real property is the transfer of property of a like kind.


EXCLUSIVE AGENCY — A written listing agreement giving one agent the right to sell property for a specified time, but reserving to the owner the right to sell the property himself without payment of any commission.


EXCLUSIVE LISTING — A written listing of real property in which the seller agrees to appoint only one broker to sell the property for a specified period of time. The two types of exclusive listings are the exclusive agency and the exclusive right to sell.


EXECUTIVE — The act of making a document legally valid, such as formalizing a contract by signing, or acknowledging and delivering a deed.


EXECUTOR — A person appointed by a testator to carry out the directions and requests in the last will and testament, and to dispose of property according to the provisions of the will.


EXECUTORY CONTRACT — A contract in which one or both of the parties hasn’t yet performed.


EXTENDER CLAUSE — A "carry over" clause (referred to as a safety clause) contained in a listing which provides that a broker is still entitled to a commission for a set of period of time after the listing has expired if the property is sold to a former prospect of the broker.


EXTENSION — An agreement to continue the period of performance beyond the specified period.





FAIR MARKET VALUE — The highest monetary price which a property would bring, if offered for sale for a reasonable period of time in a competitive market, to a seller who is willing but not compelled to sell, from a buyer, willing but not compelled to buy, both parties being fully informed of all the purposes to which the property is best adapted and is capable of being used.


FANNIE MAE — The Federal National Mortgage Association, a government-chartered corporation whose mission is to purchase and securitize mortgages in order to ensure that funds are consistently available to the institutions that lend money to homebuyers.


FASCIA — The horizontal border on the end of the roof where it meets the walls of the building. In houses, this is frequently where the gutter is attached.


FEASIBILITY STUDIES — An investigation carried out by architects, engineers, or other specialists to determine if an improvement or addition is necessary, cost-effective, or desirable.


FEASIBILITY STUDY — An analysis of a proposed project with emphasis on the attainable income, probable expenses, and most advantageous use and design.


FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA) — An agency of the Department of Homeland Security charged with coordinating the initial response to a major natural disaster such as a hurricane, an earthquake, or a flood where local authorities and resources are overwhelmed. FEMA provides both on-the-ground support as well as funds for rebuilding in the form of loans.


FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION (FHA) — The FHA was set up in1934 under the National Housing Act to encourage improvement in housing standards and conditions, to provide an adequate home financing system by insurance of housing mortgages and credit, and to exert a stabilizing influence on the mortgage market.


FEDERAL TAX LIEN — A federal lien that attaches to real property, either if the federal estate tax is not paid, or if the taxpayer has violated the federal income tax or payroll tax laws.


FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (FTC) — A federal agency created to investigate and eliminate unfair and deceptive trade practices in business.


FEE SIMPLE — The largest estate one can possess in real property. A fee simple estate is the least limited interest and the most complete and absolute ownership in land: It is of indefinite duration, freely transferable, and inheritable. Fee simple title is sometimes referred to as "the fee.”


FENCE STILES — The vertical posts and supports for a fence. It can also mean structures such as stairs used to cross over a fence.


FIDUCIARY — A relationship that implies a position of trust or confidence wherein one is usually entrusted to hold or manage property or money for another. Among the obligations a fiduciary owes to the principal are duties of loyalty; obedience; full disclosure; the duty to use skill, care, and diligence; and the duty to account for all monies.


FILLED LAND — An area where the grade has been raised by depositing or dumping dirt, gravel, or lava rock.


FINANCE FEE — A mortgage brokerage fee to cover the expenses incurred in placing the mortgage with a lending institution; a mortgage service charge or origination fee.


FINANCIAL STATEMENT — A formal statement of the financial status and net worth of a person or company, setting forth and classifying assets and liabilities as of a specified date.


FINDER'S FEE — A fee paid to someone for producing a buyer to purchase or a seller to list property; also called a referral fee.


FIREBOX — The part of the fireplace where the wood is burned.


FIRM COMMITMENT — A definite undertaking by a lender to loan a set amount of money at a specified interest rate for a certain term.


FIRST REFUSAL, RIGHT OF — The right of a person to have the first opportunity either to purchase or lease real property.


FIXTURE — An article that was once personal property but has been so affixed to the real estate that it has become real property (e.g. stoves, bookcases, plumbing, etc.). If determined to be a fixture, then the article passes with the property even though it is not mentioned in the deed.


FLAG LOT — A land parcel having the configuration of an extended flag and pole. The pole represents access to the site, which is usually located to the rear of another lot fronting a main street.


FLASHING — Pieces of sheet metal or other material used to prevent water passage around angles and joints, particularly near chimneys, skylights, and attic vents.


FLOOR AREA RATIO — The ratio of floor area to land area expressed as a percent or decimal, which is determined by dividing the total floor area on a zoning lot by the lot area.


FLUE — The duct or pipe that carries smoke and exhaust away from a fireplace, furnace, or boiler.


FOOTING DRAIN — A deep French drain that runs around the perimeter of the house at the footing, or base, level.


FORBEARANCE — A temporary suspension of mortgage payments agreed to by both lender and owner in times of financial difficulty. The lender is actually delaying, or forbearing, starting foreclosure proceedings on the property while the owner catches up on payments.


FORECLOSURE — The process whereby a lender, such as a bank, seeks to repossess a property where the owner has failed to comply with the terms of the mortgage or promissory note, such as not making a payment. Once the property has been foreclosed, the bank can then sell the house, using the money to pay its costs.


FOREST STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL (FSC) — An international, non-governmental, non-profit organization that promotes responsible management and use of the world’s forests. FSC sets standards and certifies different forest products as being environmentally friendly.


FRAUD — Any form of deceit, trickery, breach of confidence or misrepresentation by which one party attempts to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage over another.


FREDDIE MAC — The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, a government sponsored enterprise (GSE) that purchases home mortgages in the secondary market, repackages them into securities, and sells them to investors, thereby increasing the amount of money available for new home loans at banks and thrifts. Freddie Mac was created in 1970 partly in response to the privatization of Fannie Mae as competition. Both entities have essentially the same mission. The difference between Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is that Fannie Mae primarily buys mortgages issued by banks and Freddie Mac primarily buys mortgages issued by thrifts.


FREE AND CLEAR TITLE — Title to real property which is absolute and unencumbered by any liens, mortgages, clouds, or other encumbrances.


FRENCH DRAIN — A slightly sloped trench filled with round gravel and perforated pipe that is used to divert underground water away from a house or building. Named for Henry French, a judge and farmer in Concord, Massachusetts, who promoted the idea in an 1859 book about farm drainage.


FRONTAGE — The length of a property abutting a street or body of water; that is, the number of feet that "front" the street or water.


FUNCTIONAL OBSOLESCENCE — A loss in value of an improvement due to functional inadequacies, often caused by age or poor design.




GAS FILLS — In windows, typically argon or krypton gas sandwiched between glazing layers to improve insulation and slow heat transfer.


GENERAL CONTRACTOR — A construction specialist who enters into a formal construction contract with a land owner or master lessee to construct a real estate building or project.


GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMP — Heating and cooling systems that circulate liquid (usually water mixed with an antifreeze solution) through pipes buried in the ground using the stable and moderate temperature of the earth to draw heat in the winter and release heat in the summer. Also known as "ground source heat pumps."


GIFT TAX — A graduated federal tax paid by a donor upon making a gift.


GLAZING — The glass in a window.


GOOD FAITH — Bona fide. An act is done in good faith if it is in fact done honestly, whether it be done negligently or not.


GOVERNMENT SPONSORED ENTERPRISE (GSE) — A group of financial service organizations created by the U.S. Congress to help improve the function of capital markets in certain sectors. GSEs are generally run as corporations outside of government control and without explicit government guarantees or backing. GSEs include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, and the Federal Farm Credit Banks.


GOVERNMENT SURVEY — A system of land description in which large blocks of land are divided into tracts bounded by imaginary lines conforming to the true meridian.


GRANDFATHER CLAUSE — Common expression used to convey the idea that something which was once permissible continues to be permissible despite changes in the controlling law.


GRANTEE — The person who receives from the grantor a grant of real property.


GRANTOR — The person transferring title to, or an interest in, real property. A grantor must be competent to convey; thus, for example, an insane person can’t convey title to real property.


GREEN ROOF — A roof covered with plants growing in a thin layer of soil over a waterproofing layer. Green roofs insulate well, lower air-conditioning costs, help prevent floods by reducing storm runoff, and last a long time.


GROSS AREA — The total floor area of a building measured from the exterior of the walls (excluding those unenclosed).


GROSS INCOME MULTIPLIER — A useful rule of thumb to estimate market value of income-producing residential property. The multiplier is derived by using comparable sales divided by the actual or estimated monthly rentals and arriving at an acceptable average.


GROUND-FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER (GFCI) — A device designed to prevent severe or fatal electric shocks by monitoring the flow of electric current through wiring. If the device detects a drop or fault, it immediately shuts off the power. GFCIs are required by building codes for electrical outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and other areas.





HABENDUM CLAUSE — That part of the deed beginning with the words "to have and to hold," following the granting clause and reaffirming the extent of ownership that the grantor is transferring.


HALF BATH — A bathroom without a shower or bathtub.


HIGH RISE — A popular expression for a condominium or apartment building generally higher than six stories.


HIGHEST AND BEST USE — That use which, at the time of appraising the property, is most likely to produce the greatest net return to the land and/or the building over a given period of time.


HOLD HARMLESS CLAUSE — A clause inserted in a contract whereby one party agrees to indemnify and protect the other party from any injuries or lawsuits arising out of the particular transaction.


HOME EQUITY LINE OF CREDIT (HELOC) — A revolving line of credit where the lender agrees to make available a certain amount of money for a certain time period secured by the value of the borrower’s home. The funds are not advanced up front, but rather the borrower can choose when to use the money, much like a credit card. HELOCs are frequently used for major remodeling projects, to pay for college tuition, or other large expenses. Generally the interest rate in HELOCs is adjustable.


HOME EQUITY LOAN — Also known as a second mortgage, a personal loan secured by the value of the borrower’s home. The money is transferred to the borrower up front and interest begins to accrue immediately. 


HOMEOWNER'S ASSOCIATION — A non-profit association of homeowners organized pursuant to a declaration of restrictions or protective covenants for a subdivision, a PUD, or a condominium.


HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE — Insurance coverage is designed to protect a home and its contents, as well as shield the owner from liability for accidents and such on the property.


HOMESTEAD — A home which is used as a personal residence.


HONEYCOMB SHADES — Insulating window shades the feature a layered design much like a honeycomb cell.


HORIZONTAL LAP SIDING — Exterior siding consisting of horizontal boards of wood fiber-cement or other materials where the board above overlaps the board below. Also known as clapboard or weatherboard.


HOSE BIB — A water spigot or outdoor faucet. Where a yard hose is attached for water.


HOUSE RULES — Rules of conduct adopted by a board of directors of a condominium and designed to promote harmonious living among the owners and occupants.


HUD — A federal cabinet department officially known as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


HVAC — Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning--the climate control systems of a house or building.


HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE — Pressure exerted by a liquid due to gravity. In homes, moisture in basement areas is often caused by the hydrostatic pressure of the water in the surrounding soil.


HYPOTHECATE — To pledge specific real or personal property as security for an obligation, without surrendering possession of it.





IMPROVED LAND — Real property whose value has been enhanced by the addition of on-site and off-site improvements, such as roads, sewers, utilities, buildings, etc.; as distinguished from raw land.


IMPROVEMENTS — Valuable additions made to property, amounting to more than repairs, costing labor and capital and intended to enhance the value of the property. Improvements of land would include grading, sidewalks, sewers, streets, utilities, etc. Improvements on land would include buildings, fences, and the like.


IMPUTED INTEREST — Interest implied by the federal tax law.


INCOME APPROACH — An approach to the valuation or appraisal of real property as determined by the amount of net income the property will produce over its remaining economic life.


INCOME PROPERTY — Property purchased primarily for the income to be derived plus certain tax benefits, such as accelerated depreciation. Income property can be commercial, industrial, or residential.


INCORPOREAL RIGHTS — Intangible or non-possessory rights in real property such as easements, licenses, profits, and the like.


INNOCENT PURCHASER FOR VALUE — One who purchases real property without notice, actual or constructive, of any superior rights or interests in the real property.


INSPECTION — A visit to and review of the premises. A prudent purchaser of property always inspects the premises before closing.


INSTITUTIONAL LENDER — Financial institutions such as banks, insurance companies, savings and loans, or any lending institution whose loans are regulated by law.


INSURANCE SCORE — A numeric value assigned to customers by insurers based on their credit history, claim history, and financial situation. Much like a credit score, a higher value means lower risk and therefore lower premiums.


INTEREST — The sum paid or accrued in return for the use of money.


INTERIM FINANCING — A short-term loan usually made during the construction phase of a building project; often referred to as the "construction loan."


INTESTATE — To die without a valid will.


INVENTORY — An itemized list of property. Many brokers recommend that their clients attach to the sales contract an inventory of property to be included in the sale of a residential property, including a condominium dwelling.


INVERSE CONDEMNATION — An action for "just compensation "brought by one whose property has been effectively "taken" or substantially interfered with or taken without just compensation.





JOINT TENANCY — A form of property ownership by two or more persons in which the joint tenants have one and the same interest, arising by one and the same conveyance, commencing alone and the same time and held by one and the same possession (the concept of "four unities").


JOISTS — The horizontal support for a roof, ceiling, or floor that runs from one wall to another. Larger joists are often known as beams.


JUDGMENT LIEN — A lien binding on all the real estate of a judgment-debtor and giving the holder of the judgment a right to levy (i.e. to seize) the land for satisfaction of the judgment.


JUDICIAL FORECLOSURE — A method of foreclosing upon real property by means of a court supervised sale. After an appraisal, the court determines an upset price below which no bids to purchase will be accepted.


JUNIOR MORTGAGE — A mortgage which is subordinate in right or lien priority to an existing mortgage on the same realty, such as a second mortgage.


JURISDICTION — The authority or power to act, such as the authority of a court to hear and render a decision that binds both parties.


JUST COMPENSATION — An amount of compensation to be received by a party for the taking of property under the power of eminent domain.





LAND CONTRACT — Another name for an installment purchase contract, by which the buyer obtains equitable title (the right to use the property) while the seller retains legal title (recorded title) as security for payment of the balance of the purchase price.


LAND DESCRIPTION — A description of a particular piece of real property.


LAND TRUST — An association organized by common owners of real property, which holds title to the real property in the name of one or more trustees for the benefit of the owners, whose beneficial interests may be represented by trust certificates.


LAND, TENEMENTS, AND HEREDITAMENTS — A feudal phrase used to describe all types of immovable realty including the land, buildings, and all appurtenant rights thereto.


LANDLOCKED — Real property having no access to a public road or way.


LANDSCAPING — Shrubs, bushes, trees and the like, on the grounds surrounding a structure.


LATERAL AND SUBJACENT SUPPORT — The support received by a parcel of real property from the land adjoining it is called lateral support. Subjacent support is that support which the surface of the earth receives from its underlying strata.


LAW DAY — The date an obligation becomes due; sometimes refers to the closing date.


LED LIGHTING — Light Emitting Diode, a long-lasting, energy-efficient semiconductor form of light that is gradually replacing the more traditional incandescent light bulbs in applications.


LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council for commercial and residential properties. Developments that meet criteria in terms of energy- and water-efficiency, sustainability, and environmental impact are awarded ratings ranging from "certified" to "platinum."


LEGAL DESCRIPTION — A description that’s complete enough that an independent surveyor could locate and identify a specific piece of real property.


LEGAL NOTICE — That notice that’s either implied or required by law. Constructive notice under the recording laws is also referred to as legal notice.


LEGAL RATE OF INTEREST — The maximum interest rate permitted by law, with anything above that rate being usury.


LETTER OF CREDIT — An agreement or commitment by a bank ("issuer") made at the request of a customer ("account party") that the bank will honor drafts or other demands of payment from third parties ("beneficiaries") upon compliance with the conditions specified in the letter of credit.


LETTER OF INTENT — An expression of intent to invest, develop, or purchase without creating any firm legal obligation to do so.


LEVEL PAYMENT MORTGAGE — A mortgage that’s scheduled to be repaid in equal periodic payments that include both principal and interest.


LEVERAGE — The use of borrowed funds to purchase investment property with the anticipation that the property acquired will increase in return so that the investor will realize a profit not only on his own investment, but also on the borrowed funds; the employment of a smaller investment to generate a larger rate of return through borrowing.


LICENSEE — A person who has a valid license. A real estate licensee can be a salesperson or a broker, active or inactive, an individual, a corporation, or a partnership.


LIEN — A charge or claim which one person has upon the property of another as security for a debt or obligation. Liens can be created by agreement of the parties (mortgage) or by operation of law (tax liens).


LIEN WAIVER — A legal document signed by a contractor or subcontractor stating that they have been paid in full for work completed and that they no longer have the right to file a lien against your house.


LIFE ESTATE — Any estate in real or personal property that’s limited in duration to the life of its owner or the life of some other designated person.


LIMITED COMMON ELEMENTS — That special class of common elements in a condominium reserved for the use of a certain apartment(s) to the exclusion of other apartments.


LINE OF CREDIT — A maximum amount of money a bank will lend one of its more reliable and credit worthy customers without need for any formal loan submission.


LIQUIDATED DAMAGES — An amount predetermined by the parties to an agreement as the total amount of compensation an injured party should receive in the event the other party breaches a specified part of the contract.


LIQUIDITY — The ability to sell an asset and convert it into cash at a price close to its true value.


LIS PENDENS — A legal document recorded in the Bureau of Conveyances, which gives constructive notice that an action has been filed in either a state or federal court affecting a particular piece of property. "Lis Pendens" is a Latin term which means "action pending" and is in the nature of a quasi-lien.


LISTING — A written employment agreement between a property owner and a broker authorizing the broker to find a buyer or a tenant for a certain real property.


LITTORAL LAND — Land bordering on the shore of a sea or ocean and thus affected by the tide currents.


LOAN COMMITMENT — A commitment by lenders of the amount they’ll loan to qualified borrowers on a particular piece of real estate for a specified amount of time under specific terms.


LOAN MODIFICATION — A process in which mortgage loan terms are adjusted to lower monthly payments for homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Adjustments can include lowering interest rates, lengthening the term, or reducing the principle owed.


LOAN-TO-VALUE RATIO — The ratio that the amount of the loan bears to the appraised value of the property or the sales price, whichever is lower.


LOCUS SIGILLI — Latin for "under seal,” used in the abbreviated form, "L.S.," at the end of signature line in some formal legal documents; used instead of the actual seal.


LOSS PAYEE — The person designated on an insurance policy to be paid in case the insured property is damaged or destroyed.


LOT LINE — The boundary line separating a property from its neighbors.


LOW-E COATING — A thin metallic substance used to increase a window’s ability to reflect rather than absorb heat. The coating can be applied during the manufacturing process between glazing layers, or as a film after the window is installed.






The care and work put into a building to keep it in operation and productive use; the general repair and upkeep of a building. If maintenance is deferred, the building will suffer a loss in value.



Land which is of little value because of some deficiency, such as poor access, lack of adequate rainfall, or steep terrain.



The highest price, estimated in terms of money, which a property will bring if exposed for sale in the open market, allowing a reasonable time to find a purchaser who buys with knowledge of all the uses to which the property is adapted and for which it is capable of being used.



Good or clear title reasonably free from risk of litigation over possible defects; also referred to as merchantable title. Marketable title need not, however, be perfect title.



A comprehensive plan to guide the long-term physical development of a particular area.



An artificial line used by the surveyors to measure the natural, uneven, winding property line formed by rivers, streams, and other watercourses bordering a property.



A statutory lien created in favor of materialmen and mechanics to secure payment for materials supplied and services rendered in the improvement, repair, or maintenance of real property.



A common method of land description that identifies a property by specifying the shape and boundary dimensions of the parcel, using terminal points and angles.



Rights to subsurface land and profits. Normally, when real property is conveyed, the grantee receives all right and title to the land, including everything above and below the surface, unless excepted by the grantor.



A false statement or concealment of a material fact made with the intent to induce some action by another party.



The cash deposit (including initial and additional deposits) paid by the prospective buyer of real property as evidence of his good faith intention to complete the transaction; called hand money or a binder in some states.



Visible markers, both natural and artificial objects, which are used to establish the lines and boundaries of a survey.



A legal document used to secure the performance of an obligation. In effect, the mortgage states that the lender can look to the property in the event the borrower defaults in payment of the note.



A corporation or firm that normally provides its own funds for mortgage financing.



A person or firm that acts as an intermediary between borrower and lender; one who, for compensation or gain, negotiates, sells or arranges loans and sometimes continues to service the loans.



Filing a person’s mortgage interest as a tax deduction, which can be done on Form 1040, Schedule A.



An investment whose value is based on claims to the cash flow from pools of residential home loans. Most commonly, mortgages are purchased from banks, mortgage companies, and other financial firms by government-sponsored enterprises, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These mortgages are then pooled and converted into bonds or other investment vehicles that are then resold to the broader market. 



The one who receives and holds a mortgage as security for a debt; the lender; a lender or creditor who holds a mortgage as security for payment of an obligation.



The one who gives a mortgage as security for a debt; the borrower; usually the landowner; the borrower or debtor who hypothecates or puts up his property as security for an obligation.



An organization created by REALTORS® to facilitate the sharing of listings among member brokers.



NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® — The largest and most prestigious real estate organization in the world, which seeks to be the leading advocate of the right to own, use, and transfer real property; the acknowledged leader in developing standards for efficient, effective, and ethical real estate business practices. Working on behalf of America's property owners, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® provides a facility for professional development, research and exchange of information among its members and to the public and government for the purpose of preserving the free enterprise system, and the right to own, use, and transfer real property.


NATIONAL FENESTRATION RATING COUNCIL — An organization which does comparisons on housing components (windows, doors, and skylights) to rate their energy efficiency.


NEGATIVE CASH FLOW — The investment situation in which cash expenditures to maintain an investment (taxes, mortgage payments, maintenance, etc.) exceed the cash income received from the investment.


NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENT — Any written instrument that may be transferred by endorsement or delivery so as to vest legal title in the transferee.


NEGOTIATION — The transaction of business aimed at reaching a meeting of minds among the parties; bargaining.


NFIP — National Flood Insurance Program--A United States program, managed by FIMA (Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration) to provide flood insurance to the American populace.


NOMINAL CONSIDERATION — A consideration bearing no relation to the real value of the contract. A deed often recites a nominal consideration, such as "ten dollars and other valuable consideration."


NONCONFORMING USE — A permitted use that was lawfully established and maintained but which no longer conforms to the current use regulations because of a change in the zoning.


NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR — That physical deterioration that occurs in the normal course of the use for which a property is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises (or equipment or chattels) by the occupant, members of household, or their invitees or guests.


NOTE — A document signed by the borrower of a loan, stating the loan amount, the interest rate, the time and method of repayment, and the obligation to repay. The note is the evidence of the debt. When secured by a mortgage, it’s called a mortgage note.


NOTICE — 1.) Legal notice is notice that’s required to be made by law, or notice that’s imparted by operation of law as a result of the possession of property or the recording of documents. 2.) Notice that’s required by contract, for example, when the parties agree to terminate a contract by the written notice of either party 30 days before termination.


NOTICE OF COMPLETION — Document filed to give public notice that a construction job has been completed and that mechanics' liens must be filed within, say, 45 days to be valid.


NOTICE OF DEFAULT — A notice to a defaulting party that there’s been a default, usually providing a grace period in which to cure the default.


NOTICE OF NONRESPONSIBILITY — A legal notice designed to relieve a property owner from responsibility for the cost of improvements ordered by another person.


NOVATION — The substitution of a new obligation for an old one; substitution of new parties to an existing obligation, as where the parties to an agreement accept a new debtor in place of an old one.


NUISANCE — Conduct or activity that results in an actual physical interference with another person's reasonable use or enjoyment of his property for any lawful purpose.


NULL & VOID — Having no legal force or effect; of no worth; unenforceable; not binding.





OBSOLESCENCE — A type of depreciation of property.


OFF-GAS — A hazardous byproduct of the manufacturing process of some products, it is created by undissolved ozonized air.


OFFER — A promise by one party to act or perform in a specified manner provided the other party will act or perform in the manner requested.


OFFER AND ACCEPTANCE — The two components of a valid contract; a "meeting of the minds."


OFFICE EXCLUSIVE — A listing in which the seller refuses to submit the listing to Multiple Listing Service, even after being informed of the advantages of MLS, and signs a certification to that effect.


OFFSITE COSTS — Costs such as for sewers, streets, utilities, etc., which are incurred in the development of raw land, but aren’t connected with the actual construction of the buildings (onsite costs).


OPEN HOUSE — The common real estate practice of showing a listed home to the public during established hours, frequently on Sunday afternoons.


OPEN LISTING — A listing given to any number of brokers. The first broker who secures a buyer ready, willing, and able to purchase at the terms of the listing is the one who earns the commission.


OPEN SPACE — Certain portion of the landscape which hasn’t been built upon and which is sought either to be reserved in its natural state or used for agricultural or recreational purposes, such as parks, squares, and the like.


OPEN-END MORTGAGE — A mortgage in which borrowers are given a limit up to which they may borrow, with any incremental advances of money up to but not exceeding the original borrowing limit to be secured by the same mortgage.


OPERATING EXPENSES — Those periodic and necessary expenses that are essential to the continuous operation and maintenance of a property.


OPINION OF TITLE — An opinion by a person competent in examining titles, usually a title attorney, as to the status of the title of a property.


OPTION — An agreement to keep open, over a set period, an offer to sell or purchase property.


ORIGINATION FEE — The finance fee charged by a lender for placing a mortgage, which covers initial costs such as preparation of documents and credit, inspection, and appraisal fees.


OVERIMPROVEMENT — An improvement which by reason of excess size or cost isn’t the highest and best use for the site on which it’s placed.





PACKAGE MORTGAGE — A method of financing in which the loan that finances the purchase of a home also finances the purchase of personal items, such as a washer and dryer, refrigerator, stove, and other specified appliances.


PARAPET — A wall-like barrier at the end of a roof or balcony that prohibits things from falling off.


PARCEL — A specific portion of a larger tract; a lot.


PARTIAL RELEASE — A clause found in a mortgage that directs the mortgagee to release certain parcels from the lien of the blanket mortgage upon the payment of a certain sum of money.


PARTICIPATION MORTGAGE — A mortgage in which the lender participates in the income of the mortgaged venture beyond a fixed return, or receives a yield on the loan in addition to the straight interest rate.


PARTITION — The dividing of common interests in real property owned jointly by two or more persons.


PARTY WALL — A wall that’s located on or at a boundary line between two adjoining parcels and is used or is intended to be used by the owners of both properties in the construction or maintenance of improvements on their respective lots.


PELLET INSERT — A pellet fireplace, one that runs on pellet fuel, is inserted into the space that a regular fireplace usually occupies in the home.


PENTHOUSE — An apartment located on the roof of a building, or more commonly, an apartment on the top floor of a building.


PERCOLATION TEST — A hydraulic engineer's test of soil to determine the ability of the ground to absorb and drain water.


PERFORMANCE BOND — A bond, usually posted by one who is to perform work for another, which assures that a project or undertaking will be completed as per agreement or contract.


PERMANENT FINANCING — A long-term loan, as opposed to an interim loan.


PERSONAL PROPERTY — Things which are tangible and moveable; property that’s not classified as real property; chattels.


PHOTOVOLTAIC — The material that converts solar rays into energy in solar paneling.


PIGGYBACK LOAN — A joint loan with two lenders sharing a single mortgage.


PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENT (PUD) — A modern concept in housing designed to produce a high density of dwellings and maximum use of open spaces.


PLAT — A map of a town, section, or subdivision indicating the location and boundaries of individual properties.


PLOTTAGE — The merging or consolidating of adjacent lots into one larger lot, with the consequent result of improved usability and increased value; also called assemblage.


POCKET LISTING — A listing that’s retained by the listing broker or salesperson, who doesn’t make it available to other brokers in the office or to other Multiple Listing Service members.


POINT OF BEGINNING — The starting point in a metes and bounds description of property, which is usually a street intersection or a specific monument.


POINTS — A generic term for a percentage of the principal loan amount which the lender charges for making the loan; each point is equal to 1% of the loan amount.


PORTE COCHERE — A roofed structure extending from the entrance of a building over an adjacent driveway to shelter those getting into or out of vehicles.


POSSESSION — The act of either actually or constructively possessing or occupying property.


POWER OF ATTORNEY — A written instrument authorizing a person (the attorney-in-fact) to act as the agent on behalf of another to the extent indicated in the instrument.


POWER OF SALE — A clause written into a mortgage authorizing the mortgagee to sell the property in the event of default.


PRE-SALE — A pre-construction sale program by a condominium developer who’s required to sell a certain percentage of units before a lender will commit to finance construction of the project.


PREMISES — The subject property, such as the property that’s deeded or the unit that is leased.


PREPAID INTEREST — The paying of interest before it is due.


PREPAYMENT PENALTY — The amount set by the creditor as a penalty to the debtor for paying off the debt before its maturity. The prepayment penalty is charged by the lender to recoup a portion of interest that he had planned to earn when he made the loan.


PREPAYMENT PRIVILEGE — The right of the debtor to pay off part or all of the debt without penalty before maturity, such as in a mortgage or agreement of sale.


PRESCRIPTION — The acquiring of a right in property, usually in the form of an intangible property right, such as an easement or right-of-way, by means of adverse use of property that’s continuous and uninterrupted for the prescriptive period.


PRESENT VALUE OF ONE DOLLAR — A doctrine that’s based on the fact that money has a time value. The present worth of a payment to be received at some time in the future is the amount of the payment less the loss of interest.


PRIME RATE — The minimum interest rate charged by a commercial bank on short-term loans to its largest and strongest clients (those with the highest credit standings).


PRINCIPAL — The capital sum; interest is paid on the principal. NOT spelled principle.


PRINCIPAL BROKER — The licensed broker directly in charge of and responsible for the real estate operations conducted by a brokerage company.


PRIVATE MORTGAGE INSURANCE — A special form of insurance designed to permit lenders to increase their loan-to-market-value ratio, often up to 95 percent of the market value of the property.


PROBATE — The formal judicial proceeding to prove or confirm the validity of a will. The will is presented to the probate court, and creditors and interested parties are notified to present their claims or to show cause why the provisions of the will should not be enforced by the court.


PROCURING CAUSE — That effort which brings about the desired result, as in producing the buyer for the listed property.


PROMISSORY NOTE — An unconditional written promise of one person to pay a certain sum of money to another, or order, or bearer, at a future specified time.


PROPERTY — The rights or interests a person has in the thing owned; not, in the technical sense, the thing itself. These rights include the right to possess, to use, to encumber, to transfer, and to exclude, commonly called the "bundle of rights."


PROPERTY REPORT — A disclosure document required under the federal interstate land sales act where applicable to the interstate sale of subdivided lots.


PROSPECT — A person or corporation who may be interested in buying or selling real property. The prospect doesn’t become a client until the parties establish a fiduciary relationship, such as upon signing a listing contract or upon executing a DROA.


PROSPECTUS — A printed statement distributed to describe, advertise and give advance information on a business, venture, project, or stock issue.


PUFFING — Exaggerated or superlative comments or opinions not made as representations of fact and thus not a grounds for misrepresentation. A statement such as "the apartment has a fantastic view," is puffing because the prospective buyer can clearly assess the view in each case.


PUNCH LIST — A discrepancy list showing defects in construction that need some corrective work to bring the building up to standards set by the plans and specifications.


PURCHASE MONEY MORTGAGE — A mortgage given to the seller as part of the buyer's consideration for the purchase of real property, and delivered at the same time that the real property is transferred as a simultaneous part of the transaction.





QUALIFIED FEE — An estate in fee that’s subject to certain limitations imposed by the owner.


QUANTITY SURVEY — A method of estimating construction cost or reproduction cost; a highly technical process used in arriving at the cost estimate of new construction and sometimes referred to in the building trade as the price take-off method.


QUIET ENJOYMENT — The right of a new owner or a lessee legally in possession to uninterrupted use of the property without interference from the former owner, lessor, or any third party claiming superior title.


QUIET TITLE ACTION — A circuit court action intended to establish or settle the title to a particular property, especially where there’s a cloud on the title.


QUITCLAIM DEED — A deed of conveyance that operates, in effect, as a release of whatever interest the grantor has in the property; sometimes called a release deed.






In insulation, a measure of resistance to heat transfer. The bigger the number, the more effective the insulation material.



The process of supplying heat through the floor or walls of a structure.



A measurement, used in the government survey system, consisting of a strip of land six miles wide, running in a north-south direction.



Unimproved land; land in its unused natural state before the construction of improvements such as streets, lighting, sewers, and the like.



The physical land and appurtenances, including any structures; for all practical purposes synonymous with real property.



All land and appurtenances to land, including buildings, structures, fixtures, fences, and improvements erected upon or affixed to the same; excluding, however, growing crops.



A registered word which may only be used by an active real estate broker who is a member of the state and local real estate board affiliated with the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. The use of the name REALTOR® in advertising is strictly governed by the rules and regulations of the National Association.



Land and everything permanently affixed thereto.



A reduction or kickback of a stipulated charge.



An independent party appointed by a court to impartially receive, preserve, and manage property which is involved in litigation, pending final disposition of the matter before the court.



The act of entering into the book of public records the written instruments affecting the title to real property, such as deeds, mortgages, contracts of sale, options, assignments, and the like. Proper recordation imparts constructive notice to all the world of the existence of the recorded document and its contents.



The right of a mortgagor who has defaulted on the mortgage note to redeem or get back title to the property by paying off the entire mortgage note before the foreclosure sale.



An instrument that shows the amount of the unpaid balance of a mortgage, the rate of interest, and the date of maturity.



The act of obtaining a new loan to pay off an existing loan; the process of paying off one loan with the proceeds from another.



A legal action to correct or modify a contract or deed that hasn’t accurately reflected the intentions of the parties due to some mechanical error, such as a typo graphical error in the legal description.



The discharge or relinquishment of a right, claim, or privilege. Releases involving real property transactions should be acknowledged and recorded.



A provision found in many blanket mortgages enabling the mortgagor to obtain partial releases of specific parcels from the mortgage upon the payment of, typically, a larger-than-pro-rata portion of the loan.



A future interest in real estate created at the same time and by the same instrument as another estate, and limited to arise immediately upon the termination of the prior estate.



The cost, on the basis of current prices, of reproducing a new replica property with the same or fairly similar material.



The legal remedy of canceling, terminating, or annulling a contract and restoring the parties to their original positions; a return to the status quo.



Monies set aside as a cushion of capital for future payment of items such as taxes, insurance, furniture replacement, deferred maintenance, etc.; sometimes referred to as an impound account.



Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. Enacted by HUD, it requires that loan originators provide borrowers with a Good Faith Estimate that discloses key loan terms and closing costs. New RESPA regulations took full effect on January 1, 2010.



Limitations on the use of property. Private restrictions are created by means of restrictive covenants written into real property instruments, such as deeds and leases.



A private agreement, usually contained in a deed, which restricts the use and occupancy of real property.



A special type of home loan available to seniors that converts a portion of the equity in a home into cash. Unlike a traditional home equity loan or second mortgage, no repayment is required until the borrower(s) no longer use the home as their principal residence.



A future estate in real property created by operation of law when a grantor conveys a lesser estate than he has. The residue left in the grantor is called a reversion that commences in possession in the future upon the end of a particular estate granted or devised, whether it be freehold or less-than-freehold.



A real estate investment agreement in the form of a purchase option offered by California-based EquityRock in several states. EquityRock provides a cash payment upfront in exchange for a specific percentage of the future appreciation of a home’s value.



The distinctive characteristic of a joint tenancy (also tenancy by entirety) by which the surviving joint tenant(s) succeeds to all right, title, and interest of the deceased joint tenant without the need for probate proceedings.



The right or privilege, acquired through accepted usage or by contract, to pass over a designated portion of the property of another.



Those rights and obligations that are incidental to ownership of land adjacent to or abutting on watercourses, such as streams and lakes.



Responsibility for damages caused to improvements. The risk of loss passes to vendees when either title or possession passes, and they should protect themselves by securing proper insurance.



Rights or covenants that bind or benefit successive owners of a property are said to run with the land, such as restrictive building covenants in a recorded deed, which would affect all future owners of the property.



SALE AND LEASEBACK — A transaction in which, typically, an owner sells his improved property and as part of the same transaction signs a long-term lease and remains in possession.


SCHEMATICS — Preliminary architectural drawings and sketches; basic layouts not containing the final details of design.


SEASONAL ENERGY EFFICIENCY RATIO (SEER) — In air conditioning systems, the amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. The higher the SEER value, the more efficient the system.


SECOND MORTGAGE — A mortgage that’s junior or subordinate to a first mortgage; typically, an additional loan imposed on top of the first mortgage, which is taken out when the borrower needs more money.


SECONDARY MORTGAGE MARKET — A market for the purchase and sale of existing mortgages, designed to provide greater liquidity for mortgages; also called secondary money market.


SEPTIC TANK — A sewage settling tank in which part of the sewage is converted into gas and liquids before the remaining waste is discharged by gravity into a leaching bed underground.


SETBACK — Zoning restrictions on the amount of land required surrounding improvements; the amount of space required between the lot line and the building line.


SETTLEMENT — The act of adjusting and prorating the various credits, charges, and settlement costs to conclude a real estate transaction.


SEVERALTY — Sole ownership of real property.


SHEATHING — The bottom layer of board, wood, or other materials attached to roofs and walls to add strength and form a base for siding or other exterior protection.


SHORELINE — The dividing line between private land and public beach on beachfront property.


SHORT SALE — In real estate, a sale of a property by a lender where the sale price is less than is what is owed on the mortgage.


SIMPLE INTEREST — Interest computed on the principal balance only.


SLAB FOUNDATION — A thick layer of steel-reinforced concrete, usually resting on subsoil, that acts as a base for buildings.


SMART GROWTH — An urban planning theory that concentrates on limiting sprawl, building local communities, and increasing walkability and public transportation options.


SOLAR-PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS — Energy generation equipment that works by converting sunlight directly into electrical power. Systems can range in size from those found on "solar-powered" watches to large utility-sized arrays found in the Southwestern United States.


SOLAR-THERMAL SYSTEMS — A renewable-energy technology in which the rays of the sun heat a home’s hot-water supply. Considered a lower-cost option than solar-electric panels, solar-thermal systems feature glassed-covered boxes or sets of tubes containing fluid-filled piping in which fluid is heated either directly or indirectly.


SPACERS (WINDOW) — Separate sheets of glass in a window to improve insulating quality; the design and material are important to prevent condensation and heat loss.


SPECIAL ASSESSMENT — A tax or levy customarily imposed against only those specific parcels of realty that will benefit from a proposed public improvement, as opposed to a general tax on the entire community.


SPECIAL WARRANTY DEED — A deed in which the grantor warrants or guarantees the title only against defects arising during the period of his tenure and ownership of the property and not against defects existing before the time of his ownership.


SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE — A legal action brought in a court of equity to compel a party to carry out the terms of a contract.


SPOT LOAN — A loan on a particular property, usually a condominium unit, by a lender who hasn’t previously financed that particular condominium building.


STANDING LOAN — A commitment by the interim or construction lender to keep the money already funded in the project for a specified period of time after the expiration of the interim loan, usually until permanent take-out financing is secured.


STATUTE OF FRAUDS — That law which requires certain contracts to be in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith in order to be legally enforceable.


STRAIGHT NOTE — A promissory note evidencing a loan in which interest-only payments are made periodically during the term of the note, with the principal payment due in one lump sum upon maturity.


STRUCTURED WIRING — Heavy-duty data cables that enable the latest features of TVs, stereo equipment, computers, game consoles, phones, security systems, and Internet-based remote control house systems. An alternative to a standard electrical upgrade which maintains a home’s value, structured wiring can increase value.


SUBJECT TO MORTGAGE — A grantee taking title to real property "subject to mortgage" isn’t personally liable to the mortgagee for payment of the mortgage note. In the event the grantor-mortgagor defaults in paying the note, the grantee could, however, lose property, and thus his equity, in a foreclosure sale.


SUBORDINATION AGREEMENT — An agreement whereby a prior mortgagee agrees to subordinate or give up their priority position to an existing or anticipated future lien.


SUMP PUMP — A system that directs accumulated water away from the house. Run on a dedicated electrical circuit from the service panel, battery-operated backup pumps may be considered in the event of a power outage.


SURVEY — The process by which boundaries are measured and land areas are determined; the on-site measurement of lot lines, dimensions, and position of houses in a lot including the determination of any existing encroachments or easements.


SURVIVORSHIP — The right of survivorship is that special feature of a joint tenancy whereby all title, right and interest of a decedent joint tenant in certain property passes to the surviving joint tenants by operation of law, free from claims of heirs and creditors of the decedent.





TAKE-OUT FINANCING — Long-term permanent financing.


TAX LIEN — A general statutory lien imposed against real property for failure to pay taxes. There are federal tax liens and state tax liens.


TAX SHELTER — A phrase often used to describe some of the tax advantages of real estate investment, such as deductions for depreciation, interest, taxes, etc., which may offset the investor's other ordinary income to reduce the investor's overall tax payment.


TENANCY BY THE ENTIRETY — A special joint tenancy between a lawfully married husband and wife, which places all title to the property into the marital unit, with both spouses having an equal, undivided interest in the whole property.


TENANCY IN COMMON — A form of concurrent ownership of property between two or more persons, in which each has an undivided interest in the whole property; frequently found when the parties acquire title by descent or by will.


TENANCY IN SEVERALTY — Ownership of property vested in one person alone, and not held jointly with another; also called Several Tenancy or Sole Tenancy.


TENANT — In general, one who holds or possesses property, such as a life tenant or a tenant for years; commonly used to refer to a lessee under a lease.


THERM — A measure of heating value. Used by gas companies to calculate energy use based on a conversion of volume of gas used to its heat equivalent. 


TILE BACKERBOARD — Made from cement or fiber-reinforced gypsum; used as a subfloor over the basement slab to create a smooth, level surface.


TIME SHARING — A modern approach to communal ownership and use of real estate which permits multiple purchasers to buy undivided interests in real property (which is usually in a resort condominium or hotel) with a right to use the facility for a fixed or variable time period.


TITLE INSURANCE — A comprehensive contract of indemnity under which the title company agrees to reimburse the insured for any loss if title isn’t as represented in the policy.


TITLE SEARCH — An examination of the public records to determine what, if any, defects there are in the chain of title.


TOWNHOUSE — A type of dwelling unit normally having two floors, with the living area and kitchen on the base floor and the bedrooms located on the second floor.


TOWNSHIP — A piece of property, used in the government survey system of land description, which is 6 miles square, and contains 36 sections, each 1 mile square; and consists of 23,040 acres.


TRUSSES — W-shaped framing in an attic that supports the roof. Modifying a truss-framed attic involves installing additional framing members along the bottom of the trusses to strengthen the floor and support the roof.


TRUST DEED — A real property security device (also called a deed of trust) very similar to a mortgage, except that there are three parties, the trustor, the trustee, and the beneficiary (the lender).


TRUST FUND ACCOUNT — An account set up by a broker at a bank or other recognized depository, into which the broker deposits all funds entrusted to him by his principal or others.


TURNKEY PROJECT — A development term meaning the complete construction package from groundbreaking to the completion of the building. All that’s left undone is to turn over the keys to the buyer.





U-FACTOR — Indicates the rate of heat loss in a window or door assembly. The lower the number, the better an insulator the window or door is.


UL-RATED — Refers to rating system by Underwriters Laboratories, a not-for-profit independent testing organization. Significant when ensuring that outdoor lights or extension cords are rated for exterior use.


UNILATERAL CONTRACT — A contract in which one party makes an obligation to perform without receiving in return any express promise of performance from the other party, such as an open listing contract, where the seller agrees to pay a commission to the first broker who brings in a ready, willing, and able buyer.


UPSET PRICE — A minimum price set by a court in a judicial foreclosure, below which the property may not be sold by a court appointed commissioner at public auction; the minimum price which can be accepted for the property after the court has had the property appraised.


USURY — Charging a rate of interest in excess of that permitted by law.





VALUE — The power of a good or service to command other goods in exchange for the present worth of future rights to income or amenities; the present worth to typical users and investors of future benefits arising out of ownership of a property.


VARIANCE — Permission obtained from governmental zoning authorities to build a structure or conduct a use that’s expressly prohibited by the current zoning laws; an exception from the zoning laws.


VENDEE — The purchaser of realty; the buyer. The buyer under an agreement of sale.


VENDOR — The seller of realty. The seller under an agreement of sale.


VOC — Volatile organic compounds that threaten indoor air quality. Often found in paint and vinyl coverings, but low-VOC options in paints and adhesives can be found at your local home center.


VOID — Having no legal force or binding effect; a nullity; not enforceable. A contract for an illegal purpose (i.e. gambling) is void.


VOIDABLE — A contract that appears valid and enforceable on its face, but is subject to rescission by one of the parties who acted under a disability, such as being a minor or being under duress or undue influence; that which may be avoided or adjudged void but which is not, in itself, void.





WAIVER — To voluntarily give up or surrender a right.


WAREHOUSE — A building used to store merchandise and other materials or equipment.


WAREHOUSING — A term used in financing to describe the process which loan correspondents employ, assembling into one package a number of mortgage loans that the correspondent has originated and selling them in the secondary mortgage market.


WARRANTY — A guaranty by the seller, covering the title as well as the physical condition of the property.


WARRANTY DEED — A deed in which the grantor fully warrants good clear title to the premises. Also called a general warranty deed.


WASTE — An improper use or abuse of property by one in possession of land, who holds less than the fee ownership, such as a tenant, life tenant, mortgagor, or vendee.


WEAR AND TEAR — The gradual physical deterioration of property, resulting from use, passage of time and weather. Only property subject to wear and tear is depreciable.


WRAP-AROUND MORTGAGE — A method of refinancing in which the new mortgage is placed in a secondary or subordinate position. In essence, it’s an additional mortgage in which another lender refinances a borrower by lending an amount over the existing first mortgage amount, without cashing out or distributing the existence of the first mortgage.





XERISCAPING — Drought-tolerant landscaping or low-water landscaping.





YIELD — The return on an investment or the amount of profit, stated as a percentage of the amount invested.





ZONING — The regulation of structures and uses of property within designated districts or zones. Zoning regulates and affects such things as use of the land, types of structure permitted, building heights, setbacks, and density (the ratio of land area to improvement area).


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