Glossary, A-C

Over the next several weeks, we will be producing a comprehensive term glossary to serve as a reference for everything you need to know about borrowing, mortgages, and the home-buying process. This post is Part 1 of 3, and it includes all terms from A to C. 

A 

Abstract (of Title) 

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

Abutting 

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

Acceleration Clause 

A loan provision giving the lender the power to declare all sums owing lender immediately due and payable upon the violation of a specific loan provision, such as the sale of the property, or the failure to make loan payments on time. Example : John sells his property to Mary who takes over John’s mortgage payments. They do not notify the lender of this transaction. The lender finds out that the title to the property has transferred and calls the loan, since the loan documents state that the loan is due on the sale of the property. John is now liable to pay his lender in full. 

Acceptance 

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

Accretion 

The addition to land through natural forces like wind or water. 

Example: Soil carried by a river then deposited on land. 

Acknowledgment 

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

Acre 

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

Additional Principal Payment 

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

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) 

Also known as a variable rate mortgage. The interest rate on these mortgages changes periodically. 

Adjusted Basis 

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

Adjustment Period 

The length of time for which the interest rate is fixed on an adjustable. If the adjustment period is six months, then the interest rate will remain fixed for six months, after which time it will adjust. 

Affordability Analysis 

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

Agreement of Sale 

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

Amenity 

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

Amortization 

A gradual paying off of a debt by periodic installments which pay principal and interest. 

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) 

The effective rate of interest for a loan per year. This rate is typically higher than the note rate because it takes into account closing costs. This is one way to compare loan programs offered by different lenders. Caution: the APR is sometimes computed differently by different lenders and can be misleading. 

Application 

A form used to apply for a mortgage loan and to record pertinent information concerning a prospective mortgagor and the proposed security. 

Appraisal 

An opinion or estimate of the value of a property at a given date. 

Appreciation 

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

Arm’s length transaction 

A transaction among parties each of who acts in his or her own best interest. 

Example: A transaction between a father and his son would NOT be an Arm’s length transaction. 

Assessed Value 

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

Assessment 

The process of placing a value on property for the strict purpose of taxation. May also refer to a levy against property for a special purpose, such as a street or traffic light or sewer assessment. 

Assessment Rolls 

The public record of taxable property. 

Assessor 

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

Assignment 

The transfer of a mortgage from one person to another. 

Asset 

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

Assumable Mortgage 

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

Attorney In Fact 

One who is authorized to act for another under a power of attorney which may be general or limited in scope. 

Example: John wants to sell his house but has to be out of the country for four months. John gives authorization to Mary to sign the grant deed to sell the property to a buyer. Mary becomes John’s Attorney In Fact. 

B 

Back-end ratio, or debt ratio 

The amount you pay in monthly debt (car payments, credit cards, student loans, etc.) divided by your gross monthly income. 

Balloon (Payment) Mortgage 

Usually a short-term fixed-rate loan which involves small payments for a certain period of time and one large payment for the remaining amount of the principal at a time specified in the contract. 
Example : A balloon mortgage for $25,000 has interest only payments for 5 years at 12 percent ($250 per month), with the full principal of $25,000 due and payable after five years 
 

Bankruptcy 

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

Beneficiary 

The person who receives or is to receive the benefits resulting from certain acts. 

Example: The lender is named as the beneficiary on a mortgage loan. 

Example: John has a life insurance policy for $100,000 with Jane as his beneficiary. Should John die, Jane will receive the benefits in the amount of $100,000. 

Betterment 

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

Bill of Sale 

A written document that transfers title to personal property. 

Binder 

1. A title insurance binder is the written commitment of a title insurance company to insure title to the property subject to the conditions and exclusions shown on the binder. 

2. Preliminary agreement, normally secured with earnest money, between a buyer and a seller as an offer to purchase real estate. 

Biweekly Mortgage 

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

Blanket Insurance Policy 

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

Blanket Mortgage 

A mortgage covering more than one piece of property. 

Example: A developer subdivides a tract of land into lots and obtains a blanket mortgage on the whole tract. 

Bond 

1. A debt instrument in the capital markets. The U.S. government, corporations and municipalities use bonds to raise money. Bonds can also be backed by mortgages. The best-known bond is the 30-yr. treasury bond issued by the U.S. government. 

2. A sum of money given to a court to guarantee against a loss. For example, if there is a lien on a property, the owner may remove the lien by posting a bond. 

Borrower (mortgagor, trustor) 

One who applies for a loan secured by real estate and is responsible for repaying the loan (mortgage). 

Breach 

To break or violate an agreement. 

Bridge Loan 

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

Broker 

See Real Estate Broker or Mortgage Broker. 

Browser 

Short for Web browser, a software application used to locate and display Web pages. The two most popular browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. 

Building Code 

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

Building Line or Setback 

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

Buydown 

Obtaining a lower interest rate (buying down the rate) by paying additional points to the lender. The lower rate may apply for the full duration of the loan or for just the first few years. A buydown may be used to qualify a borrower who would otherwise not qualify since a buydown results in lower payments. 

Example: A very popular buydown is the 2-1 buydown. If the interest rate on the note is 9 percent, the buydown results in the rate being 7 percent (9 percent minus 2 percent) for the first year, 8 percent (9 percent minus 1 percent) for the second year, and 9 percent thereafter. 

Buyer’s Broker 

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

Buyer’s Market 

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

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

A booklet that provides an overview of the lending process and is required to be given to consumers after the loan application is completed. 

Bylaws 

A set of regulations by which an organization conducts its business. 

Example : A condominium association prepares bylaws that state the minimum number of owners to conduct a meeting to decide policies. 

C 

Call Option 

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. 

Capital Expenditure 

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

Capital Gains 

When you sell a capital asset at a profit, such as real estate, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis, which is usually what you paid for it, is a capital gain. 

Capital Improvement 

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

Caps (interest) 

Limits on the amount that the interest rate 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. 

Cash Flow 

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

Caveat Emptor 

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

CC&R;’s – Covenants, conditions, and restrictions. 

The basic rules establishing the rights and obligations of owners of real property within a condominium, townhouse, PUD, subdivision or other tract of land. An association is organized for the purpose of operating and maintaining property commonly owned by the individual owners. The association is normally made up of property owners. 

Certificate of Deposit 

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

Certificate of Eligibility 

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

Certificate of Occupancy 

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

Certificate of Reasonable Value (CRV) 

An appraisal performed by a VA approved appraiser which establishes the property’s current market value. This value establishes the ceiling on the maximum VA mortgage loan principal. 

Certificate of Title 

An opinion rendered by an attorney as to the status of title to a property, according to the public records. This certificate does not the same level of protection as title insurance. 

Certificate of Veteran Status 

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

Chain of Title 

The chronological order of conveyance of a parcel of land from the original owner to the present owner. 

Example: An abstractor can research title to property going back to the date that the property was granted to the United States. 

Chattel 

Personal property. 

Clear Title 

A marketable title, free of clouds and disputed interests. Most lenders require a clear title prior to closing. 

Closing 

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

Closing Costs 

Expenses incurred by the buyer and seller in a real estate or mortgage transaction. There are two types of costs: recurring and non-recurring. 

Non-recurring costs are one-time transactional costs which include 

  • Discount and origination points 
  • Lender fees: underwriting, processing, document preparations, flood certificate, tax service, wire transfer, courier, etc 
  • Title insurance fees 
  • Escrow, attorney or closing agent fees 
  • Recording fees 
  • Inspection and appraisal fees 
  • Real estate brokerage commissions 
  • Recurring fees are costs associated with owning the property and they recur month after month. These costs may include hazard insurance, interest, property taxes, mortgage insurance (PMI), and association fees. A pro-rated amount of these fees may have to be paid at closing including 
  • Pre-paid interest – interest charges from the date of closing to the end of the month 
  • Property taxes if due 
  • Hazard insurance, fire insurance or homeowners insurance has to be paid for one year 
  • Mortgage insurance (PMI) may be required if the loan amount is more than 80 percent of the value of the property. In the past a whole year of PMI had to be paid up-front, however in recent years many PMI companies only require on to two months up-front. Mortgage insurance premiums are normally paid every month with the loan payment 
  • Impound account may need money to be set up for future payments 

Closing Statement – HUD1 

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 

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

COFI 

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

Collateral 

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

Collection 

The efforts used to bring a delinquent mortgage current and to file the necessary notices to proceed with foreclosure when necessary. 

Co-Maker 

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

Commission 

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

Commitment 

A written document provided by a lender to agreeing to make a loan on specific terms to a borrower or builder. 

Common Area Assessments 

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

Common Areas 

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

Common Law 

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

Community Home Improvement Mortgage Loan® 

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

Community Land Trust Mortgage Loan 

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

Community Property 

In some western and southwestern states, a form of ownership under which property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be owned jointly unless acquired as separate property of either spouse. 

Community Seconds® 

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

Comparables 

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

Compound Interest 

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

Comps, Comparables 

Comparable properties; properties in close proximity which have sold recently and are about the same size with similar amenities, used to determine the value of a property by comparison. 

Condemnation 

The determination that a building is not fit for use or is dangerous and must be destroyed; the taking of private property for a public purpose through an exercise of the right of eminent domain. 

Conditional Commitment 

A written document provided by a lender agreeing to make a loan provided certain conditions are met prior to closing. 

Conditional Sales Contract (Land Contract) 

A real estate sales contract in which she seller (vendor) agrees to convey title to the buyer (vendee) after certain conditions have been met and transfer is not required within one year.(installment selling arrangement whereby the buyer may use and occupy land, but no deed is given by seller until the sales price has been paid. 

Condominium 

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

Condominium Conversion 

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

Condominium Hotel 

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

Construction loan 

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

Consumer Reporting Agency (or bureau) 

An organization that prepares reports that are used by lenders to determine a potential borrower’s credit history. The agency obtains data for these reports from a credit repository as well as from other sources. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax are the 3 main repositories. 

Consideration 

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

Contingency 

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

Contract 

An agreement between competent parties to do or not do certain things for consideration. 

To have a valid contract for the sale of real estate there must be: 

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

Contract of Sale 

See Agreement of Sale 

Conventional Loan 

Any mortgage loan other than a VA or an FHA loan. A convention loan may be conforming or non-conforming. 

Convertibility Clause 

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

Condemnation 

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

Conveyance 

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

Covenant 

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

Cooperative (Co-op) 

See Stock Cooperative. 

Convertible Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) 

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

Credit Life Insurance 

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

Credit Report 

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

Credit Repository 

An organization that gathers, records, updates, and stores financial and public records information about the payment records of individuals who are being considered for credit. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. 

Credit Score 

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

Creditor 

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

Cul-de-sac 

A dead-end street with a turn-around space at the end. These are attractive to some homeowners because the ending street cuts down on “thru” traffic, speeding, etc. 

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