REAL ESTATE GLOSSARY
Also known as an acceleration covenant, this is a contract provision requiring the borrower to repay all of their outstanding loan to a lender if certain requirements -- outlined by the lender -- aren’t met.
When a seller accepts an offer from a buyer, that offer is contingent upon the buyer’s ability to meet certain conditions before finalization of the sale. Contingencies might include the buyer selling their home, receiving mortgage approval, or reaching an agreement with the seller on the home inspection.
If a buyer or seller want to change an existing contract, they might add an addendum outlining the specific part of the contract they’d like to adjust and the parameters of that change. The rest of the contract stays the same, regardless of the addendum.
With ARM loans, interest rates can change after an initial fixed rate period as they adjust based on the interest rate index the ARM is tied to (e.g., LIBOR, COFI, etc.). This loan type is less predictable than a traditional fixed-rate mortgage, but it can potentially yield lower interest rates during certain periods.
Amortization is the schedule of your mortgage payments spread out over time. In real estate, a buyer's amortization schedule is usually one monthly payment scheduled over a 15- or 30-year period of time.
An appraisal is required to gather the estimated value of a piece of real estate. During the home sale, the mortgage lender sends out an appraiser to get a professional opinion of the value of the property. This helps the lender decide if the property is worth the amount of the loan the potential buyer is seeking.
An appraisal contingency is a clause that allows a buyer to dissolve a purchase agreement if a home’s appraised value is less than the sale price.
Appreciation is the amount a home increases in value over time. To calculate a home’s likely appreciation rate, add one to the annual appreciation rate, raise this to a power equal to the number of years you’d like to estimate, then multiply that by the current value of the property.
A property marketed in “as is” condition usually indicates that the seller is unwilling to perform most if not all repairs. It could also mean that it is priced “as is”, which is typically lower than market pricing in the area.
Finally, “as is” is in the condition at the time the offer was written, and should something happen to the property from the time the offer was written to the closing time which alters that condition, then that property is no longer “as is”, as it was, and should be brought back to its original “as is” condition at the time of offer, at the cost of seller. Or in the alternative, the seller should release the buyer from their obligation to purchase and refund the monies spent by the buyer, such as earnest money.
An assessment is used to determine how much in taxes the owner of a property will pay. An assessor calculates the assessment of a home’s value by looking at comparable homes in your area and reviewing an inspection of the home in question.
An assignment is when the seller of a property signs over rights and obligations to that property to the buyer before the official closing.
Assumption is when a seller transfers all terms and conditions of a mortgage to a buyer. The buyer takes on the seller’s remaining debt instead of taking out a new mortgage of their own.
When a buyer is interested in purchasing a property that is already under contract with someone else, that buyer has an opportunity to submit a “backup offer”, in case the first transaction falls apart. A backup offer must still be negotiated and any monies, such as earnest money, submitted, to confirm it is the next offer in line. There can only be one backup offer legally, as you cannot have a backup to the backup.
When a buyer makes an offer on a property they haven’t seen, even when it was possible to see it, that offer is considered a “blind offer”. It is most commonly used in a highly competitive area and/or circumstance, and used as an attempt to be first and win quickly.
A bridge loan is a short-term loan a homeowner takes out against their property to finance the purchase of another property. It’s usually taken out for a period of a few weeks to up to three years.
A buyer’s agent, also known as a selling agent, is a licensed real estate professional whose job is to locate a buyer’s next property, represent their interests by negotiating on behalf of that buyer to obtain the best price and purchasing scenario for that buyer as possible. This agent is a fiduciary for the buyer.
The listing agent, also known as the seller’s agent, is a licensed real estate professional whose job is to market the seller’s property, and to represent the seller’s best interest by negotiating on behalf of the seller to secure the best price and selling scenario as possible. This agent is a fiduciary for the seller.
Buyer and listing agent commissions are each typically 2-3% of the contract price in each sale. Learn more in our post “Who pays real estate agent commission fees”.
Like a Blue Book for homes, the chain of title is the documentation of all past ownership of a property. It runs from the present owner to the very first owner of the property.
conditions & restrictions (CC&Rs)
Usually, these are the rules and regulations placed on real property by a homeowner’s association (HOA), a neighborhood association, a developer, or a builder that sets forth any requirements and limitations of what a homeowner is allowed to do with the property. It may also include monthly and/or annual fees or special assessments.
A conventional sale is when the property is owned outright (has no mortgage remaining) or the owner owes less on their mortgage than what the market indicates the owner could sell their property for. Such conventional sales are often smoother transactions than non-conventional sales, such as foreclosures, probate related sales and short sales.
Closing is when the home sale is considered final, which typically includes all parties’ signatures on all required documents, all monies conveyed, and when a lender is involved, with full lender’s approval. For some markets across the nation, recording the deed with the county clerk’s office is the ultimate and final step of closing. Once all of these items are completed, then a buyer’s access to the property is then provided, and the buyer is considered the new homeowner.
Closing costs are an assortment of fees, including fees charged by: a lender, the title company, attorneys, insurance companies, taxing authorities, homeowner’s associations, real estate agents, and other closing settlement related companies. These closing costs are typically paid at the time of closing a real estate transaction.
If a property is contingent, or the contract contains a contingency, certain events must transpire or the contract can be considered null. A contingency might be that the home must past an appraisal or receive a clean inspection.
The sale of a home could also be contingent on the buyer selling their home by a specified date. If either the buyer or seller fail to meet the expectations of the contingency, either party can exit the contract.
A conventional mortgage is a loan not guaranteed or insured by the federal government. These borrowers usually make larger down payments (at least 20%), don’t require mortgage insurance, and are at a lower risk of defaulting on their home loan payment.
DOM is defined as the number of days from the date on which the property is listed for sale on the local real estate brokers’ multiple listing service (MLS) to the date when the seller has signed a contract for the sale of the property with the buyer.
Homes generally appear to sell faster in Spring than Winter, since you often have more people looking to purchase and sell during the more pleasant weather months rather than the colder more uncomfortable weather months.
Debt-to-income, or DTI, ratio is a number used by mortgage lenders which is determined by the total of your debt expenses, plus your monthly housing payment, divided by your gross monthly income, and multiplied by 100. This helps lenders determine affordability based off of their available loan programs, and allows them to estimate how much you can afford to pay monthly for a mortgage.
A housing deed is the legal document transferring a title from the seller to the buyer. It must be a written document and is sometimes referred to as the vehicle of the property interest transfer.
If a homeowner defaults on their loan, it means they have not paid the sum they agreed to. Typically, a mortgage default means the homeowner hasn’t made a home loan payment in 90 days or more.
The down payment is the amount of cash a homebuyer pays at the time of closing. Typical home loans require a 20% down payment. Some conforming loans will accept a 5% down payment, and FHA loans will accept a 3.5% down payment.
A due diligence period of time might be available in the purchase agreement, which is a time frame provided to a buyer to fully examine a property, often by hiring experts to inspect the property, perform tests, etc., so that a buyer may decide on how to proceed.
A buyer might also be afforded an opportunity to renegotiate the contract based off of their findings or possibly even to terminate within a specified time period, in order to not be considered in default of the contract. Due diligence allows a buyer to fully understand what they are buying.
An earnest money deposit (EMD), sometimes referred to a “good faith deposit”, is the initial funds that a buyer is asked to put down once a seller accepts the buyer’s offer. It shows not only that the buyer is serious about buying, but that they are also willing to put their money where their mouth is.
The amount of the EMD can vary between 1 to 5 percent of the sales price. The EMD is often held by an escrow company, or as otherwise provided for under the purchase and sale agreement (PSA).
An easement grants someone else the legal right to use another person’s land or property while leaving the title in the owner's name.
This is the investment a homeowner has in their home. To calculate equity, take the market value of the home and subtract any mortgages or liens against the property. The amount leftover is the amount of equity you have in the home.
If you buy a home worth $250,000 for $240,000, you gain what is known as instant equity, because there is a $10,000 difference between the value and the cost. When you sell a home you bought for $250,000 for $260,000, you’ll get to keep the equity in the home after the close, once all the expenses are paid.
It’s important to build equity as homeowners can leverage this financial asset to obtain loans to help finance items such as home repairs, or to pay off higher interest debt.
Escrow is part of the homebuying process. It happens when a third party holds something of value during the transaction. Most often, the “value” the third party holds onto is the buyer’s earnest money check. When the transaction is complete (usually at closing), the third party will release those funds to the seller.
The escrow holder is the agent and depositary (impartial third-party) who collects the money, written instruments, documents, personal property, or other things of value to be held until the happening of specified events or the performance of described conditions, usually set forth in mutual, written instructions from the parties.
FHA loans are part of a group of loans that are insured by the federal government. This means that instead of actually lending money, the FHA insures banks and private lenders that they will cover losses they might incur in the event that the borrower does not repay the loan in full or timely. Read our blog post for more detailed information on how FHA loans work.
FHA 203k rehab
This is a “fixer-upper” loan, which combines the mortgage loan with a loan to help pay for repairs or updates, such as structural repairs, or energy-related updates. It is not intended to lend based off of luxury upgrades such as adding a swimming pool or tennis courts.
With fixed rate mortgages, your interest rate stays the same for the duration of the loan. They are often available as 10, 15, 20 & 30-year loans. The 15- and 30-year loan are by far the most popular type of home loans, accounting for about 75% of all U.S. residential mortgages, according to Mortgageloan.com.
If a homeowner doesn’t make a mortgage payment (usually, for more than 90 days), foreclosure is a legal process during which the owner forfeits all property rights.
If they are unable to pay off outstanding debt on the property or sell it via short sale, the property enters a foreclosure auction. If no sale is made there, the lender takes control of the property.
A homeowner’s association is a private association that manages a planned community or condominium. When you purchase a property that is managed by an HOA, you agree to abide by the HOA’s rules and pay its monthly or annually HOA dues. If you fail to pay and/or comply, they often have the ability to file a lien against the property and/or foreclose on the property.
line of credit
A home equity line of credit (HELOC) provides a revolving credit line that can be helpful in paying for large expenses or consolidating higher-interest rate debt on loans -- like credit cards.
A home sale contingency is for a buyer to indicate to a seller that part of their condition to purchase the seller’s property relies on the buyer’s ability to finalize a close on their current property. This is often negotiated with a clause in a contract or with an addendum to a contract. An example of how such a contingency can be used would be if a buyer needs to sell their property in order to have the down payment required on the purchase of the new property, or would rather use their sale proceeds instead of their savings to make the down payment.
An inspection happens when buyers pay a licensed professional inspector to visit the home and prepare a report on its condition and any needed repairs. The inspection often happens as part of the due diligence period, so buyers can fully assess if they want to buy a particular home as is, or ask the seller to either complete or pay for certain repairs.
Also known as a “due diligence contingency,” the inspection contingency is a clause sometimes offered in a purchase agreement that grants buyers a predetermined amount of time during escrow to perform any necessary inspections.
A property lien is unpaid debt on a piece of property. It's a legal notice and denotes legal action taken by a lender to recover the debt they are owed. It can come from unpaid taxes, a court judgement, or unpaid bills and can slow down the homebuying process when unattended.
A loan contingency is a clause or addendum (also known as a mortgage contingency) in an offer contract that allows a buyer to back out of a deal and keep their deposit if they are unable to secure a mortgage with specified terms during a fixed period of time.
The period of time in which a borrower cannot repay their loan in full without incurring a penalty fine by the lender.
Getting a mortgage pre-approval letter is important because it gives home buyers an idea of what they can afford. A mortgage pre-approval letter is issued by the lender and identifies the terms, loan type and loan amount the buyer qualifies for after checking the buyer’s debt-to-income ratios along with cash on hand and credit history.
Many sellers or their agents require a mortgage letter with any home offer that isn’t all-cash, since it acts as proof the buyer has been qualified to get financing.
listing service (or MLS)
An MLS is a database that allows real estate agent and broker members to access and add information about properties for sale in an area. When a home is listed for sale, it gets logged into the local MLS by a listing agent. Buyer’s agents often check the MLS to see what’s on the market and what similar homes have sold for. According to Inman.com, there are over 600 MLS organizations in the United States.
hazards disclosure (NHD) report
A report required by most states that discloses if a property is located in an area that has a higher risk of natural hazards. The report is typically paid for by the seller and given to the buyer during escrow.
Amortization refers to the process of paying off a loan with regular payments so the amount you owe on the loan gradually decreases.
Negative amortization happens when the amount you owe continues to rise, regardless of regular payments, because you’re not paying enough to cover the interest.
A no cash-out refinance is a type of loan used to improve the rate the borrower pays on the loan. It might also shorten the lifetime of a loan to benefit the borrower.
In a no cash-out refinance, the borrower refinances an existing mortgage for equal to or less than the outstanding loan balance. The goal is to lower interest rates on the loan or change certain terms of the mortgage.
A no-cost mortgage is a type of refinancing in which the lender pays the borrower’s loan settlement costs and extends a new loan -- usually in exchange for the borrower paying higher interest rates.
The mortgage lender then sells the mortgage to a secondary mortgage market for a higher price because of the high interest rate.
The note rate is the interest rate stated on a mortgage note. It is also commonly referred to as the nominal rate or face interest rate.
A sales is considered “pending” if all contingencies have been met and the buyer and seller are moving toward closing. At this point, it’s unlikely the sale will fall through, and the buyer or seller risk losing the earnest money if they walk out on the deal at this point.
Getting pre-approved requires home buyers to fill out an application that allows a lender to determine their financial situation, including their debt-to-income ratio, ability to repay and credit-worthiness. Once this is in hand, the lender can give the buyer a letter stating the exact loan amount they have been pre-approved for along with the total sales price they are approved for.
A preliminary report reveals any issues with a title that need to be dealt with by the seller in order to deliver a clear title. It gives details such as ownership history, liens, and easements. The title company gathers this report by searching existing property records at the county recorder’s office.
This report is required for a title insurance company to issue a title insurance policy. Most lenders require borrowers to purchase title insurance coverage to protect their interest in a property. It’s customary in many areas for a seller to pay for this policy, although it is a negotiable item. Also see our blog post for more details.
A pre-qualification is a lender’ estimate of the amount a home buyer can expect to be approved for during the loan process. Getting pre-qualified is a quick assessment by a lender of the buyer’s financial situation based solely off of what a buyer tells a lender, and not based with any proof or verifications.
The principal balance of a mortgage loan is the amount of money owed to the lender, not including interest. Say you borrow $300,000. That’s the principal of the loan, or what you borrowed to buy the home. Buyers pay the principal plus interest each month, although calculated on a daily basis for most loan type. Payments nearly always go toward interest first, then toward paying down the principal. After all, the interest is the reason the bank agrees to make the loan.
A probate sale happens when a homeowner dies without writing a will or leaving a property to someone. In such situations, the probate court would authorize an estate attorney, or other representative, to hire a real estate agent to sell the home.
When you make an offer, sellers will require you to submit proof of funds. If you’re buying a house with a mortgage, it shows them that you have the cash available for your down payment and closing costs. If you’re paying all cash, your proof of funds shows you actually have the money.
A purchase agreement demonstrates a buyer’s intent to purchase a piece of property and a seller’s intent to sell that property. The document outlines the terms and conditions of a sale and holds each party legally accountable to meeting their agreement.
Real-estate owned is a designation given to properties which are owned by a lender due to an unsuccessful foreclosure sale at auction.
REO properties can sometimes present an opportunity for a buyer to be purchased for below market value as most banks would prefer to reinvest the proceeds, rather than waste time marketing the property for an extended period.
Additionally, the bank will often market the property “as-is” meaning they are unwilling to make any repairs to the property, which can make financing tricky.
Refinancing replaces an existing loan with a new one. Debt is not eliminated when a borrower refinances. Instead, it typically offers better terms, including a lower interest rate, lower monthly mortgage payments, or a faster loan term.
Rent-back, or leaseback, refers to an arrangement whereby the buyer, who is now the new homeowner, agrees to allow the seller, the now-tenant, to stay in the house beyond the close of escrow. The terms are negotiated prior to the situation occurring and will often involve a lease deposit, a daily rental rate, and a length of time allowable.
Right of first
If a third party buyer offers to buy or lease a property owner's asset, the right of first refusal ensures the property holder is allowed a chance to buy or lease the asset under the same terms offered by the third party before the property owner accepts the third-party offer.
A second mortgage is when a property owner borrows against the value of their home. They are also commonly referred to as HELOCs and draw on the market value of the home to provide the borrower with funds to use however they wish. They are granted in a lump sum or a line of credit that can be paid back using rate choices that help plan payments.
A secured loan is backed by the borrower's assets, including cars, a second home, or other large items that can be used as payment to a lender if the borrower is unable to pay back the loan.
Sellers may offer concessions to incentivize buyers to purchase the home, or sweeten the deal.
Concessions are most readily seen as a contribution towards the buyer’s closing costs, up to certain limitations and approvals by a buyer’s lender, which ultimately leaves more money in a buyer’s pocket when all is said and done.
A seller’s disclosure is a disclosure by the seller of information about the property, or which could affect a buyer’s decision to purchase the property, all of which to the best of the seller’s knowledge.
A seller must also indicate items which are not specific to the property itself but related to a person’s enjoyment of the property, such as pest problems, property line disputes, knowledge of major construction projects in the area, military base related noises or activities, association related assessments or legal issues, unusual odors caused by a nearby factory, or even recent deaths on the property as permitted by law.
In a short sale, the property is being sold for less than the debt secured by the property. Short sales will require the approval of the seller’s lender(s) as the proceeds of the sale will be just “short” of the amount owed; most lenders’ processes of approving short sales are long and drawn out, requiring more time to close than a traditional sale.
Tenancy in common describes a type of joint ownership of a property, whether a single family property or a commercial building. The tenants in common all own the property, but in different ratios.
Depending on the property type will determine the ease or difficulty in securing financing. Also to note, tenants in common do not have the right to survivorship (the surviving owners do not get to split up the deceased tenant’s property interest), and instead, the deceased tenant’s ownership interest/percentage actually falls to their own estate, as defined by their will or the governing law.
A title search examines public records for the history of the home, including sales, purchases, and tax and other types of liens.
Generally, a title examiner will conduct a search using title plants, and sometimes the county records, to see who is listed as the record owner of the property. Such information, along with any liens or encumbrances that are recorded against the property, will be listed in the Preliminary Report for the parties to review prior to the close of escrow.
In real estate, transfer of ownership refers to transfer of a property’s deed and title from the seller to the buyer at closing.
A trust sale means that the home is being sold by a trustee of a living trust – and not a private party. More often than not this is because the original homeowner has passed away, or has placed their assets in a living trust.
The trustee may not be as emotionally attached to the property as a traditional owner, which could translate to them accepting a less attractive offer as the trustee may prefer to offload the property.
A home is “under contract” when a seller has accepted an offer from a buyer but the transaction has not yet closed.
A VA loan is a loan guaranteed by the government (Department of Veteran Affairs) and available to the military, active and retired, and even for some eligible spouses, at low-to-no-down payment scenarios with competitive rates and fees.