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Clinton Real Estate
Phone: 315-404-1023

Real Estate Glossary

Acceptance - The time at which an offer to purchase is accepted.  The fact that it was accepted must be relayed to the person that made an offer in order for all parties to be bound to the contract.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) - A mortgage whose interest rate over the life of the loan is not necessarily the same as the original interest rate at the loan inception.  Rate changes may go up or down and are usually tied to an economic indicator and a time period.  The person getting the mortgage should check to see if these fluctuations have a cap, and make sure they are comfortable with whatever that cap is.  Some ARMS are convertible to a fixed interest rate after a period of time.

Agent- A person authorized to act on another’s behalf. In real estate, this agent may be a listing agent representing the seller, a selling agent representing the buyer, or a dual agent which means the agent or company may represent both the seller and the buyer. There is a fourth option, a transaction agent (or broker) that represents neither party but helps the transaction to be completed.  A real estate agent must be licensed under the laws of their state. An agent must place their license under the direction of a real estate broker. To become a broker, one must take the same courses that a salesperson does, but also complete addition training and meet experience requirements which differ from state to state.

Amortization – The repayment of a loan over time. With each payment, there is a  the reduction of both principal (the original amount borrowed), plus the interest.

Amortization Schedule - This table shows each payment amount for the mortgage, how much of each payment is applied to the principal, how much is applied to the interest, and how much remains to be paid. The table shows each payment until there is a zero balance and the loan is paid in full.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) – Required by the Federal Truth-in-Lending-Act, this details the amount of money financed.  The APR is the true cost of borrowing money, which includes the total finance charges added to the principal amount.

Appraisal   - A professional determination of value.  Mortgage companies usually require an appraisal of the property by a licensed, disinterested party before agreeing to loan money on the property.  Methods of determining value may be based on many things, such as comparable sales in the area, the cost approach, the income approach, or the highest and best use of the property.

Appraised Value –The worth of the property as determined by a professional appraiser.

Appreciation – The opposite of depreciation. When the value of a property rises, based on economics and market conditions of the area, it appreciates.

As Is Condition – Disclaiming any warranties or representations regarding the condition of a property.

Asking/Listing Price – The price a seller is asking in order to sell  their property. The price that a buyer offers to purchase the property and the final contract price may be less than, equal to, or even more than the asking/listing price.

Assessed Value - The value used by the governing authority (i.e. either the local government or the condominium association) by which to levy a tax or fee on the property owner.

Balloon – A mortgage where there are payments over a period of time but the final payment is a lump sum which is quite large, compared to the previous payments.

Bankruptcy - A condition whereby the courts determine that a person’s indebtedness greatly exceeds their assets and payment of these debts is determined by the courts.

Bill of Sale – A document that serves as written proof for the transfer of title. Real estate is transferred by a deed.  Personal property is transferred by a Bill of Sale.  Mortgage companies will not make loans on personal property, and a Bill of Sale may be included with a real estate contract to outline what personal property is being transferred to the new owner.

Binder - A preliminary agreement, often accompanied by an earnest money deposit, that shows good faith on behalf of the buyer.

Bridge Loan, also called a swing loan - A short term loan used to transition in between the paying off of an old loan, and the inception of permanent financing. This is often used to build or purchase a new home, when the previous home is still owned, but is up for sale. Once the previous home is sold, and the owner receives the proceeds from that sale, permanent financing is usually obtained.

Broker (i.e. real estate broker) - A person duly licensed under the laws of their state to act as an agent for another, and negotiate the purchase, sale and lease of real property.  A broker has full authority to run a real estate company, whereas a real estate agent must have their license held under the auspices of a broker.

Buyer – A person who purchases real estate

Buyer’s Agent / Buyer’s Broker - A real estate agent, broker, or salesperson, who represents a buyer’s best interests.  The commission paid to this buyer’s agent may come from either the seller or the buyer.

Certificate of Title - A statement verifying who has the rights and responsibilities of ownership in a property.  This may be ascertained by a public record search but does not guarantee that any other parties may not stake a claim to the property.  Title insurance protects against claims that may arise against the title.

Certificate of Occupancy - A document which must be obtained from the local government which states that the new construction has been inspected and is built in accordance with regulations.  The property is therefore ready to be occupied.

Clear Title - Ownership that is free of liens, defects and encumbrances, beyond those which the the owner agrees to accept.

Closing - The transaction where title passes from seller to buyer and the seller is paid. A settlement statement shows all costs incurred and gained by both parties.

Closing Costs – The expenses incurred in obtaining the property and transferring title to the new owner.  This may include, but is not limited to attorney’s fees, points, title charges, credit report fee, document preparation fee, mortgage insurance premium, inspections, survey, appraisals, prepayments for property taxes, deed recording fee, and homeowners insurance.

Code of Ethics– Set forth by the National Association of Realtors, these are written professional standards that all members are expected to uphold.

Commitment Letter, also known as a loan commitment - A written offer by a lender to make a loan by a particular date under certain conditions.  A buyer has more clout with a seller if he submits a letter of loan commitment from his lender to the seller at the same time that he submits his offer to purchase to the seller than a buyer who has not even applied for the loan yet.

Common Areas - The space that is shared among all property owners.  In a condominium that may be the building corridors, elevators, parking areas, recreational facilities, etc. and in a planned unit development an example of this might be swimming pools or tennis courts.

Condominium - Real estate ownership where several owners hold title to different individual units, or parts, of the building and have a shared interest in the common areas.

Contingency - A condition that must be met before a contract is legally binding, or before a sale is to be completed. The contingency provides an out or an escape from performing if the condition is not met.

Conventional loan or conventional mortgage - A real estate loan, which is not insured by the government agency FHA nor guaranteed by the Veterans Administration.  Typically subject to the terms of their particular institution, the conditions may be more flexible, as the lender is not required to follow federal guidelines.  The lender looks to the credit of the borrower and the security of the property to insure payment of the debt.

Convertible ARM -An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) that can be changed, or converted into a fixed rate mortgage during a specified period and under certain conditions of the loan.

Conveyance  - The passing or transfer of title from one party to another.

Co-op cooperative – also known as cooperative ownership – Where several residents hold shares to a cooperative trust or corporation that owns the multi-unit building.  Owning the shares of ownership grants the resident the privilege of occupying a specific unit of the property.

Counteroffer - If the receiver of an offer makes any changes to the original offer, it is considered a rejection of the initial offer and becomes a counteroffer.

Covenant - as in Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, or Restrictive Covenants - A clause in a written document, such as  a mortgage or a deed,  that the owner will abide by certain rules and conditions. These are not uncommon in subdivision and are usually intended to maintain the value and integrity of the property,

Credit Rating - A standard of measure of a person’s credit worthiness.

Credit Report - The official credit history of any individual as complied by a credit bureau.  This is used by lenders in determining the size loan a person may, or may not, qualify for.

Deed - The document that sellers and buyers sign when transferring title to real estate.  It legally transfers the property from the seller to the buyer, and is then recorded by the closing agency in county records.

Deposit – (also called Earnest Money) - A good faith deposit of a sum of money offered by the prospective purchaser at the time of the offer to purchase. These funds are typically deposited into an escrow account and held until the real estate closing takes place.  At the closing, the buyer is most often given credit for the earnest money that has already been paid, but it some cases it may be returned to the buyer at closing.  These funds may also be returned to the buyer in some cases if the contract on real property doesn’t go through to a final sale.

Depreciation -The decline in real estate value due to physical deterioration or lack of updating an older property.

Down Payment - The difference, in dollar amount, between the purchase price and the loan amount.

Dual Agent – An agent who represents both the seller and the buyer in a real estate transaction.

Due Diligence – The act of best effort of ensuring that all statements about the real property are true.

Earnest Money (also called Deposit) – Funds given by the buyer and held in an escrow account until the real estate closing.  In some cases, these funds are refundable if the loan fails to close, but if the loan does close, the purchaser is given credit at closing for the earnest money.

Easement A legal document on certain property giving persons other than the owner the right of way, access and limited use or enjoyment of the land involved. (Example, power companies sometimes need a right of way for power lines.)  Closing documents and/or land surveys will describe and show such easements. These easements must be acceptable to the mortgage company before the buyer can consummate a binding closing.

Eminent Domain – The right of local or state government to purchase private property for public use.  Owners receive compensation based on fair market value and sometimes additional funds for the inconvenience of moving.  This is legal under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Reasons for eminent domain can include schools, roads, parks, hospitals, public safety and other public buildings.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act A 1974 federal law under Title VII of the Consumer Credit Protection Act which requires lenders not to discriminate against consumers based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex or marital status, or receipt of income from public assistance (food stamps, social security).   Borrowers are notified at application in writing of agencies that they may contact if they feel they have been discriminated against in any way.

Escrow – A neutral third party holds other people’s funds in a secure account for future use. An earnest money deposit is held in a real estate broker’s escrow account. It is the broker’s account, but he is holding the buyer’s funds in the account for safekeeping until closing.  In the case of a mortgage, the total monthly mortgage payment may include funds to pay for future taxes and insurance paid in addition to the principal and interest. This escrow is held by the lender until taxes and insurance are due, at which time the mortgage company pays the taxes and insurance on the borrower’s behalf.  After the taxes and insurance are paid, the lender may re-adjust the total monthly payment to insure sufficient funds for future escrowed items.

Eviction - Eviction is the process of removing an occupant, either tenant or owner, by law enforcement for failure to perform as promised on a note or lease contract.

Exclusive Agency Listing – A written agreement between a property owner and a real estate broker giving the broker the exclusive right to sell the property for a specified period and at a specified fee.  Agents whose licenses are held by a broker may sign on their broker’s behalf.

Extension -  A written agreement between all parties on a contract allowing an additional  specified  period of time during which all parties are expected to perform their contractual obligations.

FHA - An agency of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that was established in 1934 under the National Housing Act to encourage improvement in housing standards, to provide an insurance for mortgages, and  to exert a stabilizing influence on the mortgage market as a whole.  FHA was the government's response to a lack of quality housing available at the time, excessive foreclosures and a building industry that had collapsed during the Depression.  FHA’s main activity is the insuring of residential mortgage loans made by banks and private lenders.  The FHA sets standards for construction and underwriting but does not lend money or construct housing.

First Right Of Refusal - A legal right by an individual giving that person the first opportunity to purchase or lease real property.

Flood Insurance - A special and separate insurance policy that covers property in the flood area against damage by flooding.  Although flood insurance may be bought through your local insurance agent, it is issued through the federal government.  When purchasing real estate, a survey is typically required where there is any risk of flooding to the property. Flood insurance may  be required by the lender in order for the buyer to obtain a loan.

Foreclosure - The legal process that begins when a borrower fails to make payments to a lender on a mortgaged property.  Should the borrower not be able to correct the default, the property will be sold at public auction to satisfy the debt.

Grantee - The individual to whom interest in real property is conveyed.

Grantor –The individual conveying the interest in real property to another person.

Hazard Insurance –An insurance policy selected by the borrower to cover the property against loss due to hazards such as fire, hail, etc.  The borrower pays an annual premium for this coverage.  In many cases, the lender requires that the borrower pay 1/12 of this annual amount every month, included with the borrower’s monthly payment of principal and interest. These funds are held in reserve on behalf of the borrower in an escrow account.

Home Inspection -   An inspection made by a third party (not the buyer or seller) for a statement of condition on the property, i.e. structural and mechanical conditions. Many contracts to purchase are contingent on the buyer having a home inspection performed within a certain time period prior to closing.

Homeowners’ Association An association with annual dues collected from residents to insure enforcement of any covenants or restrictions that apply to the properties covered.  For example, the Homeowner’s Association could legally cause a homeowner to take care of their yard as required by a legal covenant signed as a part of closing.  Homeowner’s Association fees also cover maintaining common areas, and in some cases may be either voluntary or mandatory.

Homeowners Insurance – The same as hazard insurance.  It covers the property mortgaged against loss due to fire, hail, theft, etc.  The borrower selects the insurance, and pays the annual premiums, often through an escrow account.
Homeowners Warranty - An insurance policy covering specific future repairs, should they become necessary, for a specific time period. These are often provided by the seller or builder as a condition of sale.

HUD -The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is the agency responsible for enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act  Among HUD’s many programs are urban renewal, public housing, rehabilitation loans, FHA subsidy programs, and water and sewer grants. The Office of Interstate Land Sales Registration, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the National Mortgage Association (GMNA) are all under HUD.

Interest - What a lender charges to borrow money. The part of the borrower’s monthly payment that goes to the lender after the principal has been applied against the loan balance.

Investment Property – A property that is not occupied by the owner as their primary residence but is instead used to produce income, depreciation for tax benefits or future gains by appreciation.

Joint Tenancy A legal way for parties to co-own real property with equal rights to the real estate.  Should any of the joint tenancy owners die, no interest in the property can be transferred by will as the remaining joint tenant(s) acquires all ownership.

Landlord  - The owner or lessor of a leased property.

Late Charge - As established in the original agreement, the penalty that is due when the borrower fails to pay by a certain number of days after the payment due date.  There is usually a 15 day grace period on traditional mortgages before late charges are incurred.  Rent payments often have a 3 – 5 day grace period.

Lead Based Paint  -  Prior to 1978 paint that was used in construction often had concentrations of lead. These materials have since been taken off the market as they can be harmful. When selling or leasing a property that was built prior to 1978, the owner should take care to provide the buyer or tenant with a lead based paint disclosure.

Lease - A contract between a landlord and a tenant that transfers the right to exclusive possession and use of the landlord’s real property to the tenant for a specified period of time for a stated consideration.

Lease Purchase - A contract between a tenant and an owner by which part of the monthly rent payments may go toward down payment on the property.  When pre-determined sufficient funds are received by the seller, the buyer may seek a first mortgage through a typical lender or in some cases with the seller.

Legal Description - The written description of a piece of land giving all pertinent information such as land lot, subdivision name, Block, parcel, acreage, etc. that comprises a legal and sufficient description of a particular property.  For a real estate contract to be binding it must include an accurate legal description.

Lessee - The person to whom property is rented or leased; called a tenant in most residential leases.

Lessor - The person who rents or leases property to another.  In residential leasing, he or she is often referred to as a landlord.  One who leases property to a tenant.

Listing Agent - A real estate agent that represents the seller of the property. (see Agent)

Listing Broker - The broker that represents the seller and has the property listed for sale.  It is often another broker, representing a buyer, that secures an offer to purchase the property.  In such cases, the brokers cooperate (co-op) and the commission is split between the two companies.

Listing Contract (also called Listing Agreement)- A real estate broker (or agent, acting on behalf of the broker) and a seller sign this agreement in order to give the broker the rights to advertise the property and represent the seller.  The seller's real estate is then listed for sale, most often in a multiple listing service.  In most cases the payment of a commission to the brokerage is contingent upon the agent procuring a satisfactory buyer for the property within the time frame of the Listing Contract.  The commission is then paid to the broker from the seller’s proceeds at closing.  Flat fee listing contracts have become popular, whereby a seller may pay a specified amount upfront for the services received. All details are typically determined by the listing contract.

Listing/ Listing Agreement - A written agreement between a property owner and a broker authorizing the broker to advertise the property and find a buyer or a tenant for a specific property. ( See Listing Contract)

Metes & Bounds  - Land measurement of real property described by using directions, angles, and distances. To properly describe the subject property it begins and ends at the same point and is usually done by a licensed surveyor.

MLS - An acronym for "Multiple Listing Service."  MLS is composed of hundreds of database computer systems located throughout the USA for real estate agents to showcase their available real estate listings that are for sale and for lease. MLS listings in most cities are now available for viewing by the public on

Molds - Fungi that may be present both indoors and out.  Prior to a real estate closing, a termite inspection is usually performed to inspect for termites, mold and mildew on the property or in a crawl space.

Mortgage - A legal document signed by borrower(s) and promising a property to the lender in return for payment of a debt.  Some states use First Trust Deeds instead of mortgages.

Mortgage Banker - A lender that originates mortgage loans through mortgage brokers for sale to investors such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae.

Mortgage Broker - A company that buys mortgages from mortgage bankers to sell to investors such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Mortgage Insurance - Insurance paid by the borrower to insure the lender against default in case of non payment of the mortgage loan.  The mortgage insurance company may buy the property or just cover part of the losses to the lender.  Many government loans and some conventional loans require mortgage insurance with loans to value over 80%.

Mortgage Interest Rate - The percentage rate lenders charge for mortgage loans; shown on the note signed at closing.

Mortgagee - The lender originating and closing the mortgage loan in their name prior to selling to a broker for investor purchase.

Mortgagor - The borrower signing the note in a mortgage loan process.

Multiple Listing Service  - (also known as the acronym "MLS" ) Multiple Listing Service is composed of hundreds of database computer systems located throughout the USA for real estate agents to showcase their available real estate listings that are for sale and for lease.  Multiple Listing Service listings in most cities are now available for viewing by the public on

Note - A statement borrowers sign at loan closing that gives the terms of repayment.  This also includes the borrower’s promise to repay.

Notice of Default - A formal written notice to a borrower that a default has occurred (i.e. payment has not been received) and that legal action may be taken.

Option - The right to purchase or lease property within a pre-determined time at a specific price. There is no obligation to purchase, but the seller is obligated to sell if the option holder exercises the right to purchase. For the option to be valid, it must include consideration (i.e. earnest money).

Origination Fee - The fee charged by most lenders to originate a loan, typically one percent of the loan amount.

Owner Financing – The seller provides financing so that the buyer does not have to go through a bank or traditional sources to obtain funding to purchase the property. The seller does not receive all proceeds at once, as in a traditional closing where the buyer obtains bank financing, but the seller does receive interest in addition to the principal.

Payment - The monthly amount due that a borrower must pay on a mortgage loan.

Personal Liability - Person is legally liable for individual action, responsibility or activity.

PITI - Principal, interest, taxes and insurance combined.  When less then 20% is paid as a down payment on a property, most lenders will require that  each monthly payment include at least 1/12 of the annual taxes and 1/12 of the annual insurance in addition to the required principal and interest.

Possession - The buyer occupying the property that is purchased or a tenant occupying the property that is leased. In a real estate sale, possession is rarely granted prior to closing when the seller receives their funds.

Prepaid - Items paid in advance of closing, such as real estate taxes and
homeowner’s insurance premium.

Prepayment Penalty - A fee charged when a borrower pays a mortgage in full prior to the agreed upon date.  The note and deed would advise of any such penalty.

Prequalification - Having a mortgage lender advise that debt ratios and credit report plus other factors show a borrower qualifies for a particular loan amount before signing a contract.

Principal - The outstanding loan balance not including interest.

Private Mortgage Insurance - Insurance paid to a private firm to insure the top 20% to 25% of a loan against default.  It is rarely required when the owners’ equity exceeds 20% of the fair market value of the property.

Property Tax - Taxes payable to the county where the property is located. Taxes are usually paid on an annual basis and based on the county’s determined value of the property. Many counties will offer a homestead exemption, which is a reduction in taxes, if the real estate is your primary residence. Check with your local county tax assessor’s office for details.

Purchase and Sale Agreement - The contract between the buyer and seller stating terms, conditions, sales price and other pertinent information about the property being purchased.

Quit Claim Deed - A document by which one property owner releases his or her claims, rights and interest in a particular property.

Radon - A natural gas found in the environment.  If present inside a home, it can be harmful in sufficient concentrations.  Radon gas testing is available.

Rate Lock -When the lender issues a written commitment to a borrower as to a specific interest rate for a specific period of time.

Real Estate Agent - A person licensed to advertise and negotiate the sale and lease of real estate on behalf of the property owner.  See Agent.

Real Estate Commission - Each state has a Real Estate Commission or similarly named department or agency that oversees the licensure of real estate agents and real estate brokers in that state.  Qualifications and requirements for licensure differ from state to state. This Commission (or department or agency) may also oversee similar licensure, such as real estate appraisers.  This Commission sets all policies, procedures, and rules for practicing real estate within the state.

Realtor – (also known as Realtor®  or REALTOR® ) A  real estate broker or a real estate agent who holds active membership in a local board of Realtors that is affiliated with the National Association of Realtors® (or NAR).  The NAR has a Code of Ethics that all members are to adhere to.  All Realtors are real estate brokers and real estate salespeople, but not all real estate brokers and real estate salespeople are Realtors (members of the National Association of Realtors.)

Refinancing - Obtaining a different loan for the benefit of perhaps a lower interest rate, converting an ARM to a fixed rate, or to take out some of the equity in the property.  The borrower re-applies for a mortgage and goes through another closing transaction on the property they have previously mortgaged. The new loan pays off and replaces the original loan.

Rent with option to buy (or lease purchase option) - An alternative financing option that allows home buyers to lease a home with an option to purchase at the end of the lease. Each month's rent payment may consist of the customary rent payment, plus an extra amount that is applied towards the down
payment on the purchase.

Reserves - Money that mortgage companies set aside in separate non-interest bearing accounts to pay taxes, homeowners’ association dues and insurance premiums.

Restrictions - Covenants or other types of conditions in the deed or other real estate documents that restrict the use, restructure and care of real estate involved in the transaction.

Return On Investment (ROI) - is how much profit or cost savings is realized as a result of participating in the investment.

Selling Agent - A real estate agent who represents the seller in a transaction

Sweat Equity - The equity earned as a result of the owners’ labor in upgrading and improving the property.

Tax Deed - A deed that is used to convey title when the real estate is purchased from the county, having been auctioned off to pay for back taxes that went unpaid by the original property owner.

Tax Lien - A lien against a property for unpaid taxes.

Tenancy by the Entirety - A special type of real estate ownership that is reserved for married couples.  The law considers the marital unit to be the owner and both spouses have an equal, undivided interest in the whole.  Both spouses have the right to enjoy the property, and when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse gets title to the property in the entirety. It is similar to joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, but it is a term that is only used in certain states.

Tenancy in Common - A type of ownership in which two or more people have an undivided interest in property, without the right of survivorship. Upon death of one of the owners, his or her interest passes, not to the co-owner(s) but to whomever they have chosen as their heir.

Term - The length of time it will take to pay the mortgage in full.

Time is of the Essence - The statement in a contract which emphasizes that punctual performance by all parties is essential.

Time Limit of an Offer - An offer should include a specified time period during which the other party must decide to accept, reject, or counter the offer.

Title Company -The company that, for a fee, checks and insures the title against liens, ownership claims, and title problems.

Title Insurance - An insurance policy that may be purchased to protect the new owner from any liens or clouds against the title.  In order to issue title insurance, the issuer will perform a title search in the county records.  Since title is searched at the time of closing, title insurance is usually less expensive at the time of closing, rather than if a buyer called the title company at a later time, as an additional title search would have to be performed prior to issuing the insurance.

Transaction Broker - A transaction broker (also referred to as a facilitator, coordinator or contract broker) is not a representative or agent for either the buyer or the seller.  The job of a transaction broker is to help both the buyer and the seller with the necessary paperwork and formalities involved in transferring ownership of real property.

Transfer Tax - A tax that is collected at closing for the transfer of ownership of real property.

Truth in Lending Act - Federal law that makes lenders disclose, in writing, all terms, charges and APR to borrowers upon loan application and again at the closing of the mortgage loan.

Underwriters - Trained individuals that make the final decision of whether each loan is approved, approved with conditions, or denied.

Underwriting - The final approval or rejection by a lender upon reviewing all pertinent details of a loan applicant’s credit worthiness.

VA Mortgage - Typically a 100% loan made to veterans.  They must qualify by providing proof of eligibility.  When selling a house originally purchased through VA eligibility, the veteran should get a “Release of Liability” so that he can obtain a VA loan in the future.

Warranty - A binding promise that certain statements are true.

Warranty Deed - A deed warranting that the grantor has clear title and promises he has the right to convey the property to the buyer.

Zoning - Local requirements for the use of real estate in a particular area.


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