Terms And Definitions

Select the first letter of the word:



The voluntary relinquishment of rights of ownership or other interest (such as an easement) by failure to use the property, coupled with an intent to abandon (give up the interest).


A reduction or decrease. Usually applies to a decrease of assessed valuation of ad valorem taxes after the assessment and levy.


A summary, an abridgement. Before the use of photo static copying, public records were kept by abstracts of recorded documents.

Abstracter’s Certificate

A certificate contained in an abstract which shows the time period and scope of the search of public records done by the abstracter.

Abstract Of Judgment

A summary of the essential provisions of a court judgment, which when recorded in the county recorder’s office, creates a lien upon the property of the defendant in that county, both presently owned or after acquired.

Abstract Of Title

A compilation of the recorded documents relating to a parcel of land, from which an attorney may give an opinion as to the condition of title. Still in use in some states, but giving way to the use of title insurance.

Acceleration Clause

Clause used in an installment note and mortgage (or deed of trust), which gives the lender the right to demand payment in full upon the happening of a certain event, such as failure to pay an installment by a certain date, change of ownership without the lender’s consent, destruction of the property, or other event which endangers the security of the loan.


The location of a site in terms of how easily it may be reached by customers. employees, carriers, and others necessary to the intended use of the property


An agreement by which one accepts something different (usually less) from what is owed as full satisfaction The amount owed may be in dispute or simply accepted as full satisfaction by the creditor or claimant. The agreement and acceptance is called “Accord and Satisfaction.”


The gradual addition to the shore or bank of a waterway. The land generally becomes the property of the owner of the shore or bank, except where statutes specify otherwise.

Accrued Depreciation

(1) The amount reserved each year in the accounting system for replacement of a building or other asset. (2) The useful life of a property at any given time.


A written declaration by a person executing an instrument, given before an officer authorized to give an oath (usually a notary public), stating that the execution is of his own volition.

Acquisition Costs

Costs of acquiring property other than purchase price: escrow fees, title insurance, lenders fees, etc.

Act Of God

Damage caused by nature (floods. winds. etc.) rather than destruction by man.

Add on Interest

A method of charging interest usually used in the financing of automobiles, but not generally used in real estate financing. Interest is computed on the total amount borrowed and added on to the principal. Each payment is then deducted from this total amount. Interest on real estate loans is usually figured based on the balance owing after each payment is made (declining balance).

Adjusted Gross Income

Gross income of a building it fully rented, less an allowance for estimated vacancies.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages (arm’s)

Mortgage loans under which the interest rate is periodically adjusted to more closely coincide with current rates. The amounts and times of adjustment are agreed to at the inception of the loan. Also called: Adjustable Rate Loans, Adjustable Mortgage Loans (AML’S), Flexible Rate Loans, Variable Rate Loans.

Ad Valorem

“According to value.” A method of taxation using the value of the thing taxed to determine the amount of tax. Taxes can be either “Ad Valorem” or “Specific.” Example: A tax of $5.00 per $1000.00 of value per house is “Ad Valorem,” A tax of S5.00 per house (irrespective of value) is “Specific.”

Advance Fee

A fee charged by a broker to a seller to cover all or a portion of the broker’s costs of promoting the property. The fee is generally credited against commissions but is not refunded if no commissions are received. Most frequently used in connection with large offerings which require a substantial outlay of funds for promotion.


A relationship created when one person (the principal) delegates to another (the agent) the fight to act on his or her behalf in business transactions.

All inclusive Trust Deed (wrap-around mortgage)

A financing technique which involves the creation of a new trust deed which includes the balance due on the existing note plus any new funds advanced.

American Land Title Association (ALTA)

A national association of title insurance companies, abstractors, and agents. The association adopts standard title policy forms.


Payment of a debt in equal installments of principal and interest, rather than interest only payments.

Annual Percentage Rate (a.p.r.)

The yearly interest percentage of a loan, as expressed by the actual rate of interest paid. For example: 6% add-on interest would be much more than 6% simple interest, even though both would say 6%. The A.P.R. is disclosed as a requirement of federal truth in lending statutes and should include all finance charges.

Appel Loan (Accelerating Payoff Progressive Equity Loan)

A residential property loan which calls for a payment increase over the first 6 years. Level payments are made for the remaining years and the loan paid off during the 15th year. There is no prepayment penalty and P.M.I. is required.


An opinion of value based upon a factual analysis. Legally, an estimation of value by two disinterested persons of suitable qualifications.

Appraisal Methods

Generally, three major methods of appraisal: Cost Approach, Income Approach, Market Value (comparables) Approach.


(1) Payment made after it is due is in arrears. (2) Interest is said to be paid in arrears since it is paid to the date of payment rather than in advance, as is rent. Example: A rental payment made July 1 pays the rent to August 1. An interest payment made July 1 Pays the interest to July 1.


A mortgage loan which can be transferred to another person without a change in the terms of the loan. VA and FHA loans are assumable, FHLMC and FNMA are not.

Assumption of Note

Agreement by a buyer to assume the liability under an existing note secured by a mortgage or deed of trust. The lender usually must approve the new debtor in order to release the existing debtor (usually the seller) from liability.

Avigation Easement

An easement over private property abut-ting an airport runway, which limits the height of crops, trees, structures. etc., in the aircraft’s take off and landing path.


Balloon Note

A note calling for periodic payments which are insufficient to fully amortize the face amount of the note prior to maturity, so that a principal sum known as a “balloon” is due at maturity.

Balloon Payment

The unpaid principal amount of a loan due on a specific date in the future. Usually the amount that must be paid in a lump sum at the end of the term.


One who is adjudicated a bankrupt by a court having proper jurisdiction. The bankruptcy may be voluntary (petitioned by the bankrupt) or involuntary (petitioned by the creditors of the bankrupt).


Proceedings under federal bankruptcy statutes to relieve a debtor (bankrupt) from insurmountable debt. The bankrupt’s property is distributed by the court to the creditors as full satisfactions of the debts, in accordance with certain priorities and exemptions. Voluntary bankruptcy is petitioned by the debtor for, involuntary by the creditors.

Before And After Method

An appraisal method used in both condemnation and modernization. In condemnation the method is used in a partial taking. The value of the total land owned by A, for example, is $1.00 per sq. ft. After a partial taking, the remaining land of A is worth $.75 per sq. ft. A should receive $1.00 per sq. ft. for the property taken plus $.25 per sq. ft. for the remaining parcel. In the event the remaining property is worth $1.25 after the taking (increased value), the payment to A could be less than the value of the property taken. In modernization, an appraiser may take the value of property before and after remodeling to determine if the value increased more than modernization costs.


The Person who is entitled to receive funds of property under the terms and provisions of a will, trust, insurance policy or security instrument. In connection with a mortgage loan the beneficiary is the lender.

Bill Of Sale

An instrument by which title to personal property is transferred or conveyed.


Also known as accelerated mortgages. Biweeklies reduce interest expense and build home equity faster than monthly payments.

Blanket Mortgage

(1) A mortgage covering more than one property of the mortgagor, such as a mortgage covering all the lots of a builder in a subdivision. (2) A mortgage covering all real property of the mortgagor, both present and future. When used in this meaning it is also called a “general mortgage”.

Bona Fide Purchaser

A purchaser in good faith. for valuable consideration, without notice or knowledge of adverse claims of others. Sometimes abbreviated B.F.P.

Book Depreciation

Depreciation reserved (on the books) by an owner for future replacement or retirement of an asset.


A part of a city, having authority over certain local matters. The best known boroughs are the five boroughs of New York City.

Breach Of Warranty

In real property, the failure of the seller to pass title as either expressed or implied (by law) in the conveyancing document.

Breast Height

The height at which the diameter of a tree is measured. A height of 4 1/2 feet above the ground level. The abbreviation D.B.H. (diameter-breast-height) is usually used.

Broker, Real Estate

One who is licensed by the state to carry on the business of dealing in real estate. A broker may receive a commission for his or her part in bringing together a buyer and seller, landlord and tenant, or parties to an exchange.

Building And Loan Association

An organization for the purpose of accumulating a fund by subscription and savings of its members, to assist them with loans for building or purchasing real estate.


A payment to the lender from the seller, buyer, third party, or some combination of these, causing the lender to reduce the interest rate during the early years of a loan. The buydown is usually for the first 1 to 5 years of the loan.

Buy-Sell Offer

An offer by one owner of a business or real estate to buy out the interest of another owner of the same business or real estate (a partner or other shareholder), or to sell the offerer’s interest at the same price or proportionate price if unequal ownership. Example: A and B each own a 112 interest in lot 1. A offers to buy B’s interest for $10,000 or to sell A’s interest to B for $10,000. Theoretically very fair, since B has the option to buy or sell. However, B’s interest may be worth $12,000, but B is financially unable to buy A’s interest (also worth $12,000).





In a metes and bounds description, the angle and distance of a given line or arc. Each call is usually preceded by the word then or thence. Example: N 220 E 100′ (lst. call), thence N 800 E 1W (2nd. call).

Cancellation Clause

A clause in a lease or other contract, setting forth the conditions under which each party may cancel or terminate the agreement. The conditions may be as simple as giving notice or complex and require payment by the party desiring to cancel.


The maximum which an adjustable rate mortgage may increase, regardless of index changes.

Capital Assets

Assets of a permanent nature used to produce income, such as machinery, buildings, equipment, land, etc. Must be distinguished from inventory. A machine which makes pencils, for example, would be a capital asset to a pencil manufacturer, but inventory to the company whose business is to sell such machines.

Capital Gains

Gains realized from the sale of capital assets. Generally, the difference between cost and selling price, less certain deductible expenses. Used mainly for income tax purposes.


An inspection of newly listed properties, either by the entire sales staff of an office or by sales personnel from more than one office in conjunction with a multiple listing group. Generally conducted on a regular basis.

Carrying Charges

The costs involved in keeping a property which is intended to produce income (either by sale or rent) but has not yet done so.

Caveat Emptor

“Let the buyer beware.” Legal maxim stating that the buyer takes the risk regarding quality or condition of the item purchased, unless protected by warranty or there is misrepresentation. Modernly, consumer protection laws have placed more responsibility for disclosure on the seller and broker.

CC and Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions)

Limitations placed on the use and enjoyment of real property. These are found most often in condominiums and planned unit developments.

Certificate Of Title

In areas where attorneys examine abstractor chains of title, a written opinion, executed by the examining attorney, stating that title is vested as stated in the abstract.

Chain of Title

A chronological list of recorded instruments tracing title to land, from the original owner to the present owner.

Chains And Links

Measurements. In real estate measurements (surveying) a chain is 66′ long or 100 links, each link being 7.92.” The measurement may change when used in fields other than surveying.

Classified Property Tax

Property tax which varies in rate depending on the use (zoning classification) of the property.

Clear Title

Title to property which is free from liens, defects or other encumbrances.


(1) In real estate sales, the final procedure in which documents are executed and/or recorded, and the sale (or loan) is completed. (2) A selling term meaning the point at which the client or customer is asked to agree to the sale or purchase and sign the contract. (3) The final call in a metes and bounds legal description which “closes” the boundaries of the property.

Closing Costs

Expenses, beyond the selling price, such as loan fees, title fees, etc. Paid when documents are executed and/or recorded and the sale is complete.

Closing Statement

A summary, in the form of a balance sheet, showing the amounts of debits and credits to which each party to a real estate transaction is entitled upon closing.

Cloud On Title

An invalid encumbrance on real property, which, if valid, would affect the rights of the owner. For example: A sells lot 1, tract 1. to B. The deed is mistakenly drawn to read lot 2 by the recording of the erroneous deed. The cloud may be removed by quitclaim deed, or, it necessary, by court action.


A sharing of the risk of an insurance policy by more than one insurer. Usually one insurer is liable up to a certain amount, the other liable over that amount.

Commercial Property

Property which is zoned “commercial” (for business use). Property such as stores, restaurants, etc., falling between residential and industrial.


To mix funds held in trust with other funds. For example: A broker or builder mixes deposits (should be in a trust account) with his funds by putting the deposits in his general account. Although commingling is in itself a violation for which a broker may lose his license, it does not mean that, by commingling, the broker or builder intended to misappropriate the funds.


Compensation due a real estate broker for acting on behalf of the principal.

Community Property

Property acquired during a marriage by either a husband or wife, or both, which is not separate property.

Comparables (Comps)

An abbreviation for comparable properties used for comparative purposes in the appraisal process.

Conditional Sales Contract

A sale in which the title to property or goods remains with the seller until the purchaser has fulfilled the terms of the contract, usually payment in full.


A structure of two or more units, the interior space of which are individually owned: the balance of the property (both land and building) is owned in common by the owners of the individual units. The size of each unit is measured from the interior surfaces (exclusive of paint or other finishes) of the exterior walls, floors, and ceiling. The balance of the property is called the common area.


A required element in all contracts by which some-thing of value, including a promise, is exchanged for the act or promise of another.


Action conditioned upon a certain event. Acceptance of the terms of a contract based on something else happening or certain conditions being met.


The transfer of title or an interest in real property by means of a written instrument such as a deed of trust.


Declaration Of Trust

A written acknowledgement by one holding legal title to property that the property is held in trust for the benefit of another.

Declining Balance Method Of Depreciation

Depreciation by a fixed annual percentage of the balance after deducting each yearly depreciation amount.


Actually, any one of many conveyancing or financing instruments, but generally a conveyancing instrument, given to pass fee title to property upon sale.

Deed Of Trust

An instrument used in many states in place of a mortgage. Property is transferred to a trustee by the borrower (trustor) in favor of the lender (beneficiary), and reconveyed upon payment in full.

Defeasible Title

Title which is not absolute but possibly may be annulled or voided at a later date. For example: Title conveyed to A with condition that if A marries before age 30, title will go to B. A’s title may be good (doesn’t marry) or may be defeated (marries before 30).

Deficiency Judgment

Commonly the amount for which the borrower is personally liable on a note and mortgage if the foreclosure sale does not bring enough to cover the debt. Actually the judgment is for the total amount and not for the deficiency, the recovery from the foreclosure sale being deducted from this amount.


In a conveyance, the placing of the property in the actual or constructive possession of the grantee. Usually accomplished by delivery of a deed to the buyer, or by recording said deed.


The lender’s statement of the amount due to pay of a loan.

Demand Note

A note having no date for repayment, but due on demand of the lender.


(1) Money given by the buyer with an offer to purchase. Shows good faith. Also called earnest money. (2) A natural accumulation of resources (oil, gold, etc.) which may be commercially recovered and marketed.


(1) Decrease in value to real property improvements caused by deterioration or obsolescence. (2) A loss in value as an accounting procedure to use as a deduction for income tax purposes.

Direct Reduction Mortgage

An amortized mortgage. One on which principal and interest payments are paid at the same time (usually monthly) with interest being computed on the remaining balance.

Discount Points

The fee associated with the note rate for your loan, the more discount points you pay the lower the rate you can buy, the fewer you pay, the higher your rate. If the rate is high enough, the loan is priced above par and these premium points are available to pay closing costs creating a no or low fee loan.

Disposition of Real Estate Statement

A statement that the buyer will occupy the property being purchased even though the buyer owns other property. The buyer states that the other property will be sold or rented. Particulars must be given as to any loan on the property and the equity or rent to payment amounts.

Documentary Transfer Tax

The tax, based on sales price, less loans which are being assumed, which is charged by the city and/or county on the transfer of real property.

Double Declining Balance Method Of Depreciation

A use of the declining balance method, but with double the depreciation allowable by straight line. An accelerated method.

Double Escrow

Two concurrent escrows on the same property, having the same party as buyer and seller of the property. Example: Escrow 1 -A buys from B. Escrow 2 -A sells the same property to C. A is using C’s money to buy B’s property. The process is illegal in many states unless full disclosure is made.

Dual Agency

The representation of opposing principals (buyer and seller) at the same time. In brokerage many states get around this by saying that the agent aids the buyer but is the agent of the seller only. A problem arises if both buyer and seller pay the broker, Then full disclosure must be made. An escrow agent is the agent of buyer and seller and usually paid by both. This is why an escrow agent must be neutral.

Due on-Sale-Clause

A clause in a mortgage loan which gives the lender the right to demand payment in full when the property changes ownership. Not applicable to FHA or VA loans.



A right created by grant, reservation, agreement, prescription, or necessary implication, which one has in the land of another. It is either for the benefit of land (appurtenant), such as right to cross A to get to B. or “in gross,” such as a public utility easement.

Easement of Necessity

An easement granted by a court when it is determined that said easement is absolutely necessary for the use and enjoyment of the land. Commonly given to landlocked parcels.


A term concerning a right to come and go across the land (public or private) of another. Usually part of the term ingress and egress.

Eleemosynary Corporation

A corporation created for charitable purposes. There are tax advantages accorded to such corporations. The corporation may operate the same as a profit making corporation. Commonly called a nonprofit corporation.

Encumbrance, Incumbrance

A claim, lien, charge, or liability attached to and binding real property. Any right to, or interest in, land which may exist in one other than the owner, but which will not prevent the transfer of fee title.

Equitable Conversion

A legal fiction applied to a land contract which treats the vendee’s (buyer’s) interest as a real property interest even though the seller holds legal title, and the seller’s interest as a security interest (personal property). This enables the buyer to act as the “owner” of the property without having “legal” title.

Equitable Mortgage

(1) A lien against real property (mortgage)which is enforceable in a court of equity, but does not legally constitute a mortgage. (2) A deed given as security for a debt will be held to be a mortgage rather than a transfer of title. Also called a constructive mortgage.


The value of a person’s interest in real property after all liens and charges have been deducted.

Equity Line Of Credit

A combination of a line of credit and equity loan. A maximum loan amount is established based on credit and equity. A mortgage (deed of trust) is recorded against the potential borrower’s property for said maximum loan amount. The potential borrower has the right to borrow, as needed, up to the amount of the mortgage.

Escalation Clause

A clause in a lease providing for an increased rental at a future time. May be accomplished by several types of clauses, such as (1) Fixed increase – A clause which calls for a definite, periodic rental increase. (2) Cost of living – A clause which ties the rent to a government cost of living index, with periodic adjustments as the index changes. (3) Direct expense – The rent is adjusted according to changes in the expenses of the property paid by the lessor, such as tax increases. increased maintenance costs, etc.


Delivery of a deed by a grantor to a third party for delivery to the grantee upon the happening of a contingent event, Modernly, in some states, all instruments necessary to the sale (including funds) are delivered to a third (neutral) party, with instructions as to their use.

Excess Condemnation

Taking by right of eminent domain, more property than actually necessary for the intended purpose. This happens frequently, the excess property being sold at auction after completion of the project.


A provision in a title insurance binder or policy excludes liability for a specified title defect or an outstanding encumbrance.

Exclusive Listing

A written contract between a property owner and a real estate broker, whereby the owner promises to pay a fee or commission to the broker it certain real property of the owner is sold during a stated period, regardless of whether the broker is or is not the cause of the sale. The broker promises to put forth his or her best efforts to sell the property, and may make specific promises as to advertising or other promotion in certain instances.

Exemplary Damages

Damages to punish (make an example of) the offender. This is done when the wrong is deliberate or grossly negligent and compensatory damages do not appear to be sufficient.

Expert Testimony

Testimony by one acknowledged to have special training and knowledge in a particular subject. Only testimony on the subject in which the witness is “expert” is considered expert testimony.


(1) The degree to which a property for sale, lease, etc., is made noticeable (exposed) to potential buyers, tenants, etc., through advertising, multiple listing groups, etc. (2) The direction in which a property faces. For example: Does a store depending on walk-in trade face the sun in the morning when people walk in the sun to get warm (eastern exposure), or face the sun in the afternoon when people walk in the shade to keep cool (western exposure).


Fair Market Value

An appraisal term for the price which a property would bring in a competitive market given a willing seller and willing buyer, each of whom has a reasonable knowledge of all pertinent facts, with neither being under any compulsion to buy or sell.

Fee Simple

An estate under which the owner owns a contract interest in the property and is entitled to the unrestricted enjoyment of the property, including the right to dispose property.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (f.d.i.c)

The federal corporation which insures against loss of deposits in banks, up to a maximum amount.

Federal Home Loan Banks

Banks created under the Federal Home Loan Bank Act of 1932, in order to keep a permanent supply of money available for home financing. The banks are controlled by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. Savings and loans, insurance companies, and other similar companies making long term mortgage loans may become members of the Federal Home Loan Bank System, and thus may borrow from one of the regional banks throughout the country.

Federal National Mortgage Association

(Fannie Mae): A tax paying corporation created by Congress to support the secondary mortgage market. It purchases and sells residential mortgages insured by FHA or guaranteed by VA as conventional home mortgages.


(1) Modernly, and not in strict legal terms, synonymous with fee simple or “ownership.” (2) A charge made by a landlord to a tenant, which is not refundable. For example: A cleaning deposit would be refunded if the tenant left the rented property reasonably clean. A cleaning fee would be a charge by the landlord for cleaning the rented property and would not be refunded regardless of the condition of the property.

FHA (Federal Housing Administration)

A federal agency which insures first mortgages, enabling lenders to loan a very high percentage of the sale price.

FHLMC (Freddie Mac)

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation – A federal agency purchasing first mortgages, both conventional and federally insured, from members of the Federal Reserve System, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System.

Finance Charge

A total of all costs imposed directly or indirectly by the creditor and payable either directly or indirectly by the customer, as defined by the federal Truth-In-Lending laws.

Financial Statement

An accounting statement showing assets and liabilities of a person or company. Used generally for large loans or other instances when the credit report (history of payment of debts) in itself is not sufficient.

Finder’s Fee

A fee paid to someone who finds a buyer or property for a broker, buyer, etc. The term is sometimes used to attempt to pay a commission to an unlicensed person. Generally, a finder’s fee is considered a commission and may only be paid to one who holds a real estate license.

First Mortgage

A mortgage on property that is superior in position to any other mortgage.

First Refusal Right

A right, usually given by an owner to a lessee, which gives the lessee a first chance to buy the property if the owner decides to sell. The owner must have a legitimate offer which the lessee can match or refuse. It the lessee refuses, the property can then be sold to the offeror.

First User

A tax term signifying the one who builds or buys property and is the first one to put the buildings to use. Certain tax (depreciation) advantages are given to a first user. The term concerns only depreciable property (improvements) and prior use of the land only (farming) would not be considered.

Fixed Rate Loan

A loan on which the same rate of interest is charged for the life of the loan.


Personal property which is permanently attached to the property, and, as such, becomes part of the real property.

FNMA Buydown

FNMA (Federal National Mortgage Association) accepts loans containing a buy down provision on single family residential, owner occupied properties. A prepayment (points) will buy a lower rate of interest during the first one to five years of the loan. Restrictions apply as to the amount of the buydown and rise in payment amount as the loan progresses.


The taking of an individual’s properly by a government, because the individual has committed a crime. In the United States, private property cannot be taken, except by eminent domain upon payment of just compensation, or for nonpayment of taxes.


(1) A statutory right which could not be exercised in the absence of the statute, such as the statutes enabling persons to form a corporation. Since a corporation is created by the statute, it could not be formed except by the grant of the legislature. (2) A combination of individual ownership and central control. One may own a fast food restaurant, hotel, hardware store, etc., yet use the name of a national company. Each individual owner pays for the name use, advertising, and may be required to make certain purchases (napkins, buns, etc.) from the national company. The real estate brokerage business was slow to use the franchise method, but now has many companies operating in this manner.

Front Foot Cost

A determination of the value of real property based on a value per foot as measured along the frontage of a parcel. Usually used with commercial property or waterfront.

Full Disclosure

In real estate, revealing all the known facts which may affect the decision of a buyer or tenant. A broker must disclose known defects in the property for sale or lease. A builder must give to a potential buyer the facts of his new development (are there adequate school facilities?” sewer facilities? (an airport nearby?, etc.). A broker cannot charge a commission to buyer and seller unless both know (disclosure) and agree.

Future Acquired Property

Property acquired after a loan or sale. For example: A loan agreement may state that the loan is a lien on all property presently owned or which the borrower may acquire in the future.

Future Interest

A present interest, but only a future right to possession and enjoyment of the land, such as a remainder interest, reversionary interest, etc.



A legal proceeding under which a person’s money in control of another (such as salary) is taken for payment of a debt. The amount which may be taken is set by statute (usually as a percentage), and, in most states, a judgment is necessary before garnishment.

General Lien

(1) A lien such as a tax lien or judgment lien which attaches to all property of the debtor rather than the lien of, for example, a trust deed, which attaches only to specific property. (2) The right of a creditor to hold personal property of a debtor for payment of a debt not associated with the property being held. Must be done under an agreement since against general precepts of law.

General Membership

A partnership made up of general partners, without special (limited) partners.

Georgian Architecture

A colonial style of architecture dating back to the eighteenth century. Characterized by first floor windows extending to the ground, its exterior placements (windows, doors. etc.) are simple and well balanced yet formal in appearance.


To divide an area into districts, against the obvious natural divisions, in order to accomplish an unlawful purpose. For example: To divide a school district to keep out certain people for reasons of race or religion, to divide a political voting district so as to give power to a political party.

GNMA (government National Mortgage Association) Options

A method of purchasing GNMA securities through “puts” and calls.” A GNMA Call Option is the right to buy GNMA securities at a specific yield for a specified time, A Put Option is the right to sell GNMA securities at a specific yield for a specified time. The buyer pays for the option and may exercise it, not exercise it, or sell it.

Graduated Payment Mortgage

A mortgage or deed of trust calling for increasingly higher payments over the term of the loan. This allows the buyer low beginning payments. The payments then increase as (theoretically) the buyer’s earnings increase.


One to whom a grant is made. The purchaser of real property.


One who has made a grant. The seller of real property.

Grantor Grantee Index

The record of the passing of title to all the properties in a county as kept by the county recorder’s office. Property is checked by tracing the names of the sellers and buyers (chain of title). Title companies usually have more efficient methods by keeping records according to property description, rather than peoples names.

Gross Income

The scheduled (total) income, either actual or estimated, derived from a business or property.

Gross Income Multiplier

A figure which, when multiplied by the annual gross income, will theoretically determine the market value. A general rule of thumb which varies with specific properties and areas.

Gross Lease

A lease which obligates the lessor to pay all or part of the expenses of the leased property, such as taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, etc.


(1) Thin mortar used in masonry work to fill joints between bricks, blocks, tiles. etc. (2) A variety of plaster used to finish ceilings of superior quality.

Growing Equity Mortgage (g.e.m.)

A fixed rate, graduated payment loan allowing low beginning payments and a shorter term because of higher payments as the loan progress. Based on the theory of increasing income by the buyer and, therefore. ability to make higher future payments. When state law applies, usury laws in some states may not presently allow such loans when less than interest only payments create interest on interest.


Agreement to pay the debt or perform the obligation of another in the event the debt is not paid or obligation not performed. Differs from a surety agreement in that there must be a failure to pay or perform before the guaranty can be in effect.


Hard Money Mortgage

A mortgage given in return for cash, rather than to secure a portion of the purchase price, as with a purchase money mortgage.


One who by law, rather than by will, receives the estate of a deceased person.


(1) Anything which could be considered real property. (2) Anything which may be inherited.

Hidden Defect

An encumbrance on a title that is not apparent in the public records; for example, unknown heirs, secret marriages and forged instruments.


Portion of a loan held back by the lender until a contingency is met. In the sale of a home insured by V.A. or F.H.A., funds may be held back to make necessary improvements to bring the property to V.A. or F.H.A. standards. The money to make “these” repairs may not be available until closing. One and one halt to double the estimated amount necessary is held back. If repairs are not made in the time allowed, these funds are used to make the repairs. In construction financing, funds are held back until, for example, a certain percentage of a subdivision has been sold, or a certain portion of a building has been constructed.

Holder In Due Course

A holder of a check or note who takes, for value and in good faith, the note before it is overdue or the check without knowledge that it has bounced, if, in fact it has.

Holding Period

The time period used by the IRS to determine a long or short term capital gain. The period during which the taxpayer owns the capital asset.


The dwelling (house and contiguous land) of the head of a family. Some states grant statutory exemptions, protecting homestead property (usually to a set maximum amount) against the rights of creditors. Property tax exemptions (for all or part of the tax) are also available in some states. Statutory requirements to establish a homestead may include a formal declaration to be recorded.

Home Warranty Insurance

Private insurance insuring a buyer against defects (usually in plumbing, heating, and electrical) in the home he has purchased. The period of insurance varies and both new and used homes may be insured.

Housing Starts

Number of houses on which construction has begun. The figures are used to determine the availability of housing, need for real estate loans, need for labor and materials, etc.


To mortgage or pledge without delivery of the security to the lender.


Impound Account

Account held by a lender for payment of taxes, insurance, or other periodic debts against real property. The mortgagor or trustor pays a portion of, for example, the yearly taxes, with each monthly payment. The lender pays the tax bill from the accumulated funds.


Generally, buildings, but may include any permanent structure or other development; such as a street, utilities. etc.

Inchoate Instrument

An unrecorded instrument (such as a deed) which is valid only between the parties and those having actual notice: but not against “the world” as it would be after recording.




Income Averaging

A method of figuring income tax by paying tax on the average income per year for the past five years. For example: A, a real estate salesperson, earns $10,000 taxable income for 4 years. In the fifth year, A sells a shopping center and earns $100,000 taxable income. A-could take the total income for 5 years ($140,000), divide by 5 ($28,000), and pay tax on $28,000 for the past 5 years, less what A has already paid.

Increasing And Diminishing Returns

An economic theory that an increase in capital or manpower will not increase production proportionately (five workers may do less than five times the work of one worker; and two workers may do more than twice the work of one worker). When the increase in production is proportionately greater than the addition, there is an increasing return, when production is proportionately less than the addition. the return diminishes.

Industrial Tax Exemption

An exemption from local property taxes granted to encourage industries to come into an area. Has been used successfully in the South. Usually granted for a definite period.

Inheritance Tax

A tax on the transfer of property from a deceased person: based on the right to acquire the property rather than the property itself.

Installment Contract

A method of purchasing by installment (usually monthly) payments. When referring to real property, it is usually called a land contract.

Institutional Lenders

Banks, savings and loan associations and other businesses which make loans to the public in the ordinary course of business, rather than individuals, or companies which may make loans to employees.

Insured Mortgage

A mortgage insured against loss to the mortgagee in the event of default and a failure of the mortgaged property to satisfy the balance owing plus costs of foreclosure. May be insured by F.H.A., V.A., or by private mortgage insurance companies.

Interest Cap

The maximum interest rate increase of an Adjustable Mortgage Loan. For example: a 120% loan with a 5% interest rate cap would have maximum interest for the life of the loan which would not exceed 17%.


A court action which may be filed in an existing case to be the initial action. One holding funds which are in dispute, but not having an interest in the funds, would file an interpleader. For example: An escrow agent is holding a deposit of a buyer which funds both buyer and seller claim to be entitled. Escrow is willing to give the funds to either buyer or seller but does not want to be liable for giving the funds to the wrong party. The interpleader filed by the escrow agent asks the court to determine to whom the funds should be awarded.

Interstate Land Sales

Sales of land to a buyer in another state. Because the buyer is usually totally dependent on the seller for information regarding the property, federal disclosure laws have been passed to aid the buyer. The buyer also has a period (now 3 days) after signing a purchase agreement, in which to rescind. The laws were passed because of the large promotional land sales of the 50′s and early 60′s, some of which sold worthless desert and swamp land.

Involuntary Conversion

Conversion of real property to personal property (money) without the voluntary act of the owner. This occurs when property is taken by eminent domain (condemnation). The owner is allowed to convert back to real property (buy another property) without paying tax on the gain from the condemnation. This must be done within a set time (3 years) and the prices of the old and new property are considered to form a new tax base.

IRA (individual Retirement Account)

Savings programs available to individuals. The plans allow for a certain amount to be deposited each year. This money is not subject to income tax for that year or following years as long as it is not withdrawn. The money is taxed as withdrawn upon retirement, usually when the depositor is in a lower tax bracket. During the life of the account, the money may be put into various interest bearing investments. Securities dealers as well as banking institutions now offer IRA’S.



(1) A pier or other structure (usually of stones), built out into a body of water to hinder the currents and so protect a harbor. (2) A part of a building which projects out beyond the exterior walls, such as an overhanging second story, a balcony, etc.


Joint Appraisal

An appraisal by more than one appraiser, but one which states common conclusions of all.

Joint Tenancy

An undivided interest in property, taken by two or more joint tenants. The interests must be equal, accruing under the same conveyance, and beginning at the same time. Upon the death of a joint tenant, the interest passes to the surviving joint tenants, rather than to the heirs of the deceased.


The decision of a court of law. Money judgments, when recorded, become a lien on real property of the defendant.

Judgment Lien

A lien against the property of a judgment debtor. An involuntary lien.

Judgment Proof

One against whom a judgment creditor cannot collect (no assets). If one can show he was defrauded by a “judgment proof” real estate licensee, he may recover from the state fund in states having such a fund,

Jumbo VA Loan

A loan for an amount greater than the allowable100% financed amount. It is determined by subtracting the maximum allowable 100% financed amount from the purchase price and financing 75% of the difference. Example: maximum allowable VA Loan-$110,000. Sale price-$130.000. Difference $20,000: 75% of the difference is $15,000. Total jumbo loan-$110,000 plus $15.000 = $125,000. Required down payment-$5,000.

Just Compensation

In condemnation the amount paid to the property owner. The theory is that in order to be “just,” the property owner should be no richer or poorer than before the taking.


Keene’s Cement

An unusually tough and durable gypsum plaster to which alum has been added. Used primarily for walls of commercial buildings.

Keogh Plan

A retirement plan whereby a self-employed person may set aside a certain portion of income (tax deferred) into a retirement account. The money is taxable upon withdrawal at retirement when the person’s tax bracket is often lower.

Keyman Insurance

Insurance through loss (through death or disability) of a “key” (important) person in a company. The liability is the estimated cost of the loss (in business lost, and replacement of the individual). Some lenders require this insurance before lending to small companies which rely on one or a few “key” people.

Knock Down

Any parts of a building which can be easily assembled, installed, or removed, such as certain types of window frames, partitions, etc.


(1)The hard, irregular shaped defects in boards, caused by cutting at the point where the branch of the tree meets the trunk. (2) A measure of speed, equal to one nautical mile (approximately 6,076 ft.) per hour.



An unreasonable delay by a party making a claim or bringing an action, so that the rights of said party are waived. Laches are not controlled by a statute of limitations.

Landowner’s Royalty

In oil and gas leases, the portion of the value of each barrel of oil which goes to the property owner.

Land Residual Technique

An appraisal technique by which land value is determined by first determining the net return attributable to the building only, and deducting it from the total return to the property (may be estimated), the residual amount is capitalized to find the land value. The building value may be determined by construction costs (new building), depreciated construction costs (it only a few years old), or estimated present construction costs (if an older building).




Late Charge

A penalty for failure to pay an installment payment on time. Usually not allowed as interest for tax deductions. May or may not be included as usury. If not, the amount of late charge is either set by statute or must be “reasonable.”

Lateral Support

The right of a landowner to the natural support of his land by adjoining land. The adjoining owner has the duty not to change his land (such as lowering it) so as to cause this support to be weakened or removed.

Lease With Option To Purchase

A lease under which the lessee has the right to purchase the property. The price and terms of the purchase must be set forth for the option to be valid. The option may run for the length of the lease or only for a portion of the lease period. Legal Description: A description by which property can be definitely located by reference to surveys or recorded maps. Sometimes referred to simply as the legal.

Legal Owner

The term has come to be used as a technical difference from the equitable owner, and not as opposed to an illegal owner. The legal owner has title to the property, although the title may actually carry no rights to the property other than a lien.

Lessee’s Interest

In appraising the value of a lessees interest to determine the value of a potential sublease of assignment (sale) of the lease, the value is the market value of the property, less the interest of the lessor. The lessor’s interest would be largely determined by the ratio of the return on the lease to the market value without the lease. Lien: A recorded document which claims an interest in real property as security for a debt owed. Such liability may be created by contract, such as a deed of trust, or by a court judgment.

Lien Waiver (waiver Of Liens)

For our purposes, a waiver of mechanic’s lien rights, signed by subcontractors so that the owner or general contractor can receive a draw on a construction loan.

Liquidated Damages

A definite amount of damages, set forth in a contract, to be paid by the party breaching the contract. A predetermined estimate of actual damages from a breach.

Lis Pendens

Legal notice that a lawsuit is pending. Also called a notice of action.

Loan Constant

The yearly percentage of interest which remains the same over the life of an amortized loan, based on the monthly payment in relation to the principal originally loaned. For example: A $1000 loan at 9% interest for 20 years can be amortized at $9.00 per month. The constant interest rate is figured by finding one year’s payments ($9.00 x 12 months = $108.00), and expressing this amount as a percentage of the principal originally borrowed (10.8% of $1000).

Loan Policy

A title insurance policy insuring a mortgagee, or beneficiary under a deed of trust, against loss caused by invalid title in the borrower, or loss caused by invalid title in the borrower, or loss of priority of the mortgage or deed of trust.

Loan Ratio

The ratio, expressed as a percentage, of the amount of a loan to the value or selling price of real property. Usually, the higher the percentage, the greater the interest charged. Maximum percentages for banks, savings and loans or government insured loans is set by statute.

Loan to Value Ratio

The ratio of the mortgage loan’s principal to the property’s appraised value or its sales price, whichever is lower.

Long Term Capital Gain

Gain on the sale of a capital asset which has been held for a specified time or longer. Long term capital gain is taxed at a special rate and not as ordinary income.


Made Land

Artificially formed land, either by filling or dredging.

Marketable Title

Title which can be readily marketed (sold) to a reasonably prudent purchaser aware of the facts and their legal meaning concerning liens and encumbrances.



Market Value

The highest price a willing buyer would pay and a willing seller accept, both being fully informed, and the property exposed for a reasonable period of time. The market value may be different from the price a property can actually be sold for at a given time (market price),

Market Value Approach

Appraising the value of a property by comparing the price of similar properties (comparables) recently sold. The degree of similarity of the properties and circumstances of the sale are the important characteristics to consider,


(1) Termination period of a note. For example: A 30 year mortgage has maturity of 30 years. (2) In sales law, the date a note becomes due.

Mechanic’s Lien

A lien created by statute for the purpose of securing priority of payment for the price or value of work performed and materials furnished in construction or repair of improvements to land, and which attaches to the land as well as the improvements.

Merger Of Title

A lesser interest in real property being merged (absorbed) into a greater interest. For example: A lessee purchases the property being leased. The interest as a lessee is merged into the interest as an owner, thus ending the leasehold interest.

Metes and Bounds

A form of land description in which boundaries are described by courses, directions, distances and monuments.


A linear measurement equal to 5280 feet on land and 6076 feet across water (nautical mile).

Money Market Mutual

Funds which invest in the “Money Market,” a variety of interest bearing securities such as treasury bills and bank certificates of deposit. None is invested directly into real property or real property securities.

Month To Month Tenancy

A tenancy where no written lease is involved, rent being paid monthly. Some obligations as to notice of moving or eviction may exist by statute.


(1) To hypothecate as security, real property for the payment of a debt. The borrower (mortgagor) retains possession and use of the property. (2) The instrument by which real estate is hypothecated as security for the repayment of a loan.

Mortgage Banker

A company providing mortgage financing with its own funds rather than simply bringing together lender and borrower, as does a mortgage broker. Although the mortgage banker used its own funds, these funds are generally borrowed and the financing is either short term or, it long term, the mortgages are sold to investors (many times insurance companies) within a short time.

Mortgage Bonds

Bonds issued by corporations, which offer first mortgages on real property of the corporation as security for the payment of the bonds.

Mortgage Broker

One who, for a fee, brings together a borrower and lender, and handles the necessary applications for the borrower to obtain a loan against real property by giving a mortgage or deed of trust as security. Also called a loan broker.

Mortgage Company

A company authorized to service real estate loans, charging a fee for this service.


The party lending the money and receiving the mortgage. Some states treat the mortgagee as the “legal” owner, entitled to rents from the property. Other states treat the mortgagee as a secured creditor, the mortgagor being the owner. The latter is the more modern and accepted view.

Mortgage Insurance

Insurance written by a private mortgage insurance company (referred to as an ‘PIC’) protecting the mortgage lender against loss incurred by a mortgage default, thus enabling the lender to lend a higher percentage of the sale price. The Federal Government writes this form of insurance through the FHA and the VA.

Mortgage Life Insurance

A term life insurance policy for the amount of the declining balance of a loan secured by a mortgage or deed of trust. The beneficiary under the policy is the mortgagee. In the event of death (some policies also cover disability) of the insured (mortgagor), the mortgage is paid in full.


Mortgage Servicing

Controlling the necessary duties of a mortgagee, such as collecting payments, releasing the lien upon payment in full, foreclosing if in default, and making sure the taxes are paid, insurance is in force, etc. Servicing may be done by the lender or a company acting for the lender, for a servicing fee.

Mutual Savings Bank

An institution owned by its depositors, as evidenced by certificates of deposit rather than stock. These institutions are active in long term real estate financing, as opposed to commercial banks, which concentrates more on short term loans.


Negative Amortization

A condition created when a loan payment is less than interest alone. Even though payments are made on time, the amount owing increases.

Negotiable Instrument

According to the Uniform Negotiable Instruments Act, an instrument is negotiable when it is in writing and signed, containing an unconditional promise or order to pay a certain amount of money, on demand, or at a definite future date, to the bearer, to order, or to a named or certain drawee.

Net Lease

A lease requiring the tenant to pay, in addition to a fixed rental, the expenses of the property leased, such as taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc. In some states the terms net net, net net net, triple net, and other such repetitions are used.

Net Worth

The difference between total assets and liabilities of an individual, corporations, etc.

No Bonus Clause

A clause under the eminent domain section of a lease, giving the lessee the right to recover only the value of his physical improvements in the event of a taking, and not the value of the leasehold interest (the difference between the fixed rent of the lease and current market rental value). Not applicable in all states.

Nonbearing Wall

A wall used only to separate areas, and which carries only its own weight

Nonexclusive Listing

A listing under which the real estate broker has an exclusive listing as opposed to other agents, but the owner may sell the property without using an agent, and not be liable to pay a commission. Also called an agency agreement.

Nonrecourse Loan

A loan not allowing for a deficiency judgment. The lender’s only recourse in the event of default is the security (property) and the borrower is not personally liable.


The certification by a Notary Public that a person signing a document has been properly identified. Notarization does not certify the content of a document, only validity of signature.

Notice Of Cessation

A notice stating that work has stopped on a construction project. Done to accelerate the period for filing a mechanic’s lien.

Notorious Possession

A requirement for adverse possession. Possession so open (notorious) that the owner is presumed to have notice of it and its extent.

Nuncupative Will

An oral will, usually in a deathbed situation, before witnesses who later testify to its authenticity.



An attestation by a person which binds him or her legally and morally. Usually attesting to the truth of something, as an affidavit, or the validity of one’s signature. A promise to tell the truth. Also, a promise to carry out a duty with high morality (oath of office), An oath has religious connotations and usually involves the word “swear,” and may contain the phrase “so help me God,” or require the one taking the oath to put his or her hand on a bible. An affirmation (see which) is still legally binding.




A zoning designation allowing businesses to carry on their paperwork rather than manufacturing of sale of inventory to the public on the site. Some businesses may be conducted entirely out of such space, when only paperwork is involved, such as insurance companies, law firms, accounting firms, etc.

Offset Statement

(1) A statement given to a buyer of rental property by a tenant, setting forth the amount of rent and terms of the rental agreement. (2) A statement by an owner or lien-holder to a buyer, setting forth the balance due on existing liens against the property being purchased.

“Once in a Lifetime” Tax Exclusion

A forgiveness of a portion of the tax due on the sale of a residence by a senior citizen. As the term denotes, the exclusion can be taken only once.

“One, Two, Three” Financing

A method of creative financing by which the buyer (1) assumes an existing loan, (2) secures a second loan from a third party lender, (3) takes a third loan from the seller.

Open End Mortgage

A mortgage permitting the mortgagor to borrow additional money under the same mortgage, with certain conditions, usually as to the assets of the mortgage.

Origination Fee

The fee that the lender charges to originate the loan, this fee is typically 1 point.


A rental amount paid due to sales of the tenant. For example: A lease for a service station may contain a provision for a certain addition to the rent for every gallon of gasoline over a certain amount sold each month. The amount over is called the override, such as two cents per gallon for every gallon over fifty thousand sold each month.


Rights to the use, enjoyment, and alienation of property, to the exclusion of others. Concerning real property, absolute rights are rare, being restricted by zoning laws, restrictions, liens, etc.

Owner Will Carry Mortgage

A term used to indicate that the seller is willing to take back a purchase money mortgage.


Partial Release

A release of a portion of property covered by a mortgage. A subdivider will obtain a partial release as each lot is sold, upon payment of an agreed upon amount. In areas where the subdivider is not usually the builder, it may be necessary to sell groups of lots to obtain a partial release. In areas where deeds of trust are used instead of mortgages, a “partial reconveyance” is the document used.

Participation Certificates

Mortgage securities, rather than mortgages. The advantage of the certificate is that it is readily marketable or pledgeable.


(1) Any division of real or personal property between co-owners, resulting in individual ownership of the interests of each. (2) A wall, sometimes moveable, and not load-bearing, used to divide a room or building.

Patent Defect

A defect plainly visible or as would be discovered by the exercise of ordinary care. A patent defect in a legal description is one which cannot be corrected on its face, and a new description must be used.

Payment Cap

A maximum amount for a payment under an Adjustable Mortgage Loan, regardless of the increase in the interest rate. If the payment is less than the interest alone, negative amortization is created.


The payment in full of an existing loan or other lien.

Payoff Escrow

An escrow, specifically for the purpose of paying off an existing lien. Usually part of an existing escrow, and called a sub escrow.

Perfecting Title

Process involving the elimination of any adverse claims against a title.

Personal Property Loan

A loan which is secured by both real and personal property. The minimum ratio of personal to real property is set by law. The credit of the borrower is a major consideration in making the loan.



Refers to principal, interest, taxes and insurance, the four major components of a usual monthly mortgage payment.

PITI Ratio

The principal, interest, tax and insurance payment to income ratio. Used in mortgage lending decisions.


The party bringing a civil action against a defendant.

Planned (unit) Development (PUD)

A subdivision of five or more individually owned lots with one or more other parcels owned in common or with reciprocal rights in one or more other parcels. The lots are generally small, being the exact size of the improvements, or slightly larger.


One percent. When referring to mortgages or deeds of trust, the term is used to describe the percentage of discount rather than interest (for which the word “percent” is used). The points are paid by the seller in F.H.A. and V.A. insured loans, and by either buyer or seller (or both) in conventional loans.


A fee charged by the lender to fund a loan, in addition to and separate from other fees charged. One Point equals one percent of the amount of the loan. Discount points are charged or are received based on the note rate the borrower selects. Additionally a one point origination fee is typically charged by a lender to underwrite a residential loan.

Possibility of Reverter

The term shows no estate (interest) in property, but only the chance that an estate will exist at a future time. If a property were sold on the condition that it be used for a park, and, it not used for a park, would revert back to the seller, the seller would have a possibility of reverter.

Power of Attorney

An authority by which one person (principal) enables another (attorney in fact) to act for him. (1) General power – Authorizes sale, mortgaging, etc. of all property of the principal. Invalid in some jurisdictions. (2) Special power – Specifies property, buyers, price and terms. How specific it must be varies in each state.

Prescriptive Easement

The granting of an easement by a court, based on the presumption that a written easement was given (although none existed), after a period of open and continuous use of land.


The sum of money outstanding upon which interest is payable. Also refers to one who is served by an agent. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Insurance written by a private mortgage insurance company protecting the mortgage lender against loss occasioned by a mortgage default and foreclosure.

Private Mortgage Insurance

Insurance against a loss by a lender in the event of default by a borrower (mortgagor). The insurance is similar to insurance by a governmental agency such as FHA, except that it is issued by a private insurance company. The premium is paid by the borrower and is included in the mortgage payment.

Property Management

The branch of the real estate business dealing with the management of property. The property may be a rented house or a large office or industrial complex. The duties may range from merely collecting rents to complete management of all maintenance and may also include being leasing agent or sales agent.


The method used in dividing charges into that portion which applies only to a party’s ownership up to particular date.



(1) A quarter section of a circle. (2) One of the quarters created by two intersecting roads or streets.


The process of reviewing a prospective borrower’s credit and payment capacity prior to approving a loan.

Quantity Survey Method

Also called “price take-off” method. A process of arriving at an estimate of new construction costs by a detailed estimate of quantities of necessary building materials plus labor costs.

Quarter Section

One quarter of a section. A quarter section (commonly called a quarter) contains 160 acres.

Question Of Law

Given the facts, what laws, it any, are applicable – decided by a judge, even in a jury trial.


Final disposition of a claim or debt.

Quitclaim Deed

A deed operating as a release, intended to pass any title, interest, or claim which the grantor may have in the property, but not containing any warranty of a valid interest or title in the grantor.


Rate Index

An index used to adjust the interest rate of an adjustable mortgage loan. For example: the change in U.S. Treasury securities (T-Bills) with a 1 year maturity. The weekly average yield on said securities, adjusted to a constant maturity of one year, which is the result of weekly sales, may be obtained weekly from the Federal Reserve Statistical Release H.15 (519). This change in interest rates is the “index” for the change in the specific Adjustable Mortgage Loan.

Rate Of Return

The annual percentage of return on investment on income property.


Affirming a prior act which was not legally binding; the affirmation gives the act legal effect. Occurs when an unauthorized agent acts, and the principal later affirms the action, giving authority retroactively.

Real Estate

(1) Land and anything permanently affixed to the land. such as buildings, fences, and those things attached to the buildings, such as light fixtures, plumbing and heating fixtures, or other such items which would be personal property it not attached. The term is generally synonymous with real property, although in some states a fine distinction may be made. (2) May refer to rights in real property as well as the property itself.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)

A federal statute requiring disclosure of certain costs in the sale of residential, improved property which is to be financed by a federally insured lender.


A discount or reduction in price of a product or interest, not given in advance, but handed back because of prompt payment or other reason. Many states regulate gifts and educational aids given to real estate brokers by supporting companies such as title companies, calling these in effect, a price discount (rebate).

Recapture Of Depreciation

Taxing as ordinary income, upon the sale of property, the amount of depreciation taken above straight line depreciation.


The conveyance to the landowner of the title, held by a trustee under a deed of trust, when the performance of the debt is satisfied.


Involves filing for record in the office of the county recorder for the purpose of giving constructive notice of title, claim or interest in real property.

Record Owner

The owner of property as shown by an examination of the public record.


The process of canceling a defeasible title to land, such as is created by a mortgage foreclosure or tax sale.

Redemption Period

A time period during which a mortgage, land contract, deed of trust, etc., can be redeemed. Usually set by statute, and after judicial foreclosure.


(1) The renewing of an existing loan with the same borrower and lender. (2) A loan on the same property by either the same lender or borrower. (3) The selling of loans by the original lender.


(1) Payment of a note, mortgage, deed of trust, etc., to bring it from default to good standing. (2) Restoring the previously used entitlement of a veteran to enable the veteran to purchase property under a VA program. (Also called Restoration of Eligibility).


The transferring of a portion of the liability to other insurers. Example: Insurer A insures for $200,000, A insures for $100,000 and reinsures the “second” $100,000 through B insurer, The “first” $100,000 is called “primary liability.”



Renegotiable Rate Mortgage

A real property loan calling for an adjustment in the interest rate at a given time. Example: A loan with a 15 year amortization is adjusted to current interest rates after 2 years. The lender agrees to make the adjusted loan at the new rate as long as the old loan is not in default. The Federal Reserve Board allows the original loan to be treated either as a balloon payment loan or a variable rate loan. However, points must be figured into the A.P.R. based on the time or renegotiation (2 years rather than 15).


(1) A right created and retained by a grantor. The reservation may be temporary (such as a life estate) or permanent (such as an easement running with the land). (2) Public land reserved for a special purpose, such as an Indian reservation.

Restraint of Alienation

Restrictions placed against the transfer (vesting) or sale of property. Certain restrictions are allowed but must conform to the rule against perpetuities and free right of an owner to sell. For example: Selling on the condition that the grantee could resell only to members of a certain family would be too restrictive and not valid.

Right Of Way

A strip of land which is used as a roadbed, either for a street or railway. The land is set aside as an easement or in fee, either by agreement or condemnation. May also be used to describe the right itself to pass over the land of another.


Safety Clause

A clause in a listing, protecting the broker from having buyer and seller wait until the listing expires to make a deal, thereby avoiding the payment of commission. The clause states that if the property is sold during a specified period after the expiration of the listing (or any extension thereof) to a buyer provided during the listing period by the broker, the commission shall be paid.

Savings And Loan Association

Originally an association chartered to hold savings and make real estate loans. Federally insured and regulated. Active in long term financing rather than construction loans. Recent changes in federal controls have enabled these associations to offer checking accounts, consumer loans, and other services traditionally offered by banks.

Secondary Financing

A loan secured by a mortgage or trust deed, which lien is junior (secondary) to another mortgage or trust deed.

Secondary Mortgage Market

The buying and selling of first mortgages of trust deeds by banks, insurance companies, government agencies, and other mortgagees. This enables lenders to keep an adequate supply of money for new loans. The mortgages may be sold at full value (par) or above, but are usually sold at discount. The secondary mortgage market should not be confused with second mortgage.

Second Mortgage

A mortgage which ranks after a first mortgage in priority. Properties may have two, three, or more Mortgages, deeds of trust, or land contracts, as liens at the same time. Legal priority would determine whether they are called a first, second, third, etc. lien.

Sequestration, Writ Of

The taking custody of one’s property (real or personal) to force compliance with a court order.

Shared Appreciation

The gaining or retaining of equity in a property by someone other than the buyer. For example: the seller retains a 25% interest in the property. This makes the buyer responsible for only 75% of the purchase price and, therefore, lowers the necessary financing by 25%. This obviously makes the property more affordable. By agreement, expenses are shared as well as any increase in value when the property is sold. Statement of Information (SI): A confidential information statement completed by the buyer, seller and borrower in every transaction where a policy or policies of title insurance are requested. Allows the title company to competently search documents affecting the property to be insured, documents which may not refer to said property. Allows title companies to differentiate between parties with similar names when searching matters such as liens and court decrees.

“Subject To” Clause

A clause in a deed, stating that the grantee takes title “subject to” an existing mortgage. The original mortgagor is alone responsible for any deficiency, should there be foreclosure of the mortgage. Differs from an “assumption” clause, whereby the grantee “assumes” and agrees to pay the existing mortgage.

Surface Rights

The rights (easements) to use the surface of land, including the right to drill or mine through the surface when subsurface rights are involved.

Sweat Equity

A program which allows a purchaser to do work on the property in place of all or part of the down payment and other costs of purchase.

Subordination Agreement

An agreement under which a prior or superior lien is made inferior or subject to an otherwise junior lien.


The measurement of the boundaries of a parcel of land, its area, and sometimes its topography.


An association of individuals, formed for the purpose of carrying on some particular business venture in which the members are mutually interested.



(1) Annexing a lien to one superior to it in order to gain the priority of the superior lien and defeat an intermediate lien. Generally not allowed. (2) Annexing periods of possession to add up to enough time for successful adverse possession. For example; A begins adverse possession, A dies and A’s son takes up possession, adding A’s time to his own. Not always allowed.

Take Out Commitment

Agreement by a lender to place a long term (take out) loan on real property after completion of construction.

Tax Base

The assessed valuation of real property, which is multiplied by the tax rate to determine the amount of tax due.

Tax Deed

(1) Deed from tax collector to governmental body after a period of non-payment of taxes according to statute. (2) Deed to a purchaser at a public sale of land taken for delinquent taxes. The purchaser receives only such title as the former owners had and strict procedures must be followed to prevent attachment of prior liens.

Tax Lien

A statutory lien imposed against real property for nonpayment of taxes.

Tenancy In Common

An undivided ownership in real estate by two or more persons. The interests need not be equal. and, in the event of the death of one of the owners, no right of survivorship in the other owners exists.

Tenant At Will

One who holds possession of premises by permission of the owner or landlord, but without agreement for a fixed term of possession.

Terra Cotta Lumber

Very porous earthenware which can hold a nail and be cut without breaking or shattering.

Title Plant

The information warehouse of a fide company in which it has accumulated and is constantly updating the records of properties in its area which it can use to search title to real property.

Time Sharing

A concept of ownership increasing in popularity as real estate prices rise. The purchase of an undivided interest (usually in a resort area condominium) for a fixed or variable time period. For example: Fifty-two different purchasers buy one condominium: each agrees to possession for one week per year. Costs (taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc.) are shared equally. Possession may be fixed, or by reservation, by lease, license, etc. Some developers provide several projects in different parts of the world, so that a person owning one week in a project in Hawaii could elect to spend that week in a connected project in France or other area.


(1) A measure of weight; two thousand pounds. (2) A measure of capacity of an air conditioner. One ton equally twelve thousand British thermal units (B.T.U.’s).


Originally a house in a city as opposed to a country estate. More recently the term is applied to certain types of row houses, whether planned unit developments or condominiums.

Transfer Tax

State tax on the transfer of real property. Based on purchase price or money changing hands. Check statutes for each state. Also called documentary transfer tax.


Treasury Bills

Interest bearing U.S. Government obligations sold at a weekly sale. The change in interest rates paid on these obligations is frequently used as the Rate Index of Adjustable Mortgage Loans.


A person who holds title in trust for the benefit of another. In a deed of trust, the trustee is the person named to hold title in trust for the benefit of the lender until the loan is paid off.

Trustee In Bankruptcy

One appointed by a bankruptcy court, and in whom the property of the bankrupt vests. The trustee holds the property in trust, not for the bankrupt, but for the creditors.


The borrower under a deed of trust. One who deeds their property to a trustee as security for repayment of a loan.


Unavoidable Cause

A cause which reasonable prudence and care could not have prevented, such as death, illness, papers lost in the mail, etc.

Underlying Financing

A mortgage, deed of trust, etc., prior to (underlying) a land contract, mortgage, etc., on the same property.

Undisclosed Principal

A principal whose identity is not revealed by an agent.

Uniform Laws

Laws approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Many have been adopted in one or more states. Among these are the Uniform Commercial Code, Uniform Negotiable Instruments Act, Uniform Partnership Act, Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, etc.

Uniform Settlement Statement

The Standard HUD Form 1 required to be given to the borrower, lender and seller at, or prior to, settlement.

Unilateral Contract

A contract under which one party expressly makes a promise, the other party, although making no reciprocal promise, may be obligated by law or may have already given consideration.

Unity Of Possession

In joint tenancy, the joint tenants must have equal rights to possession.

Unmarketable Title

Title which contains defects that would allow a purchaser to be released from his obligation to purchase.

Unrecorded Instrument

A deed, mortgage, etc., which is not recorded in the county recorder’s office and, therefore, not protected under recording statutes. Valid between the parties involved, but not against innocent third parties.

Useful Life

(1) In appraisal for sale purposes, the true economic value of a building in terms of years of use to the owner. (2) For tax purposes, the life set for depreciation. At any time during that period, a new life could begin for a new owner.


Vacancy Factor

The estimated percentage of vacancies in a rental project. May be based on past records of the property, or a professional guess if a new project. Surrounding area buildings, it similar, may be used for comparison.

Variable Interest Rate

An interest rate which fluctuates as the prevailing rate moves up or down. In mortgages there are usually maximums as to the frequency and amount of fluctuation. Also called “flexible interest rate.”

Veneered Construction

The placing of a facing material over the external surface of a structure.


(1) The county (or other geographical division) in which an action or prosecution is brought for trial and which is to furnish the panel of jurors. (2) The county in which an acknowledgement (notarization) is made.


Denotes the manner in which title is held. Examples of common vestings are: Community Property, Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common.

Vital Statistics

Data regarding births, deaths, marriages, health records, etc., and usually kept by a governmental bureau. Federally, the Bureau of Vital Statistics.


A term in electronics, being the force necessary to cause one ampere to flow through a conductor with a resistance of one ohm. Common household current is 110 volts, with a 220 volt circuit used for some heavy appliances. Industrial uses may require higher voltage.

Voluntary Lien

A lien placed against real property by the voluntary act of the owner. Most commonly, a mortgage or deed of trust



To knowingly abandon, relinquish, or surrender a right, benefit, or claim.

Wall Bearing Construction

Weight of roofs and floors supported entirely by the exterior walls, with no load-bearing partitions. Posts and pillars are used at points where the span is too wide for exterior wall support.


A legal, binding, promise, given at the time of a sale, whereby the seller gives the buyer certain assurances as to the condition of the property being sold. Warranties as to real property have taken on a lessor role with the increase of the use of title insurance.

Warranty Deed

A deed used in many states to convey fee title to real property. Until the wide spread use of title insurance, the warranties by the grantor were very important to the grantee. When title insurance is purchased, the warranties become less important as a practical means of recovery by the grantee for defective title.

Wasting Assets

Assets which, by use or lapse of time, are consumed or reduced in book value, irrespective of market fluctuation. Includes oil, minerals, patent rights, and franchises for a fixed term, etc. Also called “diminishing assets”, “wasting property.”

Watt Hour

The basis used to determine electric bills. Example: A 100 watt light bulb means if the bulb burns for one hour, it will use 100 watts of electricity.

Weep Holes

Small holes in a retaining wall or other wall where it may be necessary to drain off excess water to avoid pressure build-up.

Wild Interest

An interest of record which cannot be traced in the chain of title. Frequently occurs when an incorrect legal description appears on a document. An apparent wild interest may occur if a woman who changes her name through marriage after acquiring property, sells the property using her married name only.

Without Recourse

A finance term. A mortgage or deed of trust securing a note without recourse allows the lender to look only to the security (property) for repayment in the event of default, and not personally to the borrower.

Working Drawing

Drawing used by workman in construction. Shows all structural detail such as electric, plumbing, partitions, etc.

Wrap-Around Mortgage

A second or junior mortgage with a face value of both the amount it secures and the balance due under the first mortgage. The mortgagee under the wrap-around collects a payment based on its face value and then pays the first mortgagee. It is most effective when the first has a lower interest rate than the second, since the mortgagee under the wrap-around gains the difference between the interest rates, or the mortgagor under the wrap-around may obtain a lower rate than if refinancing.

Wrought Iron

An easily molded form of iron used for decorative railings, gates, furniture, etc. The term is loosely used to describe steel or aluminum used in the same manner.




Yacht Basin

A system of docks and channels used for the keeping of yachts and similar boats.


(1) A measure of 36″. (2) The area between the building and property line of a residential property (back yard, side yard, front yard). (3) An enclosure, in or out of a building, used for a business purpose (lumber yard, etc.)

Yard Lumber

Lumber generally found in a lumber yard, that is, lumber graded for general building purposes.


Ratio of income from an investment to the total cost of the investment over a given period of time.


Zero Lot Line

The construction of a building on any of the boundary lines of a lot. Usually built on the front line such as a store built to the sidewalk.

Zero Side Yard

The building of a subdivision with each house built on a side boundary line. This gives more usable yard space on narrow lots. An easement for maintenance is given over a portion of the lot adjoining each house.


(1) An area of a county or city in which the use of the land is restricted by law (zoning ordinance). (2) An area designated by a number for the delivery of mail. Zip codes incorporate the zones.