FAQ: Glossary

Below are some terms that you may have been recently encountering and these terms will provide you with a better understanding of the real estate industry.

  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM) – A mortgage that permits the lender to adjust its interest rate periodically on the basis of changes in a specified index.
  • Amortization – The gradual repayment of a mortgage loan by installments.
  • Amortization Schedule – A timetable for payment of a mortgage loan. An amortization schedule shows the amount of each payment applied to interest and principal and shows the remaining balance after each payment is made.
  • Amortization Term – The amount of time required to amortize the mortgage loan. The amortization term is expressed as a number of months. For example, for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the amortization term is 360
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR) – The cost of a mortgage stated as a yearly rate; includes such items as interest, mortgage insurance, and loan origination fee (points).
  • Appraisal – A written analysis of the estimated value of a property prepared by a qualified appraiser. Contrast with home inspection.
  • Appraised Value – An opinion of a property’s fair market value, based on an appraiser’s knowledge, experience, and analysis of the property.
  • Asset – Anything of monetary value that is owned by a person. Assets include real property, personal property, and enforceable claims against others (including bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds, and so on).
  • Balloon Mortgage – A mortgage that has level monthly payments that will amortize it over a stated term but that provides for a lump sum payment to be due at the end of an earlier specified term.
  • Bankruptcy – A proceeding in a federal court in which a debtor who owes more than his or her assets can relieve the debts by transferring his or her assets to a trustee. Usually, at least 2 years must elapse from the discharge of the bankruptcy before lenders will consider making a loan to someone who had declared bankruptcy.
  • Beneficiary – The person designated to receive the income from a trust, estate, or a deed of trust.
  • Bill of Sale – A written document that transfers title to personal property.
  • Bond – An interest-bearing certificate of debt with a maturity date. An obligation of a government or business corporation. A real estate bond is a written obligation usually secured by a mortgage or a deed of trust.
  • Bridge Loan – A form of second trust that is collateralized by the borrower’s present home (which is usually for sale) in a manner that allows the proceeds to be used for closing on a new house before the present home is sold. Also known as “swing loan.”
  • Broker – A person who, for a commission or a fee, brings parties together and assists in negotiating contracts between them.
  • Cap – A provision of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) that limits how much the interest rate or mortgage payments may increase or decrease. See lifetime payment cap, lifetime rate cap, periodic payment cap, and periodic rate cap.
  • Cash-Out Refinance – A refinance transaction in which the amount of money received from the new loan exceeds the total of the money needed to repay the existing first mortgage, closing costs, points, and the amount required to satisfy any outstanding subordinate mortgage liens. In other words, a refinance transaction in which the borrower receives additional cash that can be used for any purpose.
  • Certificate of Title – A statement provided by an abstract company, title company, or attorney stating that the title to real estate is legally held by the current owner.
  • Closing Costs – Expenses (over and above the price of the property) incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property. Closing costs normally include an origination fee, an attorney’s fee, taxes, an amount placed in escrow, and charges for obtaining title insurance and a survey. Closing costs percentage will vary according to the area of the country; lenders or Realtors often provide estimates of closing costs to prospective home buyers.
  • Commission – The fee charged by a broker or agent for negotiating a real estate or loan transaction. A commission is generally a percentage of the price of the property or loan.
  • Comparables – An abbreviation for “comparable properties”; used for comparative purposes in the appraisal process. Comparables are properties like the property under consideration; they have reasonably the same size, location , and amenities and have recently been sold. Comparables help the appraiser determine the approximate fair market value of the subject property.
  • Construction Loan – A short-term, interim loan for financing the cost of construction. The lender makes payments to the builder at periodic intervals as the work progresses.
  • Credit Reporting Agency (or Bureau) – An organization that prepares reports that are used by lenders to determine a potential borrower’s credit history. The agency obtains data for these reports from a credit repository as well as from other sources.
  • Conventional Mortgage – A mortgage that is not insured or guaranteed by the federal government. Contrast with government mortgage.
  • Credit History – A record of an individual’s open and fully repaid debts. A credit history helps a lender to determine whether a potential borrower has a history of repaying debts in a timely manner.
  • Credit Report – A report of an individual’s credit history prepared by a credit bureau and used by a lender in determining a loan applicant’s creditworthiness. See merged credit report.
  • Discount Points – See point.
  • Earnest Money Deposit – A deposit made by the potential home buyer to show that he or she is serious about buying the house.
  • Encumbrance – Anything that affects or limits the fee simple title to a property, such as mortgages, leases, easements, or restrictions.
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) – A federal law that requires lenders and other creditors to make credit equally available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, or receipt of income from public assistance programs.
  • Equity – A homeowner’s financial interest in a property. Equity is the difference between the fair market value of the property and the amount still owed on its mortgage.
  • Escrow – An item of value, money, or documents deposited with a third party to be delivered upon the fulfillment of a condition. For example, the deposit by a borrower with the lender of funds to pay taxes and insurance premiums when they become due, or the deposit of funds or documents with an attorney or escrow agent to be disbursed upon the closing of a sale of real estate.
  • Escrow Account – The account in which a mortgage servicer holds the borrower’s escrow payments prior to paying property expenses.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act – A consumer protection law that regulates the disclosure of consumer credit reports by consumer/credit reporting agencies and establishes procedures for correcting mistakes on one’s credit record.
  • Fannie Mae – A congressionally chartered, shareholder-owned company that is the nation’s largest supplier of home mortgage funds.
  • First Mortgage – A mortgage that is the primary lien against a property.
  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage (FRM) – A mortgage in which the interest rate does not change during the entire term of the loan.
  • Flood Insurance – Insurance that compensates for physical property damage resulting from flooding. It is required for properties located in federally designated flood areas.
  • Foreclosure – The legal process by which a borrower in default under a mortgage is deprived of his or her interest in the mortgaged property. This usually involves a forced sale of the property at public auction with the proceeds of the sale being applied to the mortgage debt.
  • Fully Amortized ARM – An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) with a monthly payment that is sufficient to amortize the remaining balance, at the interest accrual rate, over the amortization term.
  • Hazard Insurance – Insurance coverage that compensates for physical damage to a property from fire, wind, vandalism, or other hazards.
  • HUD-1 Statement – A document that provides an itemized listing of the funds that are payable at closing. Items that appear on the statement include real estate commissions, loan fees, points, and initial escrow amounts. Each item on the statement is represented by a separate number within a standardized numbering system. The totals at the bottom of the HUD-1 statement define the seller’s net proceeds and the buyer’s net payment at closing. The blank form for the statement is published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD-1 statement is also known as the “closing statement” or “settlement sheet.”
  • Index – A number used to compute the interest rate for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). The index is generally a published number or percentage, such as the average interest rate or yield on Treasury bills. A margin is added to the index to determine the interest rate that will be charged on the ARM.. This interest rate is subject to any caps that are associated with the mortgage.
  • In-File Credit Report – An objective account, normally computer-generated, of credit and legal information obtained from a credit repository.
  • Interest – The fee charged for borrowing money.
  • Interest Rate – The rate of interest in effect for the monthly payment due.
  • Judgment – A decision made by a court of law. In judgments that require the repayment of a debt, the court may place a lien against the debtor’s real property as collateral for the judgment’s creditor.
  • Jumbo Loan – A loan that exceeds Fannie Mae’s legislated mortgage amount limits. Also called a non conforming loan.
  • Liabilities – A person’s financial obligations. Liabilities include long-term and short-term debt, as well as any other amounts that are owed to others.
  • Lien – A legal claim against a property that must be paid off when the property is sold.
  • Lifetime Payment Cap – For an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), a limit on the amount that payments can increase or decrease over the life of the mortgage. See cap.
  • Lifetime Rate Cap – For an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), a limit on the amount that the interest rate can increase or decrease over the life of the loan. See cap.
  • Line of Credit – An agreement by a commercial bank or other financial institution to extend credit up to a certain amount for a certain time to a specified borrower.
  • Liquid Asset – A cash asset or an asset that is easily converted into cash.
  • Loan – A sum of borrowed money (principal) that is generally repaid with interest.
  • Loan Origination – The process by which a mortgage lender brings into existence a mortgage secured by real property.
  • Loan-to-Value (LTV) Percentage – The relationship between the principal balance of the mortgage and the appraised value (or sales price if it is lower) of the property. For example, a $100,000 home with an $85,000 mortgage has a LTV percentage of 85 percent.
  • Lock-In – A written agreement in which the lender guarantees a specified interest rate if a mortgage goes to closing within a set period of time. The lock-in also usually specifies the number of points to be paid at closing.
  • Lock-In Period – The time period during which the lender has guaranteed an interest rate to a borrower. See lock-in.
  • Margin – For an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), the amount that is added to the index to establish the interest rate on each adjustment date, subject to any limitations on the interest rate change.
  • Merged Credit Report – A credit report that contains information from three credit repositories. When the report is created, the information is compared for duplicate entries. Any duplicates are combined to provide a summary of a your credit.
  • Mortgage Broker – An individual or company that brings borrowers and lenders together for the purpose of loan origination. Mortgage brokers typically require a fee or a commission for their services.
  • Mortgage Insurance – A contract that insures the lender against loss caused by a mortgagor’s default on a government mortgage or conventional mortgage. Mortgage insurance can be issued by a private company or by a government agency such as the Veterans Administration (VA). Depending on the type of mortgage insurance, the insurance may cover a percentage of or virtually all of the mortgage loan. See private mortgage insurance .
  • Mortgage Life Insurance – A type of term life insurance often bought by mortgagors. The amount of coverage decreases as the principal balance declines. In the event that the borrower dies while the policy is in force, the debt is automatically satisfied by insurance proceeds.
  • No Cash-Out Refinance – A refinance transaction in which the new mortgage amount is limited to the sum of the remaining balance of the existing first mortgage, closing costs (including prepaid items), points, the amount required to satisfy any mortgage liens that are more than one year old (if the borrower chooses to satisfy them), and other funds for the borrower’s use (as long as the amount does not exceed 1 percent of the principal amount of the new mortgage).
  • Origination Fee – A fee paid to a lender for processing a loan application. The origination fee is stated in the form of points. One point is 1 percent of the mortgage amount.
  • Periodic Payment Cap – For an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), a limit on the amount that payments can increase or decrease during any one adjustment period. See cap.
  • Periodic Rate Cap – For an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), a limit on the amount that the interest rate can increase or decrease during any one adjustment period, regardless of how high or low the index might be. See cap.
  • Point – A on-time charge by the lender for originating a loan. A point is 1 percent of the amount of the mortgage.
  • Power of Attorney – A legal document that authorizes another person to act on one’s behalf. A power of attorney can grant complete authority or can be limited to certain acts and/or certain periods of time.
  • Prepayment – Any amount paid to reduce the principal balance of a loan before the due date. Payment in full on a mortgage that may result from a sale of the property, the owner’s decision to pay off the loan in full, or a foreclosure. In each case, prepayment means payment occurs before the loan has been fully amortized.
  • Pre-Qualification – The process of determining how much money a prospective home buyer will be eligible to borrow before he or she applies for a loan.
  • Prime Rate – The interest rate that banks charge to their preferred customers. Changes in the prime rate influence changes in other rates, including mortgage interest rates.
  • Principal – The amount borrowed or remaining unpaid. The part of the monthly payment that reduces the remaining balance of a mortgage.
  • Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance (PITI) – The four components of a monthly mortgage payment. Principal refers to the part of the monthly payment that reduces the remaining balance of the mortgage. Interest is the fee charged for borrowing money. Taxes and insurance refer to the amounts that are paid into an escrow account each month for property taxes and mortgage and hazard insurance.
  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – Mortgage insurance that is provided by a private mortgage insurance company to protect lenders against loss if a borrower defaults. Most lenders generally require MI for a loan with a loan-to-value (LTV) percentage in excess of 80 percent.
  • Purchase and Sale Agreement – A written contract signed by the buyer and seller stating the terms and conditions under which a property will be sold.
  • Rate Lock – A commitment issued by a lender to a borrower or other mortgage originator guaranteeing a specified interest rate for a specified period of time. See lock-in.
  • Second Mortgage – A mortgage that has a lien position subordinate to the first mortgage.
  • Title – A legal document evidencing a person’s right to or ownership of a property.
  • Title Company – A company that specializes in examining and insuring titles to real estate.
  • Title Insurance – Insurance that protects the lender (lender’s policy) or the buyer (owner’s policy) against loss arising from disputes over ownership of a property.
  • Title Search – A check of the title records to ensure that the seller is the legal owner of the property and that there are no liens or other claims outstanding.
  • Treasury Index – An index that is used to determine interest rate changes for certain adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) plans. It is based on the results of auctions that the U.S. Treasury holds for its Treasury bills and securities or is derived from the U.S. Treasury’s daily yield curve, which is based on the closing market bid yields on actively traded Treasury securities in the over-the-counter market. See adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).
  • Truth-in-Lending – A federal law that requires lenders to fully disclose, in writing, the terms and conditions of a mortgage, including the annual percentage rate (APR) and other charges.
  • Underwriting – The process of evaluating a loan application to determine the risk involved for the lender. Underwriting involves an analysis of the borrower’s creditworthiness and the quality of the property itself.