Real Estate Glossary
ACCEPTANCE - The expression of the intention of the person receiving an offer (offeree, usually the seller) to be bound by the terms of the offer.
AGENCY - A relationship created when one person, the "principal," delegates to another, the "agent," the right to act on the principal's behalf in business transactions and to exercise some degree of discretion while so acting. An agency gives rise to a fiduciary relationship and imposes on the agent, as the fiduciary of the principal, certain duties, obligations and high standards of good faith and loyalty.
AGENT - One who is authorized to represent and to act on behalf of another person (called the principal). A real estate broker is the agent of his client, be it the seller or buyer, to whom he owes a fiduciary obligation. A salesman is the agent of his broker and does not have a direct personal contractual relationship with either the seller or buyer.
AGREEMENT OF SALE - An agreement between the seller (vendor) and buyer (vendee) for the purchase of real property.
AMENITIES - Features, both tangible and intangible, which enhance and add to the desirability of real estate.
AMORTIZATION - The gradual repayment of a debt by means of systematic payments of principal and interest over a set period, where at the end of the period there is a zero balance.
APPRAISAL - The process of estimating, fixing, or setting the market value of real property. An appraisal may take the form of a lengthy report, a completed form, a simple letter, or even an oral report.
APPRECIATION - An increase in the worth or value of property due to economic or related causes, which may prove to be either temporary or permanent.
ASSESSED VALUATION - The value of real property as established by the state government for purposes of computing real property taxes.
ASSESSMENT - A specific levy for a definite purpose, such as adding curbs or sewers in a neighborhood. Individual condominium owners are subject to special assessments benefiting the project as a whole and not funded through regular maintenance charges.
ASSUMPTION OF MORTGAGE - The act of acquiring title to property which has an existing mortgage on it and agreeing to be personally liable for the terms and conditions of the mortgage, including payments.
BLANKET MORTGAGE - A mortgage which is secured by several structures or a number of lots. A blanket mortgage is often used to finance proposed subdivisions or development projects, especially cooperatives.
BOUNDARIES - The perimeters or limits of a parcel of land as fixed by legal description which is usually a metes and bounds description.
BREACH OF CONTRACT - Violation of any of the terms or conditions of a contract without legal excuse; default, non-performance, such as failure to make payment when due.
BROKER - One who acts as an intermediary between parties to a transaction. A real estate broker is a properly licensed person who, for a valuable consideration, serves as an agent to others to facilitate the sale or lease of real property.
BROKERAGE - That aspect of the real estate business which is concerned with bringing together the parties and completing a real estate transaction. Brokerage involves exchanges, rentals, trade-ins and management of property, as well as sales.
BUILDING PERMIT - A written permission granted by the City Building Department and required prior to beginning the construction of a new building or other improvement (including fences, fence walls, retaining walls and swimming pools).
BUNDLE OF RIGHTS - An ownership concept describing all those legal rights which attach to the ownership of real property, including the right to sell, lease, encumber, use, enjoy, exclude, will, etc.
CHAIN OF TITLE - The recorded history of matters which affect the title to a specific parcel of real property, such as ownership, encumbrances and liens, usually beginning with the original recorded source of the title.
CHATTEL - Personal property which is tangible and moveable.
CLEAR TITLE - Title to property that is free from liens, defects or other encumbrances, except those which the buyer has agreed to accept, such as mortgage to be assumed, the ground lease of record, and the like; established title; title without clouds.
CLOSING - The final stage of consummating a real estate transaction when the seller delivers title to the buyer, in exchange for the purchase price.
CLOSING COSTS - Expenses of the sale which must be paid in addition to the purchase price (in the case of the buyer's expenses), or be deducted from the proceeds of the sale (in the case of the seller's expenses).
CLOSING STATEMENT - A detailed cash accounting of a real estate transaction prepared by an escrow officer or other person designated to process the mechanics of the sale, showing all cash that was received, all charges and credits which were made, and all cash that was paid out in the transaction; also called a settlement statement.
CODE OF ETHICS - A written system of standards of ethical conduct. The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors, first written in 1913, establishes the high standards of conduct for members of the Realtor community.
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY - A classification of real estate which includes income producing property such as office buildings, gasoline stations, restaurants, shopping centers, hotels and motels, parking lots and stores, and other similar uses.
COMMISSION - The compensation paid to a real estate broker (usually by the seller) for services rendered in connection with the sale or exchange of real property.
COMMON AREAS - Land or improvements designated for the use and benefit of all residents, property owners and tenants.
COMMON WALL - A wall separating two living units.
COMPARABLES - Recently sold properties which are similar to a particular property being evaluated, and which are used to indicate a reasonable fair market value for the subject property.
CONDOMINIUM OWNERSHIP - An estate in real property consisting of an individual interest in an apartment or commercial unit, and an undivided common interest in the common areas such as the land, parking areas, elevators, stairways, and the like.
CONSIDERATION - An act or forbearance, or the promise thereof, which is offered by one party to induce another to enter into a contract; that which is given in exchange for something from another.
CONTRACT - A legal agreement between competent parties who agree to perform or refrain from performing certain acts for a consideration. In real estate, there are many different types of contracts, including listings, contracts of sale, options, mortgages, assignments, leases, deeds, escrow agreements, and loan commitments, among others.
CONVEYANCE - The transfer of title to real property by means of a written instrument such as a deed or an assignment of lease.
COOPERATING BROKER - A broker who joins with another broker in the sale of real property.
CO-TENANCY - A form of concurrent property ownership in which two or more persons own an undivided interest in the same property.
COUNTER-OFFER - A new offer made as a reply to an offer received from another; this has the effect of rejecting the original offer, which cannot thereafter be accepted unless revived by the offeror's repeating it.
COVENANT - A written agreement or promise of two or more parties by which either pledges to perform or not to perform specified acts on a property, or which specifies certain uses or non-uses of the property.
COVENANTS AND CONDITIONS - Covenants are promises contained in contracts, the breach of which would entitle a person to damages. Conditions, on the other hand, are contingencies, qualifications or occurrences upon which an estate or property right would be gained or lost.
COVENANTS RUNNING WITH THE LAND - Covenants which become part of the property and benefit or bind successive owners of the property.
DEFAULT - Failure to fulfill a duty or promise or failure to perform any obligation or required act. The most common occurrence of default on the part of a buyer or lessee is non-payment of money.
DEPOSIT - Money offered by a prospective buyer as an indication of good faith in entering into a contract to purchase; earnest money; security for the buyer's performance of a contract.
DOWER - The legal right or interest a wife acquires in property her husband held or acquired anytime during marriage.
DUAL AGENCY - Representing both principals (buyer and seller) to a transaction.
EASEMENT - A property interest which one person has in land owned by another entitling the holder of the interest to limited use or enjoyment of the other's land.
EMINENT DOMAIN - The right of government, both state and federal, to take private property for a necessary public use, with just compensation paid to the owner.
ENCROACHMENT - An unauthorized invasion or intrusion of a fixture or other real property wholly or partly upon another's property, thus reducing the size and value of the invaded property.
ENCUMBRANCE - Any claim, lien, charge or liability attached to and binding upon real property which may lessen the value of the property but will not necessarily prevent transfer of title.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT - A report which includes a detailed description of a proposed development project with emphasis on the existing environment setting, viewed from both a local and regional perspective, and a discussion of the probable impact of the project on the environment during all phases.
EQUITY - That interest or value remaining in property after payment of all liens or other charges on the property. An owner's equity is normally the monetary interest over and above the mortgage indebtedness.
ERRORS AND OMISSIONS INSURANCE - A form of insurance which covers liabilities for errors, mistakes and negligence in the usual listing and selling activities of a real estate office or escrow company.
ESCHEAT - The reversion of property to the state when a decedent dies intestate and there are no heirs capable of inheriting, or when the property is abandoned.
ESCROW - The process by which money and/or documents are held by a disinterested third person (a "stakeholder") until the satisfaction of the terms and conditions of the escrow instructions (as prepared by the parties to the escrow).
ESTOPPEL - A legal doctrine by which a person is prevented from asserting rights or facts which are inconsistent with a previous position or representation he had made by his act, conduct or silence.
ETHICS - A system of moral principles, rules and standards of conduct.
EVICTION - The legal process of removing a tenant from possession of the premises for some breach of the lease contract.
EXCLUSIVE LISTING - A written listing of real property in which the seller agrees to appoint only one broker to sell the property for a specified period of time. The two types of exclusive listings are the exclusive agency and the exclusive right to sell.
FAIR MARKET VALUE - The highest monetary price which a property would bring, if offered for sale for a reasonable period of time in a competitive market, to a seller who is willing but not compelled to sell, from a buyer, willing but not compelled to buy, both parties being fully informed of all the purposes to which the property is best adapted and is capable of being used.
FEE SIMPLE - The largest estate one can possess in real property. A fee simple estate is the least limited interest and the most complete and absolute ownership in land: it is of indefinite duration, freely transferable and inheritable.
FIDUCIARY - A relationship which implies a position of trust or confidence wherein one is usually entrusted to hold or manage property or money for another. Among the obligations a fiduciary owes to the principal are duties of loyalty; obedience; full disclosure; the duty to use skill, care and diligence; and the duty to account for all monies.
FORECLOSURE - A legal procedure whereby property used as security for debt is sold to satisfy the debt in the event of default in payment of the mortgage note or default of other terms in the mortgage document.
FREE AND CLEAR TITLE - Title to real property which is absolute and unencumbered by any liens, mortgages, clouds or other encumbrances.
FRONTAGE - The length of a property abutting a street or body of water; that is, the number of feet that "front" the street or water.
IMPROVEMENTS - Valuable additions made to property, amounting to more than repairs, costing labor and capital and intended to enhance the value of the property. Improvements of land would include grading, sidewalks, sewers, streets, utilities, etc. Improvements on land would include buildings, fences, and the like.
INSPECTION - A visit to and review of the premises. A prudent purchaser of property always inspects the premises before closing.
INTEREST - The sum paid or accrued in return for the use of money.
INTERIM FINANCING - A short-term loan usually made during the construction phase of a building project; often referred to as the "construction loan."
JOINT TENANCY - A form of property ownership by two or more persons in which the joint tenants have one and the same interest, arising by one and the same conveyance, commencing atone and the same time and held by one and the same possession (the concept of "four unities").
JUDICIAL FORECLOSURE - A method of foreclosing upon real property by means of a court supervised sale. After an appraisal, the court determines an upset price below which no bids to purchase will be accepted.
LEASE - A lease is both a contract between lessor (landlord) and lessee (tenant) and a conveyance or demise of the premises by the lessor to the lessee. A lease is a contract in that item bodies the agreement between the parties.
LEASEHOLD - A less-than-freehold estate which a tenant possesses in real property.
LEGAL DESCRIPTION - A description which is complete enough that an independent surveyor could locate and identify a specific piece of real property.
LESSEE - The person to whom property is rented or leased; called a "tenant" in most residential leases.
LESSOR - The person who rents or leases property to another. In residential leasing, the lessor is often referred to as a landlord.
LIEN - A charge or claim which one person (lienor) has upon the property of another (lienee) as security for a debt or obligation. Liens can be created by agreement of the parties(mortgage) or by operation of law (tax liens).
LISTING - A written employment agreement between a property owner and a broker authorizing the broker to find a buyer or a tenant for a certain real property.
LOAN-TO-VALUE RATIO - The ratio that the amount of the loan bears to the appraised value of the property or the sales price, whichever is lower.
MARKET VALUE - The highest price, estimated in terms of money, which a property will bring if exposed for sale in the open market, allowing a reasonable time to find a purchaser who buys with knowledge of all the uses to which the property is adapted and for which it is capable of being used.
MONTH-TO-MONTH TENANCY - A periodic tenancy where the tenant rents for one month at a time. In the absence of rental agreement (oral or written), a tenancy is deemed to be month-to-month, or in the case of boarders, week-to-week.
MORTGAGE - A legal document used to secure the performance of an obligation. In effect, the mortgage states that the lender can look to the property in the event the borrower defaults in payment of the note.
MORTGAGE BROKER - A person or firm which acts as an intermediary between borrower and lender; one who, for compensation or gain, negotiates, sells or arranges loans and sometimes continues to service the loans.
MORTGAGEE - The one who receives and holds a mortgage as security for a debt; the lender; a lender or creditor who holds a mortgage as security for payment of an obligation.
MORTGAGOR - The one who gives a mortgage as security for a debt; the borrower; usually the landowner; the borrower or debtor who hypothecates or puts up his property as security for an obligation.
MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE (MLS) - An organization created by Realtors to facilitate the sharing of listings among member brokers.
NEGOTIATION - The transaction of business aimed at reaching a meeting of minds among the parties; bargaining.
NONCONFORMING USE - A permitted use which was lawfully established and maintained but which no longer conforms to the current use regulations because of a change in the zoning.
NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR - That physical deterioration which occurs in the normal course of the use for which a property is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises (or equipment or chattels) by the occupant, members of household, or their invitees or guests.
OFFER - A promise by one party to act or perform in a specified manner provided the other party will act or perform in the manner requested.
OPEN-END MORTGAGE - A mortgage in which the borrower is given a limit up to which he may borrow, with any incremental advances of money up to but not exceeding the original borrowing limit to be secured by the same mortgage.
OPEN HOUSE - The common real estate practice of showing a listed home to the public during established hours, frequently on Sunday afternoons.
PARTY WALL - A wall which is located on or at a boundary line between two adjoining parcels and is used or is intended to be used by the owners of both properties in the construction or maintenance of improvements on their respective lots.
PERSONAL PROPERTY - Things which are tangible and moveable; property which is not classified as real property; chattels.
POSSESSION - The act of either actually or constructively possessing or occupying property.
PREPAYMENT PENALTY - The amount set by the creditor as a penalty to the debtor for paying off the debt prior to its maturity. The prepayment penalty is charged by the lender to recoup a portion of interest that he had planned to earn when he made the loan.
PRIME RATE - The minimum interest rate charged by a commercial bank on short-term loans to its largest and strongest clients(those with the highest credit standings).
PRINCIPAL - The capital sum; interest is paid on the principal. NOT spelled principle.
PROBATE - The formal judicial proceeding to prove or confirm the validity of a will. The will is presented to the probate court, and creditors and interested parties are notified to present their claims or to show cause why the provisions of the will should not be enforced by the court.
PROPERTY - The rights or interests a person has in the thing owned; not, in the technical sense, the thing itself. These rights include the right to possess, to use, to encumber, to transfer and to exclude, commonly called the "bundle of rights." RAW LAND - Unimproved land; land in its unused natural state prior to the construction of improvements such as streets, lighting, sewers, and the like.
REAL ESTATE - The physical land and appurtenances, including any structures; for all practical purposes synonymous with real property.
REAL PROPERTY - All land and appurtenances to land, including buildings, structures, fixtures, fences, and improvements erected upon or affixed to the same; excluding, however, growing crops.
REAL PROPERTY REPORT – A report in which boundaries are measured and land areas are determined; the on-site measurement of lot lines, dimensions, and position of houses in a lot including the determination of any existing encroachments or easements.
REFINANCE - The act of obtaining a new loan to pay off an existing loan; the process of paying off one loan with the proceeds from another.
RESCISSION - The legal remedy of canceling, terminating or annulling a contract and restoring the parties to their original positions; a return to the status quo.
RESERVE FUND - Monies set aside as a cushion of capital for future payment of items such as taxes, insurance, furniture replacement, deferred maintenance, etc.; sometimes referred to as an impound account.
RESTRICTIVE COVENANT - A private agreement, usually contained in a deed, which restricts the use and occupancy of real property.
RIGHT-OF-WAY - The right or privilege, acquired through accepted usage or by contract, to pass over a designated portion of the property of another.
SECOND MORTGAGE - A mortgage which is junior or subordinate to a first mortgage; typically, an additional loan imposed on top of the first mortgage, which is taken out when the borrower needs more money.
SETBACK - Zoning restrictions on the amount of land required surrounding improvements; the amount of space required between the lot line and the building line.
SIMPLE INTEREST - Interest computed on the principal balance only.
SPECIAL ASSESSMENT - A tax or levy customarily imposed against only those specific parcels of realty which will benefit from a proposed public improvement, as opposed to a general tax on the entire community.
STATUTE OF FRAUDS - That law which requires certain contracts to be in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith in order to be legally enforceable.
TENANCY AT WILL - A tenancy in which a person is in possession of real estate with the permission of the owner, for a term of unspecified or uncertain duration, as when an owner permits a tenant to occupy a property until it is sold.
TENANCY IN COMMON - A form of concurrent ownership of property between two or more persons, in which each has an undivided interest in the whole property; frequently found when the parties acquire title by descent or by will.
TITLE INSURANCE - A comprehensive contract of indemnity under which the title company agrees to reimburse the insured for any loss if title is not as represented in the policy.
TITLE SEARCH - An examination of the public records to determine what, if any, defects there are in the chain of title.
TOWNHOUSE - A type of dwelling unit normally having two floors, with the living area and kitchen on the base floor and the bedrooms located on the second floor.
TRUST FUND ACCOUNT - An account set up by a broker at a bank or other recognized depository, into which the broker deposits all funds entrusted to him by his principal or others.
VENDEE - The purchaser of realty; the buyer. The buyer under an agreement of sale.
VENDOR - The seller of realty. The seller under an agreement of sale.
VOIDABLE - A contract which appears valid and enforceable on its face, but is subject to rescission by one of the parties who acted under a disability, such as being a minor or being under duress or undue influence; that which may be avoided or adjudged void but which is not, in itself, void.
WAIVER - To voluntarily give up or surrender a right.
ZONING - The regulation of structures and uses of property within designated districts or zones. Zoning regulates and affects such things as use of the land, types of structure permitted, building heights, setbacks, and density (the ratio of land area to improvement area).