Buying or selling a home is not an easy process and difficult terms as well as phrases only makes things harder. It’s like being in a foreign country and not being able to speak their native tongue. Don’t let this deter you and take this opportunity to further your knowledge on the most commonly heard terms and phrases.
Abstract of Title – The summarized history of all of the titles, transfers and legal actions that are connected to a property.
Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) – Also know as a variable-rate loan. A mortgage in which the interest changes periodically, according to corresponding fluctuations in an index. All ARMs are tied to indexes.
Agreement of Sale – Also known as contract of purchase, purchase agreement, or sales agreement according to location or jurisdiction. A contract in which a seller and buyer agree to transact under certain terms spelled out in writing and signed by both parties.
Amortization – The process of reducing the principal debt through a schedule of fixed payments at regular intervals of time, with an interest rate specified in a loan document.
Appraisal – A written justification of the price paid for a property, primarily based on an analysis of comparable sales of similar homes nearby.
Assessed Value – The value placed on a home by municipal assessors for the purposes of determining property taxes.
Bill of Sale – A written document that transfers title to personal property. For example, when selling an automobile to acquire funds which will be used as a source of down payment or for closing costs, the lender will usually require the bill of sale (in addition to other items) to help document this source of funds.
Closing – The final steps in the transfer of property ownership. On the Closing Date, as specified by the sales agreement, the buyer inspects and signs all the documents relating to the transaction and the final disbursements are paid. Also referred to as the Settlement.
Closing Costs – The costs to complete a real estate transaction in addition to the price of the home, to include: points, taxes, title insurance, appraisal fees, and legal fees.
Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) – A report on comparable homes in the area that is used to derive an accurate value for the home in question.
Contingency – A clause in the purchase contract that describes certain conditions that must be met and agreed upon by both buyer and seller before the contract is binding.
Counter Offer – An offer, made in response to a previous offer, that rejects all or part of it while enabling negotiations to continue towards a mutually-acceptable sales contract.
Conventional Mortgage – One that is not insured or guaranteed by the federal government.
Debt-to-Income Ratio – A ratio that measures total debt burden. It is calculated by dividing gross monthly debt repayments, including mortgages, by gross monthly income.
Down Payment – The money paid by the buyer to the lender at the time at the time of the closing. The amount is the difference between the sales price and the mortgage loan. Requirements vary by loan type. Smaller down payments, less than 20% usually requires mortgage insurance.
Due Diligence – Due diligence means taking caution, performing calculations, reviewing documents, procuring insurance, walking the property, etc. — essentially doing your homework for the property BEFORE you actually make the purchase.
Earnest Money – A deposit given by the buyer to bind a purchase offer which is held in escrow. If the property sale is closed, the deposit is applied to the purchase price. If the buyer does not fulfill all contract obligations, the deposit may be forfeited.
Equity – Equity is ownership. In home ownership, equity refers to how much of your home you actually own, meaning how much of the principal you’ve paid off. The more equity you have, the more financial flexibility you have, as you can refinance against whatever equity you’ve built.
Easements – Legal right of access to use of a property by individuals or groups for specific purposes. Easements may affect property values and are sometimes part of the deed.
Escrow – Escrow is an account that the lender sets up that receives monthly payments from the buyer.
Fixed-Rate Mortgage – A type of mortgage loan in which the interest rate does not change during the entire term of the loan.
Free Market Evaluation – An offer by a realtor, usually presented in marketing materials, to provide a complimentary assessment of your home’s current market value.
Home Inspection – Professional inspection of a home, paid for by the buyer, to evaluate the quality and safety of its plumbing, heating, wiring, appliances, roof, foundation, etc.
Homeowner’s Insurance – A policy that protects you and the lender from fire or flood, a liability such as visitor injury, or damage to your personal property.
Lien – A claim or charge on property for payment of a debt. With a mortgage, the lender has the right to take the title to your property if you don’t make the mortgage payments.
Market Value – The amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for a home. An appraised value is an estimate of the current fair market value.
Mortgage Insurance – Purchased by the buyer to protect the lender in the event of default (typically for loans with less than 20% down). Available through a government agency like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or through private mortgage insurers (PMI).
Possession Date – The date, as specified by the sales agreement, that the buyer can move into the property. Generally, it occurs within a couple days of the closing date.
Pre-Approval Letter – A letter from a mortgage lender indicating that a buyer qualifies for a mortgage of a specific amount.
Principal – The amount of money borrowed from a lender to buy a home, or the amount of the loan that has not yet been repaid. Does not include the interest paid to borrow.
Purchase Offer – A detailed, written document which makes an offer to purchase a property, and which may be amended several times in the process of negotiations. When signed by all parties involved in the sale, the purchase offer becomes a legally binding sales agreement.
Title – The right to, and the ownership of, property. A title or deed is sometimes used as proof of ownership of land. Clear titles refers to a title that has no legal defects.
Title Insurance – Insurance policy that guarantees the accuracy of the title search and protects lenders and homeowners against legal problems with the title.
Truth-In-Lending Act (TILA) – Federal law that requires disclosure of a truth-in-lending statement for consumer loans. The statement includes a summary of the total cost of credit.
Title Search – A historical review of all legal documents relating to ownership of a property to determine if there have been any flaws in prior transfers of ownership or if there are any claims or encumbrances on the title to the property.