Acknowledgment: A declaration made by a person to a notary public, or other public official authorized to take acknowledgments, that the instrument was executed by him and that it was his free and voluntary act.
Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): A mortgage with rates and terms that can change. The adjustable rate loan has become commonplace, with allowable ranges as to time intervals, percentage of increase or decrease and total increases or decreases likely to change as market conditions change.
Agency: A relationship created when one person, the principal, delegates to another, the agent, the right to act on his or her 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.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): An expression of the relationship of the total finance charge to the total amount to be financed as required under the federal Truth-in-Lending Act. Tables available from any Federal Reserve bank may be used to compute the rate, which must be calculated to the nearest one-eighth of 1 percent. Use of the APR permits a standard expression of credit costs, which facilitates easy comparison of lenders.
Building inspection: An overall inspection of a home or building performed by a qualified contractor or inspector. The inspection usually covers all major systems including foundation, plumbing, electrical, roof, heating and air conditioning.
Buyer-agency agreement: A principal-agent relationship in which the broker is the agent for the buyer, with fiduciary responsibilities to the buyer. The broker represents the buyer under the law of agency.
Closing costs: Expenses of the sale (or loan refinancing) that 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). Some closing costs result from legal requirements; others are a matter of local custom and practice.
Earnest money: Money paid by the buyer, at the time of making an offer or entering into a contract to purchase, which is intended to show the buyer’s good–faith intention to complete the purchase. Generally, earnest money is applied against the purchase price, but may be forfeited if the buyer fails to complete the purchase.
Escrow: The process by which money and/or documents are held by a disinterested third person (a stakeholder) until satisfaction of the terms and conditions of the escrow instructions (as prepared by the parties to the escrow) have been achieved. Once these terms have been satisfied, delivery and transfer of the escrowed funds and documents takes place.
Escrow account: The trust account established under the provisions of the license law for the purpose of holding funds on behalf of the principal or some other person until the consummation or termination of a transaction.
Exclusive Agency (EA): A written listing agreement giving a sole agent the right to sell a property for a specified time, but reserving to the owner the right to sell the property himself without owing a commission. The exclusive agent is entitled to a commission if he or she personally sells the property or if it is sold by anyone other than the seller. It is exclusive in the sense that the property is listed with only one broker. The multiple-listing service must accept exclusive-agency listings submitted by participating brokers.
Exclusive right to sell (ERS): A listing agreement which gives the listing agent the right to sell the property for a specified time, with the right to collect a commission if the property is sold by anyone, including the owner, during the listing period.
For Sale By Owner (FSBO): Some owners choose to sell their own property without the aid of a real estate broker. “For Sale By Owner” properties can be a source of listings when the owner is unsuccessful in selling their property.
Home equity loan: A loan (sometimes called a line of credit) under which a property owner uses his or her residence as collateral and can then draw funds up to a prearranged amount against the property.
Homeowners’ insurance: A type of insurance policy designed to protect homeowners from financial losses related the ownership of real property. In addition to covering losses due to vandalism, fire, hail, etc., most policies also provide theft and liability coverage. Flood related damage requires a separate flood insurance policy or rider.
House closing: The final transfer of the ownership of a house from the seller to the buyer, which occurs after both have met all the terms of their contract and the deed has been recorded. Also known as just “closing”.
Lease purchase: A contract in which an owner leases his house (usually for one to five years) to a tenant for an increased monthly rent, and which gives the tenant the right to buy the house at the end of the lease period for a price established in advance, with the incremental rent increase being used to form a down payment. Buyers should be wary of this type of contract since they may lose their extra rent/down payment money should the owner suffer financial setbacks before the purchase has been completed.
Listing agreement: A written employment agreement between a property owner and a real estate broker authorizing the broker to find a buyer or a tenant for certain real property. Listing can take the form of open listings, net listings, exclusive-agency listings, or exclusive-right-to-sell listings. The most common form is the exclusive-right-to-sell listing.
Listing broker: The broker in a multiple–listing situation from whose office a listing agreement is initiated, as opposed to the cooperating broker, from whose office negotiations leading up to a sale are initiated. The listing broker and the cooperating broker may be the same person.
Market analysis: A regional and neighborhood study of economic, demographic and other factors made to determine supply and demand, market trends, and other factors important to buying/leasing and selling real property.
Mortgage: A contract providing security for the repayment of a loan, registered against property, with stated rights and remedies in the event of default. Lenders consider both the property and financial worth of the borrower in deciding on a mortgage loan.
Mortgage broker/company: A person or firm that 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; also called a loan broker. Loans originated by the mortgage broker are closed in the lender’s name and are usually serviced by the lender. This is in contrast to mortgage bankers, who not only close loans in their own names but continue to service them as well.
Mortgage insurance: A kind of insurance policy that will pay off the mortgage balance in the event of death, and in some policies, disability. Premiums are paid with the regular monthly mortgage payment.
Mortgage loan: A loan which utilizes real estate as security or collateral to provide for repayment should you default on the terms of your loan. The mortgage or deed of trust is your agreement to pledge your home or other real estate as security.
Multiple–Listing Service (MLS): A marketing organization composed of member brokers who agree to share their listing agreements with one another in the hope of procuring ready, willing and able buyers for their properties more quickly than they could on their own.
Offer: A proposal to enter into an agreement with another person. An offer must express the intent of the person making the offer to form a contract, must contain some essential terms — including the price and subject matter of the contract — and must be communicated by the person making the offer. A legally valid acceptance of the offer will create a binding contract.
Open listing: A listing given to any number of brokers who can work simultaneously to sell the owner’s property. The first broker to secure a buyer who is ready, willing and able to purchase at the terms of the listing earns the commission. In the case of a sale, the seller is not obligated to notify any of the brokers that the property has been sold.
Real estate: The physical land at, above and below the earth’s surface with all appurtenances, including any structures; any and every interest in land whether corporeal or incorporeal, freehold or nonfreehold; for all practical purposes, the term real estate is synonymous with real property.
REALTOR®: A registered trade name that may be used only by members of the state and local real estate boards affiliated with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The term REALTOR® designates a professional who subscribes to associations of REALTORS® to govern real estate practices of members of the board. The use of the name REALTOR® and the distinctive seal in advertising is strictly governed by the rules and regulations of the national association.
Refinance: To obtain a new loan to pay off an existing loan, or to pay off one loan with the proceeds from another. Properties are frequently refinanced when interest rates drop and/or the property has appreciated in value.
Sales contract: A real estate sales contract contains the complete agreement between a buyer of a parcel of real estate and the seller. Depending on the area, this agreement may be known as an offer to purchase, a contract of purchase and sale, a purchase agreement, an earnest money agreement or a deposit receipt.
VA loan: A government-sponsored mortgage assistance program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, eligible veterans and widows or widowers (who have not re-married) of veterans who died in service or from service-connected causes may obtain partially guaranteed loans for the purchase or construction of a house or to refinance existing mortgage debt.
Walk-through: A final inspection of a property just before closing. This assures the buyer that the property has been vacated, that no damage has occurred and that the seller has not taken or substituted any property contrary to the terms of the sales agreement. If damage has occurred, the buyer might ask that funds be withheld at the closing to pay for the repairs.
Warranty: A promise that certain stated facts are true. A guarantee by the seller, covering the title as well as the physical condition of the property. A warranty is different from a representation in that a representation is a statement made in the course of negotiations leading up to the sale, but not incorporated into the contract. A warranty, on the other hand, is a statement in the contract asserting the truth of certain things about the property.
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, lot sizes, types of structure permitted, building heights, setbacks and density (the ratio of land area to improvement area).