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Glossary of Terms for Real Estate Loans

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Abstract (Of Title)

A summary of the public records relating to the title to a particular piece of land. If there are any title defects they must be cleared before a buyer can purchase clear, marketable, and insurable title.

Acceleration Clause

Allows the lender to speed up the rate at which your loan comes due or even to demand immediate payment of the entire balance of the loan should you default on your loan.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

A mortgage in which the interest rate is adjusted periodically based on changes in market conditions. An ARM usually has lower monthly payments in the initial period of the loan, but the homeowner must be prepared to make higher payments, or to refinance, if rates rise.

Agreement of Sale

Known by various names, such as contract of purchase, purchase agreement, or sales agreement according to location or jurisdiction. A contract in which a seller agrees to sell and a buyer agrees to buy, under specific terms spelled out in writing and signed by both parties.


The process of paying off a loan by making regularly scheduled payments of principal and interest, according to the terms of the mortgage note.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The APR is higher than the interest rate because it reflects the actual cost of a mortgage as a yearly rate because it includes loan fees and points.


An estimate of the fair market value of property, made by a professional appraiser.

Appraisal Fee

The charge for estimating the fair market value of property.


An increase in value of a property due to changes in market conditions or other causes.

Assessed Value

Value assigned to property by a local government agency for tax purposes. This does not determine the appraised value for a mortgage loan.


Property that can be used to repay debt, such as stocks and bonds or a car.


The agreement between buyer and seller where the buyer takes over the payments on an existing mortgage from the seller. Assuming a loan sometimes saves the buyer money since this is an existing mortgage debt.

Balloon (Payment) Mortgage

Usually a short-term fixed-rate loan which involves small payments for a certain period of time and one large payment for the remaining amount of the principal and all accrued interest not yet paid at the end of the loan period.

Binder or "Offer to Purchase"

A preliminary agreement, secured by the payment of earnest money, between a buyer and seller as an offer to purchase real estate. A binder secures the right to purchase real estate upon agreed terms for a limited period of time. If the buyer changes his mind or is unable to purchase, the earnest money is forfeited unless the binder expressly provides that it is to be refunded.


An individual who arranges funding or negotiates contracts for a client but who does not loan the money himself.

Building Line or Setback

Distances from the ends and/or sides of the lot beyond which construction may not extend. The building line may be set by a filed plat of subdivision, by restrictive covenants in deeds or leases, by building codes, or by zoning ordinances.


A payment to the lender from the seller, buyer, third party, or some combination of these, causing the lender to reduce the interest rate on the loan. The rate reduction is for the life of a fixed rate loan or the term of an adjustable rate loan.

Caps (Interest)

Consumer safeguards which limit the amount the interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage may change periodically and/or the life of the loan.

Caps (Payment)

Consumer safeguards which limit the amount monthly payments on an adjustable rate mortgage may change.

Cash Reserve

A requirement of some lenders that buyers have sufficient cash remaining after closing equivalent to two months’ mortgage payments.

Certificate of Title

A certificate issued by a title company or a written opinion by an attorney that the seller has good marketable and insurable title to the property which he is offering for sale. A certificate of title offers no protection against any hidden defects in the title which an examination of the records could not reveal. The issuer of a certificate of title is liable only for damages due to negligence.

Clear Title

A title that is free of liens or legal questions as to ownership of property.


The meeting between the buyer, seller and lender where the property and funds legally change hands. Also called settlement.

Closing Costs

These may include a loan origination fee, points, appraisal fee, title search and insurance, survey, taxes, deed recording fee, credit report charge and other costs assessed at settlement.

Closing Day

The day on which the formalities of a real estate sale are finished. The certificate of title, abstract, and deed are generally prepared for the closing by the title company and this cost is shared by the buyer and the seller. The buyer signs the mortgage, and closing costs are paid. The final closing merely implements the original agreement reached in the agreement of sale.

Cloud (On Title)

An outstanding claim which negatively affects the marketability of title.


Property offered to support a loan that may be seized if you default.


Money paid to a real estate agent or broker by the seller as compensation for finding a buyer and completing the sale.


An agreement, often in writing, between a lender and a borrower to loan money at a future date subject to the stated conditions.


A determination by a governmental agency that a particular building is unsafe or unfit for use.


Individual ownership of a unit and an individual interest in the common areas and facilities which serve the project.

Construction Loan

A short term interim loan for financing the cost of construction. The lender advances funds to the builder as the work progresses.


A condition that must be met before a contract is legally binding.


A person who contracts to erect buildings. There are also contractors for each phase of construction: heating, electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, road building and others.

Conventional Loan

A mortgage not insured by FHA or guarantee by the VA or Farmers Home Administration (FmHA).

Convertible ARM

An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) that can be converted to a fixed-rate mortgage under specified conditions.

Cooperative Housing

An apartment building or a group of dwellings owned by a corporation, the stockholders of which are the residents of the dwellings. It is operated for their benefit by their elected board of directors. In a cooperative, the corporation or association owns title to the real estate. A resident purchases stock in the corporation which entitles him to occupy a unit in the building or property owned by the cooperative. While the resident does not own his unit, he has an absolute right to occupy his unit for as long as he owns the stock.


Another person who signs your loan and assumes equal responsibility for its repayment.


A clause in a mortgage that obligates or restricts the borrower and which, if violated, can result in foreclosure.


The right granted by a creditor to pay in the future in order to buy or borrow in the present; also, a sum of money owed to a person or business.

Credit Bureau

An agency that keeps a record of your credit history.

Credit Card

Any card used from time to time to borrow money or buy goods or services on credit.

Credit History

The record of how you've borrowed and repaid debts.

Credit Ratio

The ratio, expressed as a percentage, which results when a borrower's monthly payment obligation on long-term debts is divided by his or her net income (FHA/VA loans) or gross monthly income (Conventional loans). See Housing Expenses-to-Income Ratio.

Related Words
Housing Expenses-to-Income Ratio

Credit Scoring System

A statistical system used to rate credit applicants according to various characteristics relevant to creditworthiness.


A person or business from whom you borrow or to whom you owe money.

Credit-related Insurance

Health, life, or accident insurance designed to pay the outstanding balance of debt.


Past and future ability to repay debts.


A formal written instrument by which title to real property is transferred from one owner to another. The deed should contain an accurate description of the property being conveyed, should be signed and witnessed according to the laws of the State where the property is located. There are two parties to a deed: the grantor and the grantee. (See also deed of trust, general warranty deed, quitclaim deed, and special warranty deed).

Related Words
Deed of Trust  ;  General Warranty Deed  ;  Quitclaim Deed  ;  Special Warranty Deed

Deed of Trust

In many states, this document is used in place of a mortgage to secure the payment of a note.


Failure to repay a loan or otherwise meet the terms of your credit agreement.

Deferred Interest

See Negative Amortization.

Related Words
Negative Amortization


Failure to make payments on time. This can lead to foreclosure.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

An independent agency of the federal government which guarantees long-term, low- or no-down payment mortgages to eligible veterans.


See Earnest Money.

Related Words
Earnest Money


Decline in value of a house due to wear and tear, adverse changes in the neighborhood, or any other reason.


Information that must be given to consumers about their financial dealings.

Discount Points

Points represent an optional, one-time charge paid to the lender at the time of closing. Each point is equal to 1 percent of the loan amount (e.g. two points on a $100,000 mortgage would cost $2,000).

Down Payment

Money paid to make up the difference between the purchase price and mortgage amount. Down payments usually are 5 percent to 20 percent of the sales price on Conventional loans.

Due-On-Sale Clause

A provision in a mortgage or deed of trust that allows the lender to demand immediate payment of the balance of the mortgage if the mortgage holder sells the home.

Earnest Money

Money given by a buyer to a seller as part of the purchase price to bind a transaction or assure payment.

Easement Rights

A right-of-way granted to a person or company authorizing access to or over the owner's land. An electric company obtaining a right-of-way across private property is a common example.

Elderly Applicant

As defined in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a person age 62 or older.

Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) Systems

A variety of systems and technologies for transferring funds electronically rather than by check.


An obstruction, building, or part of a building that intrudes beyond a legal boundary onto neighboring private or public land, or a building extending beyond the building line.


A legal right or interest in land that affects a good or clear title, and diminishes the land's value. It can take numerous forms, such as zoning ordinances, easement rights, claims, mortgages, liens, charges, a pending legal action, unpaid taxes, or restrictive covenants. An encumbrance does not legally prevent transfer of the property to another. A title search is all that is usually done to reveal the existence of such encumbrances, and it is up to the buyer to determine whether he wants to purchase with the encumbrance, or what can be done to remove it.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

Is 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.


The difference between the fair market value and current indebtedness, also referred to as the owner's interest.


Refers to a neutral third party who carries out the instructions of both the buyer and seller to handle all the paperwork of settlement or "closing." Escrow may also refer to an account held by the lender into which the homebuyer pays money for tax or insurance payments.

Fannie Mae

See Federal National Mortgage Association.

Related Words
Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA)

Farmers Home Administration (FmHA)

Provides financing to farmers and other qualified borrowers who are unable to obtain loans elsewhere.

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC)

Also called Freddie Mac, is a quasi-governmental agency that purchases conventional mortgages from insured depository institutions and HUD-approved mortgage bankers.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

A division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Its main activity is the insuring of residential mortgage loans made by private lenders. FHA also sets standard for underwriting mortgages.

Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA)

Also known as Fannie Mae. A tax-paying corporation created by Congress that purchases and sells conventional residential mortgages as well as those insured by FHA or guaranteed by VA.

FHA Loan

A loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration open to all qualified home purchasers. While there are limits to the size of FHA loans, they are generous enough to handle moderate-priced homes almost anywhere in the country.

Finance Charge

The total dollar amount credit will cost the borrower.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage (FRM)

A mortgage on which the interest rate is set for the term of the loan. Most first-time home buyers prefer FRMs because the predictable monthly payment makes it easy to budget. The only change to your monthly payment would be due to an increase in real estate taxes or homeowner's insurance.

Flood Insurance

Insurance that compensates for physical property damage resulting from flooding. It is required for properties located in federally designated flood areas.


The lender’s postponement of foreclosure to give the borrower time to catch up on overdue payments.


A legal procedure in which property securing debt is sold by the lender to pay a defaulting borrower's debt.

Freddie Mac

See Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.

Related Words
Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC)

General Warranty Deed

A deed which conveys not only all the grantor's interests in and title to the property to the grantee, but also warrants that if the title is defective or has a "cloud" on it (such as mortgage claims, tax liens, title claims, judgments, or mechanic's liens against it) the grantee may hold the grantor liable.

Ginnie Mae

See Government National Mortgage Association.

Related Words
Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA)

Good Faith Estimate (GFE)

Within three business days of application, you will receive an estimate of the funds you will need to close your loan. This is an estimate only; actual cost may be somewhat lower or higher.

Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA)

Also known as Ginnie Mae, provides sources of funds for residential mortgages, insured or guaranteed by FHA or VA.

Graduated Payment Mortgage (GPM)

A type of flexible-payment mortgage where the payments increase for a specified period of time and then level off. This type of mortgage has negative amortization built into it.


That party in the deed who is the buyer or recipient.


That party in the deed who is the seller or giver.

Gross Monthly Income

The total amount of money the borrower earns per month, before any taxes or expenses are deducted.


A promise by one party to pay a debt or perform an obligation contracted by another if the original party fails to pay or perform according to a contract.

Hazard Insurance

A form of insurance in which the insurance company protects the insured from specified losses such as fire, windstorm and the like.

Home Equity Line of Credit

A form of open end credit in which the home serves as collateral.

Homeowner’s Insurance

An insurance policy that combines personal liability coverage and hazard insurance coverage for a dwelling and its contents.

Homeowner’s Warranty

A type of insurance that covers repairs to specified parts of a house for a specific period of time. It is provided by the builder or property seller as a condition of the sale.

Housing Expenses-to-Income Ratio

The ratio, expressed as a percentage, which results when a borrower's housing expenses are divided by his/her net effective income (FHA/VA loans) or gross monthly income (Conventional loans).


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Office of Housing/Federal Housing Administration within HUD insures home mortgage loans made by lenders and sets minimum standards for such homes.


That portion of a borrower's monthly payments held by the lender or servicer to pay for taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, lease payments, and other items as they become due. Also known as reserves.


A published interest rate against which lenders measure the difference between the current interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage and that earned by other investments (such as one- three-, and five-year U.S. Treasury Security yields, the monthly average interest rate on loans closed by savings and loan institutions, and the monthly average Costs-of-Funds incurred by savings and loans), which is then used to adjust the interest rate on an adjustable mortgage up or down.


A charge paid for borrowing money.

Interest Rate

The annual rate of interest on the loan, expressed as a percentage of 100.

Interest Rate Cap

A provision of an adjustable rate mortgage limiting how much interest rates may increase per adjustment period or over the life of a mortgage. Also see Lifetime Cap.

Related Words
Lifetime Cap


On an adjustable rate mortgage, the time between changes in the interest rate and/or monthly payment, usually one, three or five years.


Money source for a lender.

Joint Account

A credit account held by two or more people so that all can use the account and all assume legal responsibility to repay.

Joint Tenancy

A form of co-ownership giving each tenant equal interest and equal rights in the property, including the right of survivorship.

Jumbo Loan

A loan which is larger than the limits set by the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.

Late Payment

A payment made later than agreed upon in a credit contract and on which additional charges may be imposed.


A person who signs a lease to get temporary use of property.


A company or individual that provides temporary use of property usually in return for periodic payment.

Liability on an Account

Legal responsibility to repay debt.


A claim upon a piece of property for the payment or satisfaction of a debt or obligation.

Lifetime Cap

A provision of an ARM that limits the total increase in interest rates over the life of the loan.

Loan-To-Value Ratio

The relationship between the amount of the mortgage loan and the appraised value of the property expressed as a percentage.

Lock Term

A lender's guarantee of an interest rate for a set period of time. The time period is usually that between loan application approval and loan closing. The lock-in protects you against rate increases during that time.


The amount a lender adds to the index on an adjustable rate mortgage to establish the adjusted interest rate.

Market Value

The highest price that a buyer would pay and the lowest price a seller would accept on a property. Market value may be different from the price a property could actually be sold for at a given time.

Marketable Title

A title that is free and clear of objectionable liens, clouds, or other title defects. A title which enables an owner to sell his property freely to others and which others will accept without objection.


A lien or claim against real property given by the buyer to the lender as security for money borrowed. Under government-insured or loan-guarantee provisions, the payments may include escrow amounts covering taxes, hazard insurance, water charges, and special assessments. Mortgages generally run from 10 to 30 years, during which the loan is to be paid off.

Mortgage (Open-End)

A mortgage with a provision that permits borrowing additional money in the future without refinancing the loan or paying additional financing charges. Open-end provisions often limit such borrowing to no more than would raise the balance to the original loan figure.

Mortgage Commitment

A written notice from the bank or other lending institution saying it will advance mortgage funds in a specified amount to enable a buyer to purchase a house.

Mortgage Insurance

Money paid to insure the mortgage when the down payment is less than 20 percent. See Private Mortgage Insurance.

Related Words
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Mortgage Note

A written agreement to repay a loan. The agreement is secured by a mortgage, serves as proof of indebtedness, and states the manner in which it shall be paid. The note states the actual amount of the debt that the mortgage secures and renders the mortgagor personally responsible for repayment.


The lender.


The borrower or homeowner.

Negative Amortization

Occurs when your monthly payments are not large enough to pay all the interest due on the loan. This unpaid interest is added to the unpaid balance of the loan. The danger of negative amortization is that the homebuyer ends up owing more than the original amount of the loan.

Non-Assumption Clause

A statement in a mortgage contract forbidding the assumption of the mortgage without the prior approval of the lender.

Notice of Default

A formal written notice to a borrower that a default has occurred and that legal action may be taken.

Open-End Credit

A line of credit that may be used over and over again, including credit cards, overdraft credit accounts, and home equity lines.

Open-End Lease

A lease which may involve a balloon payment based on the value of the property when it is returned.

Origination Fee

The fee charged by a lender to prepare loan documents, make credit checks, inspect and sometimes appraise a property; usually computed as a percentage of face value of the loan.

Owner Financing

A property purchase transaction in which the property seller provides all or part of the financing.


Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Also called monthly housing expense.


A map or chart of a lot, subdivision or community drawn by a surveyor showing boundary lines, buildings, improvements on the land, and easements.


See Discount Points.

Related Words
Discount Points

Power of Attorney

A legal document authorizing one person to act on behalf of another.


Pre-paids are the funds put into an escrow account at closing and are usually the equivalent of one or more months of tax and insurance payments. Not every loan product has an escrow requirement. Pre-paids will also include the mortgage interest for the few days remaining in the month in which the closing occurs, the documentation fee and the flood determination fee.


A privilege in a mortgage permitting the borrower to make payments in advance of their due date.

Prepayment Penalty

Money charged for an early repayment of debt. Prepayment penalties are allowed in some form (but not necessarily imposed) in 36 states and the District of Columbia.


The process of determining how much money a prospective home buyer will be eligible to borrow prior to the borrower making formal application.


The amount of debt, not counting interest, left on a loan.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

In the event that you do not have a 20 percent down payment, lenders will allow a smaller down payment-as low as 5 percent in some cases. With the smaller down payments loans, however, borrowers are usually required to carry private mortgage insurance. Premiums are collected monthly by your lender, and the amounts vary with the loan balance, term, and loan-to-value.

Quitclaim Deed

A deed which transfers whatever interest the maker of the deed may have in the particular parcel of land. A quitclaim deed is often given to clear the title when the grantor's interest in a property is questionable. By accepting such a deed the buyer assumes all the risks. Such a deed makes no warranties as to the title, but simply transfers to the buyer whatever interest the grantor has.


See Interest Rate.

Related Words
Interest Rate

Real Estate Broker

A middle man or agent who buys and sells real estate for a company, firm, or individual on a commission basis. The broker does not have title to the property, but generally represents the owner.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)

RESPA is a federal law that allows consumers to review information on known or estimated settlement costs once after application and once prior to or at settlement. The law requires lenders to furnish information after application only.


A real estate broker or an associate holding active membership in a local real estate board affiliated with the National Association of Realtors.

Recording Fees

Money paid to the lender for recording a home sale with the local authorities, thereby making it part of the public records.


The process of the same mortgagor paying off one loan with the proceeds from another loan.

Renegotiable Rate Mortgage (RRM)

A loan in which the interest rate is adjusted periodically. See Adjustable Rate Mortgage.

Related Words
Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)


The cancellation of a contract. With respect to mortgage refinancing, the law that gives the homeowner three days to cancel a contract in some cases once it is signed if the transaction uses equity in the home as security.

Restrictive Covenants

Private restrictions limiting the use of real property. Restrictive covenants are created by deed and may "run with the land," binding all subsequent purchasers of the land, or may be "personal" and binding only between the original seller and buyer. The determination whether a covenant runs with the land or is personal is governed by the language of the covenant, the intent of the parties, and the law in the State where the land is situated. Restrictive covenants that run with the land are encumbrances and may affect the value and marketability of title. Restrictive covenants may limit the density of buildings per acre or regulate size, style or price range of buildings to be erected.

Reverse Annuity Mortgage (RAM)

A form of mortgage in which the lender makes periodic payments to the borrower using the borrower's equity in the home as security.

Second Mortgage

A mortgage that has a lien position subordinate to the first mortgage.


Property pledged to the creditor in case of a default on a loan; see collateral.

Related Words

Security Interest

The creditor's right to take property or a portion of property offered as security.

Service Charge

A component of some finance charges, such as the fee for triggering an overdraft checking account into use.


All the steps and operations a lender performs to keep a loan in good standing, such as collection of payments, payment of taxes, insurance, property inspections and the like.


See Closing.

Related Words

Settlement Costs

See Closing Costs.

Related Words
Closing Costs

Special Assessments

A special tax imposed on property, individual lots or all property in the immediate area, for road construction, sidewalks, sewers, streetlights, etc.

Special Lien

A lien that binds a specified piece of property, unlike a general lien, which is levied against all one's assets. It creates a right to retain something of value belonging to another person as compensation for labor, material, or money expended in that person's behalf. In some localities it is called "particular" lien or "specific" lien. Also see lien.

Related Words

Special Warranty Deed

A deed in which the grantor conveys title to the grantee and agrees to protect the grantee against title defects or claims asserted by the grantor and those persons whose right to assert a claim against the title arose during the period the grantor held title to the property. In a special warranty deed the grantor guarantees to the grantee that he has done nothing during the time he held title to the property which has, or which might in the future, impair the grantee's title.


A measurement of land, prepared by a registered land surveyor, showing the location of the land with reference to known points, its dimensions, and the location and dimensions of any building.


As applied to real estate, an enforced charge imposed on persons, property or income, to be used to support the State. The governing body in turn utilizes the funds in the best interest of the general public.


The period of time between the beginning loan date on the legal documents and the date the entire balance of the loan is due.

Term Mortgage

See Balloon Payment Mortgage.

Related Words
Balloon (Payment) Mortgage


A document that gives evidence of an individual's ownership of property.

Title Insurance

A policy, usually issued by a Title Insurance company, which insures a homebuyer against errors in the title search. The cost of the policy is usually a function of the value of the property, and is often shared by the purchaser and/or seller.

Title Search

An examination of municipal records to determine the legal ownership of property. Usually is performed by a title company.


A party who is given legal responsibility to hold property in the best interest of or "for the benefit of" another. The trustee is one placed in a position of responsibility for another, a responsibility enforceable in a court of law.

Truth-in-Lending (TIL)

This is a statement that a borrower receives after application that explains the cost of financing the loan. When you receive the TIL, you will need your loan officer to explain it to you since the interest rate will not be the rate on which your monthly payments are based, but an annual percentage rate that includes various points and fees.


The decision whether to make a loan to a potential homebuyer based on credit, employment, assets, and other factors and the matching of this risk to an appropriate rate and term or loan amount.

VA Loan

A long-term, low-or no-down payment loan guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Restricted to individuals qualified by military service or other entitlements.

Variable Rate Mortgage (VRM)

See Adjustable Rate Mortgage.

Related Words
Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

Verification of Deposit (VOD)

A document signed by the borrower's financial institution verifying the status and balance of his/her financial accounts.

Verification of Employment

A document signed by the borrower's employer verifying his/her position and salary.

Zoning Ordinances

The acts of an authorized local government establishing building codes, and setting forth regulations for property land usage.

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