Real Estate Definitions
Abstract of title: A condensed history or summary of all transactions affecting a particular parcel of real estate, including the original grant, all conveyances and encumbrances affecting the property, and the abstractor's certification of the history's accuracy.
Acceleration clause: A clause in a mortgage that gives the lender the right to require payment of the entire principal balance if the borrower defaults on an installment payment or other covenant.
Acceptance: An offeree's consent to enter into, and be bound by the terms of, a contract.
Access: The right to enter and exit a parcel of land from a public way, including the right to enter and exit via land belonging to others.
Acknowledgment: The confirmation by which a party executing a legal document confirms his signature and voluntary agreement with the terms of the document, made before an authorized officer of the Court or notary public.
Acre: 43,560 square feet of land.
Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM): A mortgage with interest rates that may fluctuate based on market conditions; the lender is permitted to adjust the mortgage's interest rate periodically, though most ARM's are limited in the amount that the interest rates can vary.
Adjusted basis: The total of the original cost of a property and the value of any capital expenditures for improvements done to it, minus any depreciation taken.
Adjustment date: The date on which the interest rate changes for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).
Adjustment period: The period of time between the adjustment dates for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).
Administrator: A person appointed by a probate court to administer the estate of an individual who has died without a will.
Adverse Possession: A claim made against the land titled to another person, by virtue of open and hostile possession and use of the land to the exclusion of the titled owner.
Affidavit of title: A sworn statement that is made in writing under oath by a seller of real property, and certified by a notary public, in which the seller identifies himself or herself, indicates marital status, certifies that no defects have occurred in the title since the examination of the title on the date of the contract, and confirms that he or she is in possession of the property (if applicable).
Agency: The relationship between two or more persons wherein the agent is authorized to act on behalf of another person (or principal) in certain transactions.
Agent: A person or company that acts on behalf of another to transact business, generally in exchange for payment. In real estate, it is a person or company with a real estate license working under the authority of a real estate broker.
Alienation: The act of transferring property to another, either voluntarily (via a sale), or involuntarily (via adverse possession).
Alienation clause: The clause in a mortgage or deed of trust which asserts the lender's option to require that the balance of the secured debt becomes immediately due and payable if the property is sold by the borrower, preventing the borrower from assigning the debt without the lender's approval.
ALTA: American Land Title Association, the national association of title insurance companies, abstractors and attorneys specializing in real property law, headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Amenity: A natural or manmade feature of real property that enhances its value and attractiveness, though it is not essential to the property's use.
Amortization: The process of payment of a debt or mortgage loan over time by installments.
Amortization schedule: A timetable for repayment of a debt or mortgage loan, showing the amount of each payment, what portion is applied to interest and principal, and the remaining balance.
Amortization term: The amount of time required to repay the mortgage loan, expressed in number of months.
Amortize: To pay off a loan or mortgage with periodic payments that cover both principal and interest.
Amortized loan: A loan in which both the principal and interest are payable in monthly or other periodic installments over the term of the loan, with no balloon payment prior to maturity.
Annual mortgagor statement: An annual report sent to the borrower (mortgagor) each year, showing the amount paid in taxes and interest during the year, as well as the remaining mortgage loan balance.
Annual percentage rate (APR): The overall cost of a mortgage, including interest, mortgage insurance, and loan origination fee (points), stated as a yearly percentage, thus allowing buyers to compare different types of mortgages based on the associated annual finance charges; the APR must be disclosed to borrowers by lenders, per the Truth-in-Lending Act.
Annuity: The return, including interest, from an investment of capital, paid in a series of regular payments.
Appraisal: A written estimate of the value of an asset or property prepared by a qualified, independent party, through which the asset or property value is determined.
Appraised value: The estimate of a property's fair market value, based on an appraiser's analysis of the property.
Appraiser: An individual educated to estimate the value of real property and personal property.
Appreciation: An increase in the worth of a property due to changes in economic conditions or other causes; the opposite of depreciation.
Appurtenance: Anything attached to, or used with, a parcel of land that will go to the new owner on conveyance of the land.
ARM: Adjustable-rate Mortgage. Also see "Variable Rate Mortgage".
Assessment: A tax, charge or levy against a property made by the government, based on its value, and levied for a specific purpose, such as to finance sidewalks, a sewer, etc.
Assessment rolls: The public record of taxable property.
Assessor: A public official who evaluates the value of a property for taxation purposes.
Asset: Anything of monetary value owned by an individual, including real property, personal property, and enforceable claims against others (bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds, etc.).
Assign: To transfer interest.
Assignee: One who receives an assignment or transfer of rights.
Assignor: One who makes an assignment or transfer of rights to another.
Assumable mortgage: A mortgage that allows a new owner to take over its obligations.
Assumption: The process of transferring the seller's existing mortgage and liability for payments to the buyer when purchasing a property, which usually saves the buyer money, since assuming a new mortgage incurs additional closing costs and possibly higher interest charges.
Assumption clause: The provision in an assumable mortgage that allows a buyer to take responsibility for that mortgage from the seller.
Attachment: Seizure of property through Court process to force payment of a debt.
Attorney-in-fact: One who holds a power of attorney from another to execute legal documents on behalf of the grantor of the power.