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Real Estate Glossary

Acceleration Clause

A provision in a mortgage that gives the lender the right to demand payment of the entire principal balance if a monthly payment is missed.

Acceptance

An offeree’s consent to enter into a contract and be bound by the terms of the offer.

Additional Principal Payment

A payment by a borrower of more than the scheduled principal amount due in order to reduce the remaining balance on the loan.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)

A mortgage that permits the lender to adjust its interest rate periodically on the basis of changes in a specified index.

Adjusted Basis

The original cost of a property plus the value of any capital expenditures for improvements to the property minus any depreciation taken.

Adjustment Date

The date on which the interest rate changes for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Adjustment Period

The period that elapses between the adjustment dates for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Administrator

A person appointed by a probate court to administer the estate of a person who died intestate.

Affidavits

As part of the closing process, you’re likely to sign numerous affidavits. You may be required, for example, to sign an affidavit of occupancy. It states that you will use the property as a principal residence. Or, you and the seller may have to sign an affidavit stating all of the improvements to the property required in the sales contract were completed before closing.

Your lender can provide additional information regarding any of these documents you will sign.

Affordability Analysis

A detailed analysis of your ability to afford the purchase of a home. An affordability analysis takes into consideration your income, liabilities, and available funds, along with the type of mortgage you plan to use, the area where you want to purchase a home, and the closing costs that you might expect to pay.

Amenity

A feature of real property that enhances its attractiveness and increases the occupant’s or user’s satisfaction although the feature is not essential to the property’s use. Natural amenities include a pleasant or desirable location near water, scenic views of the surrounding area, etc. Human-made amenities include swimming pools, tennis courts, community buildings, and other recreational facilities.

Amortization

The gradual repayment of a mortgage loan by installments.

Amortization Schedule

A timetable for payment of a mortgage loan. An amortization schedule shows the amount of each payment applied to interest and principal and shows the remaining balance after each payment is made.

Amortization Term

The amount of time required to amortize the mortgage loan. The amortization term is expressed as a number of months. For example, for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the amortization term is 360 months.

Amortize

To repay a mortgage with regular payments that cover both principal and interest.

Annual Mortgagor Statement

A report sent to the mortgagor each year. The report shows how much was paid in taxes and interest during the year, as well as the remaining mortgage loan balance at the end of the year.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The cost of a mortgage stated as a yearly rate; includes such items as interest, mortgage insurance, and loan origination fee (points).

Annuity

An amount paid yearly or at other regular intervals, often on a guaranteed dollar basis.

Application

A form used to apply for a mortgage loan and to record pertinent information concerning a prospective mortgagor and the proposed security.

* Also see “Loan Application” entry

Appraisal

A written analysis of the estimated value of a property prepared by a qualified appraiser. Contrast with home inspection.

Appraised Value

An opinion of a property’s fair market value, based on an appraiser’s knowledge, experience, and analysis of the property.

Appraiser

A person qualified by education, training, and experience to estimate the value of real property and personal property.

Appreciation

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

Assessed Value

The valuation placed on property by a public tax assessor for purposes of taxation.

Assessment

The process of placing a value on property for the strict purpose of taxation. May also refer to a levy against property for a special purpose, such as a sewer assessment.

Assessment Rolls

The public record of taxable property.

Assessor

A public official who establishes the value of a property for taxation purposes.

Asset

Anything of monetary value that is owned by a person. Assets include real property, personal property, and enforceable claims against others (including bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds, and so on)

Assignment

The transfer of a mortgage from one person to another.

Assumable Mortgage

A mortgage that can be taken over (“assumed”) by the buyer when a home is sold.

A provision in an assumable mortgage allows a buyer to assume responsibility for the mortgage from the seller. The loan does not need to be paid in full by the original borrower upon the sale or transfer of the property.

Assumption

The transfer of the seller’s existing mortgage to the buyer.

* See also “Assumable Mortgage” entry

Assumption Clause

A provision in an assumable mortgage that allows a buyer to assume responsibility for the mortgage from the seller. The loan does not need to be paid in full by the original borrower upon sale or transfer of the property.

Assumption Fee

The fee paid to a lender (usually by the purchaser of real property) resulting from the assumption of an existing mortgage.

Attorney-in-fact

One who holds a power of attorney from another to execute documents on behalf of the grantor of the power.

Automated Underwriting

After you complete your loan application with a lender, it is sent to “underwriting” for review. In short, underwriting is the process used to analyze how you have managed credit obligations in the past, whether you have the ability to repay the mortgage loan you are applying for (i.e., your income and assets), and whether the price you are willing to pay for the home is supported by the price of the property.

Balance Sheet

A financial statement that shows assets, liabilities, and net worth as of a specific date.

Balloon Mortgage

A mortgage that has level monthly payments that will amortize it over a stated term but that provides for a lump sum payment to be due at the end of an earlier specified term.

Balloon Payment

The final lump sum payment that is made at the maturity date of a balloon mortgage.

Bankrupt

A person, firm, or corporation that, through a court proceeding, is relieved from the payment of all debts after the surrender of all assets to a court-appointed trustee.

Bankruptcy

A proceeding in a federal court in which a debtor who owes more than his or her assets can relieve the debts by transferring his or her assets to a trustee.

Before-Tax Income

Income before taxes are deducted.

Beneficiary

The person designated to receive the income from a trust, estate, or a deed of trust.

Bequeath

To transfer personal property through a will.

Betterment

An improvement that increases property value as distinguished from repairs or replacements that simply maintain value.

Bill of Sale

A written document that transfers title to personal property.

Binder

A preliminary agreement, secured by the payment of an earnest money deposit, under which a buyer offers to purchase real estate.

Biweekly Mortgages

Your lender will probably tell you that a biweekly mortgage is structured just like a traditional fixed-rate, level-payment, fully amortizing mortgage. However, you make your payments every 14 days instead of once a month. The monthly payment is split in half, resulting in the same total monthly mortgage, but the resulting 26 and sometimes 27 biweekly payments a year translate into 13 monthly payments, or one extra monthly payment per year.

Borrowers can qualify for a 30-year monthly payment amount, but get a loan that pays off in approximately 22 years at current interest rates. At higher rates, the actual term declines.

If you are looking to build up equity in your home faster without the higher mortgage payments that come with a shorter-term mortgage, you may want to consider the biweekly mortgage. Payments can be deducted from your bank account and scheduled to coincide with your payroll deposits to simplify budgeting. Lenders may charge an initial set-up fee to automatically debit your checking account.

Biweekly Payment Mortgage

A mortgage that requires payments to reduce the debt every two weeks (instead of the standard monthly payment schedule). The 26 (or possibly 27) biweekly payments are each equal to one-half of the monthly payment that would be required if the loan were a standard 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, and they are usually drafted from the borrower’s bank account. The result for the borrower is a substantial savings in interest.

Blanket Insurance Policy

A single policy that covers more than one piece of property (or more than one person).

Blanket Mortgage

The mortgage that is secured by a cooperative project, as opposed to the share loans on individual units within the project.

Bona Fide

In good faith, without fraud.

Bond

An interest-bearing certificate of debt with a maturity date. An obligation of a government or business corporation. A real estate bond is a written obligation usually secured by a mortgage or a deed of trust.

Breach

A violation of any legal obligation.

Bridge Loan

A form of second trust that is collateralized by the borrower’s present home (which is usually for sale) in a manner that allows the proceeds to be used for closing on a new house before the present home is sold. Also known as “swing loan.”

Broker

A person who, for a commission or a fee, brings parties together and assists in negotiating contracts between them.

Budget

A detailed plan of income and expenses expected over a certain period of time. A budget can provide guidelines for managing future investments and expenses.

Budget Category

A category of income or expense data that you can use in a budget. You can also define your own budget categories and add them to some or all of the budgets you create. “Rent” is an example of an expense category. “Salary” is a typical income category.

Building Code

Local regulations that control design, construction, and materials used in construction. Building codes are based on safety and health standards

Buydown Account

An account in which funds are held so that they can be applied as part of the monthly mortgage payment as each payment comes due during the period that an interest rate buydown plan is in effect.

Buydown Mortgage

A temporary buydown is a mortgage on which an initial lump sum payment is made by any party to reduce a borrower’s monthly payments during the first few years of a mortgage. A permanent buydown reduces the interest rate over the entire life of a mortgage.

Call Option

A provision in the mortgage that gives the mortgagee the right to call the mortgage due and payable at the end of a specified period for whatever reason.

Cap

A provision of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) that limits how much the interest rate or mortgage payments may increase or decrease. See lifetime payment cap, lifetime rate cap, periodic payment cap, and periodic rate cap.

Capacity

Lenders will want to know if you can repay the mortgage debt you incur — this is known as your capacity. Lenders will base their evaluation on employment information, how long you’ve worked, and how much you are paid. Lenders will also review your expenses and any other debt obligations you have. This means they’ll want to know how many dependents you have and whether you pay any alimony or child support, for example.

Capital

(1) Money used to create income, either as an investment in a business or an income property. (2) The money or property comprising the wealth owned or used by a person or business enterprise. (3) The accumulated wealth of a person or business. (4) The net worth of a business represented by the amount by which its assets exceed liabilities.

Capital Expenditure

The cost of an improvement made to extend the useful life of a property or to add to its value.

Capital Improvement

Any structure or component erected as a permanent improvement to real property that adds to its value and useful life.

CD-Indexed (Certificate of Deposit) ARMs

The Certificate of Deposit index represents the weekly average of secondary market interest rates on six-month negotiable CDs. The initial interest rate and payments adjust every six months after an initial six-month period.

ARMs with this index typically come with a per-adjustment cap of 1 percent and a lifetime rate cap of 6 percent.

Certificate of Deposit

A document written by a bank or other financial institution that is evidence of a deposit, with the issuer’s promise to return the deposit plus earnings at a specified interest rate within a specified time period.

Certificate of Deposit Index

An index that is used to determine interest rate changes for certain ARM plans. It represents the weekly average of secondary market interest rates on six-month negotiable certificates of deposit.

* Also see “Adjustable-Rate Mortgage” entry

Certificate of Eligibility

A document issued by the federal government certifying a veteran’s eligibility for a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgage.

Certificate of Reasonable Value (CRV)

A document issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that establishes the maximum value and loan amount for a VA mortgage.

Certificate of Title

A statement provided by an abstract company, title company, or attorney stating that the title to real estate is legally held by the current owner.

Chain of Title

The history of all of the documents that transfer title to a parcel of real property, starting with the earliest existing document and ending with the most recent.

Change Frequency

The frequency (in months) of payment and/or interest rate changes in an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Change Orders

After construction begins, you may discover that you need to make unplanned and necessary changes to the work. The contingency reserve covers unforeseen repairs or deficiencies found during renovation. Unnecessary additions or changes are treated differently.

These change orders are considered discretionary and must first be approved by your lender. You must deposit additional funds to pay for the work in the escrow account before work on the changes begins. These change orders — as well as any that result from unforeseen repairs — must be added as amendments to your construction contract.

Chattel

Another name for personal property.

Clear Title

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

Closing

A meeting at which a sale of a property is finalized by the buyer signing the mortgage documents and paying closing costs. Also called “settlement.”

* Also see “Settlement” entry

Closing Agent

As a potential home buyer, you will need a closing (or “settlement”) agent to coordinate the various closing activities. These can include but are not limited to preparing and recording the closing documents and disbursing funds.

The types of services provided by a closing agent depend on the person you hire, but typically the closing is conducted by title companies, escrow companies or attorneys. It is usually held at the lender’s or real estate sales professional’s office.

Closing Cost Item

A fee or amount that a home buyer must pay at closing for a single service, tax, or product. Closing costs are made up of individual closing cost items such as origination fees and attorney’s fees. Many closing cost items are included as numbered items on the HUD-1 statement.

Closing Costs

Expenses (over and above the price of the property) incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property. Closing costs normally include an origination fee, an attorney’s fee, taxes, an amount placed in escrow, and charges for obtaining title insurance and a survey. Closing costs percentage will vary according to the area of the country; lenders or realtors┬« often provide estimates of closing costs to prospective homebuyers.

Closing Date

After your lender has approved your mortgage and you accept the commitment letter, the next step is to set a closing date. Many times, your real estate sales professional coordinates the setting of this date with you, the seller, the closing agent, and your lender.

You may be able to move up the time frame for your closing by working with a lender who uses Desktop Underwriter┬« — our advanced automated underwriting system — because it can cut the time it takes to process your mortgage.

Remember, you need to ensure that the closing occurs before your lender’s commitment letter — and the rate lock-in, if there is one — expire. You can now finalize your moving plans.

Co-Maker

A person who signs a promissory note along with the borrower. A co-maker’s signature guarantees that the loan will be repaid, because the borrower and the co-maker are equally responsible for the repayment.

Coinsurance

A sharing of insurance risk between the insurer and the insured. Coinsurance depends on the relationship between the amount of the policy and a specified percentage of the actual value of the property insured at the time of the loss.

Coinsurance Clause

A provision in a hazard insurance policy that states the amount of coverage that must be maintained — as a percentage of the total value of the property — for the insured to collect the full amount of a loss.

Collateral

An asset (such as a car or a home) that guarantees the repayment of a loan. The borrower risks losing the asset if the loan is not repaid according to the terms of the loan contract.

Collection

The efforts used to bring a delinquent mortgage current and to file the necessary notices to proceed with foreclosure when necessary.

Commercial Banks

Commercial banks, like thrifts, originate and service mortgage loans. In some cases, commercial banks may have mortgage banking subsidiaries that perform this function. Banks may choose to hold a loan in their own portfolio or sell the loan to an investor.

Commission

The fee charged by a broker or agent for negotiating a real estate or loan transaction. A commission is generally a percentage of the price of the property or loan.

Commitment Letter

A formal offer by a lender stating the terms under which it agrees to lend money to a home buyer. Also known as a “loan commitment.”

Common Area Assessments

Levies against individual unit owners in a condominium or planned unit development (PUD) project for additional capital to defray homeowners’ association costs and expenses and to repair, replace, maintain, improve, or operate the common areas of the project.

Common Areas

Those portions of a building, land, and amenities owned (or managed) by a planned unit development (PUD) or condominium project’s homeowners’ association (or a cooperative project’s cooperative corporation) that are used by all of the unit owners, who share in the common expenses of their operation and maintenance. Common areas include swimming pools, tennis courts, and other recreational facilities, as well as common corridors of buildings, parking areas, means of ingress and egress, etc.

Common Law

An unwritten body of law based on general custom in England and used to an extent in the United States.

Community Land Trust Mortgage Option

An alternative financing option that enables low- and moderate-income home buyers to purchase housing that has been improved by a nonprofit Community Land Trust and to lease the land on which the property stands.

Community Property

In some western and southwestern states, a form of ownership under which property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be owned jointly unless acquired as separate property of either spouse.

Community Seconds

An alternative financing option for low- and moderate-income households under which an investor purchases a first mortgage that has a subsidized second mortgage behind it. The second mortgage may be issued by a state, county, or local housing agency, foundation, or nonprofit organization. Payment on the second mortgage is often deferred and carries a very low interest rate (or no interest rate at all). Part of the debt may be forgiven incrementally for each year the buyer remains in the home.

Comparables

An abbreviation for “comparable properties”; used for comparative purposes in the appraisal process. Comparables are properties like the property under consideration; they have reasonably the same size, location, and amenities and have recently been sold. Comparables help the appraiser determine the approximate fair market value of the subject property.

Compound Interest

Interest paid on the original principal balance and on the accrued and unpaid interest.

Debt

An amount owed to another. See installment loan and revolving liability.

Deed

The legal document conveying title to a property.

The deed is the document that transfers ownership from the seller to you. Only the seller signs the deed at closing, and you’ll receive a copy of it.

The closing agent will record the deed with you listed as the new property owner. Your name and the names of any other buyers appear on the deed, and it will be sent to you after it is recorded.

Deed of Trust

The document used in some states instead of a mortgage; title is conveyed to a trustee.

In some states, a “deed of trust” is used instead of a mortgage. When homeowners sign a deed of trust, they receive title to the property but convey title to a neutral third party — called a trustee — until the loan balance is paid in full.

Default

Failure to make mortgage payments on a timely basis or to comply with other requirements of a mortgage.

Delinquency

Failure to make mortgage payments when mortgage payments are due.

Department of Veternas Affairs (VA)

An agency of the federal government that guarantees residential mortgages made to eligible veterans of the military services. The guarantee protects the lender against loss and thus encourages lenders to make mortgages to veterans.

The Veterans Administration is a federal government agency authorized to guarantee loans made to eligible veterans under certain conditions. To obtain more information, you can contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA guarantee allows qualified veterans to buy a house costing up to $203,000 with no down payment. Moreover, the qualification guidelines for VA loans are more flexible than those for either the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or conventional loans.

If you are a qualified veteran, this can be an attractive mortgage program. To determine whether you are eligible, check with your nearest VA regional office.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

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.

Earnest Money Deposit

A deposit made by the potential home buyer to show that he or she is serious about buying the house.

The earnest money deposit is a “good-faith” payment you submit with your offer on a home to show the seller you are serious about proceeding.

The earnest money is deposited in an escrow account and will be applied to your closing costs.

Sometimes, your lender will want you to bring a receipt for the earnest money deposit along with your sales contract to the initial loan application meeting.

Easement

A right of way giving persons other than the owner access to or over a property.

Effective Age

An appraiser’s estimate of the physical condition of a building. The actual age of a building may be shorter or longer than its effective age.

Effective Gross Income

Normal annual income including overtime that is regular or guaranteed. The income may be from more than one source. Salary is generally the principal source, but other income may qualify if it is significant and stable.

Eminent Domain

The right of a government to take private property for public use upon payment of its fair market value. Eminent domain is the basis for condemnation proceedings.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

A consumer protection law that regulates the disclosure of consumer credit reports by consumer/credit reporting agencies and establishes procedures for correcting mistakes on one’s credit record.

Fair Market Value

The highest price that a buyer, willing but not compelled to buy, would pay, and the lowest a seller, willing but not compelled to sell, would accept.

Fannie Mae (FNMA)

A New York Stock Exchange company and the largest non-bank financial services company in the world. It operates pursuant to a federal charter and is the nation’s largest source of financing for home mortgages.

Over the past 31 years, Fannie Mae has provided nearly $2.8 trillion of mortgage financing for over 34 million families.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

An agency of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Its main activity is the insuring of residential mortgage loans made by private lenders. The FHA sets standards for construction and underwriting but does not lend money or plan or construct housing.

Fee Simple

The greatest possible interest a person can have in real estate.

Fee simple ownership provides the owner with unrestricted powers to dispose of the owned property as the owner sees fit. Of all types of ownership a person can have in real estate, fee simple provides the greatest amount of personal control.

Fee Simple Estate

An unconditional, unlimited estate of inheritance that represents the greatest estate and most extensive interest in land that can be enjoyed. It is of perpetual duration. When the real estate is in a condominium project, the unit owner is the exclusive owner only of the air space within his or her portion of the building (the unit) and is an owner in common with respect to the land and other common portions of the property.

General Contractor

A general contractor is someone whom you may work closely with during your home improvement project. The general contractor is the person who oversees the construction project and handles various aspects such as scheduling workers and ordering supplies.

If you are borrowing mortgage funds to renovate a home, your lender may need to review whether your contractor meets all federal, state, and local registration, licensing and certification standards.

Good Faith Estimate

The good-faith estimate is a report from your lender that outlines the costs you will incur to get your mortgage. It is based on the lender’s typical loan origination costs for the area where your home is located. The estimate usually changes between application and closing, so you’ll want to review your settlement form before the closing meeting.

The settlement form will list the actual amount of money you’ll need to bring to closing. You’ll need to pay your closing costs in the form of a certified or cashier’s check because personal checks usually are not accepted.

Government Mortgage

A mortgage that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the Rural Housing Service (RHS). Contrast with conventional mortage.

Government National Mortgage Association

A government-owned corporation within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Created by Congress on September 1, 1968, GNMA assumed responsibility for the special assistance loan program formerly administered by Fannie Mae. Popularly known as Ginnie Mae.

Grantee

The person to whom an interest in real property is conveyed.

Grantor

The person conveying an interest in real property.

Hazard Insurance

Insurance coverage that in the event of physical damage to a property from fire, wind, vandalism, or other hazards.

Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM)A special type of mortgage that enables older home owners to convert the equity they have in their homes into cash, using a variety of payment options to address their specific financial needs. Unlike traditional home equity loans, a borrower does not qualify on the basis of income but on the value of his or her home. In addition, the loan does not have to be repaid until the borrower no longer occupies the property. Sometimes called a reverse mortgage.

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is a type of home loan that lets homeowners aged 62 or over with little or no remaining balance on their mortgage convert their equity into cash. The equity can be paid to the homeowner in a lump sum, in a stream of payments, draws from a line of credit, or a combination of monthly payments and line of credit.

Whatever payment plan you select, you do not have to repay any part of this reverse mortgage until you sell the home or vacate it for another reason. At that time, you pay the loan balance, plus any accrued interest. Any proceeds above that amount go to you or to your estate.

Developed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the HECM mortgage provides a cash growth feature not found with some other reverse mortgages — check with your Fannie Mae approved lender to see how this works based on your personal needs and your payment plan.

Advantages:

— The funds are yours to spend in any way you choose.
— There are no monthly payments with a HECM.
— Your loan funds do not affect Social Security or Medicare benefits. (If you receive Supplemental Social Security or Medicaid, these benefits may be affected.)
— You do not have to pay back the loan until you sell your home or no longer use it for your primary residence. Then, you or your estate will repay the cash you received from the HECM, plus interest and other finance charges to the lender. This means that the remaining equity in your home can be passed on to your heirs through the sale of the property.
— You will never owe more than the value of the home at the time of repayment, even if the loan balance exceeds the value of your property. This means no debt will ever be passed along to the estate or your heirs.

Details:

— You and any co-borrowers must be at least 62 years old.
— You must own your home outright — or carry a small mortgage balance.
— Eligible properties include a single-family home, a two- to four-unit dwelling, a condominium or a manufactured home. All housing types must meet Federal Housing Administration (FHA) guidelines. (Ask your lender if your property qualifies.)
— Your home must be your principal residence, which means you must live in it more than half the year.
— You must attend pre-application mortgage counseling before you apply for the loan.
— You must keep applicable taxes current, as well as maintain insurance coverage on your home.
— The amount you can borrow with a HECM depends on the age of the youngest borrower(s), the interest rate, how much your house is worth, and the maximum claim amount. In general, you can get between one-third and one-half of your equity as a line of credit or as a lump sum payment.
— The balance of funds advanced against the equity in your home is due and payable when you relinquish your home as a primary residence, or if the borrower(s) pass away. You may have to pay off the debt if you fail to pay property taxes or insurance or if you do not maintain your property.

Home Equity Line of Credit

A mortgage loan, which is usually in a subordinate position, that allows the borrower to obtain multiple advances of the loan proceeds at his or her own discretion, up to an amount that represents a specified percentage of the borrower’s equity in a property.

Home InspectionA thorough inspection that evaluates the structural and mechanical condition of a property. A satisfactory home inspection is often included as a contingency by the purchaser. Contrast with appraisal.

The home inspection reviews the structural and mechanical condition of the property. This is not an evaluation of the market value of the home or a determination of whether the home complies with applicable building and safety codes. The inspection does not include a recommendation on whether you should or should not buy the house.

The inspector bases the findings on observable structural elements of the home. Potential home buyers are urged to be present during the inspection — this will allow you to ask questions and be in a better position to learn more about any problems that arise.

You should expect to see an evaluation of:

— roof and siding,
— windows and doors,
— foundation,
— insulation,
— ventilation,
— heating and cooling systems,
— plumbing and electrical systems,
— walls, floors, and ceilings,
— and any common areas if you are purchasing a condominium or cooperative.

You should view the home inspection report as a way to identify problems before you buy the home, to help negotiate adjustments in the purchase price if problems exist, and to help get the buyer to make any needed improvements before you buy the home.

Lastly — and for some buyers most importantly — the home inspection report is a way to make you feel confident that the home you are buying includes systems that are in good working condition.

Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance — also called “hazard insurance” — should be equal to at least the replacement cost of the property you want to purchase. Replacement cost coverage ensures that your home will be fully rebuilt in case of a total loss.

Most home buyers purchase a homeowner’s insurance policy that includes personal liability insurance in case someone is injured on their property; personal property coverage for loss and damage to personal property due to theft or other events; and dwelling coverage to protect the house against fire, theft, weather damage, and other hazards.

If the home you want to buy is located near water, you may be able to get flood insurance as part of your homeowner’s protection. In fact, it may be required in some areas, so check with your real estate professional or an approved lender for further information.

Seek out and compare rates from several insurance companies before making your final decision.

Lenders often want the first year’s premium to be paid at or before closing. Your lender may add the insurance cost to your monthly mortgage payments and keep this portion of your payments in an escrow account. The lender then pays your insurance bill out of escrow when it receives premium notices from your insurance company.

Homeowner’s Insurance for Reverse Mortgages

Homeowner’s insurance (also called “hazard insurance”) is required and should be equal to at least the replacement cost of the home you want to purchase. Replacement cost coverage ensures that your home will be fully rebuilt in case of a total loss.

Most home buyers purchase a homeowner’s insurance policy that includes personal liability insurance (though this personal liability insurance is not required) in case someone is injured on their property; personal property coverage for loss and damage to property due to theft or other events; and dwelling coverage to protect the house against fire, theft, weather damage, and other hazards.

If the home is near water, you may be able to get flood insurance as part of your homeowner’s protection. In fact, it may be required in some areas, so check with your real estate professional or an approved lender for further information.

Seek out and compare rates from several insurance companies before making your final decision.

In-File Credit Report

An objective account, normally computer-generated, of credit and legal information obtained from a credit repository.

Income Property

Real estate developed or improved to produce income.

Index

A number used to compute the interest rate for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). The index is generally a published number or percentage, such as the average interest rate or yield on Treasury bills. A margin is added to the index to determine the interest rate that will be charged on the ARM. This interest rate is subject to any caps that are associated with the mortgage.

Inflation

An increase in the amount of money or credit available in relation to the amount of goods or services available, which causes an increase in the general price level of goods and services. Over time, inflation reduces the purchasing power of a dollar, making it worth less.

Initial Interest Rate

The original interest rate of the mortgage at the time of closing. This rate changes for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). Sometimes known as “start rate” or “teaser.”

Installment

The regular periodic payment that a borrower agrees to make to a lender.

The regular periodic payment that a borrower agrees to make to a lender. The installment is more often referred to as your monthly mortgage payment.

Installments, or monthly payments, can be made either monthly or biweekly, depending on your mortgage type. Your approved lender may also offer additional payment plans tailored to fit your needs.

Joint Tenancy

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

Judgment

A decision made by a court of law. In judgments that require the repayment of a debt, the court may place a lien against the debtor’s real property as collateral for the judgment’s creditor.

Judgment Lien

A lien on the property of a debtor resulting from the decree of a court.

Judicial Foreclosure

A type of foreclosure proceeding used in some states that is handled as a civil lawsuit and conducted entirely under the auspices of a court.

Jumbo Loan

A loan that exceeds mortgage amount limits. Also called a nonconforming loan.

Late Charge

The penalty a borrower must pay when a payment is made a stated number of days (usually 15) after the due date.

Lease

A written agreement between the property owner and a tenant that stipulates the conditions under which the tenant may possess the real estate for a specified period of time and rent.

Lease-purchase Mortgage Loan

An alternative financing option that allows low- and moderate-income home buyers to lease a home from a nonprofit organization with an option to buy. Each month’s rent payment consists of principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI) payments on the first mortgage plus an extra amount that is earmarked for deposit to a savings account in which money for a downpayment will accumulate.

Nonprofit organizations may use the lease-purchase option to purchase a home that they then rent to a consumer, or “leaseholder.” The leaseholder has the option to buy the home after a designated period of time (usually three or five years). Part of each rent payment is put aside toward savings for the purpose of accumulating the down payment and closing costs.

Lease-purchase Option

Nonprofit organizations may use the lease-purchase option to purchase a home that they then rent to a consumer, or “leaseholder.” The leaseholder has the option to buy the home after a designated period of time (usually three or five years). Part of each rent payment is put aside toward savings for the purpose of accumulating the down payment and closing costs.

Leasehold Estate

A way of holding title to a property wherein the mortgagor does not actually own the property but rather has a recorded long-term lease on it.

Legal Description

A property description, recognized by law, that is sufficient to locate and identify the property without oral testimony.

Manufactured Housing

Homes and dwellings that are not built at the home site and are moved to the location are considered manufactured housing. Manufactured housing units must be built on a permanent chassis at a factory and then transported to a permanent site and attached to a foundation. All manufactured homes must be built to meet standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The standards focus on such aspects as design, strength, energy efficiency, and fire resistance.

Manufactured housing represents one of the fastest-growing housing markets in the United States. Nearly all of the mortgage products are available for owners of manufactured housing.

Margin

For an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), the amount that is added to the index to establish the interest rate on each adjustment date, subject to any limitations on the interest rate change.

Market Value

You can get a good feel for the market value of a home by asking whether the listing agent compiled a “comparative market analysis” (CMA). This written report on the property examines comparable homes in the area that have recently been sold, are currently on the market, or are currently under contract.

The CMA will help you figure out whether the asking price is in line with other comparable houses in the neighborhood.

Master Association

A homeowners’ association in a large condominium or planned unit development (PUD) project that is made up of representatives from associations covering specific areas within the project. In effect, it is a “second-level” association that handles matters affecting the entire development, while the “first-level” associations handle matters affecting their particular portions of the project.

Maturity

The date on which the principal balance of a loan, bond, or other financial instrument becomes due and payable.

Maximum Claim Amount

Your maximum claim amount is the lesser of two figures:

— Your home’s appraised value.
— HUD 203(b) limit.

The HUD 203(b) limit is the maximum loan amount that FHA will insure for residences in your geographical area. Check with your lender to get the latest figures for your area.

Negative Amortization

A gradual increase in mortgage debt that occurs when the monthly payment is not large enough to cover the entire principal and interest due. The amount of the shortfall is added to the remaining balance to create “negative” amortization.

No Cash-Out Refinance

A refinance transaction in which the new mortgage amount is limited to the sum of the remaining balance of the existing first mortgage, closing costs (including prepaid items), points, the amount required to satisfy any mortgage liens that are more than one year old (if the borrower chooses to satisfy them), and other funds for the borrower’s use (as long as the amount does not exceed 1 percent of the principal amount of the new mortgage).

Net Cash Flow

The income that remains for an investment property after the monthly operating income is reduced by the monthly housing expense, which includes principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI) for the mortgage, homeowners’ association dues, leasehold payments, and subordinate financing payments.

Note

A legal document that obligates a borrower to repay a mortgage loan at a stated interest rate during a specified period of time.

One way to think of the mortgage note is that it is a legal “IOU.” Often called the promissory note, it represents your promise to pay the lender according to the agreed upon terms of the loan, including when and where to send your payment.

The note lists any penalties that will be assessed if you don’t make your monthly mortgage payments. It also warns you that the lender can “call” the loan — demand repayment of the entire loan before the end of the term — if you violate the terms of your mortgage.

Nonliquid Asset

An asset that cannot easily be converted into cash.

Occupancy Date

This provision is a good way to help ensure that your home will be ready for occupancy after the closing takes place. As part of your formal purchase offer, consider including a provision that holds the seller responsible for paying you rent should they not move out on or prior to the agreed-upon date. This allows you, for example, to use the money you receive to pay your own rent if you are leasing your current residence.

Offer

When you make an offer on a house, it means you are making a formal bid to buy a home. You can work with your real estate sales professional to put together a written bid that abides by the laws in your state. Your offer should include such aspects as the address of the home, the sales price, the type of mortgage financing you will use to purchase the home, any personal property that might be included as part of the sale, and a target date for closing and occupancy. An earnest money deposit typically accompanies the offer. Your real estate sales professional can provide guidance on other elements of the offer.

Once you have made an offer, the seller has the opportunity to accept, decline, or make a counter-offer. If your offer is accepted, you have a ratified sales contract. This contract is the starting point for working with an approved lender to get the mortgage that’s right for you.

Ongoing Costs

Home buyers should not forget that there are on-going costs associated with owning a home. They include, but are not limited to:

— Monthly mortgage payment;
— Mortgage insurance;
— Homeowner’s insurance;
— Property taxes; and,
— Utilities, such as gas, oil, water and electricity.

Another cost home buyers should consider is how much it will cost to maintain their home. These costs include everything from cleaning and minor repairs to yard work and painting.

Condominium owners and people living in planned unit developments should factor in any homeowners’ association fees or similar costs.

One-Year Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

This adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) offers a low initial interest rate with an interest rate that adjusts annually after the first year. The rate cap per annual adjustment is usually 2 percent; the lifetime adjustment caps can be 5 percent or 6 percent. This type of mortgage may be right for you if you anticipate a rapid increase in income over the first few years of your mortgage. That’s because it lets you maximize your purchasing power immediately. It may also be the right mortgage for you if you plan to live in your home for only a few years.

Advantages:

— Maximizes your buying power immediately, especially if you expect your income to rise quickly in the next few years.
— A low first-year interest rate and a 2 percent annual rate cap.
— Some one-year ARMs let you convert to a fixed-rate loan at certain adjustment intervals.

Ask your approved lender which of their one-year ARMs include this option. Generally, conversions to fixed-rate mortgages are allowed at the third, fourth, or fifth interest rate adjustment dates.

Details:

— You can get a one-year ARM with a term from 10 to 30 years. The most typical ones are 10, 15, or 30 years.
— The one-year ARM is most often indexed to the weekly average yield of U.S. Treasury securities adjusted to a constant maturity of one year.
— Can be used to buy one-family, principal residences, including condos, and planned unit developments.
— Manufactured homes are also eligible. (Manufactured housing units must be built on a permanent chassis at a factory and then transported to a permanent site and attached to a foundation.)

Original Principal Balance

The total amount of principal owed on a mortgage before any payments are made.

Origination Fee

A fee paid to a lender for processing a loan application. The origination fee is stated in the form of points. One point is 1 percent of the mortgage amount.

The loan origination fee covers the administrative costs of processing the loan. It is often expressed in points. One point is 1 percent of the mortgage amount. For example, a $100,000 mortgage with a loan origination fee of 1 point would mean you pay $1,000.

Planned Unit Development (PUD)

A project or subdivision that includes common property that is owned and maintained by a homeowners’ association for the benefit and use of the individual PUD unit owners.

Partial Payment

A payment that is not sufficient to cover the scheduled monthly payment on a mortgage loan.

Payment Change Date

The date when a new monthly payment amount takes effect on an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) or a graduated-payment mortgage (GPM). Generally, the payment change date occurs in the month immediately after the interest rate adjustment date.

Periodic Payment Cap

For an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), a limit on the amount that payments can increase or decrease during any one adjustment period.

Periodic Rate Cap

For an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), a limit on the amount that the interest rate can increase or decrease during any one adjustment period, regardless of how high or low the index might be.

Permits

With most major home improvement projects, work permits may be required. Permits provide legal permission to undertake a project and are usually given by local governments agencies.

Some of the most common permits are for general projects or permits that require you to meet specific local building codes.

You may want to check with your local government to determine if there are building restrictions in historic areas or in environmentally-sensitive areas.

Qualifying Ratios

Calculations that are used in determining whether a borrower can qualify for a mortgage. They consist of two separate calculations: a housing expense as a percent of income ratio and total debt obligations as a percent of income ratio.

Quitclaim Deed

A deed that transfers without warranty whatever interest or title a grantor may have at the time the conveyance is made.

Qualifying Guidelines

There are two main elements lenders consider when determining whether you and any co-borrowers qualify for a specific mortgage.

The first is your monthly mortgage costs, including mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance. If you’re considering buying a condominium or cooperative, any associated fees are also considered. Your mortgage costs should not exceed 28 percent of your gross monthly (pre-tax) income.

The second qualifying guideline relates to your total monthly housing costs and other debts you and any co-borrowers have. These costs should not exceed 36 percent of your gross monthly income.

Lenders follow these guidelines because they believe these percentages allow homeowners to pay off their mortgages fairly comfortably without the worry of loan defaults and foreclosures.

However, these guidelines can be exceeded in certain cases, such as borrowers with a good credit history or with a larger down payment.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)

A consumer protection law that requires lenders to give borrowers advance notice of closing costs.

Realtor

A real estate agent, broker or an associate who holds active membership in a local real estate board that is affiliated with the National Association of Realtors.

Radon

A radioactive gas found in some homes that in sufficient concentrations can cause health problems.

Rate Caps

Lenders offer caps with their adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) so you can have more control over your monthly mortgage payment. Usually, there are two types of rate caps:

— A per-adjustment cap, which specifies the most your interest rate can rise from one adjustment period to the next,
— and a lifetime adjustment cap, which specifies how much your interest rate can rise over the life of your loan.

Ask your lender about both caps when evaluating any ARM product.

Rate-Improvement Mortgage

A fixed-rate mortgage that includes a provision that gives the borrower a one-time option to reduce the interest rate (without refinancing) during the early years of the mortgage term.

Rate Lock

A commitment issued by a lender to a borrower or other mortgage originator guaranteeing a specified interest rate for a specified period of time.

Sale-Leaseback

A technique in which a seller deeds property to a buyer for a consideration, and the buyer simultaneously leases the property back to the seller.

Second Mortgage

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

Secondary Mortgage Market

The buying and selling of existing mortgages.

Savings and Loans

Among the customers of Savings and Loans (S&Ls) are individual savers and residential and commercial property mortgage borrowers. Their traditional role for savings and loans is to accept deposits and make mortgage loans, but it has expanded recently to a focus on one- to four-family residential mortgages, multifamily mortgages and commercial mortgages.

These institutions are growing bigger, and the lines between S&Ls and commercial banks are not as defined as in the past.

Deposit insurance is provided through the Savings Association Insurance Fund, a subsidiary of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Secured Loan

A loan that is backed by collateral.

Security

The property that will be pledged as collateral for a loan.

Truth-in-Lending

A federal law that requires lenders to fully disclose, in writing, the terms and conditions of a mortgage, including the annual percentage rate (APR) and other charges.

Taxes and Insurance

You’ll hear many terms as you work with your mortgage lender, and one of the most frequently mentioned is “PITI.” This abbreviation stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance.

The tax and insurance components of a mortgage payment are generally held by the lender in an escrow account. The lender pays any property tax and homeowner’s insurance bills as they are due, ensuring they are paid on time.

A home buyer’s monthly mortgage payment generally covers expenses through the escrow account. If you don’t have your homeowner’s insurance and property taxes paid out of a lender escrow account, your local government and your property insurance company will send payment notices directly to you. It is your responsibility to make sure you pay these bills on time.

If you’re planning to purchase a condominium or cooperative, talk to your lender about how they view condo and co-op fees. Most likely, they are considered housing costs and not a part of PITI. However, this can vary from lender to lender.

Tenancy in Common

A type of joint tenancy in a property without right of survivorship. Contrast with tenancy by the entirety and with joint tenacy.

Tenancy by the Entirety

A type of joint tenancy of property that provides right of survivorship and is available only to a husband and wife. Contrast with tenancy in common.

Tenant-Stockholder

The obligee for a cooperative share loan, who is both a stockholder in a cooperative corporation and a tenant of the unit under a proprietary lease or occupancy agreement.

Termite Inspection

Homes in many parts of the country must be inspected for termites before they can be sold. You should receive a certificate from a termite inspection firm stating that the property is free of both visible termite infestation and termite damage.

The cost of the termite inspection is usually paid by the seller, and the seller’s real estate sales professional orders the inspection. You need to make sure that the original certificate is delivered to your lender at least three days before closing.

This allows the lender to review the certificate and address any potential problems.

Underwriting

The process of evaluating a loan application to determine the risk involved for the lender. Underwriting involves an analysis of the borrower’s creditworthiness and the quality of the property itself.

Unsecured Loan

A loan that is not backed by collateral.

VA Mortgage

A mortgage that is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Vested

Having the right to use a portion of a fund such as an individual retirement fund. For example, individuals who are 100 percent vested can withdraw all of the funds that are set aside for them in a retirement fund. However, taxes may be due on any funds that are actually withdrawn.

Veterans Administration (VA)

The Veterans Administration is a federal government agency authorized to guarantee loans made to eligible veterans under certain conditions. To obtain more information, you can contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA guarantee allows qualified veterans to buy a house costing up to $203,000 with no down payment. Moreover, the qualification guidelines for VA loans are more flexible than those for either the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or conventional loans.

If you are a qualified veteran, this can be an attractive mortgage program. To determine whether you are eligible, check with your nearest VA regional office.

Ways of Obtaining a Loan

You have several ways to get a mortgage. Your loan interview can take place, in whole or in part, over the telephone, over the Internet, or in person.

Approved lenders have a variety of options when it comes to helping you get the mortgage that’s right for you. Many lenders have Web sites that let you fill out an application online, which can save you time. Other lenders may work with you over the telephone.

Review our approved lenders list in the Find a Lender section to locate the lender that provides the services you prefer.

What-if Analysis

An affordability analysis that is based on a what-if scenario. A what-if analysis is useful if you do not have complete data or if you want to explore the effect of various changes to your income, liabilities, or available funds or to the qualifying ratios or down payment expenses that are used in the analysis.

Wraparound Mortgage

A mortgage that includes the remaining balance on an existing first mortgage plus an additional amount requested by the mortgagor. Full payments on both mortgages are made to the wraparound mortgagee, who then forwards the payments on the first mortgage to the first mortgagee.

What-if Scenario

A change in the amounts that is used as the basis of an affordability analysis. A what-if scenario can include changes to monthly income, debts, or down payment funds or to the qualifying ratios or down payment expenses that are used in the analysis. You can use a what-if scenario to explore different ways to improve your ability to afford a house.