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Glossary Of Real Estate Terms

Book contents

“What do all these real estate terms mean?!”, you ask. Well, here is a glossary of commonly used real estate terms compiled from a variety of sources. If you run across a term that’s not on the list, just let me know and I’ll add it.

AVM: An automated method of valuing real property. Currently very inaccurate. For examples of AVMs and how they work, click here.

Acceptance: The date when both parties, seller and buyer, have agreed to the terms of an offer and/or addendum. NOT to be confused with ‘Ratification”.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): A mortgage that permits the lender to adjust the mortgage’s interest rate periodically on the basis of changes in a specified index (i.e. Libor). Interest rates may move up or down as market conditions change.

Amortized Loan: A loan that is paid in equal installments during its’ term.

A.P.R. (Annual Percentage Rate): A term used in the Truth In Lending Act. It represents the relationship of the total finance charge (interest, discount points, origination fees, loan broker, commission, etc.) to the amount of the loan.

Appraisal: And estimate and opinion of real estate value usually issued to standards of FHA, VA and FHMA. Recent comparable sales in the neighborhood is the most important factor in determining value. This should be contrasted to the Home Inspection.

Appraiser: An individual who is licensed to perform an appraisal. Not to be confused with an AVM.

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

Assumable Mortgage: Purchaser takes ownership to real estate encumbered by an existing mortgage and assumes responsibility as the guarantor for the unpaid balance of the mortgage. Not a common way of securing a property due to a common lenders’ clause stating that a sale of the property requires immediate payment of remaining balance by the borrower.

Bank-Owned Property (aka “REO” or “foreclosure property”): A property that is owned by a bank typically via foreclosure proceedings and via auction at the local courthouse steps

Bill Of Sale: Document used to transfer title (ownership) of PERSONAL property.

Broker Price Opinion (BPO): An agent’s/broker’s opinion of a property’s market value used by a bank when determining the market value of one (or more) of their foreclosure/bank-owned properties

Buyer’s Agent/Broker: A real estate agent who represents only the buyer in a real estate transaction.

Closing Costs: A general term used to describe the fees associate with the purchase of property such as lender and settlement agent fees, title insurance, the appraisal and survey fees, etc. Closing cost are typically 2 to 5% of the loan amount, but vary by region.

Closing Statement (HUD-1): A financial statement rendered to the buyer and seller at the time of transfer of ownership that gives an account of all funds received or expended.

Cloud On Title: Any condition that affects the clear title to real property.

Common Grounds: Those grounds owned by the Home Owner’s Association and/or by a small fraction by every home owner in the development.

Comparable Sales (Comps): Recent sales of similar properties typically within the same neighborhood used as a tool to establish market value or for appraisal purposes.

Condominium Association (Condo Association): The association which governs the condominium community usually comprised of owners within that community.

Contract: An agreement to do or not do a certain thing. In the case of real estate, when an offer for purchase and sale of property has been ratified and all contingencies have been removed.

Consideration: Anything of value to induce another to enter into a contract (i.e. money, services, a promise).

Contingency: A condition specified in a purchase contract, such as a satisfactory Home Inspection.

Counter Offer/Counter: An offer by a seller back to a buyer’s original offer with a different price and/or terms than the original offer made by the buyer.

Credit Score: Your credit report contains a history of how you’ve paid your bills, how much open credit you have, and anything else that would affect your creditworthiness. Your credit score boils down all of that information into a three-digit number. Scores vary from 300 to 900. Though there are several scoring systems, the one used most commonly used by lenders is known as a FICO (Fair Isaac and Company).

Deed: Written instrument, which when properly executed and delivered, convey title to real property.

Depreciation: A decrease in the value of a property due to changes in market conditions or other causes. The opposite of appreciation.

Direct Lender: A lender who approves and supplies funds for their loans directly from the bank or financial institution which they are a part of. They do not receive final approval or funding from a third party (i.e. another bank).

Discount Points: A loan fee charged by a lender to increase the yield on the investment (aka lower the interest rate to the consumer). One point equals one percent of the loan amount.

Dual Agency: A practice by which an agent represents both the seller and the buyer in a real estate transaction. Neither the seller’s nor the buyers’ best interests can be put before the others. The agent is merely a facilitator of the transaction.

Earnest Money Deposit: A deposit or promissory note from the buyer held in escrow by an agreed upon party which illustrates the buyer’s commitment to purchase a property. In the event of default by the buyer(s), the earnest money deposit may be withheld by the seller as damages.

Easement: The right to use the land of another (i.e. utility company easement on your lot in order for them to run cable underground).

Encumbrance: Anything that burdens or limits the fee title to property, such as a lien, easement or restriction of any kind,

Equity: The value of real estate over and above liens against it. It is obtained by subtracting the total liens from the value of the property.

Escrow Payment: That portion of a mortgagor’s monthly payment held in trust by the lender to pay for taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, lease payments and other items as they become due.

Fannie Mae: Nickname for the Federal National Mortgage Corporation (FNMA), a tax-paying corporation created by Congress to support the secondary mortgages insured by FHA or guaranteed by VA, as well as conventional home mortgages.

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.

FHA Insured Mortgage: A mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration according to its’ regulations.

Fixed Rate Mortgage: A loan that has a set interest rate at a prescribed rate for the entire duration of the loan.

Foreclosure: Procedure whereby property pledges as security for a debt and is sold in the event of a default. If you don’t pay the mortgage, the bank takes the property back via foreclosure.

Freddie Mac: Nickname for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), a federally controlled and operated corporation to support the secondary mortgage market. It purchases and sells residential conventional home mortgages.

Graduate Payment Mortgage: Any loan where the borrower pays a portion of the interest due each month during the first few years of the loan. The payment increases gradually during the first few years to the amount necessary to fully amortize the loan during its’ life. NOT to be confused with an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM).

Grantor’s Tax: A tax in Virginia paid by the seller at the time the property is sold (typically settlement date). The current tax rate is $1 per $1000 of the sales price or assessed value, whichever is higher.

Hazard Insurance: This provision of homeowners insurance covers damage by fire, wind or other disaster. It is required by all lenders before a loan is approved.

Home Inspection: An thorough inspection of a property by a qualified third party who is typically hired by the purchaser(s).

Home Owner’s Association (HOA): The association which governs the community of homes usually comprised of owners within that community.

Home Owner’s Insurance: The general term for insurance on real property.

Improvement: In real estate, typically refers to any permanent structures on the property. Also refers to changes to the overall property which affect value.

Investor: The holder of a mortgage of the permanent lender for whom the mortgage banker services the loan. Any person or institution that invest in mortgages. Also known as an individual or institution that purchases one or more properties for investment purposes, not as a primary residence.

Lease Option: A contract which gives one the right to least property at a certain sum with the option to purchase at a future date.

Lease Purchase Agreement: An agreement to the future purchase of a property with the right to lease the property for the interim.

Lender: An bank or financial institution which lends money.

Lender Letter: A letter from the lender stating that a buyer is approved for specified financing contingent upon a ratified contract, satisfactory appraisal, underwriting approval and/or other conditions. Unlike a pre-approval letter, the lender will have processed all the necessary paperwork and ran a credit check making a lender letter much stronger than a pre-approval letter.

Listing Agent/Broker: – An agent/broker who represents only the seller(s) in the sale or rental of real estate

Loan To Value (LTV): The ratio of the mortgage loan principal (amount borrowed) to the property’s appraised value (i.e. An appraised value of $100K and a mortgage loan principal of $80K equals an LTV of 80%).

Mechanic’s Lien: A lien filed by an individual or company that has made an improvement on the property, but has not been compensated to their satisfaction (i.e. payment dispute). Also known as Contractors Liens and Construction Liens.

Mortgage: A legal document that pledges a property to the lender as security for payment of a debt.

Mortgage Broker: A company that does not make final approval or fund the loan directly rather, sells the loan to a third party bank or lending institution. In essence, they are a “middle-man”.

Mortgagor: The borrower of money of the giver of the mortgage document.

Note: A written promise to pay a certain amount of money.

Offer/Purchase Offer: An offer of price and terms by a buyer to purchase property from a seller. The seller may accept, reject or counter the offer with a different price and/or terms.

Origination Fee: A fee paid to the mortgagee (i.e. lender) for paying the mortgage before it becomes due. Also known as a prepayment penalty or reinvestment fee.

Paid-Out-Of-Closing (POC) Items: Any item paid for prior to or outside of settlement. Such items may included a Home Inspction, Radon Inspection and Appraisal.

Personal Property: Property other than the real property (i.e. furniture, TV, computer, appliances). Often called movable property which can be moved from one location to another.

Pre-Approval Letter: A letter from a lender that a buyer is potentially approved for specified financing, but an application nor paperwork has been submitted nor has anything been verified by the lender. Much weaker than a lender letter and may get rejected by a seller as an approval for financing.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)/Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP): The amount paid by a mortgagor (borrower) for mortgage insurance. This insurance protects the investor from possible loss in the event of a borrower’s default on a loan. It is typically charged is the Loan To Value (LTV) is higher than 80%.

Promissory Note: A written contract containing a promise to pay a definite amount of money at a definite future time.

Radon Inspection: A determination of whether the amount of radon gas is below, at or above the EPA’s acceptable level (currently at 4.0 ppl).

Ratification Date: The date of final acceptance in writing of all the terms of the Offer and delivery to all parties as agreed upon in the Offer.

Real Estate Agent: An individual who has a state license to represent a buyer or a seller in a real estate transaction in exchange for a commission. Most agents work for real estate brokers.

Real Estate Broker: A party who acts as an intermediary between sellers and buyers of real estate and attempts to find sellers who wish to sell and buyers who wish to buy. Also the name for an individual who has a state license to supervise one or more real estate agents working out of the same office as the broker.

Real Property: A legal term encompassing real estate and ownership interests in real estate (immovable property). It is a type of property differentiated from personal property.

Realtor: A member of the National Association Of Realtors (NAR). The NAR has many local chapters such as NVAR and DAAR.

Rent With Option: A contract which gives one the right to least property at a certain sum with the option to purchase at a future date.

Second Mortgage/Second Trust/Junior Mortgage/Junior Lien: An additional loan imposed on a property with a first (primary) mortgage. Generally, a higher interest rate and shorter term than a first mortgage. An alternative to obtaining financing above an 80% Loan To Value (LTV) and paying a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP or PMI).

Settlement: the process of exchanging the consideration (i.e. real estate) for financial instruments  (i.e. money) once a deal has been executed.

Settlement Agent: An individual or company which perform settlement duties for the purpose of sale and purchase of real property.

Short-Sale: A situation in which the proceeds from the sale of the property are less than what is owed to the lender(s)/creditor(s). If the seller can not come up with the difference, the lender(s) may be asked to forgive the difference or take a Promissory Note in lieu of immediate payment in which case the lender(s) must “approve the short-sale” in order for it to actually settle. Short-sale negotiations take an average of 90 days and there’s no guarantee that the creditor(s) will approve the short-sale.

Survey: The process by which a parcel of land is measured and its’ area ascertained.

Tax Assessment: The value set on taxable property.

Tax Assessor: An official who evaluates property for the purpose of taxing it.

Tenants In Common: Ownership by two or more persons who hold an undivided interest without the right of survivorship. In the event of a death of one owner, his/her share will pass to his/her heirs, NOT the other owner(s).

Tenants By The Entirety: Only possible when the joint owners are husband and wife. Tenants by the entirety provides for a common law right of survivorship. The property goes automatically to the surviving spouse. No Will, probate or other legal action is necessary. One spouse can not use a Will to leave an interest to someone else.

Title Company: A general term for a company which performs settlement duties for the purpose of sale and purchase of real property.

Title Insurance: An insurance policy which protects the insured (purchaser or lender) against a loss arising from defects in the title. Lender’s Title Insurance is mandatory for almost every lender while Owner’s Title Insurance is optional, but recommended.

Sources: Inmanwiki, Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster

Dislcaimer: These definitions may vary by jurisdiction, region, state and country. I am not a lawyer. These definitions are not intended to be legal definitions nor legal advice. Please double-check all information contained herein.


Coming soon…

April 17, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Uncategorized


Some cool, new things are coming to Loudoun Scene. Stay tuned…


Article on Short-Sales in Loudoun Times-Mirror

April 14, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Statistics

The Loudoun Times-Mirror ran a story today entitled "The Skinny on Short-Sales". The article, written by Jason Jacks, goes over what a short-sale is, their pros and cons and how many there are in Loudoun County. I had the privilege of being interviewed for the story (thank you Jason), but it seems that I may have been misunderstood when going over the statistics.

In the article, I was quoted as saying, "about 30 percent of the sales [he's now seeing] involve distressed properties, with about half of those being short sales." That is incorrect.

Here's what the numbers show…

Almost two-thirds of all homes sold in Loudoun County are distressed properties (foreclosures/bank-owned and short-sales).

Short-sales make up almost 15 percent of all properties sold in Loudoun County and that number is steadily increasing.

Why are short-sales making up a greater and greater percentage of the homes sold in Loudoun County? I wrote a post about that over at just the other day – "Percentage of Short-Sales Being Approved Increasing". Check it out when you have a chance.

Thank you again to Jason and the Loudoun Times-Mirror and sorry for the confusion.


Loudoun Housing Inventory Way Down, Market Conditions

April 10, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Statistics

Loudoun housing inventory-supply down

Loudoun County's housing inventory/supply is still going down. The number of active properties for sale as of 12:30pm today is 1252. This is less than half the number of homes for sale in 2007 and about a third less than the latter part of 2008. We haven't this few homes for sale in Loudoun County since the boom market in the first half of this decade.

What does this mean?

  1. Buyers have less homes to choose from
  2. Multiple offers are increasingly common (not just my observation and experience, but that of  other agents in Loudoun and NoVA I've spoken with)
  3. Prices are holding steady
  4. Less competition for sellers with their home on the market
  5. Great time for sellers to sell their property if they're in the position to do so

The interesting thing is that the "spring market", which means more housing inventory on the market, typically starts in the middle of February or beginning of March. Here we are April 10 and the inventory is less than it was in January, February or March meaning that the "spring market" has yet to materialize (if it will at all).

Note: I do not include new construction listings in the MLS because they are extremely inaccurate. But, when looking at those, they plummeted as well so it just confirms that overall inventory in Loudoun is way down.


7 Housing Tax Laws You’ll Want To Know About

April 2, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Homeowners, Taxes

There are several new housing tax laws that went into effect recently that will help some homeowners, but not others. Whether they help or hurt you depends on your specific situation.

Here's a list of the 7 new housing tax laws…

  1. Cancellation of debt income
  2. First-time home buyer credit
  3. PMI deduction
  4. Property tax addition to standard deduction
  5. Surviving spouse home sale tax deduction
  6. Energy-saving home improvements
  7. Second-home sale limits

Click here for an explanation of these new housing tax laws and to see how they affect you.

Note: Make sure you speak with a tax accountant to see exactly how these new housing tax laws affect you.


Are You Looking at the Right Assessed Value?

April 2, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Buyer Resources

Many home buyers use the assessed value of a property as a guage to determine whether an asking price is reasonable or when trying to determine its market value. And many listing agents are putting remarks in their listings such as, "Priced $90K below assessed value!".

But are they using the right assessed value?

When looking at listing agent's remarks such as that one and then the assessed value of the property, I often find that the agent used the 2008 assessed value in their calculation - not the 2009 assessed value as they should. If you look at the 2009 assessed value (which is, on average, 12 percent less than 2008), you'll see that the property is nowhere near "$90K below assessed value" as the listing agent and seller claim. (Of course the property is priced below its assessed value as of January 1, 2008 – DUH!)

Regardless of whether this was a" simple oversight" by the listing agent and seller or something else, it can be misleading. That's one reason why every buyer (and agent) should verify any such claim. 

Also be careful when looking at assessed values shown on listings on real estate search sites. Many of them pull their data from MLS's and/or public tax records. But the data in those is not necessarily accurate. For example, the tax records that are incorporated into the local MLS in this area do not yet have the 2009 assessed values listed (even though they came out a while back).

If you'd like to see what the 2009 assessed value of properties is, here's where you should go:

Loudoun County real estate tax, assessement and parcel database 

Fairfax County Department of Tax Administration's Real Estate Assessment Information Site

Prince William County Real Property Assessment Site


Eastern Loudoun County Housing Supply By Zip Code

March 31, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Statistics

Here's a breakdown of the amount of housing supply in Eastern Loudoun County by zip code:

20152 - 3.8 month's supply

20148 – 3.9 month's supply

20147 – 2.6 month's supply

20166 – 3.3 month's supply

20165 – 1.9 month's supply

20164 – 1.7 month's supply

20176 – 4.8 month's supply

20175 – 4.0 month's supply

What do these "month's supply" numbers mean? The general rule of thumb is,

  • more than 6 month's supply = buyer's market
  • 4 to 6 month's supply = balanced/equal market
  • less than 4 month's supply = seller's market

Sellers, don't get too excited – regardless of how little inventory there is on the market, you must price your property correctly or it will sit on the market collecting "Days On Market" and dust (more about this coming up in a post soon).

Related Articles

Sterling Park Leads Loudoun County in Home Buyer Demand

Where Are All the Homes For Buyers To Choose From?!

Putting Loudoun's Housing Market in Perspective


Sterling Park Leads Loudoun County in Home Buyer Demand

March 27, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Statistics

When looking at supply and demand figures for Loudoun County, something jumped out at me… The 20164 zip code (Sterling Park) has the most home buyer demand out of any zip code in Loudoun County – and not just by a little.

Since March 1st, 102 homes have gone under contract (sold) in the 20164 zip code (Sterling Park). That equals 3.9 homes that sell each day.

The 20176 zip code (North and East Leesburg) came in second at 2.7 per day. That's 31 percent less buyer demand than in Sterling Park.

The lowest buyer demand can be found in the 20166 zip code (part of Sterling closest to Dulles Airport and Herndon) at 0.5 per day. That's 87 percent less buyer demand than in Sterling Park.

You may be thinking, "There are more homes for sale in Sterling Park than in other areas so of course there's going to be more buyer demand".

That doesn't hold true because Sterling Park has 200 active homes on the market as of today while second place 20176 has 387 – almost double. And two other zip codes also have more inventory on the market than Sterling Park - 20147 has 233 active homes on the market and 20175 has 206.

So why does Sterling Park lead Loudoun County in home buyer demand?

A big part is due to the price point – the lower the price point, the more people can afford to buy there. The median sold price in Sterling Park is $160,000 and the average sold price is $194,833 (the median sold price is a better gauge of market values/prices in Sterling Park). That's well below the overall Loudoun County median sales price of $223,750 and average sales price of $306,821.

If you're curious as to how other zip codes and areas in Loudoun are doing when it comes to supply and demand, check back soon – I'll be writing a post about that over the weekend.


Help Nominate for 2009 Inman Innovator Awards

March 27, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Web/Tech

It's that time of year again – time for the Inman Innovator Awards. And this year, I believe that is due the recognition it deserves. That is why I nominated for the "Most Innovative Web Service" category.

If you haven't checked out, here's a brief overview of why it's so innovative (and why you should use it)…

  • Loads faster than any other residential real estate search site in the area
  • Updates to listings on show up faster than on 99% of other listing sites
  • Cell-phone/PDA mode is faster and better configured for cell-phones/PDAs than any other site
  • Only listing site around that allows Buyer's Agents to review properties and add photos so that consumers can get a better idea of what the property looks like without having to call an agent
  • Only listing site around that has links from the listing to hyper-local blog posts so that buyers can get more information about the specific neighborhood/town the property is located within
  • Only listing site around that has a live chat feature so that consumers can chat directly (and anonymously) with quality agents in the area they're looking in
  • First (and still the best) listing site to offer keyword searches (granite, 2 car garage, bank-owned, Broadlands, etc)
  • Only listing site around that allows consumers to filter their search results to only foreclosure/bank-owned and/or short-sale properties (or vice cersa)
  • Only listing site around to allow for sorting by total views
  • Only listing site around that has the listing's price history in plain view
  • Direct link from the listing to the county tax records (Fairfax County only, but expanding)
  • Hide a listing from your search forever by simply clicking an "X"
  • "Walk-Score" on every listing
  • Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth available on every listing
  • Only listing site around that also has For-Sale-By-Owner homes on it
  • Branded IDX for agents/brokers
  • All this plus "Favorites", email alerts including price changes, "Sold Alerts" and much more…

No other listing site around here (nor the US probably) has as many innovative and forward-thinking features. This site is not only great for consumers, but it's great for agents/brokers. In fact, I use just as much as the regional agent/broker-facing MLS site, especially on my BlackBerry when out in the field working.

If you couldn't tell, I'm a big fan of That's why I nominated for the "Most Innovative Web Service" award and am asking you to consider doing the same (if you feel its deserved).


Help Those with Diabetes-Sponsor or Join Me in the Tour de Cure

March 25, 2009 by Danilo Bogdanovic  
Filed under Charity/Causes

Tour de Cure 2009

In an effort to help raise awareness and money for Diabetes, I am riding in the American Diabetes Association National Capital Tour de Cure on June 14, 2009. I'm part of the"BeExcited" team, which is named after my sister-in-law's new apparel line which she launched this year. The apparel line is geared towards women (I know all you guys are now bummed you can't wear shirts with "BeExcited" logos on them) and part of the proceeds are being donated to charities such as the Tour de Cure.

Despite this area's Tour de Cure being the 5th largest in the nation with over 1200 riders, the American Diabetes Association could use all the help it can get. If you would like to ride in the Tour de Cure, feel free to join our team or register as an individual rider. If you don't bike or can't make it on that date, please click here to donate whatever you can to the cause. And if you're a business that would like to check out sponsorship opportunities, check out their sponsorhip brochure (pdf).


More details about the event…

The ride starts at the Reston Town Center and goes through Fairfax County and Loudoun County. There are several different rides starting at 1-12 miles and going all the way up to a Century. There are several rest stops along the way with food, water and energy drinks. Medical personnel will be stationed along the route should anyone need medical assistance.

In addition to the ride, there are events during and afterwards including live music, food, drinks, free bike tuning, bike clinics, etc. Bike shops from around the entire DC/MD/VA area are sponsoring the event and will be there including one of Reston Town Center's newest tenants – The Bike Lane.

They're expecting almost 1500 riders this year and the event should be the biggest one ever. Even DC Mayor Adrian Fenty is involved – he's the official ambassador of the 2009 National Capital Tour de Cure.


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