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Mortgage Vocabulary

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Abstract (Of Title)
A summary of the public records relating to the title to a particular piece of land. An attorney or title insurance company reviews an abstract of title to determine whether there are any title defects which must be cleared before a buyer can purchase clear, marketable, and insurable title.
Acceleration Clause
Condition in a mortgage that may require the balance of the loan to become due immediately, if regular mortgage payments are not made or for breach of other conditions of the mortgage.
Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)
A mortgage where the interest rate is not fixed, but changes during the life of the loan in line with movements in an index rate. You may also see ARMs referred to as AMLs (adjustable mortgage loans) or VRMs (variable-rate mortgages).
Adjustment Period
This is the length of time for which the interest rate is fixed on an adjustable rate mortgage. After that period it will be adjusted. Typically once or twice a year depending on the index.
Agreement of Sale
Known by various names, such as contract of purchase, purchase agreement, or sales agreement according to location or jurisdiction. A contract in which a seller agrees to sell and a buyer agrees to buy, under certain specific terms and conditions spelled out in writing and signed by both parties.
Alienation Clause
Provision in a mortgage document stating that the loan must be paid in full if ownership is transferred.
A payment plan which enables the borrower to reduce his debt gradually through monthly payments of principal.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
A measure of the cost of credit, expressed as a yearly rate. It includes interest as well as other charges. Because all lenders follow the same rules to ensure the accuracy of the annual percentage rate, it provides consumers with a good basis for comparing the cost of loans, including mortgage plans.
An expert judgment or estimate of the quality or value of real estate as of a given date.
Assessed Value
A figure in dollars determined for tax purposes by an assessor which reflects a property's worth and which, unless exempt, is used to compute a tax dollar obligation by multiplying it by a tax rate.
Assessing Unit
A city, county, town or village with the authority to value real property for purposes of taxation.
When a home is sold, the seller may be able to transfer the mortgage to the new buyer. This means the mortgage is assumable. Lenders generally require a credit review of the new borrower and may charge a fee for the assumption. Some mortgages contain a due-on-sale clause, which means that the mortgage may not be transferable to a new buyer. Instead, the lender may make you pay the entire balance that is due when you sell the home. Assumability can help you attract buyers if you sell your home.
The agreement between buyer and seller where the buyer takes over the payments on an existing mortgage from the seller. The lender has to be notified and agree to the assumption. Assuming a loan can usually save a money since the buyer isn't required to pay most of the closing costs.
Assumption of Mortgage
An obligation undertaken by the purchaser of property to be personally liable for payment of an existing mortgage. In an assumption, the purchaser is substituted for the original mortgagor in the mortgage instrument and the original mortgagor is to be released from further liability in the assumption, the mortgagee's consent is usually required.
The original mortgagor should always obtain a written release from further liability if he desires to be fully released under the assumption. Failure to obtain such a release renders the original mortgagor liable if the person assuming the mortgage fails to make the monthly payments.
An "Assumption of Mortgage" is often confused with "purchasing subject to a mortgage." When one purchases subject to a mortgage, the purchaser agrees to make the monthly mortgage payments on an existing mortgage, but the original mortgagor remains personally liable if the purchaser fails to make the monthly payments. Since the original mortgagor remains liable in the event of default, the mortgagee's consent is not required to a sale subject to a mortgage.
Both "Assumption of Mortgage" and "Purchasing Subject to a Mortgage" are used to finance the sale of property. They may also be used when a mortgagor is in financial difficulty and desires to sell the property to avoid foreclosure.
Attached Home
A home that has one or more common walls adjoining another home. Condominiums and row houses are attached homes.


Balloon Mortgage
A short-term fixed-rate loan which involves smaller payments for a certain period of time and one large payment for the entire amount of the outstanding principal. Usually they have terms of 3, 5, and 7 years.
Binder or "Offer to Purchase"
A preliminary agreement, secured by the payment of earnest money, between a buyer and seller as an offer to purchase real estate. A binder secures the right to purchase real estate upon agreed terms for a limited period of time. If the buyer changes his mind or is unable to purchase, the earnest money is forfeited unless the binder expressly provides that it is to be refunded.
Biweekly Mortgage
A mortgage which requires a payment for half the monthly amount every two weeks. As a result the loan amortizes much faster than a loan with normal monthly payments. For example, a 30 year fixed rate loan will be paid off in approximately 19 years.
Blanket Mortgage
A mortgage covering at least two pieces of real estate as security for the same mortgage.
Bridge Loan
An interim loan is made to finance a buyers new residence if the buyer is unable to sell his/her current residence but needs money to close the transaction.
See real estate broker
Building Line or Setback
Distances from the ends and/or sides of the lot beyond which construction may not extend. The building line may be established by a filed plat of subdivision, by restrictive covenants in deeds or leases, by building codes, or by zoning ordinances.
With a buydown, the seller pays an amount to the lender so that the lender can give you a lower rate and lower payments, usually for an early period in an ARM. The seller may increase the sales price to cover the cost of the buydown. Buydowns can occur in all types of mortgages, not just ARMs.


A limit on how much the interest rate or the monthly payment can change, either at each adjustment or during the life of the mortgage. Most ARMs have an interest rate caps to protect you from enormous increases in monthly payments.

A lifetime cap limits the interest rate increase over the life of the loan. Lifetime caps can vary by lender, but most ARMs have caps of 5% or 6%. A periodic or adjustment cap limits how much your interest rate can rise at one time. Generally, a 6 month ARM will have a cap of 1% while a 1 year ARM will have a 2% cap.

Periodic and lifetime caps are quoted as two numbers as in 2/6 which would mean that periodic cap is 2% and the lifetime cap is 6%. Examples:

1. The initial interest rate is 4.5%, the index is 7%, and the margin is 3%,
then the new interest rate = 7% + 3% = 10%.
If the lifetime cap is 5% then
the actual new interest rate will be 4.5% + 5% = 9.5%.

2. The initial interest rate is 6%, the index is 5%, and the margin is 3%,
then the new interest rate = 5% + 3% = 8%.
If the periodic cap is 1% then
the actual new interest rate will be 6% + 1% = 7%.

ARMs which have an initial fixed period -- 30/3/1, 30/5/1, 30/7/1 and 30/10/1 -- can have also first adjustment cap. It limits the interest rate you will pay the first time your rate is adjusted. These ARMs are quoted as three numbers as in 5/2/5 which would mean that the first adjustment cap is 5%, adjustment cap thereafter is 2%, and the lifetime cap is 5%.

Two-Step loans -- 5/25 and 7/23 -- have only one adjustment after the first five or seven years of its term. They are quoted with a single first adjustment cap.

Capital Gains
Profit earned from the sale of real estate. The new tax code does not tax the profits from the sale of a home if the proceeds are used to buy another house costing at least as much as the sales price of the old one.
Certificate of Eligibility
The document issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It is required when applying for VA loans.
Certificate of Occupancy
Document issued by a local governmental agency that states a property meets the local building standards for occupancy.
Certificate of Reasonable Value
An appraisal issued by the VA approved appraiser which establishes the property's current market value.
Certificate of Title
A certificate issued by a title company or a written opinion rendered by an attorney that the seller has good marketable and insurable title to the property which he is offering for sale. A certificate of title offers no protection against any hidden defects in the title which an examination of the records could not reveal. The issuer of a certificate of title is liable only for damages due to negligence. The protection offered a homeowner under a certificate of title is not as great as that offered in a title insurance policy.
Clear Title
A title that free of clouds and disputed interests.
Closing Costs
The numerous expenses which buyers and sellers normally incur to complete a transaction in the transfer of ownership of real estate. These costs are in addition to price of the property and are items prepaid at the closing day. This is a typical list:
     BUYER'S EXPENSES                     SELLER'S EXPENSES 
     Documentary Stamps on Notes          Cost of Abstract 
     Recording Deed and Mortgage          Documentary Stamps on Deed 
     Escrow Fees                          Real Estate Commission
     Attorney's Fee                       Recording Mortgage 
     Title Insurance                      Survey Charge
     Appraisal and Inspection             Escrow Fees
     Survey Charge                        Attorney's Fee 
The agreement of sale negotiated previously between the buyer and the seller may state in writing who will pay each of the above costs.
Closing Day
The day on which the formalities of a real estate sale are concluded. The certificate of title, abstract, and deed are generally prepared for the closing by an attorney and this cost charged to the buyer. The buyer signs the mortgage, and closing costs are paid. The final closing merely confirms the original agreement reached in the agreement of sale.
Cloud (On Title)
An outstanding claim or encumbrance which adversely affects the marketability of title.
Money paid to a real estate agent or broker by the seller as compensation for finding a buyer and completing the sale. Usually it is a percentage of the sale price--6 to 7 percent on houses, 10 percent on land.
A written agreement between a lender and a borrower to loan money on specific terms or conditions.
The taking of private property for public use by a government unit, against the will of the owner, but with payment of just compensation under the government's power of eminent domain. Condemnation may also be a determination by a governmental agency that a particular building is unsafe or unfit for use.
Individual ownership of a dwelling unit and an individual interest in the common areas and facilities which serve the multi-unit project.
Construction loan
A short term loan to pay for the construction of buildings or homes. These loans usually provide periodic disbursements to the builder as each stage of the building is completed. Generally followed by long term financing called a "take out" loan issued upon completion of construction.
A condition put on an offer to buy a home; such as the perspective buyer making an offer contingent on his or her sale of a present home.
Contract of Purchase
See Agreement of Sale
In the construction industry, a contractor is one who contracts to erect buildings or portions of them. There are also contractors for each phase of construction: heating, electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, road building, bridge and dam erection, and others.
Conventional Mortgage
A mortgage loan not insured by HUD or guaranteed by the Veterans' Administration. It is subject to conditions established by the lending institution and State statutes. The mortgage rates may vary with different institutions and between States. (States have various interest limits.)
Conversion Option
Some ARMs come with options to convert them to a fixed rate mortgage during a given time period without having to go through a refinancing, which could cost up to 5 percent or 6 percent of the loan amount. For example popular conversion options for 1 year treasury-indexed ARMs include:
1. option to convert on the third, fourth, or fifth adjustment date, i.e. during the 37th, 49th and 61st months of the loan.
2. option to convert during the first five years on the adjustment date, i.e. during the 13th, 25th, 37th, 49th and 61st months of the loan.
The interest rate or points may be somewhat higher for a convertible ARM. Also, a convertible ARM may require a small fee at the time of conversion.
The transfer of title to the property from one party to another.
Cooperative Housing
An apartment building or a group of dwellings owned by a corporation, the stockholders of which are the residents of the dwellings. It is operated for their benefit by their elected board of directors. In a cooperative, the corporation or association owns title to the real estate. A resident purchases stock in the corporation which entitles him to occupy a unit in the building or property owned by the cooperative. While the resident does not own his unit, he has an absolute right to occupy his unit for as long as he owns the stock.
Credit Report
A report documenting the history of how you paid back the companies you have borrowed money from, or how you have met other financial obligations.


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