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Real Estate Terms


Caps - The maximum amount the interest rate can change annually or cumulatively over the life of an adjustable-rate mortgage. For example, if the caps are 2 percent annual and 6 percent life of loan, a mortgage with a first-year rate of 10 percent could rise to no more than 12 percent the second year, and no more than 16 percent over the entire loan term.

Certificate of title - A statement provided by a title company or attorney stating that the title to the real estate is legally held by the current owner.

Chattel - Personal property.

Clear title - A title that is free of liens or legal questions as to ownership of a piece of property.

Closing - The meeting at which the sale of a property is finalized. The buyer signs the lender agreement for the mortgage and pays closing costs and escrow amounts. The buyer and seller sign documents to transfer ownership of the property. Also known as the settlement.

Closing costs - Expenses incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property. Closing costs normally include an origination fee, an attorney's fee, taxes, escrow payments, and charges for title insurance. Lenders or Realtors? provide estimates of closing costs to prospective home buyers.

Closing statement - A financial disclosure accounting for all funds changing hands at the closing. See also HUD-1 statement.

Cloud on title - Any fact or condition that could adversely affect the title.

Commission - In real estate, the broker or salesperson's fee for assisting the transaction, usually expressed as a percentage of the total paid by the buyer.

Commitment letter - A formal offer by a lender stating the approved terms for lending money to a home buyer.

Common area assessment - A levy against individual unit owners in a condominium or planned unit development to pay for upkeep, repairs and improvements to the property's common areas, such as corridors, elevators, parking lots, swimming pools and tennis courts.

Comparables or "comps" - Refers to "comparable properties," which are used for comparative purposes in the appraisal process. Comps are recently sold properties that are similar in size, location and amenities to the home for sale. Comps help an appraiser determine the fair market value of a property.

Condominium - A real estate project in which each unit owner has title to a unit of the project, and sometimes an undivided interest in the common areas.

Conforming loan - A loan that conforms to the standard rules for purchase by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

Contiguous - Adjoining or touching.

Contingency - A condition that must be met before a contract is legally binding. For example, home buyers often include a contingency that specifies that the contract is not binding until after a satisfactory report from a qualified home inspector. See home inspection.

Contract - In real estate parlance, the contract is the legal document by which buyer and seller make offers and counteroffers. The real estate contract describes the property, includes or excludes items in the property, names the price, apportions the closing costs between the parties and sets forth a closing date. When buyer and seller agree on terms and sign the same document, the property is said to be "under contract." More formally known as agreement for sale, purchase agreement or earnest money contract.

Conventional mortgage - Usually refers to a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage that is not insured by the FHA, Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) or Veterans Administration.

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

Cooperative, or co-op - A type of multiple ownership in which the residents of a multiunit housing complex own shares in the cooperative corporation that owns the property, giving each resident the right to occupy a specific apartment or unit.

Cost-of-funds index, or COFI - A yield index based upon the cost of funds to savings & loan institutions in the San Francisco Federal Home Loan Bank District. It is one of the indexes commonly used to set the rate of adjustable rate mortgages.

Covenant - A written restriction on the use of land, most commonly in use today in homeowners associations.

Credit report - A report on a person's credit history prepared by a credit bureau and used by a lender in determining a loan applicant's record for paying debts in a timely manner.

Debt-to-income ratio - The percentage of a person's monthly earnings used to pay off all debt obligations. Lenders consider two ratios, constructed in slightly different ways. The first, called the front-end ratio, the ratio of the monthly housing expenses ? including principal, interest property taxes and insurance (PITI) is compared to the borrower's gross, pretax monthly income. In the back-end ratio, a borrower's other debts, such as auto loans and credit cards, are also figured in. Lenders usually take both into account and set an acceptable ratio, which might be expressed as 33/39. Some lenders, and some lending qualifying agencies such as FHA, take only the back-end ratio into account.

Deed - The legal document conveying title to a property.

Depreciation - A decline in the value of property; the opposite of appreciation.

Discount points - A type of point (1 percent of a loan) paid by the borrower to reduce the interest rate.

Down payment - The amount of a property's purchase price that the buyer pays in cash and does not finance with a mortgage.

Earnest money deposit - A deposit made by potential home buyers during negotiations with the seller. The sum shows a seller that a buyer is serious about purchasing the property.

Easement - The right of another to use property. The most common easements are for utility lines.

Encumbrance - A lien, charge or liability against a property.

Equal Credit Opportunity - Act 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.

Eminent domain - The right of public agencies to take land for public use.

Equity - The value of a homeowner's unencumbered interest in real estate. Equity is the difference between the home's fair market value and the unpaid balance of the mortgage and any outstanding liens. Equity increases as the mortgage is paid down or as the property enjoys appreciation.

Escrow payment - The portion of a homeowner's monthly mortgage payment that is held by the loan servicer to pay for taxes and insurance. Also known as reserves. The loan servicer holds the escrow funds separately from money meant to pay off principal and interest





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