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Real Estate Glossary of Terms

We’ve compiled a list of the most common real estate terms to help you understand the industry.

1st Loan to Current Value (1LTV):

Total of first loan to value of the property.

Absentee Owner:

An individual or corporation that legally owns a particular property without occupying it or actively managing it. The term absentee owner is intended to distinguish between property owners that are hands-on with their investment versus those who are largely hands off.

Active:

An active status means the property is currently available for sale.

Appraisal:

An appraisal is required to gather the estimated value of a piece of real estate. During the home sale, the mortgage lender sends out an appraiser to get a professional opinion of the value of the property. This helps the lender decide if the property is worth the amount of the loan the potential buyer is seeking.

Arm’s Length Transaction:

A transaction in which the buyers and sellers of a product act independently and have no relationship to each other. The concept of an arm’s-length transaction is to ensure that both parties in the deal are acting in their own self-interest and are not subject to any pressure or duress from the other party.

Assessor Parcel Number (APN):

A unique number assigned to each parcel of land by a county tax assessor. The APN is based on formatting codes depending on the home’s location. The local government uses APNs to identify and keep track of land ownership for property tax purposes.

Backup Offer:

When a buyer is interested in purchasing a property that is already under contract with someone else, that buyer has an opportunity to submit a “backup offer”, in case the first transaction falls apart. A backup offer must still be negotiated, and any monies submitted, such as earnest money (a deposit), confirm it is the next offer in line. There can only be one backup offer legally.

Bank-owned Property:

A bank-owned property is acquired by a financial institution when a homeowner defaults on their mortgage. These properties then sell at a discounted price, much lower than current home prices, as buyers are wary of the costs of potential repairs that might be needed.

Bankruptcy:

A court proceeding in which a judge and court trustee examine the assets and liabilities of individuals and businesses who can’t pay their bills. The court decides whether to discharge the debts and those who are no longer legally required to pay them.

Bankruptcy Dismissed:

If the court enters a dismissal order, it ends a bankruptcy case with the debt being discharged or eliminated. A case that has been dismissed means that it is like a bankruptcy was never filed. When a case is dismissed, it also terminates the automatic stay. This means that collectors can pursue collection efforts again, including lawsuits, garnishments, foreclosure and asset seizures.

Bankruptcy Discharged:

When a court grants a discharge order, it cancels your obligation to repay the discharged debt. As a result, your credit card bills, medical bills and other types of debt included in your bankruptcy filing may be eliminated.

Bird Dog:

Bird Dog is a real estate investing term that refers to a type of broker or agent who spends their time trying to locate properties with substantial investment potential. It is a reference to hunting dogs that point to the location of birds and retrieve any birds the hunter successfully shoots.

Blind Offer:

When a buyer makes an offer on a property they haven’t seen, even when it was possible to see it, that offer is considered a “blind offer”. It is most used in a highly competitive area and/or circumstance and used as an attempt to be first and win quickly.

Buyer’s Agent/Listing Agent:

A buyer’s agent, also known as a selling agent, is a licensed real estate professional whose job is to locate a buyer’s next property, represent their interests by negotiating on behalf of that buyer to obtain the best price and purchasing scenario for that buyer as possible. This agent is a fiduciary for the buyer.

Cash Buyer:

When a home buyer offers a seller the entire cost of the house, with no mortgage or any other type of financing involved. These offers are often more attractive to sellers, as they mean no buyer financing fall-through risk and, usually, a faster closing time.

Child Support Lien:

If child support is owed, the custodial parent can place a lien on property. A lien is a notice that tells the world that there are claims against an individual for money.

Closing:

Closing is when the home sale is considered final, which typically includes all parties’ signatures on all required documents, all monies conveyed and when a lender is involved, with full lender’s approval. For some markets, recording the deed with the country clerk’s office is the final step of closing. Once all these items are completed, then a buyer’s access to the property is then provided and the buyer is considered the new homeowner.

Closing Costs:

Closing costs are an assortment of fees, including fees charged by a lender, the title company, attorneys, insurance companies, taxing authorities, homeowner’s associations, real estate agents and other closing settlement related companies. Closing costs are typically paid at the time of closing a real estate transaction.

Comparative Market Analysis (CMA):

An evaluation of a home’s value based on similar, recently sold homes (called comparables) in the same neighborhood. A CMA is not the same as an appraisal, which is performed by a licensed appraiser. A CMA is performed by a real estate agent.

Condo Owners Association (COA):

Manages structures with multiple units, much like apartments and townhomes. COAs are responsible for all the general common elements (GCEs), such as lobbies, common hallways, sidewalks, roofs, elevators, swimming pools and parking lots. Since it’s a community-based association, COAs typically outline their services to those things that are in common areas. Condo association fees typically include maintenance and insurance for the exterior of the building and all common areas, water, sewer, trash, basic cable and internet, if that’s offered.

Contingent:

Contingent means the seller of the home has accepted an offer – one that comes with contingencies or a condition that must be met for the sale to go through. Examples of contingencies are: Pass a home inspection, confirm buyer’s financing and complete sale of buyer’s current home.

Crow:

The Crow is located on the PropStream Mobile App. Crows are intelligent creatures that have an uncanny way of showing up in the right place, at the right time – when opportunity presents itself. Like the PropStream app, the crow is there to bring good luck and provide you valuable insight into situations around you.

Days on Market (DOM):

DOM is defined as the number of days from the date on which the property is listed for sale on the local real estate brokers’ multiple listing service (MLS) to the date when the seller has signed a contract for the sale of the property with the buyer. A related metric is the average DOM for homes sold in a market during a specified period. A low average DOM indicates a strong market that favors sellers. A high average DOM signals a weak market that favors buyers. Seasonality can be a factor. Homes generally appear to sell faster in Spring than Winter, since you often have more people looking to purchase and sell during the more pleasant weather months rather than the colder more uncomfortable weather months.

Default Amount:

The unpaid principal balance of a Loan as of the date of default, excluding any Negative Amortization.

Distressed Property:

Any property that is under foreclosure or being sold by the lender. Normally, a distressed property is a result of a homeowner who was unable to keep up with the mortgage payments and/or tax bill on the property. It is common for a distressed property to be sold below market value.

Driving for Dollars:

A term that real estate investors use to describe a technique for finding great deals on houses. You drive around until you find a house that looks vacant or distressed and then attempt to buy that home from the owner(s).

Equity:

The difference between the market value of your home and the amount you owe the lender who holds the mortgage. It is the amount a homeowner would receive after paying off the mortgage when the home is sold. To calculate equity, take the market value of the home and subtract any mortgages or liens against the property. The amount leftover is the amount of equity you have in the home. Homeowners can leverage their equity to obtain loans to help finance items such as home repairs or to pay off higher interest debt.

Escrow Holder:

The escrow holder is the agent and depositary (impartial third-party) who collects the money, written instruments, documents, personal property or other things of value to be held until the happening of specified events or the performance of described conditions, usually set forth in mutual, written instructions from the parties.

Estimated Value:

The value the assessor estimates a property would likely sell for on the open market.

Failed Listing:

Property was listed for sale, but is no longer.

Flip Comp:

A Flip Comp provides insights into properties being bought and resold in a short period of time. The properties are often bought for a low price, fixed up and resold for a higher price.

Flipper:

Quick-profit strategy in which an investor purchases real estate at a discount price and improves the property in order to sell it at a higher price. This can be very lucrative profit strategy if the housing market is doing well. Old homes and foreclosures are popular properties used in house flipping because investors can acquire these properties cheap, thus increasing the potential profit.

Foreclosure:

A legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments to the lender by forcing the sale of the asset used as the collateral for the loan.

Foreclosure Sale:

Occurs when the bank exercises its “lien” rights and sells a home at auction. The bank obtains a lien (an ownership interest in the property) when a borrower takes out a mortgage. The bank will use either a judicial or nonjudicial foreclosure procedure, depending on the state’s process.

Free & Clear:

Free and clear means there are no encumbrances secured to the property, such as a lien or mortgage.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC):

A line of credit secured by your home that gives you a revolving credit line to use for large expenses or to consolidate higher-interest rate debt on other loans such as credit cards.

Homeowner Association (HOA):

A HOA is a private association often formed by a real estate developer for the purpose of marketing, managing and selling homes and lots in a residential subdivision.

Homeowner Association (HOA) Lien:

A lien is a legal claim or hold on a piece of property. Among the types of liens out there, a HOA lien is a judgment lien that results from a court-ordered money judgment. An HOA will go to court over a homeowner member's delinquent dues and attempt to convince the court to issue a judgment. HOAs can record judgments that they obtain against homeowner members against those members' homes.

iBuyer:

An iBuyer is a company that uses technology to make an offer on a home quickly or “instantly” as the term implies. iBuyers take on the burden of owning, marketing and reselling a home. Depending on the service, the benefit is the certainty of an all-cash offer and more control over when a seller moves.

Intrafamily Transfer:

A transfer of ownership or management of an operation between or among individuals who have a familial relationship including parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, step grandchild or step grandparent.

Involuntary Lien:

A non-consensual claim to the property of another as collateral to ensure the repayment of a debt. An involuntary lien may be imposed by a court, often for non-payment of taxes. The involuntary lien gives the tax authority (or other body) the right to confiscate one’s property if the debt is not settled.

Joint Venture (JV):

A real estate joint venture is a deal between multiple parties to work together and combine resources to develop a real estate project.

Lien Released:

Used to cancel a lien that has already been filed. Lien releases are also referred to as a release of lien, cancellation of lien or a lien cancellation. These are typically used to cancel the filed claim for public records.

Linked Properties:

Linked Properties is a PropStream feature that allows a user to identify all the properties in an investor’s portfolio and its value – based on the property’s addresses. When you locate an investor owned property, you will be able to see if the investor owns multiple properties.

Lis Pendens:

A written notice that a lawsuit has been filed concerning real estate, involving either the title to the property or a claimed ownership interest in it. The notice is usually filed in the county land records office.

List Automator:

A PropStream feature that identifies the most motivated leads and allows you to stack and apply additional filters. List Automator will automatically update the data in your list to ensure it meets your desired criteria.

List Stacking:

Combining multiple lists into one list.

Loan Contingency:

A loan contingency is a clause or addendum (also known as a mortgage contingency) in an offer contract that allows a buyer to back out of a deal and keep their deposit if they are unable to secure a mortgage with specified terms during a fixed period of time.

Loan to Value (LTV):

LTV is a number lenders use to determine how much risk they’re taking on with a secured loan. It measures the relationship between the loan amount and the market value of the asset securing the loan. If a lender provides a loan worth half the value of the asset, for example, the LTV is 50%. As LTV increases, the potential loss the lender will face if the borrower fails to repay the loan also rises, creating more risk.

To determine your LTV ratio, divide the loan amount by the value of the asset, and then multiply by 100 to get a percentage. LTV = (Amount owed on the loan ÷ Appraised value of asset) x 100.

Local Owner:

Property owner within the same county as the property.

Lot Size:

The lot size is the living space plus front and back yard (total land space).

Mechanics Lien:

A security interest in the title to property for the benefit of those who have supplied labor or materials that improve the property. The lien exists for both real property and personal property.

Multiple Listing Service (MLS):

An MLS is a database established by cooperating real estate brokers to provide data about properties for sale. An MLS allows brokers to see one another’s listings of properties for sale with the goal of connecting homebuyers to sellers.

Non-Disclosure State:

In non-disclosure states, the sales price of real property is not recorded and made available through the public record. There are 12 non-disclosure states (Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri (some counties), Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming).

Non-Owner Occupied:

A real estate classification that means the property owner does not occupy the property as their personal residence.

Notice of Default:

A notification given to a borrower stating that he or she has not made their payments by the predetermined deadline or is otherwise in default on the mortgage contract.

Notice of Trustee Sale:

Informs homeowners and mortgage borrowers of record that their home will be sold at a trustee’s sale on a specific date and at a specific location.

Notice of Foreclosure Sale:

In nonjudicial foreclosure states, there is no trial. Lenders simply issue a “notice of intent to foreclose,” alerting the borrower that the foreclosure process has begun. They will also need to advertise the sale—usually in a newspaper, for at least a few weeks before the scheduled sale date. The property's actual selling is done via auction, and usually by the local sheriff’s department. In many cases, banks and lenders are forced to purchase the properties back due to a lack of buyer interest. These are then dubbed “bank-owned properties” or “real estate-owned properties” (REOs), and the lender then makes efforts to sell those directly to a buyer. Many banks and larger financial institutions list their REO properties somewhere on their website.

Occupancy Status:

Defines the legal situations of households concerning the occupancy of their main residence. Three main statuses can be distinguished:

The status of owner applies to households who are owners, co-owners and becoming owners

The status of tenant and/or sub-tenant applies to households paying a rent, irrespective of the type of accommodation occupied

The status of a free lodger applies to households which are not owners, and which do not pay any rent

On Market:

Property that is available to buy

Opening Bid:

The first bid of an auction, which is set by the foreclosing lender. This opening bid is usually equal to the outstanding loan balance, interest accrued, and any additional fees and attorney fees associated with the Trustee Sale. If there are no bids higher than the opening bid, the property will be purchased by the attorney conducting the sale, for the lender.

Out of County Owner:

A property that is owned by a person that does not reside within the county.

Out-of-State Owner:

A property owner that lives in a different state then the property. Some people find the Return on Investment (ROI) to be better out-of-state, which is the main reason to buy outside the region where you reside. Purchase price, appreciation rates, mortgage expenses, taxes, housing regulations, rental market conditions and more factors might be more favorable in another state and will contribute to a property’s potential ROI.

Owner Occupied Property:

An investment property you buy to generate income, but also live in yourself. For a home to be classified as having an owner occupant, a property needs to be the landlord’s primary residence; a second home doesn’t qualify.

Owner Type:

There are three types of property ownership.

  • Individual Ownership/Sole Ownership: When a property is bought and registered in the name of one individual, s/he alone holds the ownership title of the property.
  • Joint Ownership/Co-ownership: When a property is registered in the name of more than one individual, the property is deemed to be under joint ownership. There is no difference between joint ownership and co-ownership of property – the two terms can be used synonymously. There are several ways to own a property jointly:
  • Joint Tenancy: When the title deed of the property works on the concept of unity and provides each joint owner equal share of the property.
  • Tenancy in Entirety: This form of ownership is tenancy between married people.
  • Tenancy in Common: When two or more people jointly hold a property without holding equal rights.

Pending:

Pending means the seller has accepted an offer from a buyer but hasn’t yet closed. Though most pending home sales go to closing, a deal can still fall through if the buyer can’t get funding, changes their mind about the sale or finds a problem with the home.

Pre-Foreclosure:

The notice informs the owner that the lender will pursue legal action toward foreclosure if the mortgage debt isn’t paid. The owner can either reverse the default status by making up the late payments or sell the property before it goes into foreclosure. It begins when the lender files a notice of default on the property because the owner has not been making mortgage payments.

Pre-foreclosure Release:

For various reasons, the pre-foreclosure on a property is released. Could be due to paying of loan, loan modification, etc.

Principal:

The principal balance of a mortgage loan is the amount of money owed to the lender, not including interest. Say you borrow $300,000. That’s the principal of the loan or what you borrowed to buy the home. Buyers pay the principal plus interest each month, although calculated daily for most loan type. Payments nearly always go toward interest first, then toward paying down the principal. After all, the interest is the reason the bank agrees to make the loan.

Preliminary Report:

A preliminary report reveals any issues with a title that need to be dealt with by the seller in order to deliver a clear title. It gives details such as ownership history, liens and easements. The title company gathers this report by searching existing property records at the county recorder’s office. This report is required for a title insurance company to issue a title insurance policy. Most lenders require borrowers to purchase title insurance coverage to protect their interest in a property. It’s customary in many areas for a seller to pay for this policy, although it is a negotiable item.

Property Classification:

Properties are classified as either residential, non-residential, farmland, linear or machinery and equipment. Some properties have more than one class.

Property Ownership by Nomination:

A process under which a property owner can give someone the right over his immovable property and other assets, in the event of his death. This has become a common practice among owners to as a way the landlord can ensure that the property does not remain unclaimed or become subject to litigation after his death.

Property Type:

Real estate listings have property types (or building types) fields to describe the kind of property for sale. For example – townhouse, duplex, single family, condo.

Real Estate Agent:

An industry professional who takes and passes all required real estate classes, along with the real estate licensing exam in the state in which they intend to work. The agent can represent both buyers and sellers involved in a real estate transaction. Agents are also referred to as real estate associates.

Real Estate Auction:

A real estate auction is an innovative and effective method of selling real estate. There are two forms of auctions that take place (1) non-distressed auction, which is a situation of an owner looking to sell and profit from equity in the home and (2) distressed auction, which is a situation of the lender, not holder, auctioning off the property to recover debt owed. The distressed auctions typically occur at a courthouse for public bidding and are the final step of the Pre-Foreclosure process. There are also Bank Owned Auctions where a bank that has fully foreclosed on a property decides to auction it off to the highest bidder.

A house may be auctioned if it has been foreclosed on; repossessed by the bank (sold in order to recover the money it originally lent); or the original homeowner owed the government enough money for it to reclaim and sell the house.

Real Estate Broker:

Someone who continues his or her education past the real estate agent level and successfully passes a state real estate license exam. A broker can work as an independent agent or have other agents working for them.

Real Estate Comparables:

A comp, which is an abbreviation for comparable sale, is a recently sold home in a property’s area that’s similar to the property being evaluated in location, size, condition and features.

Real Estate Investing:

Real estate investing involves the purchase, ownership, management, rental and/or sale of real estate for profit. Improvement of realty property as part of a real estate investment strategy is generally considered to be a sub-specialty of real estate investing called real estate development.

REALTOR®:

An actively licensed real estate agent and REALTOR® are often used interchangeably, although not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®. A REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). A REALTOR® promises to uphold the Code of Ethics of the association and to hold each other accountable for when serving the public, customers, clients and each other, with a high standard of practice and care.

Refinance:

To replace the mortgage of a property with a new one, with better terms.

Seller Carry Back:

Owner-provided financing. May also be referred to as seller financing or owner will carry (OWC). The seller acts like the bank, holding the note and collecting payments.

Seller Concession:

Sellers may offer concessions to incentivize buyers to purchase a home or make a deal more lucrative. Concessions are most readily seen as a contribution towards the buyer’s closing costs, up-to certain limitations and approvals by a buyer’s lender, which ultimately leaves more money in a buyer’s pocket when all is said and done.

Seller Disclosure:

A disclosure by the seller of information about the property or which could affect a buyer’s decision to purchase the property, all of which to the best of the seller’s knowledge. A seller must also indicate items which are not specific to the property itself, but related to a person’s enjoyment of the property, such as pest problems, property line disputes, knowledge of major construction projects in the area, military base related noises or activities, association related assessments or legal issues, unusual odors caused by a nearby factory or even recent deaths on the property as permitted by law.

Senior Owner:

Senior Owner is a PropStream filter that allows you to identify owners that have owned a property for 25+ years, has a reverse mortgage or based on their tax exemption status.

Short Sale:

In a short sale, the property is being sold for less than the debt secured by the property. Short sales will require the approval of the seller’s lender(s) as the proceeds for the sale will be just “short” of the amount owed; most lenders’ processes of approving short sales are long and drawn out, requiring more time to close than a traditional sale.

Skip Tracing:

The process of identifying the owner of a property owner before making a purchase offer.

Solar Lien:

A lender places a lien on solar equipment for non-payment of the loan, which will remain in place until the loan is paid off. When selling a home with a solar system, either the buyer needs to qualify for and assume the loan and the lien along with it, or the seller needs to pay off the balance of the loan, which will trigger the release of the lien.

Square Footage:

The livable square footage between interior walls. Some architects measure the square footage from the exterior walls.

Tax Assessed Value:

An assessed value is the dollar value assigned to a property to measure applicable taxes. Assessed valuation determines the value of a residence for tax purposes and takes comparable home sales and inspections into consideration.

Tax Delinquent:

An account becomes delinquent when the due date for the tax or other liability has passed and the amount due remains unpaid.

Tax Lien:

When a landowner or homeowner fails to pay the taxes on their property, the city or county in which the property is located has the authority to place a lien on the property. A lien is a legal claim against the property for the unpaid amount that’s owed.

Title Search:

A title search examines public records for the history of the home, including sales, purchases, and tax and other types of liens. Generally, a title examiner will conduct a search using title plants and sometimes the country records, to see who is listed as the record owner of the property. Such information, along with any liens or encumbrances that are recorded against the property, will be listed in the Preliminary Report for the parties to review prior to the close of escrow.

Trust Sale:

A trust sale means the home is being sold by a trustee of a living trust – and not by a private party. Often, this is because the original homeowner passed away or has placed their assets in a living trust. The trustee may not be as emotionally attached to the property as a traditional owner, which could translate to them accepting a less attractive offer as the trustee may prefer to offload the property.

Utility Lien:

A legal claim against the property for unpaid utilities.

Vacant:

 residential property identified by the United States Postal Service (USPS) as uninhabited. Meaning that the USPS has decided they will no longer be delivering mail to a given property's physical address.

Virtual Assistance:

3rd party that helps you manage your business.

Wholesaling:

In real estate wholesaling, a wholesaler contracts a home with a seller, then finds an interested party to buy it. The wholesaler contracts the home with a buyer at a higher price than with the seller and keeps the difference as profit. Real estate wholesalers generally find and contract distressed properties.

Zombie Property:

A property that is currently in pre-foreclosure and is identified as being vacant by the US Postal Service.