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Mortgage Terminology

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - Z

- A -

Acceptance - A legal term referring to the acceptance of an offer. A buyer offers to buy and the seller accepts the offer.

Accounts Payable - A running record of business transactions showing the amount of money owed. They are considered liabilities by lenders.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM) - A home loan that permits the lender to adjust its interest rate periodically during the life of the loan on the basis of changes in a specified financial index. ARMs typically start with a particularly low interest rate that gradually rises over time. If the overall level of interest rates drops, as measured by a variety of different indexes, the interest rate of your ARM follows suit. Similarly, if interest rates rise, so does your mortgage's interest rate and monthly payment. The amount that the interest can fluctuate is limited by caps. Adjusted Gross Income - Total income including your salary and bonuses, and any rental or seasonal income.

Administrator - A person appointed by the probate court to administer the estate of a deceased person.

Agreement of Sale - A written document in which a purchaser agrees to buy property under certain given conditions and the seller agrees to sell under certain conditions. Also known as a 'Sales Contract.'

Amortization - The process of gradually paying down the principal of the loan. As each payment toward principal is made, the mortgage amount is reduced or amortized by that amount. This is in contrast to an interest-only payment where the principal balance is never reduced.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) - The rate of interest to be paid on a loan over its projected life; sometimes referred to as the "true" rate of interest. The APR is the annual cost of a loan, including interest, loan fees and other costs.

Annuity - A sum of money received at fixed intervals, such as series of equal or nearly equal payments to be made over a period of time, or it may be a lump sum payment to be made at some time in the future. The installment payments due to a landlord under the terms of a lease are an example of an annuity. The installment payments due to a lender on a note are another such example.

Appraisal - A professional evaluation of the value of a home or other piece of property made by a professional who is familiar with local real estate prices and markets.

Appreciation - The amount by which the value of a piece of property increases over time.

Assessed Value - A value placed upon property by a tax assessor.

Assessment - Determining the value of property for the purpose of imposing a tax, or the amount of the tax imposed.

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

Assumption - When a buyer takes over the loan payments and obligations of the seller. If the buyer defaults, however, both the buyer and seller are responsible for the debt.


- B -

Back-End Ratio - See Total Debt Ratio

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

Balloon Mortgage - A balloon mortgage offers lower interest rates for shorter-term financing, usually five, seven or ten years. At the end of this term, the borrower requires refinancing or must pay off the outstanding balance in a lump-sum (balloon) payment.

Bankruptcy - A court action under the Federal Bankruptcy Code by which a debtor's debts may be excused, usually by transferring assets to a trustee, or rescheduled.

Beneficiary - (1) A person entitled to the proceeds of a trust; (2) A person who receives profit from an estate, the title of which is entrusted to a trustee; (3) The lender on the security of a note and deed of trust.

Bill of Sale - A written document that serves as evidence of the transfer of title to personal property.

Binder - An agreement to consider the purchase of real estate. The agreement is backed by a cash deposit as evidence of good faith on the part of the purchaser.

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

Building Line - A line set by law or deed restriction a certain distance from the street line, in front of which an owner cannot build on his lot. Also called a setback line.

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


- C -

Cap - A limit on how much a mortgage interest rate may increase or decrease for an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Capital Gain - Income from the sale of an asset rather than from general business activity. Capital gains are generally taxed at a lower rate then ordinary income.

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

Cash Flow - Income generated by a rental property. It is determined by subtracting vacancy allowances and collection costs, operating expenses and debt-servicing costs from the property’s scheduled gross income.

Certificate of Eligibility - A document issued by the federal government certifying a veteran’s eligibility for a Department of Veterans Affairs mortgage.

Certificate of Reasonable Value (CRV) - A document issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs that establishes the maximum value and loan amount for a Veterans Affairs mortgage.

Certificate of Title - A written document stating that the title to a piece of property is legally owned by the title holder (the person named on the certificate).

Clear Title - A title that is free of liens or legal questions regarding ownership of the property.

Closing - Closing is the delivery of a deed, the payment of the purchase price, the signing of promissory notes and the paying of closing costs, which completes a real estate transaction.

Closing Costs - The miscellaneous expenses involved in closing a real estate transaction that are over and above the purchase price. Some of the closing costs include title insurance, appraisal fee, and credit report.

Commitment Letter - A formal offer by a lender, which states the terms under which it agrees to lend money to a home buyer. Also known as a 'loan commitment.' This letter will indicate the contingencies that must be cleared prior to funding the loan.

Common Areas - Portions of a building, land and amenities owned (or managed) by a planned unit development (PUD) or condominium project’s homeowners’ association. Common areas are used by a group of the unit owners, who share in the common expenses of their operation and maintenance. They include swimming pools, tennis courts and other recreational facilities, as well as common corridors of buildings or parking areas.

Comparables - An abbreviation for ”comparable properties,” in the appraisal process. Comparables are properties similar to the one under consideration for appraisal.

Compound Interest - Interest paid on the original principal and on interest accrued from time it became due.

Conforming Mortgage Loan - The current confirming loan limit is $300,700 and below.

Construction Loan - A short-term interim loan for financing the cost of construction. The builder makes payments to the lender at periodic intervals as the work progresses.

Consumer Reporting Agency - An organization that creates reports used by lenders to help determine a potential borrower’s credit history. The agency gets this information from many sources.

Contingency - A clause in a contract stating that the buyer or seller must meet a given condition before the purchase can be completed.

Conventional Mortgage - A home loan that follows a fixed rate. It’s neither guaranteed nor insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Credit History - The financial worthiness of a borrower. Credit history is the history of whether the borrower has met financial obligations on time in the past.

Credit Report - A full listing of debts and credit that tracks a loan applicant’s willingness and ability to make payments in a timely manner in the past. This report is provided to the bank by an outside agency.

CRV - See Certificate of Reasonable Value.


- D-

Debt-to-Income Ratio - The ratio of a borrower's monthly debt payments to his or her monthly gross income. Lenders use this ratio to determine how much of a loan a borrower is qualified for. Debt-to-income is the total amount of debt, including credit cards and other loans, divided by total gross monthly income.

Deed - The legal document conveying title to a property.

Deed of Trust - A document that transfers the bare legal title of a property to a trustee to be held pending fulfillment of an obligation, usually the repayment of a loan to a beneficiary.

Default - Failure to pay mortgage payments over a specified period of time.

Delinquency - Being late with loan payments.

Depreciation - Loss of value in real property brought about by age, physical deterioration, or by changing neighborhood or economic conditions.

Discount Points - A percentage of the mortgage paid to the lender to lower the interest rate on a loan. One point equals one percent.

Down Payment - The portion of the purchase price that a buyer pays up front in cash, at the time the loan originates.

Due-on-Sale Provision - A provision in a mortgage that allows the lender to demand repayment in full if a borrower sells the property that serves as security for the mortgage.


- E -

Earnest Money - A sum of money given as evidence of one's good faith, used to bind or secure a real estate sale. Also known as a 'Binder'.

Easement - The right, privilege or interest that one party has in the land of another, created by grant or agreement for a specific purpose. An example would be a right of way.

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.

Endorsement - The signature on the back of a check, bill, note or similar document. It is required on negotiable documents.

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.

Equity - The difference between the market value of a house and the amount still owed on the mortgage. It’s value of a property minus outstanding mortgage debt and other liens. Increased equity positions you as a safer risk to lenders and enhances your financial position by lowering or eliminating some expenses, such as insurance and rates.

Escrow - Money and documents deposited in a trust account to be held by one party for another. Often used by brokers to hold deposit money prior to closing. Also used by lenders to hold money for taxes and insurance on a home.

Exclusive Agency Listing - A written document giving one agent the right for a specified time to sell a property, but reserving the right of the owner to sell the property himself or herself without payment of a commission to the agent.

Exclusive Right to Sell Listing - A written agreement between an owner and an agent giving the agent the right to collect a commission if the property is sold by anyone during the term of his or her agreement.


- F -

Fair Credit Reporting Act - A consumer protection law that regulates the disclosures of consumer credit reports by consumer/credit reporting agencies and establishes procedures for correcting mistakes on one’s credit report.

Fair Market Value - The highest price that a willing buyer would pay and the lowest the willing seller willing would accept. Neither party is compelled to buy or sell in this situation.

Fannie Mae - A congressionally chartered, shareholder-owned company that is the nation's largest supplier of home mortgage funds. Also known as Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA).

FHA Loan - Also know as a “government loan,” an FHA loan is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. FHA issues specific guidelines for mortgages.

FHLMC - See Freddie Mac.

Fiduciary - A person in a position of trust and confidence, for instance a principal and broker. A broker as a fiduciary owes certain loyalty that cannot be breached.

Finder’s Fee - A fee paid to a mortgage broker for finding a mortgage loan for a prospective borrower.

First Mortgage - The original loan taken out to purchase a home.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage - A loan with an interest rate that never changes.

FNMA - See Fannie Mae.

Flood Insurance - Insurance that would provide reimbursement for physical property damage resulting from flooding. It is required for properties that are located in federally designated flood areas.

Foreclosure - The legal process by which a borrower in default under a mortgage is deprived of his or her right to ownership in the mortgaged property. This usually involves a forced sale of the property at public auction with the proceeds of the sale being applied to the mortgage debt.

Freddie Mac - A major secondary mortgage market investor. It is a government sponsored, privately owned corporation that is a major purchaser of mortgages from lenders. Also known as 'Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation' (FHLMC).

Front-End Ratio - Also called a Top Ratio. This is a calculation of your total monthly housing expenses divided by your income. Lenders use a front-end ratio as a guideline to see if you qualify for a loan.

Fully Amortized ARM - An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) with a monthly payment that is sufficient to amortize the remaining balance, at the interest accrual rate, over the amortization term.


- G -

Good Faith Estimate - A disclosure that must be given by the lender to all mortgage loan applicants within three business days of an application. It is an estimate of all settlement charges likely to be incurred at closing.

- H -

Home Equity Loan - A loan secured by a second deed of trust on a house, typically used as a home improvement loan.

Housing-to-Income Ratio - A ratio used by lending institutions to determine whether a person is qualified for a mortgage. Housing-to-income is the ratio of the monthly housing payment in total (PITI--Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance) divided by the gross monthly income. This ratio is sometimes referred to as the 'top ratio' or 'front-end ratio'.

HUD - Acronym for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD-1 - A document that gives a breakdown of costs that the seller and buyer may pay at closing.


- I -

Income Property - Residential or commercial property that produces income and profits in ways other than rents.

Index - An economic indicator that lenders use to calculate interest rate adjustments for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). The index used is outside the lender's control.

Interest - The amount charged per year on a home loan. The rate varies according to the type of loan.

Interest Rate Cap - A limit on the amount that interest can rise or fall during a specified period of time on an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Involuntary Lien - A lien or charge imposed against property without consent of owner. Examples: taxes, assessments, federal income tax liens, judgments, etc.

- J -

Jumbo Mortgage - Also known as a 'non-conforming' mortgage. Non-conforming loans usually incur a rate and origination fee premium. The current conforming loan limit is $300,700 and below for a single-family residence, $384,900 and below for a 2-unit property, $465,200 and below for a 3-unit property, and $578,150 and below for a 4-unit property. Loan amounts greater than this are considered non-conforming or jumbo mortgages.


- L -

Lender - The bank or mortgage company offering the loan.

Lien - A legal hold or claim of a creditor on the property of another.

Lifetime Cap - A limit on how high the interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage can rise over the lifetime of the loan.

Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV) - The amount of the loan divided by the purchase price of the house. It is the percentage that shows how much equity a borrower will have in a home. The LTV determines which products are available to the borrower.

Lock-in - Allows the borrower to be assured a given rate of interest for a mortgage. This usually involves paying a fee to the lender. Mortgage rates not "locked in" are subject to changing market conditions.

Low-Documentation - Some loan products require only that applicants state the source of their income without providing supporting documentation such as tax returns.

LTV - See Loan-to-Value Ratio.


- M -

Margin - A set number of percentage points a lender adds to the index rate to determine the interest rate for an ARM.

Mortgage Insurance - Also known as Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Insurance that protects mortgage lenders against loss in the event of default by the borrower.

Mortgage - A lien or claim against real property given by the buyer to the lender as security for money borrowed.

Mortgage Broker - A person who, for a fee, brings together a borrower and lender and handles the necessary applications for the borrower to obtain a loan against real estate property by giving a mortgage or deed of trust as security. Also called loan broker.

Mortgagee - A person or organization that lends money for a home.

Mortgagor - A person who borrows money for a home.

- N -

Net Worth - Value remaining after subtracting the liabilities from the assets of a company or an individual.

Non-Conforming Loan - Also known as a 'Jumbo Mortgage.' Non-conforming loans usually incur a rate and origination fee. The current conforming loan limit is $300,700 and below for a single family residence, $384,900 and below for a 2-unit property, $465,200 and below for a 3-unit property, and $578,150 and below for a 4-unit property. Loan amounts greater than this are considered non-conforming or jumbo mortgages.

Note - A signed written instrument acknowledging a debt and promising payment.


- O -

Origination Date - The date on which the loan is initiated or funded.

Origination Fee - A fee imposed by a lender to cover the administrative costs of setting up a mortgage. This will include the preparation of documents and certain processing expenses in connection with making a real estate loan. This is usually charged as a percentage of the amount loaned, such as one point or one percent.

- P -

PITI - Principal, interest, taxes and insurance--the components of a monthly mortgage payment.

PMI - See "Private Mortgage Insurance".

Payoff - The complete repayment of loan principal, interest and any other sums due; payoffs occur either over the full term of the loan through monthly amortization or through prepayments.

Points - An upfront fee that is collected in addition to the interest on a loan. One point is equal to one percent of the mortgage. The use of points allows the lender to reduce the rate by lowering the origination costs. Points may also be referred to as an 'origination fee' or 'discount points' depending on the purpose.

Prepayment Penalty - A fee imposed on a borrower who pays off a mortgage before it is due.

Pre-Approval - A process that mortgage lenders use to determine how much money they would lend you based on a thorough review of your financial situation. Lenders issue a pre-approval letter, which strengthens your position when bidding on a home, as it shows sellers that you will be able to raise the funds needed to purchase the home.

Pre-Qualification - An informal process in which a lender offers an opinion on how much money you may be able to borrow. This opinion is based entirely on the financial information you provide and is neither binding nor necessarily accurate because lenders have not yet verified your financial information.

Preliminary Title Report - A report made by a title company stating whether there are any other claims to ownership of a property. It is a necessary step before a mortgage loan can be approved.

Prepaids - Those expenses of property which are paid in advance of their due date and will usually be prorated upon sale, such as taxes, insurance, rent, etc.

Prime Rate - The best interest rate available to a lender's most qualified customers.

Principal - The original balance of money lent on an outstanding loan and fees, excluding interest. Also the remaining balance of a loan, excluding interest.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) - Insurance coverage obtained from mortgage insurance companies to protect lenders against the risk of making higher loan-to-value loans. Typically required on all first mortgages with an LTV that exceeds 80 percent. The borrower usually pays the PMI premiums.

Promissory Note - The document signed by a borrower promising repayment of a loan. It shows the amount of monthly payments, interest rate, first payment date, last payment date, and the late charge and prepayment provisions.

Purchase Contract - A written promise to pay a specific amount for a property at a specified time. The purchase contract is a written statement of the offer, which both the borrower and the seller will sign if the offer is accepted.


- R -

Rate Cap - A limit on how much the interest rate can change, either at each adjustment period or over the life of the loan.

Rate Lock - The amount of time that a lender will guarantee a loan's interest rate. Once you've locked in the interest rate on a loan, the lender will guarantee that rate for a certain period of time, usually for 30, 45 or 60 days.

Refinancing - A way of obtaining a better interest rate, lower monthly payments or to borrow cash on the equity in a property that has built up on a loan. A second loan is taken out to pay off the first, higher-rate loan.

- S -

Second Mortgage - An additional mortgage on a property, the second mortgage often carries a shorter term and a higher interest rate than the original mortgage.

Secondary Mortgage Market - A market in which existing mortgages are resold.

Seller Take-Back - An agreement in which the owner of a property provides financing, often in combination with an assumed mortgage.

Seller Financing - When the current owner of a house holds the mortgage loan for the buyer.

Servicing (or Loan Servicing) - Supervising and administering a loan after it has been made. This involves such things as collecting the payments, keeping accounting records, computing interest and principal, etc.


- T -

Term - The period of time which covers the life of the loan. For example, a 30-year fixed loan has a term of 30 years.

TILA - See Truth-in-Lending Act.

Title - Evidence of a person’s right to ownership of a property.

Title Company - A company that searches for titles and insures title claims.

Title Insurance - A policy that protects the owner of a title from loss resulting from disputes over ownership claims.

Top Ratio - Also called a Front-End Ratio. This is a calculation of your total monthly housing expenses divided by your income. Lenders use a front-end ratio as a guideline to see if you qualify for a loan.

Total Debt Ratio - Monthly debt and housing payments divided by gross monthly income. Also known as 'Obligations-to-Income Ratio' or 'Back-End Ratio'.

Truth-in-Lending Act - A U.S. federal law requiring lenders to reveal all of the terms of a mortgage.

- U -

Underwriting - The analysis of risk involved in making a mortgage loan to determine whether the risk is acceptable to the lender. Underwriting involves evaluating the property as outlined in the appraisal report and also evaluating the borrower's ability and willingness to repay the loan.

- V -

VA Loan - A low-income loan guaranteed by the Veterans Administration. To obtain a VA loan, the borrower must have served in the armed forces.

Valuation - The estimation of a property's price value through an appraisal.

Variable Interest Rate - Interest rate that fluctuates as the prevailing rate moves up or down. In mortgages there are usually maximums regarding the frequency and the amount of fluctuation.


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