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Mortgage Glossary

Glossary of Common Mortgage Terms

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Additional principal payment
Extra money included in the monthly payment to help reduce the principal and shorten the term of the loan.

Add-on interest
The interest a borrower pays on the principal for the duration of the loan.

Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)
A loan with an interest rate that is periodically adjusted to reflect changes in a specified financial index.

Adjusted cost basis
The cost of any improvements the seller makes to the property. Deducting the cost from the original sales price provides the profit or loss of a home when it is sold.

Adjustment period
The amount of time between interest rate adjustments in an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Agent
A person licensed by the state to conduct real estate transactions.

Alienation clause
A provision that requires the borrower to pay the balance of the loan in a lump sum after the property is sold or transferred.

Allowances
Budgets offered by builders of new homes for the purchase of carpeting and fixtures.

Amortization
The process of paying the principal and interest on a loan through regularly scheduled installments.

Annual percentage rate (APR)
The cost of the loan expressed as a yearly rate on the balance of the loan.

Application
A document that details a potential borrower's income, debt and other obligations to determine credit worthiness.

Application fee
The fee that a lender charges to process a loan application.

Appraisal
An opinion of the value of a property at a given point in time.

Appreciation
An increase in the value of a home or other property.

Assessed value
A tax assessor's determination of the value of a home in order to calculate a tax base.

Assumable mortgage
A mortgage that can be transferred to another borrower.

Average price
The price of a home determined by totaling the sales prices of all houses sold in an area and dividing that number by the number of homes.

Balloon mortgage
A mortgage in which monthly installments are not large enough to repay the loan by the end of the term. As a result, the final payment due is the lump sum of the remaining principal.

Balloon payment
The final lump sum payment due at the end of a balloon mortgage.

Basis point
A basis point is one one-hundredth of one percentage point. For example, the difference between a loan at 8.25 percent and a mortgage at 8.37 percent is 12 basis points.

Bill of sale
A document that transfers ownership of personal property.

Binder
A report issued by a title insurance company that details the condition of a home's title and provides guidelines for a title insurance policy.

Biweekly mortgage
A mortgage that requires payments every two weeks and helps repay the loan over a shorter term.

Blanket insurance policy
A policy that covers more than one person or piece of property.

Blanket mortgage
A mortgage that covers more than one property owned by the same borrower.

Broker
A person licensed by the state to deal in real estate.

Cap
A limit on the amount the interest rate or monthly payment can increase in an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Capital expenditure
The cost of making improvements on a property.

Cash-out refinance
The refinancing of a mortgage in which the money received from the new loan is greater than the amount due on the old loan. The borrower can use the extra funds in any manner.

Closing
The final procedure in which documents are signed and recorded and the property is transferred.

Closing costs
Expenses incidental to the sale of real estate, including loan, title and appraisal fees.

Closing statement
A document which details the final financial settlement between a buyer and seller and the costs paid by each party.

Commercial property
An area that is zoned for businesses.

Commission
The negotiable percentage of the sales price of a home that is paid to the agents of the buyer and seller.

Community Reinvestment Act
A federal law that encourages financial institutions to loan money in the neighborhoods where minority depositors live.

Compound interest
The interest paid on the principal balance in a mortgage and on the accrued and unpaid interest of the loan.

Condominium
Individual units in a building or development in which owners hold title to the interior space while common areas such as parking lots, community rooms and recreational areas are owned by all the residents.

Construction loan
Short-term loans a lender makes for the construction of homes and buildings. The lender disburses the funds in stages.

Construction to permanent loan
The conversion of a construction loan to a longer-term traditional mortgage after construction has been completed.

Contingency
A condition specified in a purchase contract, such as a satisfactory home inspection.

Conventional loan
A long-term loan a lender makes for the purchase of a home.

Convertible adjustable-rate mortgage
A mortgage which starts as an adjustable-rate loan, but allows the borrower to convert the loan to a fixed-rate mortgage during a specified period of time.

Cooperative project
A project in which a corporation holds title and sells shares representing individual units to buyers who then receive a proprietary lease as their title.

Cost-plus contract
A construction contract that determines the builder's profit based on a percentage of the cost of labor and materials.

Credit
The money a lender extends to a buyer for a commitment to repay the loan within a certain time frame.

Credit rating
The degree of credit worthiness assigned to a person based on credit history and financial status.

Credit report
A credit bureau report that shows a loan applicant's history of payments made on previous debts. Several companies issue credit reports, but the three largest are Trans Union Corp., Equifax and Experian (formerly TRW ).

Deed
The legal document that transfers ownership of a piece of property.

Deed of trust
A document that gives a lender the right to foreclose on a piece of property if the borrower defaults on the loan.

Default
The failure to fulfill a duty or promise or discharge an obligation, such as making monthly mortgage payments.

Deferred maintenance
Any repair or maintenance of a piece of property that has been postponed, resulting in a decline in property value.

Delinquent mortgage
A mortgage that involves a borrower who is behind on payments. If the borrower cannot bring the payments up to date within a specified number of days, the lender may begin foreclosure proceedings.

Depreciation
The decline in value of a piece of property.

Disclosure
A statement to a potential buyer listing information relevant to a piece of property, such as the presence of radon or lead paint.

Down payment
The amount of money a buyer agrees to give the seller when a sales agreement is signed. Complete financing is later secured with a lender.

Draw
A payment made to subcontractors or suppliers from a construction loan.

Early occupancy
The condition in which buyers can occupy the property before the sale is completed.

End loan
The conversion from a construction loan to permanent financing a condominium buyer secures after all units in a project have been completed.

Environmental impact statement
A government-mandated evaluation of all aspects and effects a development will have on the environment of a proposed site.

Equity
A determination of the value of a property after existing liens are deducted.

Errors and omissions insurance
A policy that pays for any mistakes a builder or architect makes in a project.

Escrow
A neutral third party holds the documents and money involved in a real estate transaction and ensures that all conditions of a sale are met. Escrow also refers to a special account that a lender establishes to hold monthly installments from the borrower to cover property taxes and insurance.

Escrow closing
Escrow closes when all conditions of a real estate transaction are met and the title of the property is transferred to the buyer.

Estate
The total assets of a person, including real property, at the time of death.

Fair Credit Reporting Act
A federal law passed in 1971 that regulates the activity of credit bureaus. It is designed to prevent inaccurate or obsolete information from staying in a consumer's credit file and requires credit bureaus to have reasonable procedures for gathering, maintaining and disseminating credit information. The act also requires credit bureaus to show a consumer their credit file if the consumer presents proper identification, although the bureau reserves the right to charge a fee for doing so.

Fair Housing Act
Landmark federal law passed in 1965 and amended in 1988 that makes it illegal to deny rent or refuse to sell to anyone based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The 1988 amendment expanded the protections to include family status and disability.

Fannie Mae
The official name of the Federal National Mortgage Association. It is a congressionally chartered, shareholder-owned company that buys mortgages from lenders and resells them as securities on the secondary mortgage market.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
This government agency operates a variety of home-loan programs. Its most popular is the Sec. 203(b), program, which provides low-rate mortgages to buyers who make a down payment as small as 5 percent.

FHA loans
Mortgages that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA's 203(b) loan program provides low-rate mortgages to buyers who make a down payment as small as 3.5 percent. The agency also operates loan plans for investors and purchasers of rural property.

First mortgage
The primary mortgage on a property that has priority over all other voluntary liens.

Fixed installment
The monthly payment on a home loan.

Fixed-rate mortgage
A home loan with an interest rate that will remain at a specific rate for the term of the loan. About 75 percent of all home mortgages have fixed rates.

Flat fee
A set fee charged by a broker instead of a commission.

Flood insurance
Hazard coverage that is required in designated flood areas.

Forbearance
A course of action a lender may pursue to delay foreclosure or legal action against a delinquent borrower.

Foreclosure
The legal process reserved by a lender to terminate the borrower's interest in a property after a loan has been defaulted. When the process is completed, the lender may sell the property and keep the proceeds to satisfy its mortgage and any legal costs. Any excess proceeds may be used to satisfy other liens or be returned to the borrower.

For sale by owner (FSBO)
The owner acts as the agent to avoid paying a sales commission.

Freddie Mac
The common name for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, a congressionally chartered institution that buys mortgages from lenders and resells them as securities on the secondary mortgage market.

Fully amortized adjustable-rate mortgage
A mortgage that amortizes, or pays down, the balance of a loan.

Gift
A cash gift a buyer receives from a relative or other source. Lenders usually require a "gift letter" stating that the money will not have to be repaid.

Grace period
A specified amount of time to make a loan payment after its due date without penalty.

Graduated-payment mortgage (GPM)
A mortgage that requires a borrower to make larger monthly payments over the term of the loan. The payment is unusually low for the first few years but gradually rises until year three or five, then remains fixed.

Growing-equity mortgage
A fixed rate mortgage that increases payments over a specific period of time. The extra funds are applied to the principal.

Guarantee mortgage
A loan guaranteed by a third party, such as a government institution.

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 equity conversion mortgage
Loans made to older owners who want to convert equity into money. Because borrowers are qualified on the basis of the value of their home, the loan is not the same as a home equity loan. Also known as reverse mortgages.

Home equity loan
A loan that allows owners to borrow against the equity in their homes.

Home inspection
An examination of a home's construction, condition and internal systems by an inspector or contractor prior to purchase.

Homeowners' association
A group that governs a modern subdivision or planned community. An association collects monthly fees from all owners to pay for maintenance of common areas, handle legal and safety issues, and enforce the covenants, conditions and restrictions set by the developer.

Homeowners' insurance
This insurance includes hazard coverage for any damages that may affect the value of a house, in addition to personal liability and theft coverage.

Home warranty
A type of insurance that covers repairs to certain parts of a house and some fixtures.

Impact fees
Fees collected from developers of new homes to pay for schools, parks and other facilities.

Impounds
A portion of the monthly mortgage payment that is placed in an account and used to pay for hazard insurance, property taxes and private mortgage insurance.

Income property
Property that is not occupied by the owner but is used to generate income.

Index
Financial tables used by lenders to calculate interest rates on adjustable mortgages and on treasury bills.

Initial interest rate
The original interest rate on an adjustable mortgage.

Interest
The fee borrowers pay to obtain a loan. It is calculated based on a percentage of the total loan.

Interest accrual rate
The rate at which interest accrues on a mortgage.

Interest-only loan
Pays only the interest that accrues on the loan balance each month. Because each payment goes toward interest, the outstanding balance of the loan does not decline with each payment.

Interest rate
The sum, expressed as a percentage, charged for a loan. Interest payments on most home loans are tax- deductible.

Interest rate buy-down plans
For cash-short buyers, some sellers are willing to advance funds from the sale of the home to buy down the interest rate and reduce the buyer's monthly obligation.

Interest rate caps
A limit on the amount that can be charged to the monthly payment of an adjustable-rate mortgage during an adjustment period.

Interest rate ceiling
The highest interest a lender can charge for an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Investment property
Real estate that generates income, such as an apartment building or a rental house.

Jumbo mortgage
Loans that exceed limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The current limit is $417,000.

Late charge
A fee a lender imposes on a borrower when the borrower does not make a payment on time.

Lender
A bank, savings institution or mortgage company that offers home loans.

Liability insurance
A policy that protects owners against any claims of negligence, personal injury or property damage.

Lien
A claim laid by one person or company on the property of another as security for money owed.

Life cap
A limit on the amount that a loan rate can move during the term of the mortgage. For example, the rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage that begins at five percent and has a lifetime cap of six percentage points cannot rise above eleven percent, even if rates on fixed-rate mortgages soar to twenty percent.

Loan application
The first step toward submitting a home loan requires the borrower to itemize basic financial information.

Loan application fee
A fee charged by lenders for making a loan application.

Loan commitment
A promise by a lender or other financial institution to make or insure a loan for a specified amount and on specific terms.

Loan officer
An official representative of a lending institution who is empowered to act on behalf of the lender within certain limits.

Loan origination fee
Most lenders charge borrowers an origination fee--or points--for processing a loan. A point is 1 percent of the total loan amount.

Loan processing fee
A fee charged by some lenders for gathering information to enable the lender to process the loan.

Loan term
The amount of a time set by the lender for a buyer to pay a mortgage. Most conventional loans have 30-year or 15-year terms.

Loan-to-value ratio
A technical measure used by lenders to assess the relationship of the loan amount to the value of the property

Low-documentation loan
A mortgage that requires only minimal verification of income and assets.

Low-down-payment loan
A home loan that requires the borrower to make only a small down payment before obtaining the financing needed to purchase a house.

Margin
The lender's "retail markup" on the mortgage. For example, if the index rate for an adjustable-rate mortgage is 5 percent but the lender has a 2.5 percentage-point margin, the rate the borrower will pay is 7.5 percent.

Market value
The price that a piece of property sells for at a particular point in time.

Mechanic's lien
Subcontractors or suppliers sometimes will file an encumbrance, or mechanic's lien, against a property to seek payment.

Mortgage
A legal document specifying a certain amount of money to purchase a home at a certain interest rate and using the property as collateral.

Mortgage acceleration clause
A clause which allows a lender to demand that the entire balance of the loan be repaid in a lump sum under certain circumstances. The acceleration clause is usually triggered if the home is sold, title to the property is changed, the loan is refinanced or the borrower defaults on a scheduled payment.

Mortgage banker
A company that provides home loans using its own money. The loans are usually sold to investors such as insurance companies and Fannie Mae.

Mortgage broker
A company that matches lenders with prospective borrowers who meet the lender's criteria. The mortgage broker does not make the loan, but receives payment from the lender for services.

Mortgage insurance
Required by lenders in some loans to protect them from a possible default. All conventional loans with less than a twenty percent down payment require private mortgage insurance or PMI.

Multiple listing service (MLS)
The service combines the listings for all available homes in an area, except For-Sale-By-Owner (FSBO) properties, in one directory or database.

Negative amortization
The situation occurs when a borrower's monthly payment is not large enough to cover both the principal and interest of a loan. As a result, the outstanding balance of the loan actually grows larger with each payment rather than smaller. Most fixed-rate loans are not subject to negative amortization, but many adjustable-rate mortgages are susceptible.

No-documentation loan
A loan application that does not require verification of income but typically is granted in cases of large down payments.

Non-assumption clause
A loan provision that prohibits the transfer of a mortgage to another borrower without lender approval.

Non-recurring closing costs
Costs that are one-time only fees for such items as an appraisal, loan points, credit report, title insurance and a home inspection.

Note
The legal document that requires a borrower to repay a mortgage at a certain interest rate over a specified period of time.

Note rate
The interest rate specified in a mortgage note.

Notice of default
A lender's initial action when a mortgage payment is late and attempts to reconcile the issue out of court have failed.

Origination fee
A fee charged by most lenders--also called points--for processing a loan. A point is 1 percent of the total loan amount.

Owner financing
A transaction in which the seller of a property agrees to finance all or part of the purchase.

PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance)
When a buyer applies for a loan, the lender will calculate the principal, interest, taxes and insurance. The figure is designed to represent the borrower's actual monthly mortgage-related expenses.

Point
Fees charged by lenders at the time a loan is originated. A point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.

Pre-approval letter
A letter from a lender that informs a seller about the amount of money that a potential buyer can obtain.

Prepaid expenses
The costs for taxes, insurance and assessments paid before the due date.

Prepaid interest
Interest paid before it is due. For example, at the close of a real estate transaction borrowers usually pay for the interest on their loan that falls between the closing period and the first monthly payment.

Prepayment penalty
Lenders can impose a penalty on a borrower who pays a loan off before its expected end date.

Pre-qualification
Many lenders will prequalify a borrower who is shopping for a loan by completing a preliminary assessment of the buyer's ability to pay for a home.

Principal
The amount of money that the borrower owes on a mortgage.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI)
A special type of loan insurance that many lenders require borrowers to purchase if the borrower's down payment is less than 20 percent of the home's purchase price.

Property tax
Property taxes are calculated at about 1.5 percent of the current market value.

Property value
The value of a piece of property is based on the price a buyer will pay at a certain time.

Purchase agreement
A document which details the purchase price and conditions of the transaction.

Qualifying ratios
Lenders compute qualifying ratios to determine how much a potential buyer can borrow.

Quit-claim deed
A document that releases a party from any interest in a piece of real estate.

Rate-improvement mortgage
A loan with a clause that entitles a borrower to a one-time cut in the interest rate without going through refinancing.

Rate lock
When interest rates are volatile, many borrowers want to "lock in" an interest rate and many lenders will oblige, setting a limit on the amount of time the guaranteed interest rate is in effect.

Real estate
Land and anything permanently affixed to it, including buildings, fences and other items attached to the structure.

Real estate agent
A real estate agent 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 real estate agent who is licensed by the state to represent a buyer or seller in a real estate transaction in exchange for a commission. Most brokers also have agents working for them, and are entitled to a portion of their commissions.

Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
The trusts are publicly traded companies that own, develop and operate commercial properties.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)
A federal law designed to make sellers and buyers aware of settlement fees and other transaction-related costs. RESPA also outlaws kickbacks in the real estate business.

Recording fee
A fee charged by real estate agents for conveying the sale of a piece of property into the public record.

Refinancing
The process of replacing an older loan with a new mortgage that has better terms.

Regulation Z
The federal code issued under the Truth-in-Lending Act which requires that a borrower be advised in writing of all costs associated with the credit portion of a financial transaction.

Rehabilitation mortgage
A mortgage that provides for the costs of repairing and improving a resale home or building.

Remaining balance
The amount of unpaid principal on a home loan.

Remaining term
The original loan term minus the number of payments made.

Resale value
The future value of a piece of property that can be affected by many factors, including the surrounding neighborhood, school scores, and economic and housing market conditions.

Reserve fund
All homeowners associations set aside a certain amount of money for major repairs or improvements.

Restructured loan
A mortgage in which new terms are negotiated.

Return on investment
The amount of profit a property generates.

Reverse mortgage
A special type of loan available to equity-rich, older owners. Repayment is not necessary until the borrower sells the property or moves into a retirement community.

Right of first refusal
An agreement by a property owner to give another person the right to buy or rent the property before it goes on the open market.

Right to rescission
A provision in the federal Truth-in-Lending Act that allows borrowers to cancel certain kinds of loans within three days of signing.

Second mortgage
Another loan placed upon a piece of property.

Secured loan
Any loan backed by collateral.

Servicer
A firm that collects mortgage payments and manages borrowers' escrow accounts.

Settlement statement
A document that details who has paid what to whom.

Shared-appreciation mortgage
A loan that allows a lender or other party to share in the borrower's profits when the home is sold.

Shared-equity transaction
A transaction in which two buyers purchase a property, one as a resident co-owner and the other as an investor co-owner.

Special assessment
When a homeowners' association needs or wants extra funds, it levies a special assessment upon the owners.

Step-rate mortgage
A loan that allows a gradual increase in the interest rate during the first few years of the loan.

Subordinate loan
A second or third mortgage.

Sweat equity
The non-cash value put into a piece of property by the owner, such as do-it-yourself home improvements.

Teaser rate
A low, short-term rate offered on a mortgage to entice the borrower.

Timeshare
Ownership that involves the acquisition of a specific period of time, or that percentage of interest, in a vacation home or resort.

Title
The actual legal document conferring ownership of a piece of real estate.

Title company
Firms that ensure that the title to a piece of property is clear and provide title insurance.

Title insurance
A policy issued to lenders and buyers to protect any losses because of a dispute over the ownership of a piece of property.

Total expense ratio
The percentage of monthly debt obligations relative to gross monthly income.

Townhouse
An attached home that is not a condominium.

Tract home
Another term for a production home, a mass-produced house constructed by one builder in a project.

Transfer of ownership
Any legal means by which a piece of real estate changes hands.

Truth-in-Lending Act
A federal law that protects consumers in a variety of ways. One of its key provisions allows a consumer to cancel a home-improvement loan, second mortgage or other loan if the home was pledged as security (except for a first mortgage or first trust deed) until midnight of the third business day after the contract was signed.

Two-step mortgage
An adjustable mortgage with two interest rates, one for the first five or seven years of the loan, and the other for the remainder of the loan term.

Underwriting
The process that lenders go through to evaluate the risks posed by a particular borrower and to set appropriate conditions for the loan.

U.S. Department. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
A federal agency that oversees the Federal Housing Administration and a variety of housing and community development programs.

Unsecured loan
Any loan that is not backed by collateral.

Variable rate
An interest rate that changes with fluctuations in such indexes as the U.S. Treasury bill index.

Verification of deposit
Part of the loan process in which a lender will ask a borrower's bank to sign a statement verifying the borrower's account balances and history.

Verification of employment
Part of the loan process in which a lender asks the borrower's employer for confirmation of the borrower's position and salary.

Veterans Administration (VA)
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates a variety of programs to help veterans. One of the key plans it oversees is the VA loan program, which allows most veterans to purchase a house without a down payment.

VA loan
A program that allows most veterans to purchase a house without a down payment.

Wraparound mortgage
A loan to a buyer for the remaining balance on a seller's first mortgage and an additional amount requested by the seller. Payments on both loans are made to the lender who holds the wraparound loan.

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