Glossary of Title Terms

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A brief synopsis of legal documents affecting a specific piece of property, which is compiled in chronological order and includes all the instruments in the chain of title.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage

Also called an ARM or adjustable, this type of mortgage typically starts off with a lower “teaser” interest rate that stays fixed for a specified time, then adjusts periodically depending on changes in the market interest rate.


A report made by a certified or licensed expert that states an opinion of the fair market value and quality of the property following a personal visit and examination of the property.


A certified or licensed expert who states his or her opinion of the fair market value and quality of the property following a physical review of the property and the market condition.


An increase over time in the market value of a home, further adding to the homeowner’s equity.

Assumable Mortgage

A type of mortgage that is set up so that the buyer can take over the seller’s payments.

Bill of Sale

An instrument conveying title to personal property.

Closing (Settlement)

The formality of finalizing a transaction, either the transferring or financing of a property. The final step of a property sale transaction, in which the legal (“closing”) documents (e.g., deed, note, mortgage, and affidavits) are executed and funds disbursed in accordance with the terms of the contract or loan commitment.

Closing Agent (Settlement Agent)

The agent who oversees and conducts the many steps involved in the real estate transaction during the closing, or “settlement,” process, including controlling the down payment and all documents related to the sale.

Closing Statement or Hud-1

A settlement Statement prescribed for use in federally related mortgage transactions. It discloses all charges, disbursements, costs to the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction.

Closing Disclosure

Effective August 1, 2015, the Closing Disclosure replaces the Housing and Urban Development (HUD-1) settlement statement and the final TIL statement that must be provided to the consumer at least three business days prior to loan closing.

Clouds on Title

A lien or encumbrance that, if valid, would adversely affect the title to a parcel of real property.

Commitment Letter

A written agreement in which the lender agrees to lend money if the borrower meets certain conditions.

Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)

A written CMA compares a home to comparable homes in the neighborhood that are either presently on the market or have sold in the last six months.


Conditions (or escape clauses) that buyers put in their purchase offer and sellers add in the counter-offer so that, if the contingency isn’t fulfilled, the party that made it is free to walk away from the deal.


A legally binding document in which the buyer agrees to purchase specific property and the seller agrees to sell under stated conditions. Also called a contract for purchase and sale, purchase and sale agreement, binder, or earnest money contract.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

(CFPB) is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for consumer protection in the financial sector.

Conventional Loan

Generally indicates a mortgage loan that is neither insured by the FHA nor guaranteed by the VA.


The transfer of title of land from one to another; also, the instrument that accomplishes this transfer (see Deed).

Curb Appeal

The attractiveness of a home and its property to prospective buyers viewing it from the street as compared with other homes on that same street or within that same neighborhood.


A written instrument signed and witnessed by two persons by which one person conveys title of land to another. While more commonly used to convey title to real property, it may also by used to convey title to personal property. (See also Warranty Deed)


The failure of a buyer to pay the monthly mortgage payment which includes the loan principal, interest, and possibly additional charges for taxes and insurance.

Discount Broker

A transactional agent who works at a discount by providing only certain services.

Dodd Frank Act

The full name of the bill is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, but it is better known and most often referred to as Dodd-Frank. Dodd-Frank is also geared toward protecting consumers with rules like keeping borrowers from abusive lending and mortgage practices by banks. It became the law of the land in 2010.


The market value of a home minus what the homeowner owes on it. Homeowners sometimes borrow against their equity, taking out a home equity loan (also called a second mortgage), with tax-deductible interest, to pay for whatever they choose.


A special non-interest bearing account used by attorneys and Realtors to hold down payments, earnest money, and funs from closing for a specified clearing period of custom allows.

Estoppel Letter

A document executed by a party to a debt acknowledging the current loan balance and terms. Having thus acknowledged the balance and terms, the party making the document is prevented from later claiming that the information was not accurate. It is used to confirm the loan balance in connection with the sale of a mortgage by the mortgagee or in connection with the sale of the underlying real property by the mortgagor.

Fair Market Value

The value of a home based on a comparison of that home with comparable homes in the same neighborhood that are either presently on the market or have sold in the last six months.

FHA Loan

Federal Housing Administration. A federal agency within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Using loan insurance programs to insure mortgages for lenders, the FHA stimulates the availability of housing for low- and moderate –income families.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A type of mortgage in which the interest rate remains the same, or “fixed,” throughout the term of the loan. Lenders typically charge a higher interest rate for these mortgages. The most common fixed-rate mortgages are 15-year and 30-year.


When the lender gets a judgment ordering a public sale of the property to pay off the loan because the borrower has defaulted on the mortgage payments.

Hidden Defect

Any claim on a property that does not appear in the public records, for example, an unknown heir or an unrecorded municipal utility lien.

Homeowners Insurance

Required for all homeowners, it protects against accidents and theft that might occur on their property.

Home Inspector

The home inspector is an objective third party who essentially gives the house a complete physical. He or she examines the property with a fine-toothed comb, reporting on the condition of the structure and systems of the house.

Homestead Tax Exemption

A tax credit for Florida residents on their principal residence. The exemption basically takes $25,000 off the tax-assessed value of the property, giving the homeowner a tax reduction of about $500.


Examination of property to see that it meets the standards of the contract, the lender, and the buyer.


A charge for a loan is usually a percentage of the amount loaned. The IRS lets homeowners deduct mortgage interest and real property taxes, within limits, on annual income tax returns.


A legal claim on the property that acts as a security for the payment of a debt. If the debt is not repaid as promised, the lender or the lienholder can foreclose its claim on the property and force a public sale to pay the debt.

Marketable Title

property is said to have marketable title when the title, or rights to a property, has no problems or only minor problems that any well-informed and prudent buyer would accept.

Material Defect

Defects, including any property damage, malfunctions of major systems, and environmental hazards affecting the condition of a home, which should be readily disclosed to a buyer.


The pledging of property to a creditor as security for payment of debt. Also, a document that places a lien on property. The lender holds the lien as security for the money borrowed.

Mortgage Note

A promissory note that is secured by a mortgage.

Mortgage Policy

A title insurance policy issued to the lender. It protects the lender for the amount of the mortgage loan.


The holder of a mortgage; the lender.


The debtor; the person who executes a mortgage; the borrower.

Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

A computer-based resource used by real estate agents that lists and contains descriptions of houses that are for sale in a particular area.

Owners Policy

A title insurance policy issued to a property’s owner; it protects the owner’s equity against hidden title defects.


Up-front interest to compensate the lender for processing a mortgage. Also known as “loan origination fees.” Each point equals 1% of the loan. Points are also referred to as “discount points” because usually the more points paid, the lower the interest rate.


The amount of money borrowed in a loan on which interest is charged.


Initiating the loan approval process before finding a home. Pre-approval involves providing information regarding employment, income, and debts to a lender to prove the buyer is a good risk. A more complex process than pre-qualification, pre-approval sometimes involves a fee.


Pre-qualifying entails speaking with a lender who offers an opinion of the loan amount the buyer is eligible to borrow, without providing any supporting paperwork or credit history. There’s no charge for pre-qualification.

Private Mortgage Insurance

Typically required by lenders if a down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price. This can tack several hundred dollars each year to the buyer’s loan cost until the equity in the home reaches 22%, when the insurance is no longer needed.

Property Appraisal

See “Appraisal”.

Property Taxes

Taxes paid by homeowners annually to local and state governments—on average, about 1.5% to 2% of the appraised value of the home, as determined by the county property appraiser.

Real Estate Sales Agent/Broker

A person tested and licensed by the state to put buyers and sellers together for a commission. Brokers have taken an additional test, generally following several years in the business, and are authorized to operate a private real estate firm.

Real Property

Refers to a parcel of land and any permanent improvements to it.


®A licensed real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors ®, a trade organization with its own educational standards and ethics in addition to those required by the state.


Remote Online Notarization.

Seller Disclosure

Requires sellers to inform buyers about known problems with the house that would lower its value.


A procedure that determines the boundaries, area, or elevations of land or structures on the earths surface by means of measuring angles and distances, using the techniques of geometry and trigonometry. A map or plat drawn by a registered land surveyor shows the results of the survey.


A surveyor locates and measures the exact lot lines to make sure they match the legal description on the deed.


Title can refer to two things1) the right of ownership and possession of a particular property; 2) the document that shows evidence that give rise to a legal right of ownership, possession or control.

Title Agency

Similar to other insurance agents, a title agency is authorized to issue title policies and prepare documents in connection with transactions for which it issues policies. Staff members of the title agency do not represent either party and cannot give legal advice.

Title Defect

Any legal right to a property claimed by a person other than the owner. Examples include unpaid real estate taxes or claims to the property, such as those of an unknown heir.

Title Examination

An examination of public records, laws, and court actions to make sure that a property’s seller is the legal owner and to disclose all other claims or encumbrances on the property affecting its ownership.

Title Exception

As part of the title search, a real estate attorney will list any “exceptions” to the title—situations where the title owner relinquishes control or use of some part of their property.

Title Insurance

The insured guarantee of the legal ownership, possession or right to control real estate. Indemnity against loss resulting from defects in or undisclosed liens upon a title. A type of insurance that protects the policyholder against loss sustained through title defects.

Title Search

A general term referring to a search and examination of the public records for recorded instruments that affect the title to the parcel of land under search.

Transfer Tax

One of the expenses paid by the seller on closing day as part of the closing costs, the transfer tax is based on a property’s sale price.

Trust Account

Escrow maintained by an attorney.

Warranty Deed

A Deed containing these five common law warranties(1) Covenant of warranty; (2) covenant of seisin (seller has both possession and title; (3) covenant of quiet enjoyment (4) covenant against encumbrances and (5) covenant of further assurance.


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