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  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): A mortgage loan that allows the interest rate to fluctuate over the maturity of the loan. Two of the benefits of an ARM are that the initial rate is lower than most other types of loans and these loans are usually assumable.
  • Adjustment Period: The length of time between an interest rate change on an ARM. For example, a loan with an adjustment period of 1 year is called a 1 year ARM, meaning the interest rate can change once a year.
  • Amortization: Repayment of a loan in equal installments of principal and interest, rather than interest-only payments.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The total finance charge (interest, loan fees, points, etc.) expressed as a percentage of the loan amount.
  • Assumption of Mortgage: A buyers agreement to assume the liability under an existing note that is secured by a mortgage or deed of trust. The lender must approve the buyer in order to release the original borrower (usually the seller) from liability.

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  • Balloon Payment: A lump sum principle payment due at the end of some mortgages.
  • Binder: Sometimes known as an offer to purchase or an earnest money request. A binder is the acknowledgments of a deposit along with a brief written agreement to enter into a contract for the sale of real estate.
  • Buydown: A type of loan that allows for a borrower to "buy down" their interest rate for the first few years of the mortgage. This makes the payment lower in the first years, and the cost of the buydown can be paid by the buyer, seller or lender.

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  • Cap: The limit on how much an interest rate or monthly payment can change on an ARM. Most programs have a cap each for adjustment and a cap for the life of the loan.
  • CC&Rs: Stands for Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. A document that controls the use, requirements and restrictions of a property.
  • Certificate of Reasonable Value (CRV): A document that establishes the maximum value and loan amount for a VA loan. Very similar to an appraisal of a property.
  • Closing Statement: The financial disclosure statement that accounts for all of the funds received and expected at the closing. Also referred to as a HUD I closing statement.
  • Condominium: A form of real estate ownership where the owner receives title to a particular unit and has a proportionate interest in certain common areas. The unit itself is generally a separately owned space whose interior surfaces (walls, floors and ceilings) serve as its boundaries.
  • Contingency: A condition that must be satisfied before a contract is binding. For instance, a sales agreement may be contingent upon the buyer obtaining financing.
  • Conventional Loan: A mortgage loan other than one guaranteed by the Veteran's Administration or insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
  • Conversion Clause: A provision in some ARMs that enables you to change an ARM to a fixed-rate loan, usually after the first adjustment period. The new fixed rate is generally set at the prevailing interest rates. This conversion feature may cost extra.
  • Cooperative: A form of multiple ownership in which a corporation or business trust entity holds title to a property and grants occupancy rights to the shareholders by means of proprietary leases or similar arrangements.
  • CRB: Certified Residential Broker. To be certified a broker must be a member of the National Association of Realtors®, have five years experience as a licensed broker and have completed certain educational requirements.

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  • Due-On-Sale Clause: An acceleration clause that requires full payment of a mortgage or deed of trust when secured by a property that changes ownership.


  • Earnest Money: The portion of the down payment delivered to the seller or escrow agent by the purchaser with a written offer to purchase the property as evidence of good faith.
  • Escrow: A procedure in which a third party acts as a stakeholder for both the buyer and the seller, carrying out both parties' instructions and assuming responsibility for handling all of the paperwork and distribution of funds.

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  • FHA Loan: Federal Housing Administration. A government loan insured by the insurance office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • Federal National Mortgage Association: FNMA or Fannie Mae. A privately owned corporation created by Congress to support the secondary mortgage market. It purchases and sells residential mortgages insured by FHA, VA and conventional home mortgages.
  • Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation: FHLMC or Freddie Mac. A cousin to FNMA that operates similarly.
  • Fee Simple: An estate in which the owner has unrestricted power to dispose of the property as he wishes, including leaving by will. It is the greatest interest a person can have in real estate. The opposite would be leased land.
  • Finance Charge: The total cost a borrower must pay, directly or indirectly, to obtain credit according to Regulation Z.
  • Fixed Rate Mortgage: A loan for which the interest rate and monthly payments do not change during the term of the loan.

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  • GRI: Graduate, Realtors® Institute. A professional designation granted to a member of the national Association of Realtors® who has successfully completed three courses covering law, finance and principles of real estate.


  • Home Inspection Report: A qualified inspector's report on a property's overall condition. The report usually includes an evaluation of both the structure and mechanical systems.
  • Home Warranty Plan: Protection against failure of mechanical systems within the property. Usually includes plumbing, electrical, heating systems and installed appliances.

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  • Index: A measure of interest rate charges used to determine changes in an ARM's interest rate over the term of the loan.


  • Joint Tenancy: An equal undivided ownership of property by two or more persons. Upon death of any owner, the survivors take the decedent's interest in the property.

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  • Lien: A legal hold or claim on property as security for a debt or charge.
  • Loan Approval: The lender agrees to make the loan to a borrower on a property. The approval should include, at a minimum, the interest rate, a summary of the terms of the loan and a date by which escrow must be closed.
  • Loan Commitment: A written promise to make a loan for a specified amount on specified terms.
  • Loan-To-Value Ratio: The relationship between the amount of the mortgage and the appraised value of the property, expressed as a percentage of the appraised value.

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  • Margin: The number of percentage points the lender adds to the index rate to calculate the ARM interest rate each adjustment.
  • Mello Roos: Bonds used for developments that benefit a particular district (schools, prisons, etc.) and are secured by special taxes based on the assessed value of the properties within the district. Tax assessment is included on the county tax bill.

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  • Negative Amortization: Negative amortization occurs when a monthly payment fails to cover the interest cost. The interest that isn't being covered is added to the unpaid principal balance which means that even after several payments you could owe more than you did at the beginning of the loan. Negative amortization can occur when an ARM has a payment cap that results in monthly payments that aren't high enough to cover the interest.

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  • Origination Fee: A fee or charge for work involved in evaluating, preparing, and submitting a proposed mortgage loan.


  • PITI: Acronym for principle, interest, taxes and insurance.
  • Planned Unit Development: PUD. A zoning designation for property developed at the same or slightly greater overall density than a conventional single family development. Often times will have common areas such as parks, pools, basketball courts. There is usually a homeowners association fee paid by the owner of a PUD. Uses may be residential, commercial or industrial.
  • Point: Also called a discount point. An amount equal to 1% of the loan balance. The lender assesses loan discount points at closing to increase the yield on the mortgage or to reduce the interest rate the consumer pays.
  • Prepayment Penalty: A fee charged to a mortgagor who pays a loan before it is due. Most fixed rate first trust deed loans do not have a prepayment penalty. FHA and VA do not allow for prepayment penalties.
  • Private Mortgage Insurance: PMI. The insurance premium placed on loans with less than 20% equity to enable a buyer to purchase a home with as little as 3% down. The premiums are based on the amount of the down payment, and insure the lender against loss if the borrower defaults on the mortgage.
  • Purchase Agreement: A written document in which the purchaser agrees to buy certain real estate and the seller agrees to sell under stated terms and conditions. Also called a sales contract, earnest money contract or agreement of sale.

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  • Realtor®: A real estate broker or associate active in a local real estate board affiliated with the National Association of Realtors®.
  • Regulation Z: The set of rules governing consumer lending issued by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act.


  • Seller Financing: The seller is the lender rather than a bank or savings and loan.

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  • Tenancy in Common: A type of joint ownership of property by two or more persons with no right of survivorship.
  • Title Insurance Policy: A policy that protects the purchaser, mortgagee or other party against losses.


  • VA Loan: A loan that is partially guaranteed by the Veterans Administration and made by a private lender.
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