Home Buyer’s Dictionary

Buyers often encounter a whirlwind of new words and acronyms when they begin the home buying process, from ARM to PITI, and a Home Buyer’s Dictionary can come in handy for ensuring that the home buying process is perfectly understood.

Knowing the terminology is key to understanding the process, and assists you in your research for the perfect home, and this Home Buyer’s Dictionary is the first step to understanding the lingo.

The following glossary of terms in this Home Buyer’s Dictionary will aide you in some of the words and phrases you might come across during the process, so you can ensure you won’t get lost in translation.

  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): A loan where the interest rate is adjusted according to current financial market conditions.
  • Amortization: A payment plan consisting of monthly payments of principal and interest to eventually pay off a debt.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The yearly credit cost for the entire life of a loan, including interest, loan fees, service charges, points, mortgage insurance, etc.
  • Appraisal: A professional and financial evaluation to determine the market price of a specific piece of property.
  • Appreciation: The increase of value for a property.
  • Assessment: A tax or value placed on a property by a government taxing authority.
  • Assumption: A financial transaction where the buyer of a home assumes the responsibility and payments of an existing loan on the home belonging to the original owner, instead of getting a new loan.
  • Balloon: A loan where after a series of monthly payments (typically 5 years or less) the remaining balance is due in a large lump sum.
  • Binder: A deposit receipt for a payment to secure the right to purchase a home at terms agreed upon by the buyer and seller.
  • Buydown: A subsidy to reduce the monthly payments on a mortgage loan. This is usually paid by a builder or developer.
  • Cap: The limit that an interest rate or a monthly payment can increase for an adjustable rate loan.
  • Certificate of Occupancy: A government agency document stating that a property meets the local codes, ordinances, and regulation requirements.
  • Closing: The meeting to sign final documents which transfer property from a seller to a buyer. (Also known as a settlement.)
  • Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC and Rs): The development standards and protections that define how a property may be used in order to benefit of all owners in a subdivision.
  • Condominium: A unit in a multi-unit complex. Each owner has their own unit, and a portion of the common areas, such as amenities, surrounding lands, and parking lots.
  • Conventional Loan: A mortgage loan that is not insured or managed by a government agency.
  • Convertibility: The ability of a purchaser to change a loan from an adjustable rate schedule to a fixed rate schedule at some point during the life of the loan.
  • Cooperative: A variation of multi-unit complex ownership. One unit has several owners, who own “shares” of the entire complex, instead of one individual unit.
  • Credit Rating: A credit bureau report, ordered by a lender, to determine if the borrower is a good credit risk and can be granted a loan.
  • Default: A breach of a mortgage contract by the purchaser, like not making mortgage payments.
  • Density: The number of homes built on an acre of land. Density limits are usually determined by local jurisdictions.
  • Down Payment: The amount paid at closing that is the difference between the sales price and the mortgage loan amount.
  • Due-on-Sale: A mortgage contract clause that requires the purchaser to pay the entire outstanding balance upon the sale or transfer of a home.
  • Earnest Money: An amount paid to a seller as a sign that a potential buyer is serious about buying their property.
  • Easement: A Right-of-way or access to a property granted to a person, government branch or company.
  • Equity: The difference between what is owned on a property and its value.
  • Escrow: The management of contracts, documents, and funds by a third party on behalf of the buyer and/or seller.
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA): A federal government agency that issues mortgages with lower down payment than standard conventional loans.
  • Fixed Rate Mortgage: A mortgage where the interest rate remains the same during the life of the loan.
  • Graduated Payment Mortgage (GPM): A loan with a fixed-rate and fixed-schedule which begins with lower payments. The payments rise annually over the first 5 to 10 years, and then remain constant for the rest of the life of the loan. Negative amortization occurs in GPM loans.
  • Growing Equity Mortgage (Rapid Payoff Mortgage): A loan with a fixed-rate and fixed-schedule which starts with the same payments as a level payment loan; the payments rise annually, with the entire increase being used to reduce the outstanding balance. No negative amortization occurs, and the increase in payments may enable the borrower to pay off a 30-year loan in 15 to 20 years, or less.
  • Hazard Insurance: Insurance that protects the buyer against damage caused by fire, storms, or other hazards. It is typically a requirement by lenders for a borrower to purchase hazard insurance.
  • Housing Finance Agency: A state agency which offers a limited amount of below-market-rate home financing for households in the low and medium price range.
  • Index: The adjustment standard or interest rate which determines the changes in monthly payments for an adjustable rate loan.
  • Infrastructure: The facilities and services that are required to support residential development, such as roads, schools, and water or sewer systems.
  • Joint Tenancy: When both owners hold equal value in a property. If one owner passes away, the other owner or owners will inherit the entire property.
  • Level Payment Mortgage: A mortgage where the payments are equal for every pay period (month) of the loan.
  • Mortgage Broker: A professional who represents numerous lenders and helps buyers find affordable mortgages, with a fee charged for successful transactions.
  • Mortgage Commitment: A formal agreement written by a lender, which states that the lender will grant a mortgage loan for a specific property under a certain set of conditions.
  • Mortgage Company (Mortgage Banker): A company that borrows large sums of money from a financial institution, namely a bank, lends it to potential home buyers, and then sells the mortgages to investors.
  • Mortgagee: The mortgage loan lender.
  • Mortgage Loan: The contract which states that the homebuyer’s property is pledged as collateral. The buyer agrees to repay principal and interest to the lender, to keep the home insured, to pay all taxes, and to keep the property in good condition. The lender, in turn, agrees to loan the buyer the money.
  • Mortgage Origination Fee: A charge issued by the lender for the work involved in preparing and managing a mortgage application. The typical amount is 1% of the entire loan.
  • Negative Amortization: An increase in the total balance of a loan when a monthly payment is not big enough to cover all of the loan’s interest due.
  • Note: A formal document which states the existence of a debt and lists the payment terms.
  • PITI: An acronym for the four components of a loan monthly payment, Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.
  • Point: A 1% charge of the original mortgage amount that is applied by the lender at closing to increase the interest yield on a loan.
  • Prepayment: Payment of a loan prior to the final date the total amount is due.
  • Principal: The total loan amount, or the remainder of a property’s purchase price due after the down payment, excluding interest and other charges.
  • Property Survey: A survey done by a professional to determine the boundaries of a piece of land.
  • Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA): A federal law that requires lenders to provide buyers with information about known or estimated closing costs, as well as other aspects of the settlement process.
  • Sales Contract: The buyer and seller contract which details all aspects of the purchase: what the property includes, what financing the buyer will use, the amount of the down payments, etc. The contract must be signed by both parties to be valid.
  • Shared Appreciation Mortgage: A loan in which the buyers, or partners in the purchase, agree to share specific portions of the monthly payment, down payment, and appreciation.
  • Tenancy in Common: Ownership in which the parties involved own separate but equal parts of a property. The other partner(s) can only inherit the property if they are mentioned in a will, or are eligible through state inheritance laws.
  • Title: Evidence of a person’s legal ownership of a property, typically a deed.
  • Transfer Taxes: Taxes on the transfer of property by state and/or local agencies.
  • Veterans Administration (VA): A government agency which grants mortgage loans with very low down payment requirements for honorably discharged veterans and their spouses.
  • Walk-Through: A final inspection by the buyers of a home before closing to identify any issues that need to be corrected before the change in ownership.
  • Warranty: A written or implied promise that the material and workmanship of a product is defect-free or will meet a certain standard over a certain period of time.
  • Zoning: Local government rules and regulations on the location, height, and use for any given piece of property within a specific jurisdiction.

For more information on Crystal Coast real estate beyond the Home Buyer’s Dictionary, simply contact our real estate sales team at our Atlantic Beach or Emerald Isle offices. Our sales experts are happy to assist you with all queries regarding the Crystal Coast real estate market.

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