Speaking Real Estate: A Guide to Terminology

Understanding what your REALTOR® is talking about is obviously important if you want to involve yourself in the real estate. While any agent worth their license will make everything clear and understandable for you, it is helpful to have existing knowledge anyway. Check out the list of assorted terms below and look for the next installment in the near future!

An appraisal is the evaluation of a property by a licensed appraiser on its price based on previous sales of similar properties.  The appraised value determines how much a bank is willing to lend the buyer.

Caveat Emptor 
Means “let the buyer beware” in latin. Refers to the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for the quality of goods in a sale, not the seller.

Any personal, non-real property.

When the transfer of ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer occurs.

Comparables (or Comps)
Similar, recently sold properties which are used as a basis for determining a home’s fair market value.

The transfer of title to real property.

An appropriation of land by its owner for public use.

A written instrument transferring an interest in real property to the grantee.

Deed Restriction
A limitation on land use appearing in a deed.

A non-possessory right of the use of land. For example, one farmer may have an easement allowing him to move his cattle through another farmer’s property.

The exit from a building or parcel of land.

The trespassing on the land of another by a structure or other object. The most common example is a tree limb reaching over a fence into another property.

A claim, lien, charge or liability attached to and binding upon real property.

A state where something, such as a deed or money,  is held in the custody of a neutral third party until certain conditions are met. Typically money is held in an escrow account during a real estate transaction to assure the seller that the buyer will follow through.

Any item (appliance, light fixture, etc.) that is permanently attached to a property.

A transfer of title to real property by deed.

Habendum Clause
The statement in a deed that begins with the words “to have and to hold” and describes the estate granted.

The right to enter a property.

An encumbrance on property that acts as a security for a payment or obligation to be made. The most common example of a lien is a mortgage.

The term used by brokers to market a property for sale or rent.

MLS (Multiple Listing Service)
A service use by a group of brokers to display and share listings.

NAR (National Association of REALTORS®)
The largest and most prominent trade organization for real estate brokers and agents. Anyone who markets themselves with the term REALTOR® must be a member of NAR.

A property map that is part of the public record.

Real Estate Broker
A person who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and has passed a broker’s license exam. Brokers can work alone or, unlike agents, they can hire others to work for them.

An addendum to a document to deal with supplemental issues.

Seller Contribution
A payment made by the seller of a property for some portion of the buyer’s closing costs.

A document indicating measurements, boundaries and the area of a property.

Tenancy by the Entirety
Co-ownership of property between a husband and wife, with the right to survivorship (taking ownership in the event of one party’s demise).

Tenancy in Common
Co-ownership of property that does not include the right of survivorship.

Title Insurance
An insurance policy protecting the insured from financial loss caused by an issues with the property’s title

Title Search
The examination of local public records, laws and related court decisions to determine if any other parties have valid claims against the property (such as past due taxes, judgments or liens).

Inspection of a property that occurs right before a closing to ensure that the property is being delivered as promised in the contract.

John Doe

John Doe

Licensed Real Estate Agent


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