11 Common Real Estate Terms Explained

Jane Douglass February 21, 2017

11 Common Real Estate Terms ExplainedIf you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll probably come across some terms that you’ve never heard before, or don’t completely understand. Being confused about the terminology can make an already complex process that much more stressful. By educating yourself before you dive into the market, you’ll gain peace of mind and might even save some money. Here are the most common real estate terms or concepts you should know.


If you’re purchasing a home with a loan, the lender will require an appraisal. This is an evaluation of all aspects of your home to determine its value, including its size and condition on both the interior and the exterior.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage

When shopping for a mortgage, you may decide to apply for an adjustable rate mortgage. These types of loans have a variable interest rate and are generally extended for 5, 7 or 10 years. They may also have a cap on how high the rate can grow.

Fixed Rate Mortgage

As opposed to an adjustable rate mortgage, a fixed rate mortgage has a predetermined interest rate. The life of the loan is typically 15 or 30 years.


Closing is the last step of a real estate transaction when paperwork is signed and the title is transferred from the seller to the buyer.


When drawing up a contract for a real estate transaction, there may be certain provisions that need to be met in order for the sale to go through. These provisions are called contingencies, and a home may be listed as “contingent” until these requirements are met.

Down Payment

A down payment is the money a buyer pays upfront to secure the purchase of the home. In most cases, the down payment is 20 percent of the purchase price, though this can change depending on the type of mortgage you secure.

Earnest Money

Earnest money is the cash that is deposited when an offer is made on a home. If the sale goes through, the earnest money is often used towards the down payment. If the buyer backs out of the deal for reasons not stated in the contingency, the earnest money goes to the seller.


A property is in escrow once the buyer and seller enter into an agreement and the earnest money is paid. A neutral third party then holds that money until all requirements are fulfilled.


Before you begin looking for a home in earnest, you should secure a pre-approval from a lender for your mortgage. This is typically a letter from a bank stating how much they will lend to you.


The title is the rights to a property, and often refers to the document that shows evidence of ownership. During the buying/selling process, a title company will conduct research to determine if the title is clear. If there are no outstanding claims on the title, it is then transferred during the closing process.


When a lender researches a borrower to determine whether or not to extend credit, this is called underwriting. This determination is made by examining the buyer’s credit scores, income, credit history and debt.

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