A I B I C I D I E I F I G I H I I I J I K I L I M I N I O I P I Q I R I S I T I U I V I W I X I Y I Z
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a la carte real estate services
Professional real estate services that are rendered one transaction at a time instead of the conventional full-service, commission-based brokerage relationship.
A-frame design
An interior style that features a steeply peaked roofline and a ceiling that is open to the top rafters.
abstract of judgment
The summary of a court judgment that creates a lien against a property when filed with the county recorder.
abstract or title search
The process of reviewing all recorded transactions in the public record to determine whether any title defects exist that could interfere with the clear transfer of ownership of the property.
accelerated cost recovery system
A tax calculation that provides greater depreciation in the early years of ownership of real estate or personal property.
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accelerated depreciation
A bookkeeping method that depreciates property faster in the early years of ownership.
acceleration clause
A provision that gives a lender the right to collect the balance of a loan if a borrower misses a payment.
acceptance
The seller’s written approval of a buyer’s offer.
access
Any means by which a person can enter property.
accessibility
The degree to which a building or site allows access to people with disabilities.
accretion
The gradual addition to the shore or bank of a waterway by deposits of sand or silt.
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acknowledgment
A written declaration affirming that a person acted voluntarily.
acre
A measurement of land equal to 43,560 square feet.
acre-foot
The volume of material needed to cover an acre of land one foot deep.
active solar system
A system that utilizes electric pumps or fans to transfer solar energy for storage or direct use.
actual age
The number of years a structure has been standing.
ad valorem tax
Tax based on assessed property value.
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add-on interest
The interest a borrower pays on the principal for the duration of the loan.
addendum
An addition or change to a contract.
additional principal payment
Extra money included in the monthly payment to help reduce the principal and shorten the term of the loan.
adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)
A loan with an interest rate that is periodically adjusted to reflect changes in a specified financial index.
adjusted cost basis
The cost of any improvements the seller makes to the property. Deducting the cost from the original sales price provides the profit or loss of a home when it is sold.
adjustment period
The amount of time between interest rate adjustments in an adjustable-rate mortgage.
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administrator
A person given authority to manage and distribute the estate of someone who died without leaving a will.
administrator’s deed
A legal document that an administrator of an estate uses to transfer property.
adverse possession
The acquisition of title to property through possession without the owner’s consent for a certain period of time.
adverse use
The access and use of property without the owner’s consent.
aeolian soil
Soil that is composed of materials deposited by the wind.
affiant
A person who makes a sworn statement.
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affirmation
A substitution for an oath granted to people based on religious reasons.
agency
The relationship of trust that exists between sellers and buyers and their agents. The agency is formed through a written contract.
agency closing
The process by which a lender uses a title company or other firm as an agent to complete a loan.
agency disclosure
Laws in most states require agents who act for buyers or sellers to disclose who represents whom in a real estate transaction. Laws vary widely by state.
agreed boundary
A compromise boundary to which property owners agree in order to resolve a dispute.
agreement of sale
A document the buyer initiates and the seller approves that details the price and terms of the transaction.
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air handler
Short for air-handling unit, the blower equipment in a furnace, heat pump, or similar appliance designed for circulating heated or cooled air through a central heating system.
air lot
A designated airspace over a piece of property.
air-handling unit
The blower equipment in a furnace, heat pump, or similar appliance designed for circulating heated or cooled air through a central heating system.
alcove
A recessed section of a room, such as a breakfast nook.
alienation clause
A provision that requires the borrower to pay the balance of the loan in a lump sum after the property is sold or transferred.
alkali
Mineral salt found in soil.
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alkaline soil
Soil that contains a higher concentration of mineral salt than natural acid.
alley
A lane behind a row of buildings or between two rows of buildings.
allowance
A budget offered by builders of new homes for the purchase of carpeting and fixtures.
alternative mortgage
Any home loan that does not conform to a standard fixed-rate mortgage.
aluminum siding
A metal covering that provides an alternative to paint for owners of wood homes.
aluminum-clad windows
Wooden windows with aluminum covering the exterior.
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amenities
Parks, swimming pools, health-club facilities, party rooms, bike paths, community centers, and other enticements offered by builders of planned developments.
American Society of Home Inspectors
(ASHI)

Professional association of independent home inspectors whose members must meet the group’s education and performance requirements. Call (800) 743-2744 for list of ASHI-certified inspectors in your area.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
A law passed in 1990 that outlaws discrimination against a person with a disability in housing, public accommodations, employment, government services, transportation and telecommunications.
amortization
The process of paying the principal and interest on a loan through regularly scheduled installments. Initially, most of each payment is applied toward interest owed, and later in the loan term increasingly applied toward principal.
amortization tables
Mathematical tables that lenders use to calculate a borrower’s monthly payment.
amperage
The strength of an electrical current.
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ampere
The basic unit used to measure electric current.
anchor bolt
A large steel bolt anchored in concrete and attached to a building to prevent the structure from moving.
annual
Any kind of plant that must be planted every year.
annual assessments
The process of placing a value on property for the strict purpose of taxation. May also refer to a levy against property for a special purpose, such as a street lighting or sewer assessment.
annual mortgagor statement
A yearly statement to borrowers that details the remaining principal and amounts paid for taxes and interest.
annual percentage rate (APR)
A measure of interest rate that expresses the cost of a mortgage as a yearly rate on the loan balance. The APR assumes the loan is held for its full term. For adjustable-rate loans, the APR assumes the loan’s index doesn’t change from its initial value.
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annuity
The payment of a fixed sum to an investor at regular intervals.
anticipatory breach
A communication that informs a party that the obligations of the original contract will not be fulfilled.
antioxidant compound
A substance applied to aluminum wiring connections to seal and promote conduction.
appellant
A taxpayer or representative who appeals to a higher tribunal.
application
A document that details a potential borrower’s income, debt, and other obligations to determine credit worthiness.
application fee
Includes any fees that are paid upon application. An application fee may include charges for property appraisal and a credit report, if those fees are not reported separately.
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appraisal
An opinion of the value of a property at a given point in time.
appraisal fee
The fee that a professional real estate appraiser charges to appraise, or estimate the market value of a property.
appraisal report
A detailed written report on the value of a property based on recent sales of comparable sites in the area.
appraised value
An opinion of the current market value of a property.
appreciation
An increase in the value of a home or other property.
approval
A thorough assessment made by a lender of a borrower’s ability to pay for a home and a confirmation of the amount the borrower may obtain.
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APR (annual percentage rate)
A measure of interest that expresses the cost of a mortgage as a yearly rate on the loan balance. The APR assumes the loan is held for its full term. For adjustable-rate loans, the APR assumes the loan’s index doesn’t change from its initial value.
apron
A paved area, such as the junction of a driveway with the street.
aquastat
A thermostat submerged in water and used to control the operation of a device.
arbitration
A method of resolving a dispute in which a third party renders a decision.