Real Estate Dictionary


A Priori – From the past. From what goes before. Used in legal writing to indicate a cause and effect relationship.
A.L.T.A. – American Land Title Association.
A.L.T.A.(American Land Title Association) — An organization, composed of title insurance companies, which has adopted certain insurance policy forms to standardize coverage on a national basis.
Ab Initio – From the beginning.
Ab Initio Mundi – From the beginning of the world.
ABA Number — Originated by the American Bankers Association, it is the number (usually in the upper right-hand portion of the check) which identifies the bank upon which the check is drawn.
Abandonment – The surrender, relinquishment, disclaimer, or cession of property or of rights to property.
Abatement – To put an end to.
Abstract – A brief summary.
Abstract of Judgment – A brief transcript of the essentials of a judgment.
Abstract of Judgment — A summary of the essential provisions of a court judgment, which when recorded in the county recorder’s office, creates a lien upon the property of the defendant in that county, both presently owned or after acquired.
Abstract of Title – A summary of the conveyances, transfers and other facts appearing of record and relied upon as evidence of title to real property.
Abutting – Touching or bordering a street, highway, or other public place.
Abutting Owner — One whose land is contiguous to (abuts) a public right of way.
Acceleration Clause – A clause in a note, trust deed, or mortgage advancing or hastening the date of maturity of the indebtedness or obligation upon the happening of a certain event.
Acceleration Clause — Clause used in an installment note and mortgage (or deed of trust), which gives the lender the right to demand payment in full upon the happening of a certain event, such as failure to pay an installment by a certain date, change of ownership without the lender’s consent, destruction of the property, or other event which endangers the security of the loan.
Access Right – A landowner’s right to have ingress to and egress from the property to a public street.
Access Right — A right to ingress and egress to and from one’s property. May be express or implied.
Accession – Addition to property by natural increase or growth or by installation of improvements.
Accommodation – An obligation assumed without consideration.
Accommodation Party – A person who signs a promissory note without receiving value.
Accommodation Recording – The recordation of an instrument without consideration and without assumption of responsibility for correctness or validity.
Accommodation Recording — The recording of documents with the county recorder by a title insurance company, without liability (no insurance) on the part of the company, but merely as a convenience to a customer.
Accretion – A process by which land on a shore or riverbank increases gradually by the deposit of sand or soil upon the shore or riverbank.
Accrual – The growing or adding to.
Acknowledgement — A written declaration by a person executing an instrument, given before an officer authorized to give an oath (usually a notary public), stating that the execution is of his own volition.
Acknowledgment – A formal declaration before a duly authorized officer by a person who has executed an instrument that such execution is his or her act and deed.
Action – An ordinary proceeding in a court of justice by which one party prosecutes another for the enforcement or protection of a right; the redress or prevention of a wrong; or, the punishment of a public offense.
Action in Personam – An action in which judgment is sought against a person.
Action in Rem – An action in which judgment is sought against property to determine its status.
Action to Quiet Title — A court action to establish ownership to real property. Although technically not an action to remove a cloud on title, the two actions are usually referred to as “Quiet Title” actions.
Actual Notice – Notice in fact or in reality to or by a party directly and personally.
Ad – At; to; before; near; for; of; until; within.
Ad Curiam – Before the court; to the court.
Ad Litem – During the pendency of the action or proceeding.
Ad Valorem – According to value.
Adjoining Owners – Owners of two or more parcels of real property that are contiguous to each other.
Adjudication — A judgment or decision by a court.
Adjudication – A judicial determination.
Adjustable Mortgage Loans (AML’92S) — Mortgage loans under which the interest rate is periodically adjusted to more closely coincide with current rates. The amounts and times of adjustment are agreed to at the inception of the loan. Also called: Adjustable Rate Loans, Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM’92s), Flexible Rate Loans, and Variable Rate Loans.
Administrator — A person given authority by a proper court to manage and distribute the estate of a deceased person when there is no will.
Administrator – Personal representative of the estate of an intestate decedent.
Administrator C.T.A. – An administrator with will annexed. The letters C.T.A. mean “cum testa-mento annexo” and are derived from Latin. If administration is granted but the decedent has made an incomplete will without naming executor(s) or if decedent names incapable persons or if executor(s) refuses to act, the administrator is an ‘Administrator C.T.A.’
Administratrix – A woman administrator.
Advances – Money paid before proper time of payment.
Adverse Possession — A method of acquiring title by possession under certain conditions. Generally, possession must be actual, under claim of right, open, continuous, notorious, exclusive and hostile (knowingly against the rights of the owner). Exact time (years) of possession and specific requirements (such as payment of property taxes) vary with the statutes of each state.
Adverse Possession – Claim of ownership of property based upon open and hostile possession and occupancy.
Affiant – A person who has made an affidavit.
Affidavit – A written declaration under oath.
Affidavit — A written statement or declaration, sworn to before an officer who has authority to administer an oath.
Affirmation – A declaration in writing under penalty of perjury.
Affirmative Easement — An easement described from the benefited estate (dominant tenement). Also called a parcel 2 easement. The same easement described from the burdened estate (servient tenement) would be a negative easement.
After Acquired Title — Legal doctrine by which property automatically vests in a grantee when the grantor acquires title to the property after the deed has been executed and delivered.
After-Acquired Title – Title accepted by a grantor after his or her previous conveyance.
Agency – A relationship between two or more persons whereby one is authorized to act for another.
Agency — One who is authorized to act for or represent another (principal), usually in business matters. Authority may be expressed or implied.
Agreement of Sale – An agreement entered into for the sale and purchase of property.
AKA – Also Known As
Alcalde – Spanish for mayor or chief magistrate.
Alias — Latin for (otherwise) commonly meaning that a person is known by more than one name. In some states, indicated by the letters AKA (Also Known Aliases).
Alienate – To transfer title to property.
Alienation – The transfer of title to property.
Alienation Clause — A type of acceleration clause, calling for a debt under a mortgage or deed of trust to be due in its entirety upon transfer of ownership of the secured property. Also called a “due-on-transfer” clause.
Alienation Clause – Provision in a note or in a security instrument calling for automatic maturity in the event of sale or transfer of title by borrower.
Aliter – Otherwise.
Allegation – A statement of fact in a pleading yet to be proved.
All-Inclusive Deed of Trust – A deed of trust securing payment of an obligation owing under a prior deed of trust.
Alluvion – Soil deposited by the process of accretion.
Amendment — A change, either to correct an error or to alter a part of an agreement without changing the principal idea or essence.
American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers — A trade organization designed to establish standards of competence in the appraisal industry. The designation MAI (competent by the institute’s standards to appraise all types of real property) and RM (one to four family residences) are prestigious and heavily relied upon by the real estate industry, lenders, governments, and others who utilize appraisers.
Amortization — Payment of debt in regular, periodic installments of principal and interest, as opposed to interest only payments.
Amortization – Payment of principal and interest at stated periods for a stated time until debt is extinguished.
Amortization Schedule — A schedule showing each payment of a loan to be amortized and breaking down the payment applied to principal and the amount applied to interest.
Amortize — To reduce debt by regular payments of both principal and interest, as opposed to interest only payments.
Anchor Tenant — The most reliable, and usually the largest, tenant in a shopping center. The strength of the anchor tenant greatly affects the availability of financing for the shopping center. The term may also be used to describe a tenant in an office building, industrial park, etc.
Ancillary – An addition to.
Ancillary Administration – Probate estate administration in a state other than the state of decedent’s domicile.
Annexation – Addition to property or to territory.
Annexation — Permanently affixing to real property, such as city adding additional land to increase its size.
Annuity – A yearly payment of money for life or for a term of years.
Annum – Year.
Ante – Before.
Antenuptial – Before marriage.
Appearance – Presence of a party litigant before the court.
Appel Loan (Accelerating Payoff Progressive Equity Loan) — A residential property loan which calls for a payment increase over the first six years. Level payments are made for the remaining years and the loan paid off during the 15th year. There is no prepayment penalty and P.M.I. is required.
Appraisal — An opinion of value based upon a factual analysis. Legally, an estimation of value by two disinterested persons of suitable qualifications.
Appraisal – Statement of value.
Appraiser – A person qualified to determine property value.
Appraiser — One who is trained and educated in the methods of determining the value of property through analysis of various factors which determine said value.
Appropriation — The private taking and use of public property, such as water from a river or lake. Not to be confused with condemnation or expropriation.
Appurtenance – Anything incidental to or belonging to land considered a part of the real property.
Appurtenance — Something belonging to something else, either attached or not, such as a barn to a house or an easement to land. The appurtenance is part of the property and passes with it upon sale or other transfer.
Appurtenant – Belonging to.
Arbitrary (ARB) Map – A map made by a title company for its own convenience in identifying parcels of real property.
Arbitrary Map — A map drawn by a title company to be used in locating property in areas where legal descriptions are difficult and complex. Areas are arbitrarily subdivided, usually by ownership at a given time, into lots which are numbered. Recorded documents are then posted to these arbitrary lots by the same “arb” number.
Arbitration Clause — A clause in a lease calling for the decision of a third party (arbiter) regarding disputes over future rents based on negotiation. Also used in construction contracts, disputes between brokers, etc.
Articles of Incorporation — Documentation filled with the state which sets forth-general information about a corporation. More specific rules of the corporation would be contained in the by-laws.
“As Is” Condition — Premises accepted by a buyer or tenant in the condition existing at the time of the sale or lease, including all physical defects.
Assessed Value – Value of property for taxation purposes.
Assessed Value — Value placed upon property for property tax purposes by the tax assessor.
Assessment — (1) The estimating of value of property for tax purposes. (2) A levy against property in addition to general taxes. Usually for improvements such as streets, sewers, etc.
Assessment District — An area, the boundaries of which are set for tax assessment purposes only; these boundaries may cross city boundaries.
Assessments – Special taxes imposed to pay for public improvements beneficial to a limited area.
Assessor – County official who determines value of property for taxation purposes.
Assets – Property of value, property having an economic benefit.
Assign – To transfer all of an interest in personal property.
Assignee – One to whom property is assigned.
Assignor – One who transfers property by assignment.
Assumpsit – An undertaking to do an act or to make payment.
Assumption Agreement – An agreement to undertake a debt or obligation contracted by another.
Assumption Fee – The charge made by a lender when a buyer assumes seller’s existing loan.
Assumption of Mortgage – An agreement in which buyer agrees to be liable for payment of an existing note secured by a mortgage or deed of trust.
Attachment – A judicial process by which a creditor obtains a lien upon property of a debtor prior to adjudication of the debt.
Attestation Clause – The clause in a deed denoting the subscribing persons are witnesses.
Attorn – To accept and acknowledge a new landlord.
Attorney-In-Fact – An agent authorized to act for another.
Avulsion – Sudden tearing away of land by violent action of a river or other watercourse.
Ayuntamiento – Spanish for town council.


Backup Offer — A secondary offer to buy property, used in case the first (primary) offer fails. A backup offer is especially useful when the primary offer contains difficult contingencies.
Balloon Note — A note calling for periodic payments which are insufficient to fully amortize the face amount of the note prior to maturity, so that a principal sum known as the “balloon” is due at maturity.
Balloon Payment – Final installment payment of a promissory note larger than any single preceding installment payment.
Balloon Payment — The final payment (balance due) of a balloon note.
Bankruptcy – A proceeding in U.S. Bankruptcy Court wherein assets of a debtor (unable or unwilling to pay debts) are applied by an officer of the court in satisfaction of creditor claims.
Bankruptcy — Proceedings under federal bankruptcy statutes to relieve a debtor (bankrupt) from insurmountable debt. The bankrupt’s property is distributed by the court to the creditors as full satisfaction of the debts, in accordance with certain priorities and exemptions. Voluntary bankruptcy is petitioned by the debtor; involuntary by the creditors.
Base Lines – Imaginary east-west lines that intersect meridians to form a starting point for measurement of land.
Base Map — A map having background information, such as state, county, or city boundaries, upon which more detailed data is plotted.
Bench Mark – Location indicated on a durable marker by a land surveyor.
Beneficial Estate — An estate, the right of possession of which has been postponed, such as a devise under a will. More commonly, an estate, the legal ownership of which has not yet vested, as under a land contract. An equitable estate.
Beneficial Interest — The equitable, rather than legal ownership of property such as under a land contract.
Beneficiary — (1) One for whose benefit trust is created. (2) In states in which deeds of trust are commonly used instead of mortgages, the lender (mortgagee) is called the beneficiary.
Beneficiary – One for whose benefit a trust is created. A lender secured by a deed of trust.
Beneficiary’s Demand – Payment required by a beneficiary under a deed of trust before authorizing recon-veyance.
Beneficiary’s Demand — Written instructions by a beneficiary under a deed of trust stating and demanding the amount necessary for issuance of a reconveyance, whether a full or partial amount.
Beneficiary’s Statement — A statement by a lender under a deed of trust, setting forth the pertinent information necessary to assume said deed of trust, such as the unpaid balance, monthly payment, and interest rate.
Beneficiary’s Statement – Statement of a beneficiary under a deed of trust as to principal balance due on a promissory note and other information concerning the loan.
Benevolent Associations – Voluntary non-profit aggregations organized for the benefit of members.
Bequeath – To give personal property by will.
Bequeath — To give personal property by will.
Bequest — Personal property left by will.
Betterment – Substantial improvement to real property.
Bill of Sale — An instrument by which one transfer personal property.
Binder — A report issued by a title insurance company setting forth the condition of title to certain property as of certain date, and also setting forth conditions which, if satisfied, will cause a policy of title insurance to be issued. Also called a commitment. A policy of title insurance (used primarily by investors) calling for a reduced rated for a future policy if the property is sold within a specified period.
Binder – Written agreement to issue, within a specified time, a policy of title insurance. Contract to insure.
Blanket Mortgage — (1) A mortgage covering more than one property of the mortgagor, such as a mortgage all the lots of a builder in a subdivision. (2) A mortgage covering all real property of the mortgagor, both present and future. When used in this meaning, it is also called a general mortgage.
Blanket Mortgage or Deed of Trust – A mortgage or deed of trust on more than one lot or parcel.
Blue Sky Law – A law (generally of a state) protecting the public from investing in fraudulent companies. Usually requires full disclosure of risks associated with investment before the investment entity puts investor’s monies at risk.
Board of Equalization — State board charged with the duty to equitable uniformity to the various local property tax assessments.
Bona Fide – In good faith.
Bona Fide Purchaser – A purchaser in good faith, for fair value and without notice of any adverse claim or right of third parties.
Bond – A written undertaking to pay a certain sum of money.
Bonded Debt – An indebtedness secured by a bond issue.
Boot — Something given in addition to. Generally used in exchange to refer to something given other than the major properties to be exchanged, in order to equalize value.
Broker, Real Estate — One who is licensed by the state to carry on the business of dealing in real estate. A broker may receive a commission for his or her part in bringing together a buyer and a seller, landlord and tenant, or parties to an exchange.
Building Contract – Agreement for the construction of a proposed structure.
Building Lines – Lines established by ordinance or by statute beyond which building is not permitted.
Bulk Sale — A transfer in bulk, not in the ordinary course of business, of all or substantially all of the inventory and fixtures of a business.
Business Opportunity — The sale of a business (may or may not include the sale of real estate). Some states require a real estate license for these sales even when real estate is not involved. The Uniform Commercial Code, state statutes, and special laws for alcoholic beverage licenses (when applicable) should be studied by the business opportunities broker.
By-Law – A rule adopted for the internal government of a corporation or unincorporated association.
By-Laws – Rules and regulations, adopted by an association or corporation, which govern its activities.


C.C. – Civil Code.
C.C.P. – Code of Civil Procedure.
c.t.a. – With will annexed.
Cal-Vet Loans — Real estate loans available to armed forces from California, at low interest rates.
Cancellation Clause — A clause in a lease or other contract, setting forth the conditions under which each party may cancel or terminate the agreement. The conditions may be as simple as giving notice or complex and require payment by the party desiring to cancel.
Capita – Heads; persons.
Caption – The heading of a title or document.
Caravan — An inspection of newly listed properties, either by the entire sales staff of an office or by sales personnel from more than one office in conjunction with a multiple listing group. Generally conducted on a regular basis.
Cashier’s Check — A check drawn by a bank on itself rather than on an account of a depositor. A cashier’s check is generally acceptable to close a sale without waiting for the check to clear.
Cause – An action or a suit.
Caveat – Let him/her beware.
Caveat Emptor — “Let Him Beware” Legal maximum stating that the buyer takes the risk regarding the quality or conditions of the item purchased, unless protected by warranty or there is misrepresentation. Currently, consumer protection laws have placed more responsibility for disclosure on the seller and broker.
Caveat Emptor – Let the buyer beware.
CC&Rs – Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions — detailed limitations applying to the use or enjoyment of real property.
CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) — A term used in some areas to describe the restrictive limitations which may be placed on property. In other areas, simply called restrictions.
Certificate of Deposit (C.D.) — A specific sum of money deposited into a savings institution for a specified time period and bearing a higher rate of interest than a passbook account if left to maturity. Does not have withdrawal privileges, as does a passbook account. Also called a time certificate deposit (T.C.D.).
Certificate of Eligibility — A certificate obtained by a veteran from a Veteran’s Administration office which states that the veteran is eligible for a V.A. insured loan. There is a list of requirements (when and how long the veteran served, type of discharge, etc.) which also may be obtained from the V.A. office.
Certificate of Occupancy — A certificate issued by a local building department to a building renovator, stating that the building is in proper condition to be occupied.
Certificate of Sale — Certificate issued to the buyer at a judicial sale (such as a tax sale), which will entitle the buyer to a deed upon confirmation of the sale by the court or if the land is not redeemed within a specified time.
Certificate of Sale – Evidence of a purchaser’s acquisition of legal title at a judicial sale, subject to redemption rights, if any.
Certificate of Title – Certified statement as to land ownership based upon examination of record title.
Certificate of Title — In areas where attorneys examine abstracts or chains of title, a written opinion, executed by the examining attorney, stating that the title is vested as stated in the abstract.
Certified Check — A personal check drawn by an individual, which is certified (guaranteed) to be good. The bank holds the funds to pay the certified check and will not pay any other checks drawn on the account if such payments would impede payment of the certified check. The bank also will not honor a stop payment on a certified check.
Certiorari – A writ from a higher court to a lower court directing the forwarding of a certified record of a proceeding up for review.
Cestui Que Trust – The person for whose benefit property is held in trust.
Cestui Que Use – The person for whose use land was granted to another.
Cestui Que Vie – The person for the duration of whose lifetime an estate has been granted.
Chain of Title – A chronological list of documents comprising the record history of title to a specific parcel of real property.
Chain of Title — The chronological order of conveyance of a parcel of land, from the original owner (usually the government to the present owner).
Chains and Links — Measurements. In real estate measurements (surveying) a chain is 66″ long or 100 links, each link being 7.92″. The measurement may change when used in fields other than surveying.
Change of Venue – The removal of a cause for trial from one county to another.
Charter City – Generally, a city organized under a charter.
Chattel – An item or article of personal property.
Chattel — Personal property.
Chattel Mortgage – Obsolete name for mortgage of personal property.
Chattel Real – An interest in real estate which is of a lessor degree than a freehold estate. For example, an estate at sufferance.
Chose in Action – A personal right not reduced to possession but recoverable by an action at law.
Cistern — A tank used for storing rainwater for use in areas where there is no water brought to the property by plumbing.
Civil Law – Law of the Roman Empire, it is distinguished from the Common Law of England.
Class Action – A lawsuit in which plaintiff represents himself or herself and all other persons similarly situated.
Clearing House – An office where bankers daily settle the balance of their accounts with each other.
Closing — (1) In real estate sales, the final procedure in which documents are executed and/or recorded, and the sale (or loan) is completed. (2) A selling term in which the client or customer is asked to agree to the sale or purchase and sign the contract. (3) The final call in a metes and bounds legal description which “closes” the boundaries of the property.
Closing Costs — Expenses incidental to the sale of real estate, such as loan fees, title fees, appraisal fees, etc.
Closing Statement — The statement that lists the financial settlement between buyer and seller, also the costs each must pay. A separate statement for buyer and seller is sometimes prepared.
Cloud on Title – A semblance or claim of title that is in fact invalid.
Cloud on Title — An invalid encumbrance on real property, which, if valid, would affect the rights of the owner. For example: A sells lot 1, tract 1, to B. The deed is mistakenly drawn to read lot 2, tract 1. A cloud is created on lot 2 by the recording of the erroneous deed. The cloud may be removed by quitclaim deed, or, if necessary, by court action.
Cluster Housing — Building houses close together with little yard space and a large common area, rather than each house having a large yard. The density is usually greater in the cluster project.
Co-Administrator – One of two or more administrators.
Code – A collection of laws.
Codicil – A testamentary disposition subsequent to a will altering, explaining, adding to, subtracting from, or confirming it, but not revoking it.
Codicil — An addition to a will, which modifies the will by adding to it, subtracting from it, or clarifying it.
Co-Executor – One of two or more executors.
Co-Insurance – Insurance issued by two or more insurers.
Collateral – Property pledged as security for a debt; also, indirect, when referenced to blood relationship as in ‘collateral heirs’.
Collateral Assignment – Transfer of an interest in personal property for security purposes. A collateral assignment is distinguished from an absolute assignment mainly because once the debt is paid that was secured by the collateral assignment, the assignment is extinguished.
Color of Title – That giving the appearance of title.
Color of Title — That which gives the appearance of good title, but actually contains some defect. For example: a conveyance given without the grantor having good title.
Commercial Acre – The portion of an acre of subdivided land remaining after deducting areas devoted to streets, sidewalks, etc.
Commercial Property — Property, which is zoned “commercial” (for business use). Property such as stores, restaurants, etc., falling between residential and industrial.
Commission — An amount, usually as a percentage, paid to an agent (real estate broker) as compensation for his services. The amount to a real estate broker is generally a percentage of the sale price or total rental.
Commissioner’s Deed – Deed executed by a court appointed person in consummation of a sale ordered by the court.
Commitment — (1) Title insurance term for the preliminary report issued before the actual policy. Said report shows the condition of title and the steps necessary to complete the transfer of title as contemplated by buyer and seller. (2) A written promise to make or insure a loan for a specified amount and on specified terms.
Commitment – A pledge, promise, or firm agreement; also, a title insurer’s contractual obligation to insure title to real property.
Commitment Fee — A fee paid for a loan commitment.
Common Area — The area owned in common by the owners of condominiums or planned unit development homes in subdivision.
Common Law – The unwritten body of English law founded upon customs and precedents.
Community Property – Property acquired by a husband and wife, or either, during marriage, when not acquired as the separate property of either.
Community Property — Property owned in common by a husband and wife, which was not required as a separate property. A classification of property peculiar to certain states.
Comparable — Properties used as comparisons to determine the value of a specified property.
Compensatory Damages — Damages to cover a loss or injury or nothing more.
Competent – Legally qualified, capable of contracting.
Composition – Agreement between a debtor and creditors whereby the latter mutually agree to accept a certain percentage less than is due each one.
Conclusive Presumption – Legal inference that cannot be contradicted.
Condemnation – The taking of private property for a public use. The exercise of power of eminent domain.
Condemnation Guarantee – An evidence of title issued to a governmental agency naming persons to be made defendants in an action in eminent domain.
Condition – A qualification or restriction annexed to a conveyance of lands, whereby it is provided that upon the happening of a particular event an estate shall commence, be enlarged, or be defeated.
Condition Precedent – A condition that must be fulfilled before a right accrues or an estate vests.
Condition Subsequent – A condition that defeats a previously accrued right or vested estate.
Conditional Commitment — A loan commitment given before a borrower (buyer) is obtained and subject to approval of the buyer by the lender.
Conditional Sale Contract – Contract of sale where title remains in seller until all conditions of the contract have been fulfilled.
Conditional Sales Contract — A sale in which the title to property or goods remains with the seller until the purchaser has fulfilled the terms of the contract, usually payment in full.
Condominium — A structure of two or more units, the interior space of which are individually owned; the balance of the property (both land and building) is owned in common by the owners of the individual units. The size of each unit is measured from the interior surfaces (exclusive of paint or other finishes) of the exterior walls, floors, and ceiling. The balance of property is called the common area.
Condominium – The composite of individual ownership and exclusive possession of a cube of space in a multi-unit building plus a collective ownership of and a collective right of possession to facilities common to all separately owned units.
Confession of Judgment – Entry of judgment without formality of proceedings upon debtor’s admission and with debtor’s consent.
Confirmation of Sale – Court approval of sale by a personal representative, guardian, or conservator.
Congressional Grant – A grant of public land of the United States by an act of Congress.
Conservatee – A person unable to manage self, property, or self and property and for whom the probate court has appointed a conservator.
Conservator – A person appointed by probate court to take care of the person, property, or person and property of conservatee.
Consideration – The value inducing another person to enter into a contract.
Constituent Corporation – A corporation merged or consolidated with one or more other corporations.
Construction Loan — Short term financing of real estate construction. Generally followed by a long term financing called a “take out”, issued upon completion of improvements.
Constructive – Inferred or implied.
Constructive Notice – Notice given by public records.
Constructive Notice — Notice given by publishing in a newspaper, recording, or other method which legally notifies the parties involved, but may not actually notify them.
Constructive Trust – Trust imposed by law to redress a wrong or to prevent unjust enrichment.
Contact of Sale — In some areas of the country, synonymous with land contract. In some areas, synonymous with purchase agreement.
Contiguous – In actual close contact; touching, adjacent, near.
Contiguous — Near or close to, whether actually touching or not. Generally refers to actual touching or bordering on.
Contingency — Commonly, the dependence upon a stated event, which must occur before a contract, is binding. For example: the sale of a house, contingent upon the buyer obtaining financing.
Contingent – Dependent upon an uncertain future event.
Contingent Beneficiary – A person who may share in an estate or trust depending upon the happening of an event.
Contingent Interest – An interest which may vest depending upon the happening of an event.
Contour – Surface configuration of land.
Contract – An agreement between two or more parties to do, or not to do a particular act.
Contract of Sale – An agreement entered into for the sale and purchase of property.
Conventional Loan — A mortgage or deed of trust not obtained under a government-insured program, (such as F.H.A. or V.A.).
Convey – To transfer title to property from one person to another.
Conveyance – A written instrument transferring title to or an interest in land.
Conveyance — Transfer of title to land. Includes most instruments by which an interest in real estate is created, mortgaged, or assigned.
Corp. Code – Corporations Code.
Corporate Seal – A seal attached to an instrument executed by a corporation.
Corporation — A general term encompassing any group of people “incorporating” by following certain statutory procedures. Most common type of corporation is a private one formed to carry on a business.
Corporation – An artificial being created by law and endowed with certain rights, privileges, and duties of natural persons.
Corporation Sole – A corporation consisting of a single person and his/her successor in office.
Corporeal Hereditaments – Substantial permanent objects which may be inherited.
Corpus – Property comprising the assets of a trust.
Cotenancy – Ownership by two or more persons.
Co-Trustee – One of two or more trustees.
Co-Trustee — One who shares the duty if trustee with one or more other trustees.
Counter Offer — An offer (instead of acceptance) in response to an offer. For example: A offers to buy B’s house for X dollars. B, in response offers to sell to A at a higher price. B’s offer to A is a counter offer.
County Records — Public recorded documents by which notice is given of changes to title, liens, and other matters reflecting real estate.
Courses and Distances – Description of land by metes and bounds.
Courtesy to Brokers — Willingness of a seller to pay a commission to any broker supplying a suitable buyer; or the willingness of a listed broker to share the commission with any broker supplying a suitable buyer.
Covenant – Agreement or promise.
Credit Report — A report on the past ability of a loan applicant to pay installment payments. Several national and local companies make such reports.
Creditor’s Position — (1) The portion of the value of property, which is mortgaged, rather than the equity. (2) The portion of the value of property upon which a first mortgage could be obtained.
Curtesy – The common law interest of a husband in estate of deceased wife.
Custodia Legis – In the custody of the law.
Custodian – (1) One who is entrusted with the care and keeping of real or personal property. (2) A janitor.
Custody — The care and keeping of property (real and personal). For example: An escrow agent has custody of documents and funds until closing.
Custom Builder — One who builds for a specific owner, designing the building to suit said owner’s need, rather than building and then looking for a buyer.


d.b.n. – Abbreviation for de bonis non administratis, De Bonis Non Administratis. Of the goods not administered. When an administrator is appointed to succeed another, who has left the estate partially unsettled, he is said to be granted “administration de bonis non;” that is, of the goods not already administered. McNair v. Howle, 123 S.C. 252, 116 S.E. 279, 285.
d.d. – Abbreviation for “days after date.”
D.S. – Abbreviation for “declaratory statement.”
Date Down – The date a title examination is to be brought down to from the date of the last examination. Generally the date of recording of instruments and documents in the Recorder’s Office.
DBA (Doing Business As) — An identification of the owner or owners of a business and the business name. Not a partnership or corporation.
De – From; of; concerning.
De Facto – In fact.
De jure – By right.
Decedent – Deceased person.
Declaration of Homestead – A formal, written, recorded assertion by an owner that the dwelling in which he or she resides is exempt from forced sale.
Declaration of Restrictions – A set of restrictions filed by a subscriber to cover an entire tract or subdivision.
Declaration of Trust – A written instrument by a person (settlor-trustor), acknowledging that he or she holds title to property (as trustee) for the benefit of another or others (beneficiary/ beneficiaries).
Declaratory Judgment — A determination by a court as to the legal rights of the plaintiff, with no order for relief. The judgment is binding on future litigation.
Decree – A judgment by court.
Decree of Distribution – A judgment of probate court as to persons entitled to the property of a decedent. [Now referred to as ‘Order for Distribution’]
Dedication – Donation of land by owner for public use.
Deed — Actually, any one of many conveyance or financing instruments, but generally a conveyance instrument, given to pass fee title to property upon sale.
Deed – Written document transferring title to land from one person to another.
Deed in Lieu — A deed from the owner (debtor) to a lender to prevent foreclosure. There are usually statutory provisions as to fairness of value and absence of coercion, which must be recited on the deed.
Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure — A deed given by an owner/borrower to a lender to prevent the lender from beginning foreclosure proceedings. The validity of the deed depends to some degree on “fairness” under the circumstances, and adequacy of consideration, which will be considered.
Deed In Lieu of Foreclosure – The deed purchased by the mortgagee from the mortgagor in lieu of the foreclosure of the mortgagee’s mortgage. The mortgagor grants the title to the property secured by the mortgage to the mortgagee (lender) in lieu of lender foreclosing the mortgage.
Deed of Sale – Evidence of a purchaser’s acquisition of legal title at a judicial sale, subject to redemption rights, if any.
Deed of Trust – A three party security instrument conveying title to land as security for the performance of an obligation. Also called “trust deed.”
Deed of Trust — An instrument used in many states in place of a mortgage. Property is transferred to a trustee by a borrower (trustor), in favor of the lender (beneficiary), and reconveyed upon payment in full.
Deed Restrictions — Limitations on the use of property placed in conveyance deed by the grantor, which bind all future owners.
Default – Omission or failure to fulfill a duty, observe a promise, discharge an obligation, or perform an agreement.
Default Judgment – A judgment against a defendant who made no appearance in court.
Defeasance Clause – The provision of a mortgage giving the mortgagor the right to redeem the property upon satisfaction of the obligation it secures.
Defeasible – Subject to being defeated, annulled, revoked.
Defective Title — (1) Title to a negotiable instrument obtained by fraud. (2) Title to real property, which lacks some of the elements necessary to transfer good title.
Defendant — The person against whom a civil or criminal action is brought.
Deficiency Judgment – A personal judgment against the debtor for the amount remaining due after foreclosure of a security device, as in the case of a mortgage or trust deed.
Defunct – Deceased, dead.
Delayed Reconveyance — A reconveyance of a deed of trust which is issued and recorded after transfer of title and issuance of title insurance (not showing the deed of trust). Usually occurs when the lender is in another state and will not issue the reconveyance paid in full.
Demand — (1) The quantity of goods that can be sold at a specified price, in a given market, at a particular time. (2) A letter from a lender showing the amount due in order to pay off a mortgage or trust deed.
Demand – An escrow term describing the consideration exacted for a conveyance or for the relinquishment of an interest in or a right to property.
Demise – A transfer of an estate for years, for life, or at will.
Demurrer – The formal mode of disputing the sufficiency in law of an opponent’s pleading.
Department of Real Estate — That department of the state government responsible for the licensing and regulation of persons engaged in the real estate business. The person heading the department is usually called The Real Estate Commissioner. Other names for the department are The Division of Real Estate and the Real Estate Commission.
Deponent – A witness; an affiant.
Deposit — (1) Money given by the buyer with an offer to purchase. Shows good faith. Also called earnest money. (2) A natural accumulation of resources (oil, gold, etc.) which may be commercially recovered and marketed.
Deposition – Testimony of a witness taken upon interrogatories, not in open court.
Depository Statement – Instructions accompanying the deposit of documents, instruments, or property.
Deraign – To trace, to prove.
Descent – Manner of succession to title to property of an intestate decedent.
Description – Written instrument by which title to land is transferred to a trustee as security for repayment of a debt or performance of an obligation.
Developer — (1) A builder. (2) One who prepares the raw land for construction and then sells to a builder.
Development — A planned construction project, rather than simply the building of unrelated buildings.
Development Loan — A loan for the purchase of land or off-site improvements, rather than building costs. The land involved is used to secure the loan.
Devise – The disposition of land by will.
Devisee – A person to whom real property is given by will.
Dictum – An opinion by a judge on a point not essential to the decision on the main issue. (Plural form is “dicta.”)
Dies – A day.
Diluvian – The gradual washing away and loss of soil along the banks of a river.
Disclaimer — (1) Statement on a publication attempting to limit liability in event the information is inaccurate. (2) Renunciation of a claim or right of another. (3) Refusal to accept an estate, either as trustee or as owner.
Disseisin – Dispossession; ouster.
Distress Sale — A sale of property when the seller is under extreme pressure to sell. Generally the property is sold for less than market value.
Divest – To deprive of a right or title to property.
Divisa – A boundary.
Documentary Tax Stamps — Stamps, similar to postage stamps, affixed to a deed, showing the amount of transfer tax paid. Most states now “stamp” the deed rather than affixing a stamp.
Documentary Transfer Tax — A state tax on the sale of real property, based on the sale price or equity transferred.
Documentary Transfer Tax – A tax on certain recorded transfers of title to real property.
Domicile – Fixed and permanent home.
Domiciliary Administrator – Administrator of estate of a decedent appointed by probate court of the state of decedent’s domicile.
Dominant Tenement — A parcel of land which benefits from an easement. For example: An easement exists over parcel A for access to parcel B. Parcel B is the dominant tenement; parcel A is the servient tenement.
Dominant Tenement – The land benefited by an appurtenant easement.
Dona – Gift.
Donee – Person to whom gift is made.
Donor – Person who makes a gift.
Dower – The common law interest of a wife in estate of deceased husband.
Down Payment — Cash portion paid by a buyer from his own funds, as opposed to that portion of the purchase price that is financed.
Downzoning — A change in the allowable use of land by the appropriate zoning authority to a lesser (usually less available) use. Example: Eight units per acre to four units per acre.
Dragnet Clause – Provision in a security instrument making the security instrument applicable to all past and present obligations between debtor and creditor.
Dresser Drawer Title — The failure to record evidence of title; instead, placing it in a “dresser drawer”. Also called “Trunk Title”.
Due-on-Sale Clause – Provision in a security instrument calling for automatic maturity in the event of sale or transfer of title by borrower.
Duplex — (1) Any building containing exactly two dwelling units. Most commonly refers to the units that are side by side, with a common wall and roof. (2) An apartment on two floors or levels.


Earnest Money – Something given as a part of the purchase price to bind a bargain.
Easement – A limited right or interest in the land of another entitling the holder to some use, privilege, or benefit.
Easement — A right created by grant, reservation, agreement, prescription, or necessary implication, which one has in the land of another. It is either for the benefit of land (appurtenant), such as the right to cross parcel A to get to B, or “in gross”, such as public utility easement.
Easement Appurtenant – An easement created for the benefit of and attaching to a parcel of land.
Easement Appurtenant — An easement for the benefit of another parcel of land, such as the right to cross parcel A to reach B. The easement will pass with the transfer of property to a new owner.
Easement in Gross – An easement created for the benefit of a person rather than for a parcel of land.
Easement in Gross — An easement for the benefit of a person or company, rather than for the benefit of another parcel of land. Commonly, such easements as for public utilities.
Easement of Necessity — An easement granted by a court when it is determined that said easement is absolutely necessary for the use and enjoyment of the land. Commonly given to landlocked parcels.
Egress — A term concerning a right to come and go across the land (public or private) of another. Usually part of the term ingress and egress.
Ejectment – Legal action for return of right to possession of land and for damages.
Eleemosynary – Charitable.
Eminent Domain – The right to take private property for public use.
Emptor – A buyer.
Encroachment — Generally, construction onto the property of another, as of a wall, fence, building, etc.
Encroachment – The extension of an improvement onto land of another.
Encumbrance – A right or interest in land decreasing its value but not hindering its sale or transfer.
Encumbrance, Incumbrance — A claim, lien, charge or liability attached to and binding real property. Any right to, or interest in, land which may exist in one other than the owner, but which will not prevent the transfer of fee title.
Endorsement – The act of signing a name on the back of a check or promissory note to evidence its transfer; also, a written document attached to an insurance policy expanding or limiting coverage.
Enfeoff – To vest a person with fee title to land.
Entirety – A form of cotenancy in which owners are jointly seized of the whole.
Environmental Impact Report — A report of the probable effect of a development on the surrounding area (environment). The report is prepared by an independent company to federal, state, or local guidelines.
Equitable Lien – A lien recognized in a court of equity.
Equitable Ownership — Ownership by one whom does not have legal title, such as vendee under a land contract or, technically, a trustor under a deed of trust (legal title being in the trustee). Also called equitable title.
Equitable Title – The right to acquire legal title.
Equity — (1) A legal doctrine based on fairness, rather than strict interpretation of the letter of the law. (2) The market value of real property, less the amount of existing liens. (3) Any ownership investment (stocks, real estate, etc.) as opposed to investing as a lender (bonds, mortgages, etc.)
Equity – Natural right or justice based upon ethics and morals.
Equity in Property – The value of a person’s interest in property over and above total liens and charges.
Equity of Redemption – The right to redeem property after a judicial sale.
Erosion – The gradual eating away of soil by natural forces.
Escalator Clause – Provision for upward or downward adjustment of costs, expenses, rents, etc.
Escheat – A forfeiture of title to the state.
Escheat — A reversion of property to the state in the absence of an individual owner. Usually occurs when a property owner dies interstate, and without heirs.
Escrow – A transaction in which an impartial third party acts upon instructions for both seller and buyer, or for both borrower and lender, in carrying out instructions, delivering papers and documents and, disbursing funds.
Escrow — Delivery of a deed by a grantor to a third party for delivery to the grantee upon the happening of a contingent event. Contemporarily, in some states, all instruments necessary to the sale (including funds) are delivered to a third (neutral) party, with instructions as to their use.
Escrow Instructions — Instructions which are signed by both buyer and seller, and which enable an escrow agent to carry out the procedures, necessary to transfer real property, a business, or other assignable interest.
Escrow Officer — An escrow agent. In some states, one who has, through experience and education, gained a certain degree of expertise in escrow matters.
Estate – The degree, quantity, nature, and extent of a person’s interest in real property.
Estate at Will – Possessory right of a tenant for an indefinite period terminable by either landlord or tenant upon notice.
Estate for Life – Estate measured in time by the uncertain duration of a person’s lifetime.
Estate for Years – Estate measured for a certain, definite, or fixed period of time.
Estate of Inheritance – An estate extending beyond the owner’s lifetime which is succeeded to by heirs or by devisees.
Estate Tax – A tax upon the privilege of transmitting title to property of a decedent.
Estoppel – A bar to the assertion of a right or a defense in consequence of previous position, act, or representation.
Estoppel — The prevention of one from asserting a legal right because of prior actions inconsistent with the assertion.
et Al. – And others.
et Con. – And husband.
et Seq. – And following.
et Ux. – And wife.
Evidence of Title — A document establishing ownership to property. Most commonly, a deed.
Ex Parte – A judicial proceeding, order, injunction is said to be ex parte when it is taken or granted at the request and for the benefit of one party only, and without notice to any person.
Ex Post Facto – After the event.
Examination – The process of determining the vesting of title, and encumbrances burdening land.
Examiner – A person who analyzes a chain of title to land and expresses an opinion thereon.
Exception – A deduction, subtraction, or exclusion.
Exclusive Agency Listing — A listing or agreement protecting the listing broker’s commission against the sale of property by another agent but not against the sale of the principal. The term is not universal, as some areas use this term, nonexclusive listing, to describe this agreement.
Exclusive Listing — A written contract between a property owner and a real estate broker, whereby the owner promises to pay a fee or commission to the broker if certain real property of the owner is sold during a stated period, regardless of whether the broker is or is not the cause of the sale. The broker promises to put forth his or her best efforts to sell the property, and may make specific promises as to advertising or other promotion in certain instances.
Exculpatory Clause – Provision designed to absolve a party from liability.
Execute — To complete; to fulfill a purposes, such as to execute an instrument, meaning to sign, seal (contemporarily, to notarize), and deliver.
Execution Proceedings – Judicial enforcement of a money judgment consummating in seizure and sale of debtor’s property.
Executor – A male representative of the estate of a testate decedent.
Executory – An agreement or contract not yet performed.
Executrix – A female representative of the estate of a testate decedent.
Exemption – Immunity from a burden or obligation.
Expediente – Spanish or Mexican land grant file.
Extension Agreement – Agreement granting additional time for performance.


F.H.A.(Federal Housing Administration) — A federal agency which insures first mortgages, enabling lenders to loan a very high percentage of the sale price.
Facsimile – An exact and precise copy.
False Personation – Assuming, without authority, the identity of another person for fraudulent purposes.
Farmer Home and Administration (FMHA) — The federal agency which makes, participates, and ensures loans for rural housing and farms.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — The federal corporation which insures against loss of deposits in banks and, since 1989, in savings associations.
Federal Tax Lien — A lien attaching to property for nonpayment of a federal tax (estate, income, etc.). A federal tax lien differs from other liens in that it is not automatically wiped out by foreclosing on a mortgage or trust deed recorded before the tax lien (except by judicial foreclosure).
Fee – An estate of inheritance in real property.
Fee Simple – Absolute ownership; a fee without limitation.
Fee Simple — An estate under which the owner is entitled to unrestricted powers to dispose of the property, and which can be left by will or inherited. Commonly, a synonym for ownership.
Fee Simple Absolute — A term now used synonymously with fee simple.
Fee Simple Absolute – The largest recognized estate in land; a title without limitation or end.
Fee Simple Defeasible – A fee simple estate subject to being defeated, annulled, or revoked.
Feme Covert – A married woman.
Feme Sole – An unmarried woman.
FHA Escape Clause — A clause stating that the buyer (borrower) shall not be obligated to buy nor shall any deposit be lost if the appraisal is less than the agreed upon amount.
Fictitious – False, feigned, pretended.
Fictitious Deed of Trust – A recorded deed of trust containing general terms and provisions but naming no parties and describing no property; it is used for reference only.
Fictitious Instrument — An instrument (usually a mortgage or deed of trust) which is recorded not on specific property but to be incorporated by reference into future mortgages or deeds of trust. This is done by reference to the recording information of the fictitious instrument in the instrument recorded against specific property. This shortens the latter instrument and thereby cuts the cost of printing, paper, recording, etc. The fictitious instrument contains general language applicable to any specific property.
Fictitious Name – A name adopted for business purposes other than the true name of owner.
Fiduciary – One who holds a position of trust and confidence requiring scrupulous good faith and candor. For example, a trustee of a trust is a fiduciary.
Final Decree – A judicial decision finally disposing of a matter or cause.
Financing Costs — The cost and interest and other charges involved in borrowing money to build or purchase real estate.
Financing Statement – A personal property security instrument replacing a chattel mortgage upon adoption of Uniform Commercial Code.
First Refusal Right — A right, usually given by an owner to a lessee, which gives the lessee a first chance to buy the property if the owner decides to sell. The owner must have a legitimate offer, which the lessee can match or refuse. If the lessee refuses, the property can then be sold to the offeror.
Fissionable Material – Material capable of division into parts.
Fixture – Property originally personal in character but intended to be a part of the real property to which affixed.
Flood Insurance — Insurance indemnifying against loss by flood damage. Required by lenders (usually banks) in areas designated (federally) as potential flood areas. The insurance is private but federally subsidized.
Floor Time — A period during the working day when a specific salesperson is responsible for general inquiring (walk-in or telephone) regarding property in a brokerage office. This is generally established as a set, rotating number of hours per week for each salesperson. When a salesperson is “on the floor” he or she must be in the office or make arrangements with another salesperson to cover the floor during those hours.
FNMA (Fannie Mae) — A private corporation dealing in the purchase of first mortgages at a discount.
FNMA Buydown — FNMA (Federal National Mortgage Association) accepts loans containing a buy down provision on single family residential, owner occupied properties. A prepayment (points) will buy a lower rate of interest during the first one to five years of the loan. Restrictions apply to the amount of the buydown and rise in payment amount as the loan progresses.
Forced Sale — A sale which is not the voluntary act of the owner, such as to satisfy a debt, whether a mortgage, judgment, etc. The selling price of such a sale would not be considered market value.
Foreclosure – Enforcement of a lien by sale of property given as security.
Foreclosure Sale — a sale of property used as security for a debt, to satisfy said debt.
Foreclosure Sale – The sale of property given as security to secure performance of an obligation.
Forfeiture – The loss of a right, title, or interest in property as consequence of a default under an obligation.
Franchise – A special privilege conferred by government or, a contractual right to engage in a business under trade name owned by another.
Fraud — A deception, intended to wrongfully obtain money or property from the reliance of another on the deceptive statements or acts, believing them to be true.
Free and Clear — Real property against which there are no liens, especially voluntary liens (mortgages).
Freehold – An estate in land of uncertain duration. For example, a fee simple absolute or a life estate.
Frontage — The linear measurement along the front of a parcel, that is, the portion facing a road, waterway, walkway, etc. that would be considered the most valuable measurement of the property.
Fully Amortizing Loan — A loan of equal, regular payments, which cause the principal and interest to be completely paid by the due date.
Future Advance Clause – Provision for lender’s future disbursements to be also secured by a security instrument previously executed.
Future Interest – An estate in real property entitling owner to possession and enjoyment on a future date. For example, a remainder is a future interest.


Garnishment – Attachment of personal property of a debtor in the possession of a third person.
General Index – A title company’s record of matters affecting title to land maintained according to names of individuals and entities rather than by real property description.
General Law City – Generally, a city organized under the general law. (Compare “Charter City,” supra.)
General Partner — A member of the partnership who has authority to bind the partnership and shares in the profits and losses. A partnership must have at lease one general partner and may have more, as well as limited partners.
General Plan Restrictions – Restrictions on use of real property imposed for the benefit of all lots within a subdivision.
Gift – A voluntary conveyance or transfer of property without a valuable consideration.
Gift Letter — A letter to HUD from the owner (giver) stating that a gift of money has been made to the buyer in order to purchase specific property. The relationship of the donor and recipient is stated, as well as the amount of gift.
GNMA (Ginnie Mae) — Government National Mortgage Association. A federal association, working with FHA, which offers special assistance in obtaining mortgages and purchases mortgages in a secondary capacity.
Gore – A small triangular piece of land.
Gov. Code – Government Code.
Graduated Lease – A lease providing for varying rental rates.
Grant – A transfer of real property by deed.
Grant Deed – A written instrument transferring title to real property.
Grant Deed — One of the many types of deeds used to transfer real property. Contains warranties against prior conveyances or encumbrances. When title insurance is purchased, warranties in a deed are of little practical significance.
Grantee — One to whom a grant is made, generally the buyer.
Grantee – The person acquiring title to real property by a deed.
Grantor — One who grants property or property rights.
Grantor – The person transferring title to real property by a deed.
Grantor-Grantee Index — The record of the passing of title to all the properties in a county as kept by the county recorder’s office. Property is checked, by tracing the names of the sellers and buyers (chain and title). Title companies usually have more efficient methods by keeping records according to property description, rather than people’s names.
Greenbelt — A landscaped area surrounding a development to separate and protect it from neighboring incompatible use, such as separating office buildings from an industrial park.
Groin – A structure intended to impede or resist movements of sand adjacent to seas or lakes.
Ground Lease – A lease of land only and not of improvements to be made by lessee.
Ground Lease — A lease of vacant land, or land exclusive of any buildings on it. Usually a net lease.
Ground Rent – Earnings of improved property credited to land separate from its improvements.
Guarantee of Title – A form of title insurance based solely upon public record disclosures.
Guardian – A person appointed by the probate court to care for the person, the property, or the person and property of a minor or an incompetent person.


Habendum and Tenendum – To have and to hold.
Habendum Clause – The provision in a deed, usually following the description, reciting: “to have and to hold, etc.”
Hand – A lineal measure of four inches.
Hard Money Mortgage — A mortgage given in return for cash, rather than to secure a portion of the purchase price, as with a purchase money mortgage.
Hardpan — A compacted layer of soil, usually containing clay, through which it is difficult to drain or dig.
Hazard Insurance — Real estate insurance protecting against loss caused by fir, some natural causes, vandalism, etc., depending upon the terms of the policy.
Heir – A person entitled by law to inherit property of a decedent.
Hereditaments — (1) Anything which could be considered real property. (2) Anything which may be inherited.
Hereditaments – Anything capable of being inherited.
Holding Agreement – A form of a trust where trustee holds legal title to real property with no active duty of management or control.
Holographic Will – A will entirely written, dated, and signed by the testator in his or her own handwriting.
Home Warranty Insurance — Private insurance insuring a buyer against defects (usually in plumbing, heating and electrical) in the home he has purchased. The period of insurance varies and both new and used homes may be insured.
Homeowner’s Association — (1) An association of people who own homes in a given area, formed for the purpose of improving or maintaining the quality of the area. (2) An association formed by the builder of condominiums or planned developments, and required by statute in some states. The builder’s participation as well as the duties of the association is controlled by statute.
Homestead — The dwelling (house and contiguous land) of the head of a family. Some states grant statutory exemptions, protecting homestead property (usually to set a maximum amount) against the rights of creditors. Property tax exemptions (usually to set a maximum amount) are also available in some states. Statutory requirements to establish a homestead may include a formal declaration to be recorded.
Homestead – The dwelling in which an owner or head of a family resides protected to a limited extent from forced sale by a recorded declaration of homestead.
Hypothecate — To mortgage or pledge without delivery of the security to the lender.
Hypothecate – To pledge without delivery of title or possession. (Principally an admiralty term that has found its way into real property finance).


I/C – Individual/Corporation. An in-plant index of matters affecting persons or companies which cannot be entered on Lot Books because no specific properties are mentioned.
Id Est. – That is commonly abbreviated “i.e.”
Idem Sonans – The doctrine that if two names may be sounded alike any variance in spelling is immaterial.
Impound Account — Account held by a lender for payment of taxes, insurance, or other periodic debts against real property. The mortgagor or beneficiary pays a portion of, for example, the yearly taxes, with each monthly payment. The lender pays the tax bill from the accumulated funds.
Improved Real Estate – Land upon which buildings have been erected.
In Essee – Alive; in being.
In Personam – Against the person.
In Propria Persona – In his/her own person; himself, herself. Abbreviated to “pro per.”
In Re – In the matter of.
In Rem – Against property.
Inchoate – Incomplete; not perfected.
Incompetent – A person deemed by law incapable of managing his/her property.
Incorporeal – Intangible; without physical existence.
Indemnity – Compensation given for a loss sustained.
Indemnity Agreement — An agreement by which one party agrees to repay another for any loss or damage the latter may suffer.
Indemnity Agreement – An agreement relieving a person of an obligation to compensate for a potential loss. A hold harmless agreement.
Indenture – A deed or other document executed by both parties.
Ingress and Egress — A right to enter upon and pass through land.
Inheritance Tax – A tax imposed upon the privilege of succeeding to the title of a decedent.
Installment Contract — A method of purchasing by installment (usually monthly) payments. When referring to real property, it is usually called a land contract.
Installment Land Sales Contract – An agreement entered into for the sale and purchase of property under which purchase price is paid in installments.
Institutional Lenders — Banks, savings and loan associations, and other businesses, which make loans to the public in the ordinary course of business, rather than individuals, or companies which may make loans to employees.
Instrument – A formal, legal, written document.
Insurable Interest – A sufficient interest in property that loss of it or damage to it would entail financial loss to the owner.
Insured Mortgage — A mortgage insured against loss to the mortgagee in the event of default and a failure of the mortgaged property to satisfy the balance owning plus costs of foreclosure. May be insured by F.H.A, VA, or by independent mortgage insurance companies.
Intangible – Incorporeal; not of material or physical existence.
Inter Alia – Among other things.
Interest – A share of, or a right to, or a concern in something of Value; also, a premium paid for the use of money.
Interim Loan – A short term loan under circumstances anticipating a subsequent long term loan.
Interlocutory Decree – A decree made pending final outcome of the cause prior to final hearing on the merits.
Intestate – Without a will; also, a decedent who left no will.
Intestate — Without leaving a will, or leaving an invalid will, so that the property of the estate passes by the laws of succession rather than the direction of the deceased.
Intra – Within.
Inure – To serve to the use or benefit.
Involuntary Lien – A lien created by operation of law.
Involuntary Lien — A lien, such as a tax lien, judgment lien, etc., which attaches to property without the consent of the owner, rather than a mortgage lien, to which the owner agrees.
Ipso Facto – Of itself; by the very fact.


Joinder — Joining together in some legal proceeding.
Joinder – One or more person acting in unison joining together.
Joint Protection Policy – A policy insuring more than one interest. I.E., the interest of both owner and lender.
Joint Protection Policy — A policy of title insurance which insures both the owners and the lender under the same policy.
Joint Tenancy – A form of co-ownership by two or more persons in equal shares characterized by the incident of survivorship.
Joint Venture – A form of business organization composed of two or more persons to conduct a single enterprise for profit.
Judgment – A final determination in a court of competent jurisdiction of the rights of the parties to an action or proceeding.
Judgment — The decision of a court of law. Money judgments, when recorded, become a lien on real property of the defendant.
Judgment Creditor — A person, corporation, etc., that has been awarded a money judgment by a court. Recording an abstract of said judgment would create a lien on real property owned by the judgment debtor in the county where the abstract is recorded.
Judgment Debtor — A person, corporation, etc., against whom a money judgment has been awarded by the court.
Judgment Lien – A statutory lien created by recording a judgment, or an abstract, ordering the payment of a sum of money.
Junior Lien – A lien of inferior priority.
Jurat – The portion of a certificate or affidavit stating when, where, and before whom it was sworn.
Jurisdiction – The power to adjudicate concerning the subject matter in a given case.


L.S. – Abbreviation for “locus sigilli” meaning the place for a seal.
Laches – Inexcusable delay in asserting a right.
Land Bank — An accumulation of land held for future use.
Land Contract – An agreement entered into for the sale and purchase of land.
Land Loan — A loan with collateral security of unimproved land. Usually the loan to value ratio is less than on improved land.
Landlocked Parcel — A parcel of land surrounded entirely by private owned land, with no access to a public right of way (road). Condemnation for a limited access highway is a major cause of such parcels.
Landowner’s Royalty – An interest in unsevered oil and gas granted to a third person or reserved by a landowner on occasion of his/her alienation of an interest in real property.
Lands, Tenements, Hereditaments – Inheritable lands or interests in them.
Latent – Concealed.
Lateral Support – The support the soil gives to the land of an adjacent owner.
Lease – A writing constituting a conveyance of real property form a term of years and a contract for its possession during that term.
Lease — An agreement by which an owner of real property (lessor) gives the right of possession to another (lessee), for a specified period of time (term) and for a specific consideration (rent).
Leasehold – The estate for years created by a lease.
Legacy – A gift of personal property by will.
Legal Description – A description of real property sufficient to locate it on the ground by reference to government surveys or approved recorded maps.
Legal Description — A method of geographically identifying a parcel of land, which is acceptable in a court of law.
Legal Owner — The term has come to be used as a technical difference from the equitable owner, and not as opposed to an illegal owner. The legal owner has title to the property, although the title may actually carry no rights to the property other than a lien.
Legal Title — Usually title without ownership rights, such as the title placed in a trustee under a deed of trust, or the title in a vendor under a land contract.
Legatee – A person to whom personal property is given by will.
Lender — Any person or entity advancing funds which are to be repaid. A general term encompassing all mortgagees, and beneficiaries under deeds of trust.
Lessee – The person acquiring an estate for years in a lease.
Lessor – The person transferring an estate for years in a lease.
Letter of Credit — A letter, usually from a bank, requesting a person or company to extend credit to a certain person or company and guaranteeing payment. Most commonly used in the purchase of good from another country. The letter may be revocable or irrevocable, but most parties insist on the irrevocable.
Letters of Administration – Formal written evidence of court appointment of a personal representative of the estate of an intestate decedent.
Letters of Conservatorship – Formal written evidence of court appointment of a conservator of the person, or of the estate, or of the person and estate of a conservatee.
Letters of Guardianship – Formal written evidence of court appointment of a guardian for the person, estate, or person and estate of a minor or of an incompetent.
Letters of Testamentary – Formal written evidence of court appointment of a personal representative of the estate of a testate decedent.
Levy – Seizure of property by judicial process.
Lien – A charge upon property for the purpose of securing the payment or discharge of a debt or obligation.
Life Beneficiary – A person entitled to receive a benefit for life.
Life Estate – An estate measured in duration by the lifetime of a natural person.
Limitations, Statutes of – Statutes limiting the time within which parties having a cause of action must institute proceedings to enforce the same.
Line of Credit — An amount of money a borrower may obtain from a bank without special credit check. The money is generally for business purposes and the amount would not include the borrower’s own home loan and other personal secured loans.
Lineal – In a direct line.
Liquidated Damages — A definite amount of damages, set forth in a contract, to be paid by the party breaching the contract. A predetermined estimate of actual damages from a breach.
Lis Pendens — A legal notice recorded to show pending litigation relating to real property, and giving notice that anyone acquiring an interest in said property subsequent to the date of the notice may be bound by the outcome of the litigation.
Lis Pendens – A recorded notice of the pendency of an action.
Listing — An agreement between an owner of real property and a real estate agent, whereby the agent agrees to secure a buyer or tenant for specific property at a certain price and terms in return for a fee or commission.
Listing Agent — A real estate agent obtaining a listing (see which), as opposed to the selling agent.
Lite Pendente – While the action is pending.
Littoral – Pertaining to the shore.
Living Trust – A trust becoming operative in the lifetime of the person creating it.
Loan Origination Fee — A one time setup fee charged by the lender.
Loan Package — The file of all items necessary for the lender to decide to give or not to give a loan. These items would include the information on the prospective borrower (loan application, credit report, financial statement, employment letters, etc.), and information on the property (appraisal, survey, etc.,). There may be a charge for “packaging” the loan.
Loan Policy – A policy of title insurance insuring the interest of a lender.
Loan Policy — A title insurance policy insuring a mortgagee, or beneficiary under a deed of trust, against loss caused by invalid title in the borrower, or loss of priority of the mortgage or deed of trust.
Loan Servicing — The bookkeeping and collection of a loan. It may be done by the lender or by another for the lender.
Loan to Value Ratio — The ratio, expressed as a percentage, of the amount of a loan to the value or selling price of real property. Usually, the higher the percentage, the greater the interest charged. Maximum percentage for banks, savings and loans, or government insured loans, is set by statute.
Lock-In-Clause – A loan provision specifying a period during which no repayment is permitted.
Loss Payable Clause — A clause in a fire insurance policy, listing the priority of claims in the event of destruction of the property insured. Generally, a mortgagee, or beneficiary under a deed of trust, is the party appearing in the clause, being paid to the amount owing under the mortgage or deed of trust before the owner is paid.
Loss Payable Clause – An endorsement to an insurance (fire) policy specifying parties (lenders) entitled to participate in proceeds in the event of loss.
Lot Split – Ordinarily, sale of a portion of a parcel of land.


M.A.I.(Member Appraisal Institute) — The designation given to a member of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers. A designation earned through experience, education and examination.
Maintenance Fee — As applied to condominiums and planned developments, the amount charged each unit owner to maintain the common area. Usually a monthly fee paid as part of the budget.
Management Fee — The amount paid for property management or the estimated value of such management if owner managed or the building is not yet built.
Market Value — The highest price a willing buyer would pay and a willing seller accept, both being fully informed, and the property exposed for a reasonable period of time. The market value may be different from the price a property can actually be sold for at a given time.
Marketable Title — Title that can be readily marketed (sold) to a reasonably prudent purchaser aware of the facts and their legal meaning concerning liens and encumbrances.
Mechanic’s Lien — A lien created by statute for the purpose of securing priority of payment for the price or value of work performed and materials furnished in construction or repair of improvements to land, and which attaches to the land as well as the improvements.
Metes and Bounds — Description of land by boundary lines, with their terminal points and angles. Originally metes referred to distance, bounds to direction; contemporarily, the words have no individual meaning of practical significance.
Mineral Rights — The ownership of the minerals (coal, gold, iron, etc.) under the ground, with or without ownership of the surface of the land.
Minerals — In real estate terms, those minerals of value which may be taken by mining, such as coal, iron, copper, gold, silver, etc. Mineral rights, as well as oil rights, may be sold or leased separately from the land itself.
Mobil Home — Originally, a trailer pulled behind a car or truck cab. Now includes large homes, which are not truly mobile but are constructed in the same manner as trailers, as opposed to conventional on-site construction.
Monument — A visible, permanent object, marked by a surveyor, to indicate the boundaries of land. May be artificial, such as post, or natural, such as a tree or large stone.
Mortgage — (1) To hypothecate as security, real property for the payment of a debt. The borrower (mortgagor) retains possession and use of the property. (2) The instrument by which real estate is hypothecated as security for repayment of a loan.
Mortgage Banker — A company providing mortgage financing with its own funds rather than simply bringing together lender and borrower, as does a mortgage broker. Although the mortgage banker uses its own funds, these funds are generally borrowed and the financing is either short term or, if long term, the mortgages are sold to investors (many time’s insurance companies) within a short time, in general mortgage.
Mortgage Broker — One who, for a fee, brings together a borrower and lender, and handles the necessary applications for the borrower to obtain a loan against a real property by giving a mortgage or deed of trust as a security. Also called a loan broker.
Mortgage Company — A company authorized to service real estate loans, charging a fee for this service.
Mutual Water Company — A company in which the owners are the customers. Stock is issued to the users, who are the organizers of the company.


NAR (National Association of REALTORS®) — An association of people engaged in the real estate business. Organized in 1908, it currently lists over half a million members. With headquarters in Chicago, it is dedicated to the betterment of the real estate industry through education, legislation, and high ethical standards for its members.
Naturalization – The conferring of rights of citizenship to a person who has been an alien.
Naturalized Citizen – A person made a citizen of the United States by act of congress.
Neap Tides – Tides occurring between the full moon and the change of the moon, twice every twenty-four hours.
Negative Cash Flow — When the income from an investment property does not equal the usual expenses, the owner must come up with cash each month to meet these expenses.
Negotiable – Capable of transfer by endorsement in the ordinary course of business.
Negotiable Instrument – Instruments with special legal incidents permitting free circulation in commerce.
nlawful Detainer – An action brought for recovery of possession of real property.
Nominee – A person designated to act in the place and stead of another.
Non Exclusive Listing — A listing under which the real estate broker has an exclusive listing as opposed to other agents, but the owner may sell the property without using an agent, and not be liable to pay a commission. Also called an agency agreement.
Non Judicial Foreclosure Sale — Sale by a trustee under a deed of trust, or mortgage under a power of sale of a mortgage. There is no court (judicial) proceeding.
Nonjudicial Foreclosure Sale – Sale of property pursuant to the power of sale provisions contained in a security instrument.
Notarize – To prove execution of a document by means of a notary public’s certificate of acknowledgment.
Notary Public – A person authorized by law to take acknowledgments and to administer oaths.
Notary Public — One who is authorized by the state or federal government, to administer oaths, and to attest to the authenticity of the signatures. A federal authorization may extend the authority to attest to the authenticity of certain documents, and to act as a notary in foreign countries.
Note – A common reference to a promissory note.
Note of Action – A lis pendens.
Notice of Action — A recorded notice that property may be subject to a lien, or even that the title is defective, due to pending litigation. Notice of a pending suit. Also called “Lis Pendens”.
Notice of Cessation – A recorded notice shortening the time for filing mechanics’ liens if work ceases prior to completion.
Notice of Completion – A notice recorded within ten days of completion of a work of improvement signaling commencement of the time period within which claims of mechanics’ liens must be recorded.
Notice of Completion — A notice, recorded to show that construction job is finished. The length of time in which a mechanic’s liens may be filed depends upon when and if a notice of completion is recorded.
Notice of Default — A notice is filed to show that the borrower under a mortgage or deed of trust is in default (behind on the payments).
Notice of Default – A recorded notice of a trustor’s failure to perform his/her obligation under a deed of trust. The beginning step in nonjudicial foreclosure of a deed of trust.
Notice of Non-Responsibility – A recorded notice by an owner of real property that he/she will not be responsible for payment of costs of improvements contracted for thereon by some other person.
Notice to Quit – Notice given by landlord to a tenant to pay rent within three days or vacate premises.
Novation – The substitution of a new obligation for an old one.
Nunc Pro Tune – Now for then; a tardy act made retroactive to the time when the act should have been done.
Nuncupative Will – An oral will.


Obiter Dictum – That said in passing.
Offer — A presentation of proposal for acceptance, in order to form a contract. To be legally binding, an offer must be definite as to price and terms.
Office Information – Special information of title significance concerning persons or property maintained by a title company but not necessarily a matter of public record.
Offset Statement – Statement customarily furnished an escrow holder as to the current status of rental accounts, security deposits, and balance due on liens and encumbrances.
Off-Site Improvements — Development of land to make adjacent property suitable for construction. Includes sidewalks, curbs, streets, sewers, streetlights, etc.
Omnibus Clause – Provision in an order for distribution by which any property of a decedent not specifically described is distributed.
Open House — A house which is open without appointment to prospective buyers (or tenants) for inspection, during certain hours and days of the week.
Open Listing — A written authorization to a real estate agent by a property owner, stating that a commission will be paid to the agent upon presentation of an offer which meets a specified price and terms. However, the agent has no exclusive right to sell and must bring in his offer before any other offer is presented or accepted.
Open-End Mortgage – Provision in a mortgage (or deed of trust) by which additional advances of money made by lender to borrower after execution of the security instrument are also secured by it.
Operative Property – Property reasonably necessary to the operation and conduct of a particular business.
Option – A choice; a right, for a consideration, to do or not to do an act in the future, or to require or not require performance of a future act by another.
Order Confirming Sale – A court order confirming sale of estate property by a personal representative, or other fiduciary.
Ordinance – A legislative enactment of a city or county.
Origination Fee — A fee made by a lender for making a real estate loan. Usually a percentage of the amount loaned, such as one percent.
Ostensible – That which is apparent or that which seems to be.
Outlawed – A claim, right, or cause of action unenforceable due to lapse of time.
Overriding Royalty – That interest in unsevered oil and gas retained by a lessee upon occasion of his or her execution of a sublease or assignment.
Overt – Open.
Owner will carry mortgage — A term used to indicate that the seller is willing to take back a purchase money mortgage.
Owner’s Policy – A policy of title insurance insuring the title of an owner.
Owner’s Policy — Title insurance for the owner of the property, rather than a lien holder.
Ownership – The right to use and enjoy property to the exclusion of others.


Parcel – Any area of land contained within a single description.
Parcel 2 Easement — A colloquial term used to describe an appurtenant easement of the dominant tenement, because the easement is described in the legal description. Usually, the property is described as parcel 1 and the easement as parcel 2.
Parcel Map — A map allowed in some states as a substitute for a subdivision map for 1 to 4 parcels (lots) with no common area. The procedure is much simpler and less costly than creating subdivision map.
Parol – Oral.
Partial Reconveyance – An instrument extinguishing the lien of a deed of trust from a portion of the property.
Partial Release Clause – Provision in a land contract, deed of trust or mortgage for a conveyance of a portion of the property to buyer upon satisfaction of specified conditions.
Participating Per Cent – Any interest in unsevered oil and gas which an owner, lessee, sublessee, or assignee disposes of to investors to finance production whereby the investor shares proportionately in the income from the enterprise.
Partition Action – Judicial proceedings instituted by a co-owner or co-owners to sever their co-ownership either by a physical division into separate parcels or by sale of entire parcel and division of proceeds.
Partnership – An association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit.
Party Wall – A wall located on a boundary line and used by both owners.
Patent – A conveyance of title to public land executed by the federal or state government.
Pendente Lite – Pending litigation.
Per Autre Vie – During the life of another.
Per Capita – By the head; by the number of individuals.
Per Se – By itself; as such.
Per Stirpes – According to the roots; by right of representation.
Percentage Lease – A lease under which rental is determined, in whole or in part, from the volume of business done.
Periodic Tenancy – Tenancy for successive periods of equal duration.
Peroration — To divide (prorate) property taxes, insurance premiums, rental income, etc., between buyer and seller proportionally to time of use or the date of closing.
Personal Property – Movable property; property which is not real property.
PI (Principal and Interest) — Used to indicate what is included in a monthly payment on real property. If the payment includes only principal and interest, property taxes and hazard insurance would make the total payment higher.
PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance) — Used to indicate what is included in a monthly payment on real property. Principal, interest, taxes and insurance are the four major portions of a usual monthly payment.
Plaintiff – The party initiating an action.
Planned (Unit) Development — A subdivision of five or more individually owned lots with one or more other parcels owned in common or with reciprocal rights in one or more other parcels. The lots are generally small, being the exact size of the improvements, or slightly larger.
Plat – A plot, map, or chart.
Pleadings – The formal writing filed in court containing the various claims and defenses of plaintiff and of defendant.
Pledge – Delivery of personal property as security for the performance of an obligation.
Point of Beginning (POB) — A term used in metes and bounds descriptions. The description will start with the words “Beginning at a point” and end with “to the point of the beginning”.
Policy of Title Insurance – A contract indemnifying against loss resulting from a defect in title to the interest or lien in real property insured.
Post – After; afterward.
Power of Attorney — An authority by which one person (principal) enables another (attorney in fact) to act for him. (1) General power — Authorizes sale, mortgaging, etc. of all property of the principal. Invalid in some jurisdictions. (2) Special Power — Specifies property, buyers, price and terms. How specific it must be varies in each state.
Powers of Attorney – A written delegation from a principal authorizing another person, as agent of principal, to act for him or her in his/her name in a designated transaction or transactions.
Preamble – The introductory portion.
Preemption – The act of purchasing before or ahead of another person.
Preemption Entry – An entry upon public lands of the United States by a settler giving the settler a preferred right to acquire title.
Preemptive Right – A preferential right to purchase on same terms as offered by a third party.
Preliminary Title Report — A report showing the condition of title before a sale or loan transaction. After completion of the transaction, a title insurance policy is issued.
Pre-Payment Clause – Provision permitting payment of a debt prior to due date.
Prepayment Penalty — A penalty under note, mortgage, or deed of trust, imposed when the loan is paid before it is due.
Pre-Payment Penalty – Charge imposed by a lender for payment of a debt before due date.
Prescription – A method of acquiring an easement by adverse use of another’s property.
Prescriptive Easement — The granting of an easement by a court, based on the presumption that a written easement was given (though none existed), after a period of open and continuous use of land.
Press Copy – A title company’s copy of title insurance or information it has issued.
Presumption – That which may be assumed without proof.
Pretermit – To omit; to pass by.
Prima Facie – Assumed correct until overcome by further proof.
Principal – A party represented by an agent or the chief or foremost party in a particular transaction or the amount of a loan to be repaid exclusive of interest or the assets constituting a trust estate.
Priority – The relative superiority of competing liens and encumbrances.
Private Mortgage Insurance — Insurance against a loss by a lender in the event of default by a borrower (mortgagor). The insurance is similar to insurance by a governmental agency such as FHA, except that a private insurance company issues it. The premium is paid by the borrower and is included in the mortgage payment.
Privity – Closeness; mutuality of relationship.
Pro Rate — To divide in proportionate shares, such as taxes, insurance, rent or other items which buyer and seller share as of the time of closing, or other agreed upon time.
Probate – Relating to proof; the proof of validity of a will of a decedent; the proof of ownership.
Probate Court – A division of superior court having jurisdiction over estates of decedents, minors, incompetents, and conservatees.
Profit Prendre – A right to take a part of the soil or produce of land.
Promissory Note – An unconditional written promise, signed by maker, to pay, absolutely, a sum certain in money, either to the bearer or to a person therein designated or his/her order.
Pro-Rata – Proportionately; according to a certain rate, percentage, or proportion.
Public Lands – All unoccupied land belonging to the federal government subject to disposition under general land laws.
Public Records — Usually at a county level, the records of all documents, which are necessary to give, notice. The records are available to the public. All transactions for real estate sales should be recorded.
Public Report — A report given to prospective purchasers in a new subdivision, stating the conditions of the area (costs of common facilities, availability of schools, noise factor if near an airport, etc.) issued by the real estate commission.
Public Report – A report issued by California Real Estate Commissioner containing information of interest to a prospective buyer of subdivided property.
Purchase Agreement — An agreement between a buyer and seller of real property.
Purchase Money Mortgage – A mortgage securing payment of all or a portion of the purchase price of real property. A purchase money mortgage can be a mortgage with ‘first priority’, ‘second priority’, ‘third priority’, etc.


Quasi – As; as if; of similar nature.
Quasi-Community Property – Property acquired by a married person while domiciled outside California which would have been community property if the acquiring spouse had been domiciled in California.
Quasi-Contract – A contract implied by law; based on conduct.
Quiet Title Action – The name of an action brought to establish a title to property or to remove a cloud on the title.
Quitclaim Deed — A deed operating as a release; intended to pass any title, interest, or claim, which the grantor may have in the property, but not containing any warranty of a valid interest or title in the grantor.
Quitclaim Deed – A form of deed containing no warranties and conveying the current right, title and interest of the grantor, if any, to real property.


R.E.I.T.(Real Estate Investment Trusts) — A method of investing in real estate in a group, with certain tax advantages. Federal and state statutes dictate procedure.
Range — (1) A division of land in the government survey, being a six mile wide row of townships, running North and South, and used in legal descriptions. (2) Land used for grazing livestock.
Range – A column of townships running north and south in a row parallel to, and east or west of a principal meridian.
Ratable – Proportionate.
Ratification – The adoption or approval of a previous unauthorized act.
Real Estate — (1) Land and anything permanently affixed to the land, such as buildings, fences and those things attached to the buildings, such as light fixtures, plumbing and heating fixtures, or other such items that would be personal property if not attached. The term is generally synonymous with real property, although in some states a distinction may be made. (2) May refer to rights in real property as well as the property itself.
Real Estate Board — A state license granted to one as a broker or salesperson, after passing an examination. Some states have educational requirements before the brokers’ examination may be taken.
Real Estate Owned (REO) — Most commonly refers to property owned by a lender from foreclosure of mortgages or trust deeds. The property is usually for sale.
Real Property – Immovable property such as land, buildings, improvements, appurtenances, and air space.
REALTOR® — A designation given to a real estate broker or sales-associate who is a member of a board associated with the National Association of Realtors® or with the National Association of Real Estate Boards.
Rebuttable Presumption – A presumption that is not conclusive one which may be contradicted by evidence.
Recital — Setting forth in a deed or other writing some explanation for the transaction. For example: A deed may state that the property is being transferred in lieu of foreclosure.
Reconveyance – A document extinguishing the lien of a deed of trust and reconveying the title to the real property encumbered by the deed of trust to the trustor.
Reconveyance — An instrument used to transfer title from a trustee to the equitable owner of real estate, when title is held as collateral security for a debt. Most commonly used upon payment in full of a trust deed. Also called a deed of reconveyance or release.
Record – To incorporate into the public records of the County Recorder; also, the system of public records imparting constructive notice of title to claims, or interests, in real property.
Recordation — Filing instruments for public record (and notice) with a recorder (usually a county official).
Recorded Map — A map recorded in a county recorder’s office. May be a subdivision map or describe a non-subdivided parcel. Reference to a recorded map is commonly used in legal descriptions.
Recorded Plat — Subdivision map filed as a matter of public record.
Recorder’s Office — The county office where instruments are recorded, giving public notice.
Recording — Filing documents affecting real property as a matter of public record, giving notice to future purchasers, creditors, or other interested parties. Recording is controlled by statue and usually requires the witnessing and notarizing of an instrument to be recorded.
Recording – The act of filing documents for record in the office of the County Recorder.
Recording Fee — The amount paid to the recorder’s office in order to make a document a matter of public record.
Redemption – The act of buying back property previously sold in judicial proceedings.
Redemption Right – The right of a debtor to reacquire title to property formerly owned by him or her but sold through judicial process to satisfy his/her debts.
Referral — In real estate business, generally the act of a past client recommending a real estate broker or agent to one currently a buyer or seller. Also, any recommendation by one real estate agent of another for a referral fee.
Refinance — (1) The renewing of an existing loan with the same borrower and lender. (2) A loan on the same property by either the same borrower or lender. (3) The selling of loans by the original lender.
Reformation Action – Proceedings instituted for the purpose of correcting mistakes in documents.
Regulation Z — Federal Reserve regulation issued under the Truth-In-Lending Law, which requires that a credit purchaser be advised in writing of all costs connected with the credit portion of the purchase.
Reinstatement — (1) Payment of a note, mortgage, deed of trust, etc., to bring it from default to good standing. (2) Restoring the previously used entitlement of a veteran to enable the veteran to purchase property under a VA program. (Also called restoration of Eligibility).
Reinstatement – Restoring to the status occupied before a forfeiture.
Release – A document extinguishing the lien of a mortgage, judgment, mechanic’s lien, etc.; also, a document absolving another of liability.
Release — An instrument releasing property from the lien of the mortgage, judgment, etc. When a trust deed is used, the instrument is called a reconveyance. In some areas, a “discharge” is used instead of a release.
Release Clause – Provision in a mortgage or deed of trust for the release of the lien from portions of the property.
Reliction – The gradual recession of water from the usual watermark exposing dry land.
Remainder – A future estate, other than a reversion, taking effect upon termination of a prior estate.
Remainderman – The person who owns an estate in remainder.
Remittitur – An appellate court’s instruction and direction to the lower court in disposing of a matter appealed.
Replevin – A form of action for the recovery of personal property.
Request for Notice – Recorded request by anyone desiring written notice of the recording of a notice of default under a deed of trust or of the scheduling of a trustee’s sale thereunder; also, recorded trust request of anyone desiring notice of the scheduling of an execution sale foreclosing the lien of a judgment; also, a request filed in probate proceedings by anyone desiring special notice of proceedings taken therein.
Request for Reconveyance — A request by a beneficiary under a deed of trust to the trustee, requesting the trustee to reconvey the property (release the lien) to the trustor, usually upon payment in full.
Request for Reconveyance – Written instruction of a beneficiary under a deed of trust addressed to the trustee, acknowledging satisfaction of the secured obligation, and directing the trustee to extinguish the lien of the deed of trust and reconvey the property encumbered by the deed of trust.
Rescission – The act of canceling or annulling the effect of a document.
Reservation – A right or an interest retained by a grantor in a conveyance.
Residuary Clause – The “catch all” or omnibus clause of a will directing distribution of any property not specifically bequeathed or devised.
Residue – That portion of a de-cedent’s estate remaining after payment of debts, taxes, and distribution of specific bequests and devises.
RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) — A federal statute effective June 20, 1975, requiring disclosure of certain costs in the sale of residential (one to four family) improved property which is to be financed by a federally insured lender.
Restraint on Transfer – An impediment or limitation on an owner’s right to transfer title to property.
Restriction — Most commonly used to describe a use or uses prohibited to the owner of land. Restrictions are set forth by former owners in deeds or in the case of a subdivision, a declaration of restrictions is recorded by the developer. A limitation on use of the property by law (zoning ordinances) may also be termed a restriction.
Restrictions – Impediments, limitations, or prohibitions respecting use of real property imposed in deeds or in a declaration.
Resulting Trust – A trust implied by law to prevent injustice.
Revenue Stamps — Formerly federal tax on sale of real property. Canceled and replaced by state tax stamps. The stamps (similar to postage stamps) are affixed to the conveyance instrument (deed), or a rubber stamp is used to show the amount of tax.
Revenue Stamps – Stamps affixed to documents evidencing payment of federal tax formerly imposed.
Reversion – A presently vested future estate in the grantor or grantor’s heirs the possession of which is deferred.
Rider – A supplement to; an addition to; an endorsement to a document.
Right of Survivorship — The right of a survivor of a deceased person to the property of said deceased. A distinguishing characteristic of a joint tenancy relationship.
Right of Survivorship – The right to succeed to the interest of a decedent.
Right of Way – A right to pass over or to cross a parcel of land.
Right of Way — A strip of land, which is used as a roadbed, either for a street or railway. The land is set aside as an easement or in fee, either by agreement or condemnation. May also be used to describe the right itself to pass over the land of another.
Riparian — Belonging or relating to the bank of a river or stream. Land within the natural watershed of a river or stream.
Riparian – Pertaining to the bank of a river or stream.
Riparian Owner — One who owns land along the bank of a river or stream.
Riparian Rights — Rights of an owner to riparian lands and water.
Riparian Rights – The rights of an owner to water bordering his or her land.
Rollover Loan — A loan, which is periodically reviewed, adjusted (usually to reflect current interest rates) and extended. Short term loans can be rolled over into long term loans. The process is by initial agreement or necessity.
Rood of Land – The fourth part of an acre in square measure, or one thousand two hundred and ten square yards.
Rule Against Perpetuities – At Common Law, a principle which provides that no interest in real or personal property shall be good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than twenty-one years after some life in being at the creation of the interest. California has adopted a statutory modification of the rule.
Running with the Land — Usually concerned with easements and covenants. Passing with the transfer of the land.


Sale and Leaseback – A transaction in which a grantee in a deed leases the same property back to the grantor without a change in its possession.
Sales Contract – An agreement entered into for the sale and purchase of property.
Sales Kit — Material carried by a salesperson to aid in listings and sale. This is the “tool kit” of real estate, containing forms, maps, tape measure, amortization schedules, pens, paper, etc.
Sales-Associate — One who is licensed to work in real estate under a licensed broker.
Sans – Without.
Satisfaction — Discharge of an obligation by payment of the amount due, as on mortgage, trust deed, or contract; or payment of a debt awarded, such as satisfaction of a judgment. Also the recorded instrument stating said payment has been made.
Satisfaction – The performance of the terms of an obligation.
Scilicet – To-wit, that is to say; namely, abbreviated as “ss.”
Seal – An impression on a document lending authenticity to its execution.
Searcher – A title company employee who assembles the links required to complete a chain of title to real property.
Second Mortgage — A mortgage which ranks after a first mortgage in priority. Properties may have two, three or more mortgages, deeds of trust, or land contracts, as liens at the same time. Legal priority would determine whether they are called a first, second, third, etc. lien.
Secondary Financing — A loan secured by a mortgage or trust deed, which lien is junior (secondary) to another mortgage or trust deed.
Secondary Mortgage Market — The buying and selling of first mortgages or trust deeds by banks, insurance companies, government agencies, and other mortgagees. This enables lenders to keep an adequate supply of money for new loans. The mortgages may be sold at full value (par) or above, but are usually sold at a discount. The secondary mortgage market should not be confused with second mortgage.
Section – A measure of land one square mile containing 640 acres.
Security – Collateral; property pledged or hypothecated to secure performance of an obligation.
Security Deposit – Deposit of money made to assure performance of an obligation.
Seisin – The possession of land under a claim of freehold.
Selling Agent — The real estate agent obtaining the buyer rather than listing the property. The listing and selling agent may be the same person or company.
Seriatim – In succession.
Servient Tenement – The estate burdened by an easement.
Servitude – A right in another’s property in the nature of an easement.
Settlement Statement — A statement prepared by broker, escrow, or lender, giving a complete breakdown of costs involved in a real estate sale. A separate statement is prepared for the buyer and seller.
Settlor – One who creates a trust.
Severalty Ownership – Ownership of property by one person sole ownership.
Sheathing — The covering over the outside studs (or rafters) of a roof. May be wallboard, plywood, etc.
Sheriff’s Deed – Conveyance of title to a debtor’s property as a consequence of an execution sale.
Short Form Document — A document which refers either to another document not of record containing the total agreement, or incorporates by reference a document of record.
Simultaneous Issue — A simultaneous issuance by a little insurance company of policies insuring both an owner and a lender. The Lender’s policy is issued at a reduced rate.
Sine Qua Non – Without which not. An indispensable requisite.
Single Family House — A general term originally used to distinguish a house designed for use by one family from an apartment house. More recently, used to distinguish a house with no common area from a planned development or condominium.
Situs – The location of property.
Slander of Title – False unjustified statements regarding another person’s title to property.
Slant Drilling — A method of drilling for oil or gas from adjoining property when surface rights have not yet been granted.
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act – Federal law designed to protect members of the armed forces from loss of property in satisfaction of obligations incurred before entry into the service. [See also California’s Military Reservist Relief Act of 1991].
Special Assessment — Lien assessed against real property by a public authority to pay costs of public improvements (sidewalks, sewers, streetlights, etc.) which directly benefits the assessed property.
Special Assessments – Charges imposed upon real property especially benefited by a local public improvement.
Specific Performance Action – A form of action seeking the execution of documentation relating to real property.
Spite Fence — A fence built for the purpose of causing a problem for one’s neighbor. May ruin the view, make access of a new vehicle, etc., or simply ugly.
Square Foot Method — Determining the replacement cost of a building by finding the cost per square foot of comparable building.
Standard Coverage Policy — A title insurance policy used in several states, not having as broad coverage as the nationally recognized American Land Title Association (A.L.T.A.) policies.
Stare Decisis – The legal doctrine that past decisions of courts stand as precedents for future decisions.
Start Card — A file card used as a record of the opening of an escrow. It lists the date the escrow opened, escrow number, name of escrow officer, names of parties to the escrow, lender, title company, legal description of the property, consideration, and type of transaction (sale, loan, etc.).
Starter — A copy of the last policy issued by a title insurer, which describes the condition of the title to land upon which a new policy is to be written. In some states this is furnished to an attorney for his opinion as to the condition of the title, and is called a back title letter or back title certificate.
Statement of Information – A brief statement of facts relied on by title insurers to assist in the proper identification of persons.
Statement of Information — A confidential form filled out by buyer and seller to help a title company determine if any liens are recorded against either. Very helpful when people with common names are involved. Also called a statement of identity.
Status – The legal position of an individual; i.e., adult, minor, etc.
Statute of Frauds – A series of statutes designed for the purpose of preventing fraud. For example, in order to be enforceable, an agreement for sale of real property must be in writing.
Statute of Frauds — State laws, requiring certain contracts to be in writing. All contracts for the sale of real property must be in writing. Leases (personal property) for more than one year must be in writing.
Statute of Limitations – A series of statutes designed to render unenforceable stale claims and rights.
Statutory Lien — An involuntary lien (created by law rather than contract). Includes tax liens, judgment liens, mechanic’s liens, etc.
Stirps – Stock, race, family. The person from whom a family descends.
Stop Notice – A notice given a construction lender by an unpaid contributor to a work of improvement for the purpose of intercepting loan funds.
Straight Note – A promissory note calling for payment of principal in one sum rather than in installments.
Street Improvement Bonds — Interest bearing bonds, issued by a local government, to secure assessments for street improvements. The owners of the property assessed may pay in a lump sum or pay installments on the bonds, including interest.
Strip Center — Any shopping are, generally with common parking, comprised of a row of stores. Usually does not contain major department stores or grocery chain stores.
Studs (Studding) — Vertical supports (wood or metal) in walls and partitions.
Subcontractor — One who works under a general contractor (builder), such as an electrical contractor, cement contractor, etc.
Subdivision – The division of a tract of land into separate parcels.
Subject To – The recognition of an existing lien or encumbrance but not assuming personal liability therefor.  A clause in deed, stating that the grantee takes title “subject to” an existing mortgage. The original mortgagor is alone responsible for any deficiency, should there be foreclosure of the mortgage. Differs from an “assumption” clause, whereby the grantee “assumes” and agrees to pay the existing mortgage.
Sublease – A lease executed by a tenant for a term less than the leasehold.
Subordinate – To make inferior in priority.
Subordination Agreement — An agreement by which an encumbrance is made subject (junior) to a junior encumbrance. For example: A loan on vacant land is made subject to a subsequent construction loan.
Subordination Agreement – An agreement changing the priority of interests.
Subrogate – To substitute one person in place of another with reference to an obligation.
Substitution – The appointment of a person to act in the place and stead of another.
Substitution Agreement — A document which is recorded to change the trustee under a deed of trust. A simple procedure in some states; more regulated in others.
Summons – A court’s direction to the sheriff to inform a defendant that an action has been filed against him/her.
Surety – One who guarantees the performance of an obligation by another.
Surface Rights — The rights (easements) to use the surface of the land, including the right to drill or mine through the surface when subsurface rights are involved.
Survey – A process of measuring a parcel of land and ascertaining its area and boundaries.
Syndicate – A pooling arrangement or association of persons investing in real property by buying shares in an organization.


Take Out Loan — The “permanent” (long term) financing of real estate after completion of construction.
Takeout Loan – A long term loan replacing a short term interim construction loan.
Tax Deed — (1) Deed from tax collector to government body after a period of non-payment of taxes according to statute. (2) Deed to a purchaser at a public sale of land taken for delinquent taxes. The purchaser receives only such title as the former owners had, and strict procedures must be followed to prevent attachment of prior liens.
Tax Deed – A deed issued to a purchaser following a sale necessitated by the non-payment of real property taxes.
Tax Lien — (1) A lien for nonpayment of property taxes. Attaches only to the property upon which the taxes are unpaid. (2) A federal income tax lien. May attach to all property of the one owing the taxes.
Tax Roll — A list, usually published by a county, containing the descriptions of all parcels in said county, the names of the owners (or those receiving the tax bill), the assessed value and tax amount.
Tax Sale – Sale conducted for the purpose of collecting delinquent taxes assessed to a parcel of real property.
Tax Search – An examination of the public records of taxing authorities to determine the tax status of a parcel of real property.
Tenancy by the Entirety – A form of co-ownership by husband and wife, characterized by the inability of one spouse alone to convey or encumber and by the incident of survivorship.
Tenancy in Common – A form of co-ownership of property by two or more persons in undivided interests.
Tender – An unconditional offer to pay a debt or to perform an obligation.
Tenements – All rights in land passing with a conveyance thereof.
Tentative Map — A map submitted by a subdivider to a planning commission for approval; approval is usually conditioned upon charges. The final map, embodying the changes, is recorded.
Tentative Map – A proposed subdivision map required to be submitted to and approved by the local government agency before approval of a final subdivision map.
Tenure – The mode or manner in which a title to land is held.
Term – The time duration of a lease or of a loan also, any provision of a contract or lease.
Terminable Interests – Interests enduring for a limited period of time.
Termite Report – A report of an inspection for wood-destroying pests by a person licensed by the state.
Testament – True declaration of a person’s last will.
Testamentary Trust – A trust created by the last will and testament of a decedent.
Testate — Having written a last will and testament.
Testator – One who died leaving a will.
Testimonium Clause – The concluding clause of an instrument beginning with the words: “In witness where-of…”
Tie – A survey connection from a point of known position to a point whose position is desired. A tie is made to determine the position of a supplementary point whose position is desired for mapping or reference purposes, or to close a survey on a previously determined point. To “tie in” is to make such a connection. The point to which the connection is made is termed a tie point.
Tie Point – Point of closure of a survey either on itself or on another survey.
Tied – As used in surveying, monuments are tied together by measurements. A property corner is tied to offset monuments or to other property corners.
Tier – A row of townships running east and west parallel to and north or south of a designated base line.
Time Is Of The Essence – Clause in a contract indicating punctual compliance is required.
Title – The sum total of a person’s right or the extent of his/her interest in real property.
Title Company — An agency issuing the policy of a title insurance company.
Title Insurance – Assurance of indemnification for loss occasioned by defects in the title to real property or to an interest therein which is insured.
Title Insurance — Insurance against loss resulting from defects of title to a specifically described parcel of real property. Defects may run to the fee (chain of title) or to encumbrance.
Title Insurance Company — A company which issues insurance regarding the title of real property.
Title Order — An order for a search of title to some parcel of property, eventually leading to the issuance of a policy of title insurance.
Title Page — The page in a subdivision map which is signed by all parties having an interest in the land, agreeing to the subdivision.
Title Plant — A filing of all recorded information to real property, paralleling the records of the county recorder’s office, although the filing system may be different.
Title Plant – The records of a title company assembled and maintained for the purpose of issuing title insurance on real property.
Title Policy – A contract indemnifying against loss resulting from a defect in the title to the interest or lien in real property insured.
Title Search — A review of all recorded documents affecting a specific piece of property to determine the present condition of the title.
Title Search – The assembled links required to complete a chain of title to a parcel of real property.
Toll – To bar; to defeat.
Toll the Statute – To stop or interrupt the running of a statute of limitation.
Tombstone Title — Information to validate title taken from tombstones, such as the death of the owner, date of death, names of survivors, etc.
Topography – The nature of surface of land, e.g., level, rolling, mountainous.
Torrens – A system of registration of land title no longer lawful in California but utilized in some other states.
Torrens Title — A system by which title to land is registered with a registrar of land titles, instead of being recorded. Originally established by Sir Torrens in Australia in 1858.
Township – A normally square shaped subdivision of public lands containing 36 sections uniformly numbered starting with the northeast section.
Tract – A parcel of land divided into smaller parcels called lots.
Trade Fixtures – Articles of personal property, fastened to real property necessary to carry on a trade or business.
Trade Name – The name under which an organization does business.
Transfer Tax – A tax imposed upon transfers of title to real property.
Transfer Tax — State tax on the transfer of real property. Based on purchase price or money changing hands. Check statues for each state. Also called the documentary transfer tax.
Trust – A fiduciary relationship in which a trustee holds title to property for the benefit of a beneficiary.
Trust Deed – Same as a deed of trust; a three party security instrument conveying title to land as security for the performance of an obligation.
Trustee – The fiduciary holding title to property for the benefit of another.
Trustee’s Deed – The deed given by the trustee under a deed of trust when the secured property is sold under power of sale.
Trustee’s Sale – Foreclosure sale conducted by the trustee in the exercise of a power of sale.
Trustor – The person conveying property in trust.


UCC – Uniform Commercial Code. (Com. Code, Section 1101 et seq.)
Ultra Vires – Beyond their powers.
Underwriter — One who insures another. A small title insurance company may buy insurance from a larger one (the underwriter) for all or part of the liability of its policies. A larger title company may buy part of the insurance from another company on high liability policies.
Undivided Interests – Unsegregated interests of co-owners in the entire property owned by them as tenants in common.
Unities – The essential elements of a common law joint tenancy. i.e., unities of time, title, interest, and possession.
Unity of Title — In joint tenancy, the holding by the joint tenants under the same title.
Unjust Enrichment – Mistake or misfortune of one person unfairly benefiting another.
Unmarketable Title — Not salable. A title which has serious defects.
Unrecorded Instrument — A deed, mortgage, etc., which is not recorded in the county recorder’s office and, therefore, not protected under recording statutes. Valid between the parties involved, but not against innocent third parties.
Usury – The exaction of a greater payment or return for the loan of money than is permitted by law.


Valid – Sufficient in law; effective.
Vara – A Mexican measure of length; approximately 33 inches.
Variable Interest – Interest rates fluctuating up or down according to current cost of money.
Variable Interest Rate — An interest rate which fluctuates as the prevailing rate moves up or down. In mortgages there are usually maximums as to the frequency and amount of fluctuation. Also called “flexible interest rate”.
Vendee – A buyer or purchaser.
Vendor – A seller.
Venue – The county in which an action is brought; also the place where an acknowledgment is taken.
Verification – A sworn statement before a qualified officer (notary public) that the contents of a writing are true.
Vest – To give an immediate fixed right to property.
Vested — Present ownership rights, absolute and fixed. Modernly, ownership rights, even though on a land contract or subject to a mortgage or deed of trust.
Vested Interest – A property interest that is fixed or determined.
Vestee – Present record owner.
Veteran’s Administration (VA) Loans — Housing loans to veterans by banks, savings and loans, or other lenders which are insured by the Veteran’s Administration, enabling veterans to buy a residence with little or no down payment.
Vide – See.
Videlicet – To wit, that is to say; abbreviated as “viz.”
Viz. – Abbreviation for videlicet.
Voidable – Subject to being declared void.
Voluntary Lien – A lien intentionally created or entered into by a debtor.
Voluntary Lien — A lien placed against real property by the voluntary act of the owner. Most commonly, a mortgage or deed of trust.


Waive – To release or abandon a right or a privilege.
Waiver – The act of releasing or abandoning a right or a privilege.
Warranty Deed – A deed containing express covenants as to good title and right to possession.
Warranty Deed — A deed used in many states to convey fee title to real property. Until the widespread use of title insurance, the warranties by the grantor were very important to the grantee. When title insurance is purchased, the warranties become less important as practical means of recovery by the grantee for defective title.
Waste – Destruction or injury to real property.
Water Right – The right of an owner of land to use water adjacent to or below the surface of the land.
Wetlands — Lands which, in their normal condition, have wet or spongy soil, such as a marsh or bog.
Wrap-Around Mortgage – Same as an “all inclusive mortgage”: One incorporating the balance due under a prior mortgage.


Zone – Area in a community designated for specified use and purpose.
Zoning – Governmental regulation of the use of real property.


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