Real Estate Glossary

Real Estate has a language all its own. As you prepare to purchase your home, become familiar with these frequently used terms.

Adjustable Mortgage Loans: 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 (ARMs), Flexible Rate Loans, Variable Rate Loans.

Amortization: Payment of a debt in equal installments of principal and interest, rather than interest-only payments.

Annual Percentage Rate (A.P.R.): The yearly interest percentage of a loan, as expressed by the total finance charge actually paid (interest, loan fees, points).  The A.P.R. is disclosed as a requirement of federal truth in lending statutes.

Buydown: A payment to the lender from the seller, buyer, or third party, or some combination of these, that causes the lender to reduce the interest rate during the early years of the loan.

Cap: In adjustable rate mortgages, the limit on how much the interest rate or monthly payment can change.

Closing: The final procedure in which documents are executed and/or recorded, and the sale (or loan) is completed.

Closing Statement: The statement which lists the financial settlement between buyer and seller, and also the costs each must pay.

CMA: CMA, or Competitive Market Analysis, is a comparison of homes similar to a seller’s home in terms of size, style, features, and location that have sold recently or are on the market.  A CMA is prepared by a real estate agent to help set a home’s listing price.

Contingency: Commonly, a stated event which must occur before a contract is binding. For example, a home sale may be contingent upon the buyer obtaining financing.

Deposit: A portion of the down payment given by the buyer to the seller or escrow agent with a written offer to purchase. Paying a deposit shows good faith on the part of the potential buyer.

Down payment: Cash portion of the purchase price paid by a buyer from his own funds as opposed to that portion which is financed.

Escrow: A procedure in which a third (neutral) party holds all funds, documents, etc. necessary to the sale, with instructions from both buyer and seller as to their use and disposition.

FHA Loan: A loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration, a part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. FHA insurance enables lenders to loan a very high percentage of the sale price.

Graduated Payment Mortgage: A mortgage initially offering low monthly payments that increase at fixed intervals and at a predetermined rate.

Hazard Insurance: Otherwise known as homeowners’ insurance. This is a usual requirement of a mortgage lender and an advisable safeguard for any homeowner to protect against loss.

Index or Rate Index: A measure of interest rate changes used to adjust the interest rate of an Adjustable Mortgage Loan. Example: the change in U.S. Treasury securities (T-bills) with a 1-year maturity, based upon their weekly average yield.

Lien: A legal claim or charge on property as security for payment of a debt or for the discharge of an obligation.

Loan-to-Value Ratio: The ratio – expressed as a percentage – of the amount of a mortgage loan to the appraised value or selling price of the property.

Lock box:  A key storage system placed on a home entrance that is accessible only by active, licensed real estate agents who must abide by a strict set of guidelines when showing a seller’s home.

Margin: In Adjustable Mortgage Loans, the number of percentage points the lender adds to the index rate to determine the new interest rate at each adjustment.

MLS:  MLS stands for multiple listing service, by which member brokers cooperate in the sale of each other’s listings. Sellers may choose not to allow their property into multiple listing, if they wish.

PITI  (Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance): Used to indicate the four major items included in a monthly mortgage payment.

Points:  A fee charged by a lender as a service charge or as an amount needed to make the yield on a mortgage competitive with other types of investments. Each point represents 1% of the loan amount.

Price Trend Analysis:  A tool developed and used exclusively by Weichert, Realtors to help set a home’s listing price by projecting local trends. Used in conjunction with a CMA, or Competitive Market Analysis. Because home values appreciate over time, a Price Trend Analysis maximizes listing prices.

Principal: Amount of debt, not including interest; the face value of a loan.

Private Mortgage Insurance: Insurance issued by a private company against a loss by a lender in the event of default. Private mortgage insurance is generally required for conventional financing whenever less than 20% is put down.

Second Mortgage: A mortgage which ranks after the first mortgage lien in priority.

Settlement: Same definition as closing.

Title Insurance: Insurance against loss resulting from defects of title of public record.

VA Loans: Loans partially guaranteed by the Veteran’s Administration, enabling veterans to buy a home with little or no down payment.

Do you still have questions? Please do not hesitate to contact Milton Ryan. Milton will help you to understand the factors that impact your real estate decisions.

Seller’s Checklist

Here’s a quick list of some easy ways to make your home more attractive to buyers. Milton Ryan can provide you with a full evaluation to help you get maximum value for your greatest asset.

Curb Appeal Brings Them In. Your lawn should be trimmed and edged. Shrubs should be shaped.

The Front Door Greets the Prospect. It should be clean and have a welcoming decoration.

Let the Sun Shine In. Open draperies and curtains to make your home cheerful.

Fix that Faucet. Dripping water discolors sinks and suggests faulty plumbing.

Repairs Can Make a Big Difference. Loose knobs, sticking doors and windows, or other minor flaws detract from the value of your home. Have them fixed prior to placing your home on the market.

Market Your Home from Top to Bottom. Display the value of your attic and basement.

Eliminate Clutter. Remove all unnecessary articles.

Safety First! Keep stairways clear. Avoid possible injuries and litigation.

Make Closets Look Bigger! Neat, well ordered closets show that space is ample.

Turn on all lights.

Preparing to Sell Your Home

There are many things to consider when preparing to sell your home, and the more prepared you are for the journey, the easier it will be. Here are some basics to consider:

Presentation is everything.

You’d be amazed at the difference “cosmetic” improvements can make in how buyers react to your home. So you may want to spend some time sprucing up your home with paint and landscaping as well as taking care of necessary repairs you may have been avoiding. This not only will help you get the very best price, but may help you get an offer sooner.

Make arrangements for pet care.

If your house is also home to a cat or dog, that can be noted in your listing so that real estate agents act with due caution. You may want to close your pets off in a separate room or fenced area outside, or request advance notice when your house is to be shown.

There is great value in placing a lock box on your home.

A lock box is a key storage system placed on an entrance to your home that is accessible only by active, licensed real estate agents. With today’s technology, most lock boxes allow us to know which sales agent showed your house and when. A lock box allows sales agents to show your home when you’re not there, without having to go to the listing sales agent’s office to obtain (and later return) the key. By making it more convenient for real estate agents to show your home, it will be viewed by a greater number of buyers.

What follows are a few other questions that I frequently answer for my clients as they consider whether or not to sell their home.

Q:  Why shouldn’t I price my house a little high, since I can always drop the price later?

A: That’s a strategy that sounds good – but, in fact, is more likely to result in a lower price. Here’s why. The first few weeks a house is on the market is when it will have the most activity. If a house is overpriced, it has to compete with houses at that higher price level, which are houses at that higher price level, which are almost certainly larger or have newer/more luxurious features.

So the overpriced home is unlikely to attract an offer. Worse yet, those first weeks are when real estate agents preview the house. If it’s overpriced, they may not even bother to show it to their buyers. Eventually, the seller will have to drop the price – and may end up with an even lower price because buyers will wonder why the house has been on the market so long and may factor that into their offer.

Q: What is meant by the term “contingency” in a sales contract?

A: Sales contracts typically contain several “contingency” clauses, or stipulations that the sale is subject to. For example, with a mortgage contingency, if the buyer is unable to obtain financing within the specified timeframe, neither the buyer nor the seller is required to complete the purchase. Among other common provisions in the “subject to” section are termite and other inspection issues and the purchaser’s need to sell a current home first.

Q: What is an escape clause?

A: An escape clause, also known as a kickout or knockout clause, is a provision that allows the party to void the contract. For example, the seller may retain the right to look for a more favorable offer, with the original purchaser retaining the right, if challenged, either to firm up the first sales contract (such as by waiving a contingency) or to void the contract. As another example, sellers might insist upon an escape clause in a contract that hinges on the buyers’ selling their home.

To make an appointment to discuss your realty needs, Call Milton Ryan today at 202.550.7316 in DC or 571.243.2697 in Northern Virginia.