Glossary

The terms contained on this website are defined in their most commonly used form. Should more precise interpretations of these terms be necessary, we advise you to seek the counsel of an attorney

 

A

Abandonment
The voluntary relinquishment of rights of ownership or another interest (such as rights to an easement) by failure to use the property, coupled with an intent to abandon (give up the interest).
Abatement
A reduction or decrease. Usually applies to a decrease of assessed valuation of property for ad valorem taxes.
Abstract of Judgment
A summary of the essential provisions of a court judgment. (When this summary or abstract is recorded in the county recorder's office, in some states the judgment becomes a lien on the debtor's property, both presently owned or after-acquired.)
Abstract of Title
A summary of the public records relating to the title to a particular piece of land. An attorney or title insurance company reviews an abstract of title to determine whether there are any title defects, which must be cleared before a buyer can purchase clear, marketable and insurable title.
Acceleration Clause
Condition in a mortgage that may require the balance of the loan to become due immediately, if regular mortgage payments are not made or for breach of other conditions of the mortgage.
Access
The right to enter and leave a tract of land from a public way. Can include the right to enter and leave over the lands of another.
Accommodation Recording
Recording of instruments with the county recorder by a title company merely as a convenience to a customer and without assumption of responsibility for correctness or validity.
Accretion
The gradual addition to the shore or bank of a waterway.
Acknowledgment
A formal declaration before a duly authorized officer (such as a notary public) by a person who has executed an instrument that such execution is his own act and deed. An acknowledgment is necessary to entitle an instrument (with certain specific exceptions) to be recorded, to impart constructive notice of its contents and to entitle the instrument to be used as evidence without further proof. The certificate of acknowledgment is attached to the instrument or incorporated therein.
Acre
A measure, usually of land, containing 43,560 square feet in any shape.
Ad Valorem
"According to value." A method of taxation using the value of the thing taxed to determine the amount of the tax.
Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)
A loan with an interest rate that changes periodically in keeping with a current index, like one-year treasury bills. Typically, however, ARMs can't jump more than two percentage points per year or six points above the starting rate.
Administrator
A person appointed by the probate court to carry out the administration of a decedent's estate when the decedent has left no will. If a woman is appointed, she is called an administratrix.
Adverse Possession
A process of acquiring title to real property by possession for a certain (statutory) period of time, in addition to fulfilling other conditions.
Affidavit
A written statement or declaration, sworn to before an officer who has authority to administer an oath.
Agent
One who has authorization, either expressed or implied, to act for or represent another party, usually in business matters.
Agreement of Sale
Known by various names, such as contract of purchase, purchase agreement, or sales agreement according to location or jurisdiction. A contract in which a seller agrees to sell and a buyer agrees to buy, under certain specific terms and conditions spelled out in writing and signed by both parties.
Amortization
A payment plan which enables the borrower to reduce his debt gradually through monthly payments of principal and interest.
Annual Percentage Rate (A.P.R.)
The yearly interest percentage of a loan, as expressed by the actual rate of interest paid. The A.P.R. is disclosed as a requirement of federal truth in lending statutes.
Appraisal
An expert judgment or estimate of the quality or value of real estate as of a given date.
Approved Attorney
In states where attorneys examine the chain of title before title insurance is issued, the title company will approve certain attorneys as those whose opinion it will accept for the issuance of a title policy.
Appurtenance
A right or privilege that is a part of the ownership of property, such as a right of way to a highway across the land of another. Water rights are also an example.
Assessment
(1) The valuation of real estate for purpose of taxes or special improvement charges. (2) The amount of taxes or special improvement charges. Special improvement charges are usually for the costs of streets, sidewalks, sewers, etc.
Assignment
(1) The act of transferring an interest, such as a loan secured by a mortgage, from one person to another. (2) The instrument or paper by which one person transfers such ownership to another.
Assumable Mortgage
A mortgage which, by its terms, allows a new owner to take over its obligations.
Attachment
Legal seizure of property to force payment of a debt.
Attorney in Fact
One who holds a power of attorney from another allowing him or her to execute legal documents such as deeds, mortgages, etc., on behalf of the grantor of the power.
Attorney's Opinion
A statement by an attorney as to the validity of a title, arrived at after investigation of the history of the title as recorded in the public records.

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B

Back Title Letter
Also called "back title certificate" in some areas, and "starter" in others. When titles previously have been examined up to a certain date by reliable examiners, title companies sometimes give subsequent examiners of such titles a letter that sets forth the condition of the title at the time of the previous examination and authorizes them to begin their subsequent examination with the terminal date of the previous examination.
Balloon Note
A form of promissory note that calls for the minimum payment of principal and the payment of interest at regular intervals. This type of note requires a substanti
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