A common unit of land measure equal to 43,560 square feet.


A written justification of the price paid for a property, primarily based on an analysis of comparable sales of similar properties nearby.

Appraised Value

An opinion of a property’s fair market value based on an appraiser’s knowledge, experience, and analysis of the property.

Balloon Mortgage

A mortgage loan that requires the remaining principal balance be paid at a specific point in time. For example, a loan may be amortized as if it would be paid over a 20 year period, but requires that at the end of the third year the entire balance must be paid.

Certificate of Title

An opinion by the buyer’s lawyer or other title researcher about the title’s condition as of the date when the certificate is issued.

Chain of Title

An analysis of the transfers of title to a piece of property over the years.

Cloud on Title

Any conditions revealed by a title search that adversely affect the title to real estate. Usually clouds on title cannot be removed except by deed, release, or court action.

Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)

Done by a land broker to help determine the probable sales price of a property. A good CMA will take into account recent sales, pending sales, and current listings that are within the same area and have similar characteristics as the subject property.

Comparable Sales

Recent sales of similar properties in nearby areas and used to help determine the market value of a property. Also referred to as “comps.”


A condition that must be met before a contract is legally binding.

Covenant Against Encumbrance

A seller’s promise that his deed at the time he/she gives title to the buyer is free of all liens and encumbrances, except those set forth in the deed.

Covenant of the Right to Convey

A seller’s promise that he/she has the legal right to convey the property that he/she owns.


A legal document which conveys title (ownership) to real property.

Earnest Money

A buyer’s deposit that is held in trust, pending ultimate acceptance or rejection of the offer. It is parked in a trust account where it’s not used for any purpose before or during escrow, which is the time when the purchase contract is in effect.


Right held by one property owner to make use of the land of another for a limited purpose, such as rite of passage.

Eminent Domain

The right of a government to take private property for public use upon payment of its fair market value. Eminent domain is the basis for condemnation proceedings.


An improvement that intrudes illegally on another’s property.


An item of value, money, or documents deposited with a third party to be delivered upon the fulfillment of a condition. For example, the earnest money deposit is put into escrow until delivered to the seller when the transaction is closed.

Examination of Title

The report on the title of a property from the public records or an abstract of the title.

Fair Market Value (FMV)

A fair market value is often an estimate of what a willing buyer would pay to a willing seller, both in a free market, for an asset or any piece of property. If such a transaction actually occurs, then the actual transaction price is usually the fair market value.

General Warranty Deed

The most common deed is called a “General Warranty” deed. Such a deed contains “warranties” or guarantees from the grantor (commonly the “Seller”) to the grantee (commonly the “Buyer”) that the Seller is the owner of the property and that no one else has any interest in the property, other than those exceptions stated in the deed.


Someone to whom the title of property is transferred (buyer).


A person who makes a grant in legal form; “conveyed from grantor to grantee” (seller).

HUD-1 Settlement Statement

A document that provides an itemized listing of the funds that were paid at closing.

Joint Tenancy

A form of ownership or taking title to property which means each party owns the whole property and that ownership is not separate. In the event of the death of one party, the survivor owns the property in its entirety.

Land Locked

Referring to a parcel of real property which has no access or egress (entry or exit) to a public street and cannot be reached except by crossing another’s property.

Legal Description

A legal description is used to describe the location of your land in legal documents (for example, the deed to your land).

Life Estate

Freehold estate giving the person owning it the right to receive income of the estate until death. The beneficiary cannot sell the property and the estate terminates at death.

Limited Warranty Deed

A less common form of deed that warrants the state of title while the seller owned the property. A “Limited Warranty” deed’s warranty is limited to the time the grantor owned the property, while a “General Warranty” deed’s warranties also cover all the time the property was owned by prior owners.

Loan-to-Value (LTV)

The percentage relationship between the amount of the loan and the appraised value or sales price (whichever is lower).

Marketable Title

Interpreted a bit differently from state to state, but, in general, it means that the evidence shows that the title is “good” or “clean,” and reasonably free of defects that would give rise to litigation.

Perk Test

A test to determine the absorption rate of soil for a septic drain field or “leach field”. The results of a percolation test are required to properly design a septic system. In general, sandy soil will absorb more water than soil with a high concentration of clay or where the water table is close to the surface.

Prime Rate

The Prime Interest Rate is the interest rate charged by banks to their most creditworthy customers (usually the most prominent and stable business customers). The rate is almost always the same amongst major banks. Adjustments to the prime lending rate are made by banks at the same time; although, the prime rate does not adjust on any regular basis.

Purchase Agreement

A written contract signed by the buyer and seller stating the terms and conditions under which a property will be sold.

Quit Claim Deed

Conveys to a Buyer only what the Seller actually owns, if anything, and provides no guarantee from the Seller to the Buyer that the Seller has any interest in the property to convey. The rule to follow for a person accepting a quit claim deed is “Buyer beware”. If it later turns out that the Seller’s rights to use the property are encumbered by another person’s interest in the property, the Buyer is out of luck, and has no recourse against the Seller.

Real Property

Land and appurtenances, including anything of a permanent nature such as structures, trees, minerals, and the interest, benefits, and inherent rights thereof.


A real estate agent, broker or an associate who holds active membership in a local real estate board that is affiliated with the National Association of Realtors.

Right of Survivorship

In joint tenancy, the right of survivors to acquire the interest of a deceased joint tenant.

Special Warranty Deed

A seller’s promise to the buyer limited to the seller’s period of ownership.


A drawing or map showing the precise legal boundaries of a property, the location of improvements, easements, rights of way, encroachments, and other physical features.

Tax-Assessed Value

It is the number on which the seller’s property taxes are calculated. The number is found in the county courthouse where taxes are assessed. Tax-assessed values are updated every few years, but they may not reflect actual current market values, especially in rapidly appreciating markets.

Tenancy in Common

As opposed to joint tenancy, when there are two or more individuals on title to a piece of property, this type of ownership does not pass ownership to the others in the event of death.

Title Insurance

Insurance that protects the lender or buyer against loss arising from disputes over ownership of a property.

Title Search

A check of the title records to ensure that the seller is the legal owner of the property and that there are no liens or other claims outstanding.

Topography Map (aka Topo Map)

A map showing topographic features, usually by means of contours.