Mortgage Glossary

  Acceleration clause. A provision in a mortgage that gives the lender the right to demand payment of the entire outstanding balance if a monthly payment is missed.


Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).  Amortgage where the interest rate changes over time based on an index.


Amortization. The gradual repayment of a mortgage by installments that may include a portion of principal and accrued interest..


Amortization schedule. A timetable for payment of a mortgage showing the amount of each payment applied to interest and principal and the remaining balance.


Annual percentage rate (APR). The total yearly cost of a mortgage stated as a percentage of the loan amount - includes the base interest rate, mortgage insurance, and loan origination fee (points).


Appraisal. A professional opinion of the market value of a property.


Appreciation. An increase in the value of a house due to changes in market conditions or other causes.


Assessed value. The valuation placed upon property by a public tax assessor for purposes of taxation.


Assumable mortgage. A mortgage that can be taken over ("assumed") by the buyer when a home is sold.


Assumption. The transfer of the seller's existing mortgage to the buyer.


Binder. A preliminary agreement, secured by the payment of earnest money, under which a buyer offers to purchase real estate.


Cap. A provision of an ARM limiting how much the interest rate or mortgage payments may increase.


Cash reserve. A requirement of some lenders that buyers have sufficient cash remaining after closing to make subsequent mortgage payments.


Clear title. A title that is free of liens and legal questions as to ownership of the property.


Closing. The occasion where a sale is finalized, the buyer signs the mortgage, and closing costs are paid. Also called "settlement."


Closing costs. Expenses (over and above the price of the property) incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property. Also called "settlement costs."


Commitment letter. A formal offer by a lender stating the terms under which it agrees to loan money to a home buyer.


Community Home Buyer's Program. An alternative financing option that allows households of modest means to qualify for mortgages using 33 percent housing-to-income and 38 percent debt-to-income ratios, and the waiver of the usual two payment cash reserve at closing.


Condominium. A form of property ownership in which the homeowner holds title to an individual dwelling unit plus an interest in common areas of a multi-unit project.


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


Conventional mortgage. Any mortgage that is not insured or guaranteed by the federal government.


Convertible ARM. An adjustable-rate mortgage that can be converted to a fixed-rate mortgage under specified conditions.


Cooperative. A form of common property ownership in which the residents of an apartment building do not own their own units, but rather own shares in the corporation that owns the property.


Covenant. A clause in a mortgage that obligates or restricts the borrower and which, if violated, can result in foreclosure.


Credit report. A report of an individual's credit history prepared by a credit bureau and used by a lender in determining a loan applicant's creditworthiness.


CRIM. Property taxes per municipality, in Puerto Rico. "Centro de Recaudación de Ingresos Municipales, "Acronym" .


Debt-to-Income Ratio. The ratio of monthly debt payments to monthly gross income. Lenders use a housing ratio (mortgage payment divided by monthly income) and a total ratio (all debt including the mortgage payment) to determine whether a borrower's income qualifies him or her for a mortgage.


Deed. The legal document conveying title to a property "escrituras, spanish".


Deed of trust. The document used in some states instead of a mortgage; title is conveyed to a trustee rather than to the borrower.


Default. Failure to make mortgage payments on a timely basis or to comply with other conditions of a mortgage.


Deferred Interest. See negative amortization.


Delinquency. A loan in which a payment is overdue but not yet in default.


Depreciation. A decline in the value of property; the opposite of "appreciation."


Discount points. See Points.


Down payment. The part of the purchase price the buyer pays in cash and does not finance with a mortgage.


Due-on-sale clause. A provision in a mortgage allowing the lender to demand repayment in full if the borrower sells the property securing the mortgage.


Earnest money deposit. A deposit paid to the seller and placed in an escrow account at the time when a formal sales contract is signed. This deposit shows that a prospective buyer is serious about buying the house.


Easement. A right of way giving persons other than the owner access to or over a property.


Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). A federal law that prohibits lenders from denying mortgages on the basis of the borrower's race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, or receipt of income from public assistance programs.


Equity. The difference between the market value of a property and the homeowner's outstanding mortgage balance.


Equity loan. A loan based on the borrower's equity in his or her home.


Escrow. The holding of documents and money by a neutral third party prior to closing; also, an account held by the lender into which a homeowner pays money for taxes and insurance.


Fair Credit Reporting Act. A consumer protection law that sets up a procedure for correcting mistakes on one's credit record.


FHA loan. A mortgage that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration.


First mortgage. The mortgage that has first claim in the event of default.


Fixed-rate mortgage. A mortgage in which the interest rate does not change during the entire term of the loan.


Flood insurance. Insurance required for properties in federally designated flood areas.


Forbearance. The lender's postponement of foreclosure to give the borrower time to catch up on overdue payments.


Foreclosure. The process by which a mortgaged property may be sold when a mortgage is in default.


Fully Indexed Interest Rate. This interest rate is the sum of the index rate on an adjustable rate mortgage plus the margin.


Hazard insurance. Insurance to protect the homeowner and the lender against physical damage to a property from fire, earthquake, fire, vandalism, or other hazards.


Homeowner's insurance. An insurance policy that combines liability coverage and hazard insurance.


Homeowner's warranty. A type of insurance that covers repairs to specified parts of a house for a specific period of time.


Index. Any number of economic indicators lenders use to calculate interest rate adjustments for adjustable rate mortgages. Examples include the 12-MTA, 11th District Cost of Funds, and LIBOR rates.


Interest. The fee charged for borrowing money.


Interest rate cap. A provision of an ARM limiting how much interest rates may increase per adjustment period. See also Lifetime cap.


Joint tenancy. A form of co-ownership giving each tenant equal interest and equal rights in the property, including the right of survivorship.


Late charge. The penalty a borrower must pay when a payment is made after the due date.


Lien. A legal claim against a property that must be paid when the property is sold "Gravamen" (spanish).


Lifetime cap. A provision of an ARM that limits the total increase in interest rates over the life of the loan.


Loan commitment. See Commitment letter.


Loan servicing. The collection of mortgage payments from borrowers and related responsibilities of a loan servicer.


Loan-to-value ratio (LTV). The relationship between the amount of a mortgage and the total value of the property.


Lock. A written agreement guaranteeing the home buyer a specified interest rate with specified points provided the loan is closed within a set period of time. The lock also usually specifies the number of points to be paid at closing.


Margin. The set percentage the lender adds to the index rate to determine the interest rate of an ARM.


Mortgage. A legal document that pledges a property to the lender as security for payment of a debt.


Mortgage banker. A company that originates mortgages exclusively for resale in the secondary market.


Mortgage broker. A company that for a fee matches borrowers with lenders.


Mortgage insurance. Insurance required by non government insurers on loans where the borrower puts less than 20% down. This insurance protects lenders against loss if a borrower defaults.


Mortgage note. A legal document obligating a borrower to repay a loan at a stated interest rate during a specified period of time; the agreement is secured by a mortgage.


Mortgagee. The lender in a mortgage agreement.


Mortgagor. The borrower in a mortgage agreement.


Negative amortization. Payment terms under which the borrower's monthly payments do not cover the interest due; as a result, the loan balance increases.


Notice of default. A formal written notice to a borrower that a default has occurred and that legal action may be taken.


Origination fee. A fee paid to a lender for processing a loan application; it is stated as a percentage of the mortgage amount, or points.


Owner financing. A purchase in which the seller provides all or part of the financing.


Payment cap. A provision of some ARMs limiting how much a borrower's payments may increase regardless of how much the interest rate increases; may result in negative amortization.


PITI. Stands for principal, interest, taxes, and insurance - the components of a monthly mortgage payment.


PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance). An insurance policy offered by a private company to protect a lender against loss on a defaulted mortgage loan. Usually, PMI is required only for loans with a high loan-to-value ratio (greater than 80%).


Points. A one-time charge by the lender to the borrower for obtaining a certain interest rate; a point is 1 percent of the amount of the mortgage.


Prepayment penalty. A fee charged to a borrower who pays off a loan before it is due.


Prequalification. The process of determining how much money a prospective home buyer will be eligible to borrow before a loan is applied for.


Principal. The amount borrowed or remaining unpaid; also, that part of the monthly payment that reduces the outstanding balance of a mortgage.


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


Qualifying ratios. Guidelines applied by lenders to determine how large a loan to grant a home buyer.


Rate lock. See Lock


Real estate agent. A person licensed to negotiate and transact the sale of real estate on behalf of the owner.


Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). A consumer protection law that requires lenders to give borrowers advance notice of closing costs.


Refinancing. The process of paying off one loan with the proceeds from a new loan secured by the same property.


Second mortgage. A mortgage that has rights that are subordinate to the rights of the first mortgage holder.


Secondary mortgage market. The buying and selling of existing mortgages.


Seller take-back. An agreement in which the owner of a property provides partial financing to the buyer, often in combination with an assumed mortgage.


Settlement. See Closing.


Settlement sheet. The computation of costs payable at closing which determines the seller's net proceeds and the buyer's net payment.


Survey. A drawing showing the legal boundaries of a property.


Tenancy by entirety. A type of joint ownership by husband and wife where each owns the entire property. In the event of the death of one, the survivor owns the property without probate.


Tenancy in common. A type of joint ownership in a property without right of survivorship.


Three/two (3/2) Option. An alternative financing plan that enables households whose earnings are no more than 115 percent of the median income in their regional area to make a 3 % down payment with their own funds, coupled with a 2 % gift from a relative or a 2 % grant or unsecured loan from a nonprofit or state or local government program.


Title. A legal document establishing the right of ownership.


Title company. A company that specializes in insuring title to property.


Title insurance. Insurance to protect the lender (lender's policy) or the buyer (owner's policy) 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.


Transfer tax. State or local tax payable when title passes from one owner to another.


Truth-in-Lending. A federal law that requires lenders to fully disclose, in writing, the terms and conditions of a mortgage, including the APR and other charges.


Underwriting. The process of evaluating a loan application to determine the risk involved for the lender.


VA loan. A loan that is guaranteed by the Veterans Administration.