Mortgage Glossary

A & D Loan

Acquisition and development loan- a loan for the purchase of raw land for the purpose development.

Abstract Title

A written history of the ownership of a parcel of land.

Acceleration Clause

Allows the lender to speed up the rate at which your loan comes due or even to demand immediate payment of the entire outstanding balance of the loan should your default on you loan.


A declaration by a notary, certifying, by way of personal knowledge or written identification, the identity of the signer.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

A mortgage in which the interest rate is adjusted periodically based on a pre-selected index. In other words, it has an interest rate that changes (which affects your mortgage payments).

Adjustment Interval

On an adjustable rate mortgage, the time between changes in the interest rate and/or monthly payment, typically one, three or five years, depending on the index.


A sworn statement in writing.

American Land Title Association (ALTA)

An organization of title companies specializing in Real Property Law which has standardized forms and coverage on a national basis. This is standardized coverage.


Amortization refers to the process of paying off a loan with regular payments over time. In the mortgage world (on a fully amortizing loan), these payments cover the principal and interest and ensure that your loan balance is paid in full at the end of the amortization term. Typical amortization terms are 15, 20 and 30 years.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

An interest rate reflecting the cost of a mortgage as a yearly rate. This rate is likely to be higher than the stated note rate or advertised rate on the mortgage, because it takes into account points and other credit costs. The APR allows homebuyers to compare different types of mortgages based on the annual cost for each loan. (APR)


An estimate of the value of real property, made by a qualified professional called an “appraiser.” An appraisal will be needed to determine the value of your property.


The agreement between buyer and seller where the buyer takes over the payments on an existing mortgage from the seller. This must be approved by the lender and be allowed by the note, which was originally signed by the seller.

Back End Ratio

This refers to the debt-to-income ratio calculated using principal, interest, taxes, insurance and consumer credit obligations divided by gross monthly income. It is expressed as a percentage.


Usually a short-term fixed-rate loan which involves small payments for a certain period of time and one large payment for the remaining amount of the principal at a time specified in the contract.


The entity funding the loan. This is the entity to which the loan is owed.

Bankruptcy (BK)

BK / Bankruptcy A reorganization or discharge of debts. Could also be referred to as Chapter 7, 11 or 13.


An individual in the business of assisting in arranging funding or negotiating contracts for a client but who does not loan the money himself. Brokers usually charge a fee or receive a commission for their services.

Buy Down

When the lender and/or the home builder subsidizes the mortgage by lowering the interest rate during the first few years of the loan. While the payments are initially low, they will increase when the subsidy expires.


The highest rate that an adjustable rate mortgage may reach. It can be expressed as the actual rate or as the amount of change allowed above the start rate. For example, a 7.99 % start rate with a 6% rate change cap would have a maximum interest rate cap of 13.99%.

Cash Out

Any funds disbursed directly to the borrower.

Certificate of Occupancy

A certificate issued by local city government to a builder, stating that the building is in proper condition to be occupied.

Certified Copy

A true copy, attested to be true by the officer holding the original. It should have a stamp and signature stating that it is a true copy.


The loan is ready to be closed with no additional conditions.


The meeting between the buyer, seller and lender or their agents where the property and funds legally change hands. Also called settlement.

Closing Costs

Usually include an origination fee, discount points, appraisal fee, title search and insurance, survey, taxes, deed recording fee, credit report charge and other costs assessed at settlement. The costs of closing usually are about 3 percent to 6 percent of the total mortgage amount. Or any costs being charged to facilitate granting of the credit request.


An agreement, often in writing, between a lender and a borrower to loan money at a future date subject to the completion of paperwork or compliance with stated conditions.

Community Property

A property owned in common by a husband and wife, which was not acquired as separate property. A classification of property peculiar to certain states. In community property states, assets may be owned in part by a spouse even if their name does not appear on the title.

Comparable (Comp.)

A property with the same basic characteristics as the property you are attempting to find the value of (usually a real estate appraisal.) It should have been sold recently and be as similar as possible.


A property owned as a group, with rights to occupy specific units of the structure. An overseeing board, often referred to as a Homeowners Association, governs the property.

Construction Loan

 A short term interim loan for financing the cost of construction. The lender advances funds to the builder at periodic intervals as the work progresses.

Consumer Credit

Credit owed by the individual, not secured by real estate.

Conventional Loan

A mortgage not insured by FHA or guarantee by the VA or Farmers Home Administration (FMHA).

Conversion Clause

A provision in some ARMS (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) that allows you to change the loan to a fixed-rate loan at some point during the loan term.

Credit Ratio

The ratio, expressed as a percentage, which results when a borrower’s monthly payment obligation on long-term debts is divided by his or her net effective income (FHA/VA loans) or gross monthly income (Conventional loans).

Credit Report

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Credit Score

The score given to an individual to determine the credit worthiness. These scores come from TRW, Equifax and Trans Union.

Debt Ratio (DR)

The customer’s monthly obligations divided by their monthly gross income. (See also Back End.)


A legal document which conveys the title to a property.

Deed of Trust

A document used which pledges real property to secure a debt. In some cases a deed of trust can replace a mortgage.

Deferred Interest

See Negative Amortization.


Failure to make payments on time, which can lead to foreclosure.

Department of Veterans Affairs

An independent agency of the federal government which guarantees long-term, low- or no-down payment mortgages to eligible veterans.


This is short for derogatory and refers to negative credit items.

Derog Letter

A letter written by the borrower giving an explanation for any derogatory credit.


Following a completed bankruptcy proceeding, discharged debts are no longer owed or collectible. We will require copies of the discharge papers on any prior bankruptcy filings.

Discount Points

Prepaid interest assessed at closing by the lender. Each point is equal to 1 percent of the loan amount (e.g. two points on a $100,000 mortgage would cost $2,000).


If a bankruptcy is dropped without being completed, a Bankruptcy Dismissal document will be needed to proceed with the loan. Either the court or the debtor can prompt the dismissal.

Down Payment

The initial payment made on a property purchase that determines how much you’ll need to borrow and what loans you qualify for. Conventional mortgages, for example, require 10-20% for a down payment, while other loans (like FHA or VA) require less.

Due-On-Sale Clause

A provision in a mortgage or deed of trust that allows the lender to demand immediate payment of the balance of the mortgage if the mortgage holder sells the home.

Earnest Money

Money given by a buyer to a seller as part of the purchase price to bind a transaction or assure payment.


An interest in property, owned by another that entitles the holder to a specific limited use or privilege, such as the right to cross or to build adjoining structures on the property.


A fixture of a piece of property which intrudes on another’s property.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

Is a federal law that requires lenders and other creditors to make credit equally available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status or receipt of income from public assistance programs.


Money given by a buyer to a seller as part of the purchase price to bind a transaction or assure payment.


Escrow refers to a neutral third party who carries out the instructions of both the buyer and seller to handle all the paperwork of settlement or “closing.” Escrow may also refer to an account held by the lender into which the homebuyer pays money for tax or insurance payments.

Escrow Instructions

Instructions to the escrow agent giving the parameters and contingencies involved in the transaction and agreed upon by both parties.

Escrow Waiver

The Request for a borrower to pay their own taxes and insurance. 

Fannie Mae

Another name for the Federal National Mortgage Association (see below).

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC)

Also called Freddie Mac, is a quasi-governmental agency that purchases conventional mortgages from insured depository institutions and HUD-approved mortgage bankers.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

A division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Its main activity is the insuring of residential mortgage loans made by private lenders. FHA also sets standard for underwriting mortgages.

Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA)

Commonly known as Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association is a tax-paying corporation created by Congress that purchases and sells conventional residential mortgages as well as those insured by FHA or guaranteed by VA. This institution, which provides funds for one in seven mortgages, makes mortgage money more available and more affordable.

Fee Simple

The most common form of ownership where the vestee owns both the land and the structures.

FHA Loan

A loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration open to all qualified home purchasers. While there are limits to the size of FHA loans, they are generous enough to handle moderate-priced homes almost anywhere in the country.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A mortgage on which the interest rate is fixed for the term of the loan. That means mortgage payments are always the same.

Flood Insurance

A mandatory insurance for some homeowners whose property is located in a designated flood zone.


A legal process when the lender forces the sale of a property to recover losses due to the borrower’s failure to make their mortgage payments.

Free and Clear

This means the property is paid in full (no mortgage loan).

Functional Obsolescence

A detraction from the property value due to the design or material being less functional than the norm.

Good Faith Estimate (GFE)

A document that includes the basic terms and estimated payments due upon the closing of a mortgage loan.

Ginnie Mae

 See Government National Mortgage Association (below).

Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA)

Also known as Ginnie Mae, this association provides sources of funds for residential mortgages, insured or guaranteed by FHA or VA.

Graduated Payment Mortgage (GPM)

A type of flexible-payment mortgage where the payments increase for a specified period of time and then level off. This type of mortgage has negative amortization built into it.

Grant Deed

The most common form of title transfer deed which contains warranties against prior conveyances or encumbrances.

Gross Monthly Income

The total amount of money the borrower earns per month, before any taxes or other deductions.


A promise by one party to pay a debt or perform an obligation contracted by another if the original party fails to pay or perform according to a contract.

Hazard Insurance

Insurance required by the lender that protects a homeowner against unexpected costs of damage to the property caused from fire, vandalism, smoke and more. 


The dwelling (house and contiguous land) of the head of the family. Some states grant statutory exemptions, protecting homestead property (usually to a set maximum amount) against the rights of the creditors. Property tax exemptions are also available in some states.

Housing Expenses-to-Income Ratio

The ratio, expressed as a percentage, which results when a borrower’s housing expenses are divided by their net effective income (FHA/VA loans) or gross monthly income (Conventional loans).


That portion of a borrower’s monthly payments held by the lender or servicer to pay for taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, lease payments, and other items as they become due. Also known as reserves.


A published interest rate against which lenders measure the difference between the current interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage and that earned by other investments (such as one- three-, and five-year U.S. Treasury Security yields, the monthly average interest rate on loans closed by savings and loan institutions, and the monthly average Costs-of-Funds incurred by savings and loans), which is then used to adjust the interest rate on an adjustable mortgage up or down.

Interest Bearing

A form of interest calculation where the loan is charged at a daily or monthly rate (1/365 or 1/12 of the annual interest rate) on the current outstanding balance.


Money source for a lender.

Joint Tenants

A form of holding title where the owners have 100% rights of survivorship unless redirected by a will.

Jumbo Loan

A loan that exceeds the limits set by the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Since these loans cannot be funded by these two agencies, they usually carry a higher interest rate.

Land Contract

An agreement between the seller and the buyer where the title is withheld until a time where the required payments have been completed.

Leasehold Estate

A kind of real estate ownership where the lessor does not hold title to the property but has use of the property subject to the terms of the lease.

Legal Description

A method of geographically locating a piece or parcel of land, which is acceptable in a court of law.


A claim upon a piece of property for the payment or satisfaction of a debt or obligation.

Loan Risk

The rate category assigned to the loan, which estimates the probable risk of delinquency and loss in the future.

Loan-To-Value Ratio (LTV)

The relationship between the amount of the mortgage loan and the appraised value of the property expressed as a percentage.


The number of percentage points the lender adds to the index rate to calculate the ARM interest rate at each adjustment.

Market Value

The highest price that a buyer would pay and the lowest price a seller would accept on a property. Market value may be different from the price a property could actually be sold for at a given time.

Mortgage Escrow Accounts

The account set by the lender to pay taxes and insurance on behalf of the borrower.

Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

Money paid to insure the mortgage when the down payment is less than 20 percent. (See Private Mortgage Insurance or FHA Mortgage Insurance).


The lender.


The borrower or homeowner.

Negative Amortization

Amortization means that monthly payments are large enough to pay the interest and reduce the principal on a mortgage. Negative amortization occurs when the monthly payments do not cover all of the interest cost. The interest cost that isn’t covered is added to the unpaid principal balance. This means that even after making many payments, a borrower may owe more than was owed at the beginning of the loan.

Net Effective Income

The borrower’s gross income minus federal income tax.

Non-Assumption Clause

Statements in the mortgage contract forbidding the assumption of the mortgage without the prior approval of the lender.

Non-Owner Occupied

A property not used as a residence by the owner of the property.

Notary Public

A person, designated by the state, which can certify the identity of a person when signing various documents.


Short for promissory note. This document gives the parameters of the loan and legally obligates the borrower to pay back the debt.


Any debt, or recurring payment the borrower is obligated to pay, including mortgage payments.

Origination Fee

The fee charged by a lender to prepare loan documents, make credit checks, inspect and sometimes appraise a property; usually computed as a percentage of face value of the loan.

Owner Occupied

Designation given to property used as the owner’s residence.

Owners Policy

A policy of the title insurance which protects the buyer against problems with the title.


This refers to the principal and interest portions of the monthly mortgage payment.


Profit and Loss. A statement of a businesses gross income, cost of goods, operating costs and net profit or loss..


Principal, interest, taxes and insurance. The complete monthly cost associated with financing a property.


Planned Unit Development. Property owned as a group, where individuals own the specific piece of land and structure they occupy, but also have a divided interest in a common area. A board, often referred to as a Homeowners Association, will govern the development.

Piggy Back Loan

Financing obtained, subordinate to the first mortgage, to facilitate closing the first mortgage. Also known as a Secondary Financing.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

A way for lenders and the buyers to insure their exposure on the loan to no less than 20% equity in a property.


A point is equal to one percent of the principal amount of a mortgage. See Discount Points.

Power of Attorney

An authority by which one person enables another to act on his or her behalf. Power of attorney can be limited to specific areas or be general in some cases.


The Buyer has actually begun the application process and an underwriter has approved their income, funds and credit. Beware of any conditions on the approval.

Preliminary Title Report

The title report generated at the beginning of the application process. It tells the mortgage company what liens are on the property and gives advice as to what will need to be done to gain clear title prior to recording the trust deed.


Expenses necessary to create an escrow account or to adjust the seller’s existing escrow account. Can include taxes, hazard insurance, private mortgage insurance and special assessments.

Prepayment Penalty

Money charged for an early repayment of debt. Prepayment penalties are allowed in some form (but not necessarily imposed) in 36 states and the District of Columbia.


A privilege in a mortgage permitting the borrower to make payments in advance of their due date.


Buyer has discussed their financial situation with a loan expert. No attempt has been made to verify the validity of any of the borrowers information. Pre-qualification is only an indication of what the buyer should qualify for.


The amount of debt, not counting interest, left on a loan.

Purchase Agreement

The agreement made between the buyer and seller of a property, containing the purchase price and contingencies of the sale.

Quit Claim

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.

Rate Float

Assuming market risk on an interest rate in the hopes that it will go lower prior to closing.

Rate Lock

Choosing to have no change to a rate for a specific length of time.


How a buyers housing expense and debt picture relates to their income.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)

RESPA is a federal law that allows consumers to review information on know future appreciation in the value of the property. May also apply to mortgages where the borrower shares the monthly principal and interest payments with another party in exchange for a part of the appreciation.


A real estate broker or an associate holding active membership in a local real estate board affiliated with the National Association of Realtors.


This refers to a complete loan application package submitted for approval to the underwriting department.

Subordination Agreement

A legal document used to make the claim of one party junior to (or inferior to) a claim in favor of another. It is generally used to grant first lien status to a lienholder who would otherwise be secondary to another party, with the approval of the party that would otherwise have first lien.


A document that gives evidence of an individual’s ownership of property.


Verification of Deposit (VOD) Underwriting is the final step in the mortgage process when the lender assesses the risk of a borrower by reviewing credit, capacity, and collateral.

VA Loan

A home-mortgage option available to U.S. Veterans with low-or no-down and is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Variable Rate Mortgage (VRM)

See Adjustable Rate Mortgage.

Verification of Deposit (VOD)

A document signed by the borrower’s financial institution verifying the status and balance of his/her financial accounts.

Verification of Employment (VOE)

A document signed by the borrower’s employer verifying his/her position and salary.


Results when an existing assumable loan is combined with a new loan, resulting in an interest rate somewhere between the old rate and the current market rate. The payments are made to a second lender or the previous homeowner, who then forwards the payments to the first lender after taking the additional amount off the top.


The division of a city or county by legislative regulations into areas (zones) specifying the uses allowable for the real property in these areas.