Terms A to K


Abstract of Title - A condensed history or summary of all transactions affecting a particular tract of land.

Access - The right to enter and leave a tract of land from a public way. "Oftentimes the right to enter and leave over the lands of another,"

Accretion - The slow build up of lands by natural forces such as wind, wave or water.

Acknowledgement - The act by which a party executing a legal document goes before an authorized officer or notary public and declares the same to be his voluntary act and deed.

Acre - A tract of land 208.71 feet square and containing 43,560 square feet of land.

Administrator - A person appointed by a probate court to settle the affairs of an individual dying without a will. The term is administratrix if such a person is a woman.

Adverse Possession - A claim made against the lands of another by virtue of open and notorious possession of said lands by the claimant.

Affidavit - A sworn statement in writing.

Agent - A person or company that has the power to act on behalf of another or to transact business for another, e.g., a title agent under contract with Old Republic Title to issue policies of title insurance.

Air Rights - The right to ownership of everything above the physical surface of the land.

ALTA - American Land Title Association, a national association of title insurance companies, abstracters and attorneys specializing in real property law which speaks for the title insurance and abstracting industry, with headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Appurtenance - Anything so annexed to land or used with it that it will pass with the conveyance of the land.

ARM - Adjustable Rate Mortgage-See Variable Rate Mortgage.

Assessment - The imposition of a tax, charge or levy, usually according to established rates.

Assessor - A public official who evaluates property for the purpose of taxation.

Assignee - One to whom a transfer of interest is made. For example, the assignee of a mortgage or contract.

Assignor - One who makes an assignment. For example, the assignor of a mortgage or contract.

Assumable Mortgage - A mortgage, which by its terms, allows a new owner to takeover its obligations.

Assumed Mortgage - A loan in which the buyer assumes the obligations of an already existing mortgage on a property.

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 to execute legal documents such as deeds, mortgages, etc. on behalf of the grantor of the power.


Bankrupt - A person, who, through a court proceeding, is relieved from the payment of all his debts after surrender of all his assets to a court appointed trustee.

Bureau of Land Management - The branch of government in charge of surveying and managing public lands.


CC&R's - Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. See Conditions and Restrictions below,

Chain - A term of land measurement being 66 feet in length.

Chain of Title - A term applied to the past series of transactions and documents affecting the title to a particular parcel of land.

Clear Title - One which is not encumbered or burdened with defects.

Closing - Also known as "escrow" or "settlement." The process of executing legally binding documents such as deeds and mortgages most commonly associated with the purchase of real estate and the borrowing of money to assist in the purchase.

Clouded Title - An encumbered title.

Commitment to Insure - A report issued by a title insurance company, or its agent, committing the title insurance company to issue the form of policy designated in the commitment upon compliance with and satisfaction of requirements set forth in the commitment.

Company Loan - Loan by employer to facilitate relocation of employee. Usually short term.

Condemnation - Taking private property for public use through court proceedings.

Condition or Conditions - A proviso in a deed or a will that upon the happening or failure to happen of a certain event, the title of the purchaser or devisee will be limited, enlarged, changed or terminated.

Conditions and Restrictions - A common term used to designate the uses to which land may not be put and providing penalties for failure to comply. "Commonly used by land subdividers on newly platted areas."

Condominium - A system of individual fee ownership of units in a multi-unit structure, combined with joint ownership of common areas of the structure and land.

Consolidated Mortgage - Occurs in refinancing. Remaining balance from original mortgage is incorporated into new mortgage.

Contract for Deed - An agreement to sell and purchase under which title is withheld from the purchaser until such time as the required payments to the seller have been completed.

Convey - The act of deeding or transferring title to another.

Conveyance - An instrument by which title to property is transferred; a deed.

Cooperative - A residential multi-unit building owned by and operated for the benefit of persons living within.

Covenant - An agreement written into deeds and other instruments promising performance or non-performance of certain acts, or stipulating certain uses or non-uses of the property. Cul De Sac-The terminus of a street or alley. "Usually laid out by modern engineers to provide a circular turn around for vehicles. In French 'the bottom of the sack.'


Deed - A written document by which the ownership of land is transferred from one person to another.

Deed of Trust - See Mortgage.

Delivery - The final and absolute transfer of a deed from seller to buyer in such a manner that it cannot be recalled by the seller. A necessary requisite to the transfer of title.

Device - The disposition of land by will. "A term used for land alone and never for personal property."

Due on Sale Clause - Provision in a Mortgage or Deed of Trust which requires loan to be paid in full if property is sold or transferred.


Earnest Money - Advance payment of part of the purchase price to bind a contract for property.

Easement - An interest in land owned by another that entitles its holder to a specific limited use, such as laying a sewer, putting up electric power lines, or crossing the property.

Egress - The right to leave a tract of land. "Often used interchangeably with access." (See Access)

Eminent Domain - The power of the state to take private property for public use upon payment of just compensation.

Encroachment - A fixture, such as a house, wall or fence, which intrudes upon another's property.

Encumber - To burden a parcel of land with a lien or charge such as a mortgage.

Encumbrance - A lien, liability or charge upon a parcel of land.

Escheat - A reversion of property to the state in those cases where an individual dies without heirs or devisees and without a will.

Escrow - A procedure whereby a disinterested third party handles legal documents and funds on behalf of a seller and buyer.

Estate - A person's possessions.

Examination of Title - The interpretation of the record title to real property based on the title search or abstract.

Exception - In legal descriptions that portion of lands to be deleted or excluded. "The term is often used in a different sense to mean an objection to title or encumbrance on title."

Executor - A person appointed by the probate court to carry out the terms of a will. "The term is executrix if such a person be a woman."

Extended Mortgage - One in which due date of mortgage is extended for longer period. Often at higher interest rate than original mortgage.


Fee Simple Estate - The greatest interest in a parcel of land that it is possible to own. Sometimes designated simply as Fee.

FHA Guarantee - An insurance contract in which HUD through FHA insures that the named lender will recover a specific percentage of the loan amount from the insurer (FHA) in the event the loan goes bad.

Financing Statement - A document prepared for filing with the Register of Deeds or Secretary of State indicating that personal property or fixtures is encumbered with a debt.

Fixtures - Any item of property so attached to real property that it becomes a part of the real property.

Forfeiture of Title - Provision in a Deed creating a condition which will cause title to be passed to another in the event certain circumstances occur.


Graduated Payment Mortgage - A loan in which monthly payments are relatively small in the beginning years and gradually increase in dollar amount over the life of the mortgage.

Grantee - A person who acquires an interest in land by deed, grant, or other written instrument.

Grantor - A person, who, by a written instrument, transfers to another an interest in land.

Guardian - One appointed by the court to administer the affairs of an individual not capable of administering his own affairs.


Harbor Line - An arbitrary line set by authorities on navigable rivers, beyond which wharves and other structures may not be built, also designated as line of navigation. Heir-One who might inherit or succeed to an interest in land under the rules of law applicable where an individual dies without leaving a will.

Hiatus - A gap or space unintentionally left between, when attempting to describe adjacent parcels of land.

Home Repair Loan - Used for repairs and additions to existing structures without affecting existing mortgage. Typically 10 years or less in length.

HUD 1 - A form settlement (closing) statement required by HUD where federally related mortgages are being made on residential properties. It is a balance sheet showing the source of funds and the distribution of funds in connection with the purchase and/or mortgaging of residential property.


Improvements - Those additions to raw lands tending to increase value such as buildings, streets, sewer, etc.

Inchoate Dower - The imperfected interest which the law gives a wife in the lands of her husband. "This is an interest which upon the death of the husband may ripen into possession and use."

Inchoate Curtesy - The imperfected interest which the law gives a husband in the lands of his wife. "This is an interest which upon the death of the wife may ripen into possession and use."

Indemnify - To make payment for a loss.

Ingress - The right to enter a tract of land. "Often used interchangeably with access." (See Access)

Insurance - A contract of indemnity against specified perils.

Insurance Loan - When cash value of life insurance policy is borrowed by insured.

Interim Financing - Temporary or short term loans. Often used with new construction. Usually replaced with a permanent, long term mortgage. Intestate-Designates the estate or condition of failing to leave a will at death. "To die intestate."


Joint Tenancy - Where two or more persons hold real estate jointly for life, the survivors to take the interest of the one who dies.

Judgment - A decree of a court. "in practice this is the lien or charge upon the lands of a debtor resulting from the Court's award of money to a creditor." (See Judgment Lien)

Judgment Docket - The record book of a County Clerk where a judgment is entered in order that it may become a lien upon the property of the debtor.

Judgment Lien - The charge upon the lands of a debtor resulting from the decree of a court properly entered in the judgment docket.