Real Estate Glossary
Abstract of Title
A compilation of the recorded documents relating to a parcel of land, from which an attorney may give an opinion as to the condition of title.

Abstracter’s Certificate
A certificate contained in an abstract which shows the time period and scope of the search of public records done by the abstracter.

Something added. A list or other material added to a document, letter, contractual agreement, escrow instructions, etc.

A written statement or declaration, sworn to before an officer who has authority to administer an oath.

A general term usually describing a common view of two or more people regarding the rights and obligations of each with regard to a given subject. Not necessarily a contract, although all contracts are agreements.

An opinion of value based upon a factual analysis. Legally, an estimation of value by two disinterested persons of suitable qualifications.

Something belonging to something else, either attached or not such as a barn to a house, or an easement to land. The appurtenance is part of the property and passes with it upon sale or other transfer.

Belonging to, accessory to, or incidental to.

To transfer property, or an interest in property.

A transfer to another of any property, real or personal, or of any rights or estates in said property. Common assignments are of leases, mortgages, deeds of trust, but the general term encompasses all transfers of title.

To witness, to affirm to be true or genuine; to certify.

Attorney’s Title Opinion
In areas where attorneys examine abstracts or chains of title, a written opinion, executed by the examining attorney, stating that the title is vested as stated in the abstract.

Proceedings under federal bankruptcy statutes to relieve a debtor (bankrupt) from insurmountable debt. The bankrupt’s property is distributed by the court to the creditors as full satisfaction of the debts. In accordance with certain priorities and exemptions.

Bill of Sale
An instrument by which one transfers personal property

The party receiving funds that must be repaid, usually with interest.

Caveat - “Let Him Beware”
A formal notice to a court or officer, given by an interested party, asking that the court suspend proceedings until deciding on the merits of the caveat.

Caveat Emptor
“Let the buyer beware”. Legal maxim stating that the buyer takes the risk regarding quality or condition of the item purchased, unless protected by warranty or there is misrepresentation. Modernly, consumer protection laws have placed more responsibility for disclosure on the seller and broker.

Certified Copy
A true copy, attested to be true by the office holding the original.

Chain of Title
The chronological order of conveyancing of a parcel of land from the original owner (usually the government) to the present owner).

Clear Title
See free and clear

In real estate sales, the final procedure in which documents are executed and/or recorded and the sale or loan is completed.

Cloud on Title
An invalid encumbrance on real property, which, if valid, would affect the rights of the owner. For example: A sells lot 1 to B. The deed is mistakenly drawn to read lot 2. A cloud is created on lot 2 by the recording of the erroneous deed. The cloud may be removed by a quit claim deed, or, if necessary, by court action.

Common Area
The area owned in common by the owners of condominiums or planned unit development homes in a subdivision.

Anything which is, legally, of value, and induces one to enter into a contract.

Transfer of title to land, includes most instruments by which an interest in real estate is created, mortgaged or assigned.

Property given by an owner for public use.

Actually, any one of many conveyancing or financing instruments but generally a conveyancing instrument, given to pass fee title to property upon sale.

Deed Restrictions
Limitations on the use of property placed in the conveyancing deed by the grantor, which bind all future owners.

An omission or failure to perform a legal duty.

Defective Title
Title to a negotiable instrument obtained by fraud; or, title to real property which lacks some of the elements necessary to transfer good title.

The person against whom a civil or criminal action is brought.

Divided Interest
Different estates in the same property, such as the interest of owner, lessee, mortgagee, etc.

A right created by grant, reservation, agreement, prescription, or necessary implication, which one has in the land of another. It is either for the benefit of land (appurtenant) such as right to cross A to get to B, or “in gross”, such as a public utility easement.

Easement by Prescription
See Prescriptive Easement

A term concerning a right to come and go across the land (public or private) of another. Usually part of the term ingress and egress.

Eminent Domain
A governmental right to acquire private property for public use by condemnation, and the payment of just compensation.

Generally, construction onto the property of another, as of a wall fence, building, etc.

Encumbrance, Incumbrance
A claim, lien, charge, or liability attached to and binding real property. Any right to, or interest in, land which may exist in one other than the owner, but which will not prevent the transfer of fee title.

Delivery of a deed by a grantor to a third party for delivery to the grantee upon the happening of a contingent event. Modernly, in some states, all instruments necessary to the sale, including funds, are delivered to a third (neutral) party, with instructions as to their use.

The interest or nature of the interest which one has in property, such as a life estate, the estate of a deceased, real estate, etc.

Evidence of Title
A document establishing ownership to property. Most commonly a deed.

Federal Tax Lien
A lien attaching to property for nonpayment of a federal tax (estate, income, etc.) A federal tax lien differs from other liens in that it is not automatically wiped out by foreclosing on a mortgage or trust deed recorded before the tax lien (except by judicial foreclosure).

Personal property which is attached to real property, and is legally treated as real property while it is so attached. Fixtures, not specifically excepted from an accepted offer to purchase, pass with the real estate.

A proceeding in or out of court, to extinguish all rights, title and interest, of the owner(s) of property in order to sell the property to satisfy a lien against it.

Free and Clear
Real property against which there are no liens, especially voluntary liens (mortgages).

To transfer an interest in real property, either the fee or a lesser interest, such as an easement.

One who by law, rather than by will, receives the estate of a deceased person.

Heirs and Assigns
Words usually found in a deed, showing the interest the grantee is receiving. A deed to “A, his heirs and assigns”, would grant the property to A, with the right to assign said property or have it descend to A’s heirs upon A’s death. This would be considered a fee interest (estate). This would differ from, for example, a life estate granted to A, which would terminate upon A’s death and could not be inherited by A’s heirs.

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

see encumbrance.

Ingress and egress
A right to enter upon and pass through land.

Any writing having legal form and significance, such as a deed, mortgage, will, lease, etc.

A share or right in some property. Also money charged for the use of money (principal)

Joint Ownership
Property owned by more than one person or entity.

Joint Tenancy
An undivided interest in property, taken by two or more joint tenants. The interests must be equal, occurring under the same conveyance and beginning at the same time. Upon the death of a joint tenant, the interest passes to the surviving joint tenants, rather than to the heirs of the deceased.

Joint tenants
Those holding under joint tenancy.

Judgement (Judgment)
The decision of a court of law. Money judgments, when recorded, become a lien on real property of the defendant.

Judgment Lien
A lien against the property of a judgment debtor. An involuntary lien.

An agreement by which an owner of real property (lessor) gives the right of possession to another (lessee), for a specified period of time (term) and for a specified consideration (rent).

An estate in realty held under a lease; an estate for a fixed term. Considered in many states to be personal property.

Leasehold Interest
The interest which the lessee has in the value of the lease itself in condemnation award determination. The difference between the total remaining rent under the lease, and the rent lessee would currently pay for similar space for the same time period.

Legal Description
A method of geographically identifying a parcel of land, which is acceptable in a court of law.

Legal Notice
The notice required by law in a particular case. May be actual notice, constructive notice, etc.

A collection, seizure, assessment, etc. such as to levy (assess and collect) taxes.

A general term encompassing all types of debts and obligations.

An encumbrance against property for money, either voluntary or involuntary. All liens are encumbrances, but all encumbrances are not liens.

Life Estate
An estate in real property for the life of a living person. The estate then reverts back to the grantor or on to a third party (remainderman).

Life Interest
An interest in real estate for a period of the life of the one having the interest, or the life of another.

Life Tenant
One who holds land for the length of his, or another’s life.

Lis Pendens
A legal notice recorded to show pending litigation relating to real property, and giving notice that anyone acquiring an interest in said property subsequent to the date of the notice may be bound by the outcome of the litigation.

Marketable Title
Title which can be readily marketed (sold) to a reasonably prudent purchaser aware of the facts and their legal meaning concerning liens and encumbrances.

Mechanic’s Lien
A lien created by statute for the purpose of securing priority of payment for the price or value of work performed and materials furnished in construction or repair of improvements to land, and which attaches to the land as well as the improvements.

Mineral Rights
The ownership of the minerals (coal, gold, iron, etc.) Under the ground with or without ownership of the surface of the land.

In real estate terms, those minerals of value which may be taken by mining, such as coal, iron, copper, gold, silver, etc. Mineral rights, as well as oil rights, may be sold or leased separately from the land itself.

To hypothecate as security, for the payment of a debt. The borrower (mortgagor) retains possession and use of the property. The instrument by which real estate is hypothecated as security for the repayment of a loan.

A law of statutes. The term used to designate the enactments of the legislative body of a municipal corporation or a county.

Party Wall
A wall erected on a property boundary as a common support to structures on both sides, which are under different ownerships.

Instrument of conveyance of title to public (government) land.

Continuing forever. Legally, pertaining to real property any condition extending the inalienability of property beyond the time of a life or lives in being plus 21 years.

Planned Unit Development
A subdivision of five or more individually owned lots with one or more other parcels owned in common or with reciprocal rights in one or more other parcels. The lots are generally small, being the exact size of the improvements, or slightly larger.

A map dividing a parcel of land into lots, as in a subdivision.

Power of Attorney
An authority by which one person (principal) enables another (attorney in fact) to act for him. (1) General power - Authorizes sale, mortgaging, etc. of all property of the principal. Invalid in some jurisdictions. (2) Special Power - Specifies property, buyers, price and terms. How specific it must be varies in each state.

Buildings and immediately surrounding areas. In conveyancing, the part of a deed giving the names of the grantor and grantee, the consideration, and description of the property conveyed.

Prescriptive Easement
The granting of an easement by a court, based on the presumption that a written easement was given (although none existed) after a period of open and continuous use of land.

Pro Rate
To divide in proportionate shares, such as taxes, insurance, rent, or other items which buyer and seller share as of the time of closing or other agreed upon time.

The term commonly used to describe the money that goes to the seller of property after costs of the sale and payoffs. The net cash to seller.

Anything which is owned by someone.

Property Line
The boundary line of a parcel of land.

Public Domain Land
Public Lands
Lands belonging to the federal government, not reserved for government use but subject to sale or other disposal.

Quiet Title Action
Modernly used to describe any court action to establish ownership or remove a cloud on title.

Quit Claim Deed
A deed operating as a release, intending 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.

(1) An estate which vests in one other than a grantor, after the termination of an intermediate estate. Example: A grants land to B for life, then to C, his heirs or assigns. If A grants to B for life, then back to A, it is not a remainder, but reversion. (2) The portion of a property remaining after a taking under eminent domain.

The one entitled to the remainder.

A right created and retained by a grantor. The reservation may be temporary, such as a life estate, or permanent, such as an easement running with the land.

Most commonly used to describe a use or uses prohibited to the owner of land. Restrictions are set forth by former owners in deeds, or in the case of a subdivision, a declaration of restrictions is recorded by the developer. A limitation on use of property by law, zoning ordinances, may also be termed a restriction.

Restrictive Covenant
See Restrictions.

Right of Survivorship
The right of a survivor of a deceased person to the property of said deceased. A distinguishing characteristic of a joint tenancy relationship.

Right of Way
A strip of land which is used as a roadbed, either for a street or railway. The land is set aside as an easement or in fee, either by agreement or condemnation. May also be used to describe the right itself to pass over the land of another.

A fraction or percentage of the value of a natural resource (oil, sand, etc.) Paid to the owner of the resource by those extracting and selling it.

Running With The Land
Usually concerned with easements and covenants. Passing with the transfer of the land.

Security Agreement
A “catch all” term used to describe many different types of debtor-creditor relationships, such as a chattel mortgage, trust receipt, inventory liens, et.

Secured Party
Mortgagee, beneficiary, under a deed of trust, pledgee, or any other party having a security interest.

Security Instrument
The mortgage or trust deed that secures the promise to pay under the note. The instrument hypothecates real property as collateral security for repayment.

Security Interest
The interest of the creditor, secured party, created by a security agreement.

Statutory Lien
An involuntary lien, created by law rather than by contract, includes tax liens, mechanic’s liens, etc.

Statutory Notice
Notice given by legislative enactment, laws or statutes.

To make subject or junior to.

The passing of real property by will or inheritance, rather than by grant deed or any other form of purchase.

Surface Rights
The rights (easements) to use the surface of land, including the right to drill or mine through the surface when subsurface rights are involved.

The giving up of an estate, such as a lease. A contractual agreement, having the consent of both parties, such as lessor and lessee, as opposed to abandonment.

The measurement of the boundaries of a parcel of land, its area, and sometimes its topography.

An estate in fee, such as joint tenancy or a non freehold estate, such as a tenancy under a lease.

Tenancy by the Entirety
A form of ownership by husband and wife whereby each owns the entire property. In the event of the death of one, the survivor owns the property without probate.

The evidence one has of right of possession of land.

Title Opinion
In areas where attorneys examine abstracts or chains of title, a written opinion, executed by the examining attorney, stating that the title is vested as stated in the abstract. (aka Attorney’s Title Opinion.)

A territorial division of land established by federal survey, being six miles square and containing 36 sections, each one mile square.

Township Line
Survey lines which divide townships at their northern and southern boundaries. The east and west boundaries are called range lines.

A fiduciary relationship under which one holds property, real or personal, for the benefit of another. The party creating the trust is called the settlor, the party holding the property is the trustee, and the party for whose benefit the property is held is called the beneficiary.

One who is appointed, or required by law, to execute a trust. One who holds title to real property under the terms of a deed or trust.

The borrower under a deed of trust. One who deeds his property to a trustee as security for the repayment of a loan.

Undivided Interest
A partial interest by two or more people in the same property, whether the interest of each is equal or unequal.

Free of liens and other encumbrances. Free and clear.

Generally referring to an obligation which has only a promise as security. A note would be unsecured, a note and mortgage would be secured.

To legally assure that title conveyed is good and possession will be undisturbed.

Warranty Deed
A deed used to convey fee title to real property. Until the widespread use of title insurance, the warranties by the grantor were very important to the grantee. When title insurance is purchased, the warranties become less important as a practical means of recovery by the grantee for defective title.

(1) To sign a deed, note or other document, to attest to its authenticity, or to prove its execution. (2) the person attesting.

The division of a city or county showing the zones of permitted use under zoning ordinances.

Zoning Ordinance
A law, generally at the city or county level, controlling the use of land and construction of improvements in a given area or zone.

Excerpt taken from NDLTA Abstracting Standards Manual, compiled 2005-2006 by the NDLTA Education Committee. The standards in this manual have been established by the NDLTA as a reference guideline.
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