Mortgage Glossary

A government-owned corporation within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Created by Congress in 1968, GNMA has responsibility for the special assistance loan program known as Ginnie Mae.
1003 (Uniform Residential Loan Application)
The standard loan application form published by the federal national mortgage association.
A tax deferred exchange of real estate employed to offset or even avoid capital gains tax.
Abstract of Title
A written history of all the transactions that bear on the title to a specific piece of land. An abstract of title covers the time from when the property was first sold to the present.
Acceleration Clause
The section of a mortgage document that allows the lender to speed up the payment date in the event of a default, making the entire principal amount due.
Adjustable Rate Mortgage, or ARM Mortgage
Mortgage in which the rate of interest is adjusted based on a standard rate index. Most ARMs have caps on how much the interest rate may increase.
Amortization Payment
Debt in regular, periodic installments of principal and interest.
Amortization Schedule
A timetable for the gradual repayment of a mortgage loan indicating the amount of each payment applied to interest and principal, and the remaining balance after each payment is made.
Amortization Term
The amount of time required to amortize (repay) a mortgage loan. The amortization term is usually expressed in months. For example, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, has an amortization term of 360 months.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
A standardized method of calculating the cost of a mortgage, stated as a yearly rate which includes such items as interest, mortgage insurance, and certain points or credit costs.
Written report by a qualified appraiser estimating the value of a property.
Appraised Value
An opinion of a property’s fair market value, based on an appraiser’s inspection and analysis of the property.
A person qualified by education, training and experience to estimate the value of real property.
An increase in the value of a property due to changes in market conditions or home improvements.
Assessed Value
The value of a property as determined by a public tax assessor for the purpose of taxation.
Assumable Mortgage
A mortgage that a buyer can assume, or take over, from the seller of the property.
Balloon Mortgage
A loan that has regular monthly payments which amortize over a stated term but call for a final lump sum (balloon payment) at the end of a specified term, or maturity date, such as 10 years.
Balloon Payment
The final payment of a balloon loan.
Basis Points
1/100th of 1 percent. If an interest rate changes 50 basis points, for example, it has moved 1/2 of 1 percent.
Biweekly Mortgage
A mortgage that schedules payments every two weeks instead of the standard monthly payment. The 26 biweekly payments are each equal to one-half of the monthly payment. The result for the borrower is a substantial reduction in interest payments because the mortgage is paid off sooner. A biweekly mortgage will save you 7 years on the paydown of your loan.
Breakeven Point
The point in which the sale or savings of your payment equals the cost.
Bridge Loan
A loan that “bridges” the gap between the purchase of a new home and the sale of the borrower’s current home. The borrower’s current home is used as collateral and the money is used to close on the new home before the current home is sold. They usually run for a term of six months. Also, see Construction Loan.
Broker Premium
Premium paid to mortgage broker as the “middleman” in the mortgage process between the lender and the borrower. Lenders offer brokers wholesale rates; brokers add a surcharge to cover the cost of underwriting to arrive at the rates charged to borrowers.
The process of trading money for a lower mortgage rate. The borrower “buys down” the interest rate on a mortgage by paying points up front. It can also be a mortgage in which an initial lump-sum payment is made to temporarily reduce a borrower’s monthly payments during the first few years of a mortgage.
The maximum amount the interest rate can change annually or cumulatively over the life of an adjustable-rate mortgage. For example, if the caps are 2 percent annual and 6 percent life of loan, a mortgage with a first-year rate of 10 percent could rise to no more than 12 percent the second year, and no more than 16 percent over the entire loan term.
Cash-out Refinance
A refinancing transaction in which the new mortgage amount is greater than the existing mortgage amount, plus loan settlement costs. The purpose of a cashout refinance is to extract equity from the borrower’s home. A cash-out refinance is an alternative to a home equity loan.
Certificate of Title
A statement provided by a title company or attorney stating that the title to the real estate is legally held by the current owner.
Clear Title
A title that is free of liens or legal questions as to ownership of a piece of property.
The meeting at which the sale of a property is finalized. The buyer signs the lender agreement for the mortgage and pays closing costs and escrow amounts. The buyer and seller sign documents to transfer ownership of the property. Also known as the settlement.
Closing Costs
Expenses incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property. Closing costs normally include an origination fee, an attorney’s fee, taxes, escrow payments, and charges for title insurance. Lenders or real estate agents provide estimates of closing costs to prospective home buyers.
Closing Statement
A financial disclosure accounting for all funds changing hands at the closing. See also HUD-1 statement.
Cloud on Title
Any fact or condition that could adversely affect the title.
In real estate, the broker or salesperson’s fee for assisting the transaction, usually expressed as a percentage of the total paid by the buyer.
Commitment Letter
A formal offer by a lender stating the approved terms for lending money to a home buyer.
Comparables or “Comps”
Refers to “comparable properties,” which are used for comparative purposes in the appraisal process. Comps are recently sold properties that are similar in size, location and amenities to the home for sale. Comps help an appraiser determine the fair market value of a property.
Condition that must be met before contract is legally binding.
In real estate, the legal document by which the buyer and seller make offers and counter-offers. The contract describes the property, includes or excludes items in the property, names the price, apportions the closing costs between parties and sets a closing date. When buyer and seller agree on terms and sign the document, the property is “under contract.”
Cost-of-Funds Index or COFI
A yield index based upon the cost of funds to savings & loan institutions in the San Francisco Federal Home Loan Bank District. It is one of the indexes commonly used to set the rate of adjustable rate mortgages.
Credit Report
A report on a person’s credit history prepared by a credit bureau and used by a lender in determining a loan applicant’s record for paying debts in a timely manner.
Debt-to-Income Ratio
The percentage of a person’s monthly earnings used to pay off all debt obligations. Lenders consider two ratios, constructed in slightly different ways. The first, called the front-end ratio, the ratio of the monthly housing expenses – including principal, interest property taxes and insurance (PITI) is compared to the borrower’s gross, pretax monthly income. In the back-end ratio, a borrower’s other debts, such as auto loans and credit cards, are also figured in. Lenders usually take both into account and set an acceptable ratio, which might be expressed as 28/36.
The legal document conveying title to a property.
A decline in property value; the opposite of appreciation.
Discount Points
A type of point (1 percent of a loan) paid by the borrower to reduce the interest rate.
Down Payment
The amount of a property’s purchase price that the buyer pays in cash and does not finance in mortgage.
Earnest Money Deposit
A deposit made by potential home buyers during negotiations with the seller. The sum shows a seller that a buyer is serious about purchasing the property.
The value of a homeowner’s unencumbered interest in real estate. Equity is the difference between the home’s fair market value and the unpaid balance of the mortgage and any outstanding liens. Equity increases as the mortgage is paid down or as the property enjoys appreciation.
Escrow Payment
The portion of a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment held by the loan servicer to pay for taxes and insurance. Also known as reserves. The loan servicer holds the escrow funds separately from money meant to pay off principal and interest.
Face Value
Value of a mortgage on which interest is calculated.
Fair Market Value
Fair price for a home based on recent sales of properties similar in size and quality in the neighborhood.
Fannie Mae (FNMA)
Nickname for Federal National Mortgage Association. It is a government-chartered non-bank financial services company and the nation’s largest source of financing for home mortgages. It was instituted to ensure mortgage money is available in all areas of the country.
Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
An agency of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that insures residential mortgage loans made by private lenders. The FHA sets standards for construction and underwriting but does not lend money.
FHA Mortgage
A mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
First Mortgage
A mortgage that is the primary lien against a property.
Fixed-Rate Mortgage
A mortgage in which the interest rate does not change during the entire term of the loan, most often 15 years or 30 years.
Floating Rate
Note debt instrument in which the rate is floating. See Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)
Flood Insurance
Insurance that compensates for physical property damage resulting from rising water. It is required for properties located in federally designated flood areas.
Legal process by which a homeowner in default on a mortgage is deprived of interest in the property. This usually involves a forced sale of the property at public auction with the proceeds of the sale being applied to the mortgage debt.
Freddie Mac (FHLMC)
Nickname for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. A financial corporation chartered by the federal government to buy pools of mortgages from lenders and sell securities backed by these mortgages.
Good Faith Estimate
A written estimate of closing costs that a lender must provide a prospective home buyer within three days of submitting a mortgage loan application. The best approach is to request this list before choosing a loan.
Hazard Insurance
Insurance coverage that compensates for physical damage to a property from natural disasters such as fire or other hazards. Depending where a piece of property is located, lenders may also require flood insurance or policies covering windstorms (hurricanes) or earthquakes.
Home Inspection
An inspection by a building professional that evaluates the structural and mechanical condition of a property. The inspection may reveal the need for repairs that the seller may have to complete before the sale of the house will go through. The buyer may also make the house sale contingent on a satisfactory inspection.
Homeowners Association
A nonprofit association that manages the common areas of a condominium or planned unit development (PUD). Unit owners pay to the association a fee to maintain areas owned jointly.
Homeowner’s Insurance
An insurance policy that combines personal liability insurance and hazard insurance coverage for a residence and its contents.
HUD-1 Statement
A document with an itemized listing of closing costs payable at the closing or settlement meeting when buying property. The closing costs can include a commission, loan fees and points, and sums set aside for escrow payments, taxes and insurance. It is signed by both the buyer and the seller, who may be paying some of the closing costs.
A published measure of the cost of money that lenders use to calculate the rate on an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). The most common indexes are the one-year Treasury Constant Maturity Yield.
Initial Interest Rate
Starting rate of an adjustable-rate loan. Interest cost of using money, expressed as a rate per period of time, usually called an annual rate of interest.
Interest Tax Deduction
Most mortgage holders can deduct all the interest paid on the loan in filing income tax. The deduction applies to people with just one mortgage on a primary residence, as well as those with a combination of loans. Within certain limits set by the IRS, points paid up front on a mortgage are usually deductible in the year the house was purchased.
Jumbo Mortgages
Mortgages larger than the limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A jumbo mortgage will carry a higher interest rate than a conventional mortgage. Also, these limits change periodically.
A legal hold or claim from one person on the property of another. The lien placed by a first mortgage is special; it is called the first lien and takes precedence over others.
Loan Origination
The process by which a mortgage lender obtains a mortgage secured by real property. An origination fee is charged by the lender to process all forms involved in obtaining a mortgage.
Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio
The ratio of the mortgage loan amount to the property’s appraised value or selling price, whichever is less. For example, if a home is sold for $100,000 and the mortgage amount is $80,000, the house has an 80 percent LTV.
Lock or Lock-in
Lender’s guarantee that the mortgage rate quoted will be good for a specific amount of time. The home buyer usually wants the lock to stay in effect until the date of the closing.
Lock-and-Float Rate
Programs offered by companies that allow borrowers to lock into the current interest rate on a mortgage for a specified period of time, while also letting them “float” the rate down if market conditions improve before closing.
Low-down Mortgages
Mortgages with a low down payment, usually less than 10 percent.
Mortgage Banker
The lender that originates the mortgage loan; the one making the loan directly and closing the loan.
Mortgage Broker
An individual or company that brings borrowers and lenders together for the purpose of loan origination. Unlike a mortgage banker, brokers do not fund the loan but work on behalf of several lenders. Brokers typically require a fee or a commission for their services.
Mortgage Insurance
A policy that insures the lender against loss should the homeowner default on a mortgage. It is part of the monthly mortgage payment. See also Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).
No-doc or Low-doc Loan
These no-documentation or low-documentation loans are designed for the entrepreneur or self-employed, for recent immigrants with money in foreign countries or for borrowers who cannot or choose not to reveal information about their incomes. You need a substantial down payment, excellent credit history and will usually pay a higher interest rate.
The document giving evidence of mortgage indebtedness, including the amount and terms of repayment.
Origination Fee
A fee paid to a lender for processing a loan application.
Owner Financing
A transaction in which the seller of a house provides all or part of the financing. Sellers may provide financing because they need to sell the property right away or they are having difficulty selling the house and want to provide financing as an incentive to a buyer.
Paydown (Lending)
Repayment of principal short of full payment. This can be done periodically, such as, monthly, annually, or one lump sum.
Periodic Rate Cap
In an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), it limits how much an interest rate can increase or decrease during any one adjustment period.
Stands for principal, interest, taxes, and insurance, which are the usual components of a monthly mortgage payment.
PITI Reserves
A cash amount that a home buyer must have on hand after making a down payment and paying all closing costs. The reserves required by the lender must equal the amount a home buyer would pay for PITI for a specified number of months.
Planned Unit Development (PUD)
A type of real estate project that gives each unit owner title to a residential lot and building and a nonexclusive easement allowing access to the project’s common areas.
A map that shows a parcel of land and how it is subdivided into individual lots. Plat maps also show the locations of streets and easements.
See Private Mortgage Insurance.
A point equals 1 percent of a mortgage loan. Lenders charge points as a way to make a profit. Borrowers may pay discount points to reduce the loan interest rate. Buyers are prohibited from paying points on HUD or VA guaranteed loans. Within limits, points are usually tax deductible.
This process goes a step further than pre-qualification. It means the lender has contacted the borrower’s employer, bank and other places to verify all claims of earnings and assets. In return, the borrower receives a letter stating the lender is willing to grant a mortgage for a specified amount, within a limited period of time.
An early evaluation by a lender of a potential home buyer’s credit report plus earnings, savings and debt information. The home buyer gets a non-binding estimate of the mortgage amount the borrower would qualify for, or how much house the borrower can afford. Buyers who pre-qualify can go a step further and seek pre-approval.
Prepayment Penalty
A fee imposed by certain lenders if the first mortgage is paid off early.
Prepayment Plan
Similar to a biweekly mortgage but operated by a third party. In it, the borrower pays to the third party half the monthly mortgage payment every two weeks. At the end of the year, the plan operators typically take the extra money that results from the process and send lump sum payments to the participants’ lenders.
Present Value
Value of a future payment, or steam of payments, discounted at some appropriate rate of interest.
Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI
Insurance that protects mortgage lenders against default on loans by providing a way for mortgage companies to recoup the costs of foreclosure. Usually required if the down payment is less than 20 percent of the sale price. Home buyers pay for the coverage in monthly installments. PMI is usually terminated when the home buyer has built up 20 percent equity in the property.
Quit Claim Deed
The formal document by which a claim in property is denied.
Rate Lock
A commitment issued by a lender to a home buyer or to the mortgage broker guaranteeing a specific interest rate for a specified amount of time. See also Lock.
Real Estate Agent
A person licensed to negotiate and transact the sale of real estate on behalf of the property owner.
Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)
A consumer protection law that requires lenders to give home buyers advance notice of closing costs, which are payable at the closing or settlement meeting.
A real estate broker or an associate who holds active membership in a local real estate board that is affiliated with the National Association of Realtors®.
Securing a new loan in order to pay off the existing mortgage or to gain access to the existing equity in the home.
Roll-In loans
A refinance loan that rolls any closing costs or fees into the loan. These programs best serve people who have a reasonable amount of equity, want to reduce their overall interest expense and plan to stay in their homes. Most refinance programs also cap the allowable LTV at 97 percent, which means some borrowers won’t have the option of rolling their costs in.
Sale Agreement
A written contract signed by the buyer and the seller of a house stating the terms and conditions under which the property will be sold.
Second Mortgage
A mortgage on property that has a lien position behind the first mortgage.
Secondary Mortgage Market
The buying and selling of existing mortgages.
An organization that collects monthly mortgage principal and interest payments from home owners and manages escrow accounts for paying taxes and homeowners’ insurance premiums. The servicer often services mortgages that have been purchased by an investor in the secondary mortgage market.
See Closing.
Time is of the Essence
A phrase inserted in contracts to require punctual performance.
Time Value Price
The time an investor has to wait until an investment matures, as determined by calculating the present value of the investment at maturity.
A legal document proving a person’s right to claim entitlement to a property, including the history of the property’s ownership.
Title Binder
Written evidence of temporary title insurance coverage.
Title Company
A company that specializes in examining and insuring titles to real estate.
Title Insurance
Insurance that protects against loss from disputes over ownership of a property. A policy may protect the mortgage lender and/or the home buyer.
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 against the property.
Transfer Tax
State or local tax levied when title passes from one owner to another.
Treasury Index
An index used to determine interest rate changes for certain adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). It is based on the results of auctions that the U.S. Treasury holds for its Treasury bills and securities or is derived from the U.S. Treasury’s daily yield curve, which is based on the closing market bid yields on actively traded Treasury securities in the over-the counter market.
A federal law that requires lenders to disclose, in writing, the terms and conditions of a mortgage, including the annual percentage rate (APR) and other charges.
A company or person undertaking the responsibility for issuing a mortgage. Underwriters analyze a borrower’s creditworthiness and set the loan amount.
A mortgage offered by the US Department of Agriculture. Applicants for home loans may have an income of up to 115% of the median income for the area and a reasonable credit history Additionally, the property must be located within the USDA RD Home Loan “footprint.” A map of USDA eligible properties is available at:
VA Mortgage
A loan backed by the Veterans Administration. It requires very low or no down payments and has less stringent requirements for qualification. Members of the U.S. armed forces are eligible for the loans under certain qualifying conditions.
Wraparound Mortgage
A new mortgage that includes the remaining balance on an old mortgage, plus a new amount.