Welcome or Register

Prince Georges County MD Real Estate Blog

FICO® Scores and Your Mortgage

Years ago, credit scoring had little to do with mortgage lending. When reviewing the credit worthiness of a borrower, an underwriter would make a subjective decision based on past payment history.

Then things changed.

Lenders studied the relationship between credit scores and mortgage delinquencies. There was a definite relationship. Almost half of those borrowers with FICO® scores below 550 became ninety days delinquent at least once during their mortgage. On the other hand, only two out of every 10,000 borrowers with FICO® scores above eight hundred became delinquent.

So lenders began to take a closer look at FICO® scores and this is what they found out. The chart below shows the likelihood of a ninety day delinquency for specific FICO® scores.

FICO® Score Odds of a Delinquent Account
595 2 to 1
600 4 to 1
615 9 to 1
630 18 to 1
645 36 to 1
660 72 to 1
680 144 to 1
780 576 to 1

If you were lending a couple hundred thousand dollars, who would you want to lend it to?

FICO® Scores, What Affects Them, How Lenders Look At Them

Imagine a busy lending office and a loan officer has just ordered a credit report. He hears the whir of the laser printer and he knows the pages of the credit report are going to start spitting out in just a second. There is a moment of tension in the air. He watches the pages stack up in the collection tray, but he waits to pick them up until all of the pages are finished printing. He waits because FICO® scores are located at the end of the report. Previously, he would have probably picked them up as they came off. A FICO® above 700 will evoke a smile, then a grin, perhaps a shout and a “victory” style arm pump in the air. A score below 600 will definitely result in a frown, a furrowed brow, and concern.

FICO® stands for Fair Isaac & Company, and credit scores are reported by each of the three major credit bureaus: TRW (Experian), Equifax, and Trans-Union. The score does not come up exactly the same on each bureau because each bureau places a slightly different emphasis on different items. Scores range from 365 to 840.

Some of the things that affect your FICO® scores:

  • Delinquencies
  • Too many accounts opened within the last twelve months
  • Short credit history
  • Balances on revolving credit are near the maximum limits
  • Public records, such as tax liens, judgments, or bankruptcies
  • No recent credit card balances
  • Too many recent credit inquiries
  • Too few revolving accounts
  • Too many revolving accounts

Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?

The credit score is actually calculated using a scorecard where you receive points for certain things. Creditors and lenders who view your credit report do not get to see the scorecard, so they do not know exactly how your score was calculated. They just see the final scores.

Basic guidelines on how to view the FICO® scores vary a little from lender to lender. Usually, a score above 680 will require a very basic review of the entire loan package. Scores between 640 and 680 require more thorough underwriting. Once a score gets below 640, an underwriter will look at a loan application with a more cautious approach. Many lenders will not even consider a loan with a FICO® score below 600, some as high as 620.

FICO® Scores and Interest Rates

Credit scores can affect more than whether your loan gets approved or not. They can also affect how much you pay for your loan, too. Some lenders establish a base price and will reduce the points on a loan if the credit score is above a certain level. For example, one major national lender reduces the cost of a loan by a quarter point if the FICO® score is greater than 725. If it is between 700 and 724, they will reduce the cost by one-eighth of a point. A point is equal to one percent of the loan amount.

There are other lenders who do it in reverse. They establish their base price, but instead of reducing the cost for good FICO® scores, they add on costs for lower FICO® scores. The results from either method would work out to be approximately the same interest rate. It is just that the second way looks better when you are quoting interest rates on a rate sheet or in an advertisement.

FICO® Scores and Mortgage Underwriting Decisions

FICO® Scores as Guidelines

FICO® scores are only guidelines and factors other than FICO® scores also affect underwriting decisions. Some examples of compensating factors that will make an underwriter more lenient toward lower FICO® scores can be a larger down payment, low debt-to-income ratios, an excellent history of saving money, and others. There also may be a reasonable explanation for items on the credit history report that negatively impact your credit score.

They Don’t Always Make Sense

Even so, sometimes credit scores do not seem to make any sense at all. One borrower with a completely flawless credit history can have a FICO® score below 600. One borrower with a foreclosure on her credit report can have a FICO® above 780.

Portfolio & Sub-Prime Lenders

Finally, there are a few portfolio lenders who do not even look at credit scoring, at least on their portfolio loans. A portfolio lender is usually a savings & loan institution that originates some adjustable rate mortgages that they intend to keep in their own portfolio rather than selling them in the secondary mortgage market. These lenders may look at home loans differently. Some concentrate on the value of the home. Some may concentrate more on the savings history of the borrower. There are also sub-prime lenders, or “B & C paper” lenders, who will provide a home loan, but at a higher interest rate and cost.

Running Credit Reports

One thing to remember when you are shopping for a home loan is that you should not let numerous mortgage lenders run credit reports on you. Wait until you have a reasonable expectation that they are the lender you are going to use to obtain your home loan. Not only will you have to explain any credit inquiries in the last ninety days, but also numerous inquiries will lower your FICO® score by a small amount. This may not matter if your FICO® is 780, but it would matter if it is 642.

Don’t Buy A Car Just Before Looking for a Home!

A word of advice not directly related to FICO® scores. When people begin to think about the possibility of buying a home, they often think about buying other big-ticket items, such as cars. Quite often when someone asks a lender to pre-qualify them for a home loan there is a brand new car payment on the credit report. Often, they would have qualified in their anticipated price range except that the new car payment has raised their debt-to-income ratio, lowering their maximum purchase price. Sometimes they have bought the car so recently that the new loan doesn’t even show up on the credit report yet, but with six to eight credit inquiries from car dealers and automobile finance companies it is kind of obvious. Almost every time you sit down in a car dealership, it generates two inquiries into your credit.

Credit History is Important

Nowadays, credit scores are important if you want to get the best interest rate available. Protect your FICO® score. Do not open new revolving accounts needlessly. Do not fill out credit applications needlessly. Do not keep your credit cards nearly maxed out. Make sure you do use your credit occasionally. Always make sure every creditor has their payment in their office no later than 29 days past due.

And never ever be more than thirty days late on your mortgage. Ever.

FICO® Score - a Brief Explanation

When you apply for a mortgage loan, you expect your lender to pull a credit report and look at whether you’ve made your payments on time. What you may not expect is that they seem to be more interested in your FICO® score.

“What’s a FICO® score?” is a common reaction.

Each time your credit report is pulled, it is run through a computer program with a built-in scorecard. Points are awarded or deducted based on certain items such as how long you have had credit cards, whether you make your payments on time, if your credit balances are near maximum, and assorted other variables. When the credit report prints in your lender’s office, the total score is displayed. Your score can be anywhere between the high 300’s and the low 850’s.

Lenders wanted to determine if there was any relationship between these credit scores and whether borrowers made their payments on time, so they did a study. The study showed that borrowers with scores above 680 almost always made their payments on time. Borrowers with scores below 600 seemed fairly certain to develop problems.

As a result, credit scoring became a more important factor in approving mortgage loans. Credit scores also made it easier to develop artificial intelligence computer programs that could make a “yes” decision for loans that should obviously be approved. Nowadays, a computer and not a person may have actually approved your mortgage.

In short, lower credit scores require a more thorough review than higher scores. Often, mortgage lenders will not even consider a score below 600.

Some of the things that affect your FICO score are:

  • Delinquencies
  • Too many accounts opened within the last twelve months
  • Short credit history
  • Balances on revolving credit are near the maximum limits
  • Public records, such as tax liens, judgments, or bankruptcies
  • No recent credit card balances
  • Too many recent credit inquiries
  • Too few revolving accounts
  • Too many revolving accounts

FICO® actually stands for Fair Isaac and Company, which is the company used by the Experian (formerly TRW) credit bureau to calculate credit scores. Trans-Union and Equifax are two other credit bureaus who also provide credit scores.

Documenting Your Assets - Verifying Your Down Payment

When buying a home, it is not enough to just come up with the money. With the exception of no asset verification loans, lenders want to verify where the money for your new home will be coming from. If you can document that the funds are coming from your personal savings, the lender is more confident of your strength as a borrower.

In addition, if you can verify that you have additional assets that are not needed for the down payment, it is important to document those, too. Additional assets are reserves you can draw upon during times of trouble, such as unemployment, medical emergencies, and similar occurrences. Additional assets can also help to document that you have a history of saving money, which makes you a more dependable borrower.

It is extremely important to completely document the paper trail of any funds you use for down payment and closing costs. The sections below provide guidance on both verifying assets and documenting them as a source of your down payment.

Checking, Savings, & Money Market Accounts

The quickest and easiest way to document funds in your bank account is to provide your lender with copies of your most recent bank statements. Most lenders request two months of bank statements, but some still ask for three. Some lenders still send a Verification of Deposit to your bank in order to determine your current bank balances and average balance for the last two months. However, that is the old way of doing business and most lenders nowadays prefer to have bank statements.

If the money you are using for the down payment and closing costs has been in the bank for the entire period covered by the bank statements, you’re fine. These are known as “seasoned funds.” However, if your statements show any large or unusual deposits, the lender will ask you to explain them and document their source.

Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds, etc.

Most of those who own stocks get a monthly or quarterly statement from their brokerage. You will need to supply statements for the most recent sixty or ninety days in order to document these assets.

Though it is rare nowadays, some people actually have stock certificates instead of having a brokerage account. When this is the situation, make copies of the certificates and provide those copies to your lender. You might also want to supply tax records to indicate you have owned these stocks for some time.

If part of your down payment will come from the sale of stocks and investments, you will need to keep all documentation that applies to the sale. Provide these copies to your lender as well.

Gifts

Especially when buying a first home, some borrowers need help coming up with the down payment. This help should come in the form of a gift from a close family member. Lenders will require the donors to sign a special form called a gift letter. The gift letter states the relationship between the parties, the address of the purchased property, the amount of the gift, and sometimes the source of the funds used to make the gift. The gift letter also clearly states that the funds are a gift and not required to be repaid.

With most lenders, the donor will have to also provide evidence that they have the ability to make the gift. This can be in the form of a bank or stock statement to show they have the funds available. You should also make a copy of the check used to make the gift and keep a copy of the deposit receipt when you deposit the gift funds into your bank account or escrow.

401K or Retirement Accounts

It is important to provide documentation about your retirement accounts or 401K programs because this is another asset you could draw upon as reserves in case of a problem. It is also another way to show you have a savings history. Just provide a copy of your most recent statement to your lender.

Many people use these accounts as a source of funds for their down payment, too. Some employers allow you to cash out a portion of the 401K and some allow you to borrow against it. Be sure to keep copies of all paperwork involving the transaction. If they cut you a check, be sure to make a photocopy of that, too, including any receipt for deposit into your personal bank account.

If you are borrowing against your 401K, some lenders will count this as an additional debt to go along with car payments, credit cards and other obligations. This may seem kind of silly because you are borrowing your own money, but from the lender’s viewpoint it is still a monthly obligation that you must come up with and should be taken into account. If you are tight on your debt-to-income ratios in qualifying for a home loan, this could be an important consideration. It may affect whether you choose to cash out the account and pay any tax penalty, or simply borrow against it.

Employers

Some companies provide down payment assistance for their employees. They may feel that Homeowners are more stable and reliable employees, or that providing down payment assistance fosters an environment of higher morale and loyalty to the firm. Just make copies of all the paperwork, including a copy of the check and the receipt when you deposit the funds into your personal bank account. It is important that these funds do not require repayment.

Savings Bonds

If you have Savings Bonds, remember that they are also financial assets. Since you hold the actual bonds in your possession, the easiest and best way to verify them for your mortgage lender is to make photocopies of them. If you choose to cash them in for down payment or closing costs, you should do this at your local bank. Be sure to keep copies of the paperwork the bank provides because that will establish the current value of the bonds and show that you received their cash value.

Personal Property - Cars, Antiques, etc.

Personal property includes automobiles, vehicles, boats, furniture, collections, heirlooms, antiques, art, clothing, and practically everything you own except for real estate. The mortgage application asks you to estimate the value of these items.

The larger the loan amount, the more important it is for you to provide details on your personal property. This is because larger loans usually indicate larger incomes, and lenders check to see if your personal property matches your income. If it does not, this sends a red flag to the underwriter and they take a closer look at your application.

You are not required to document the value of personal property unless you intend to sell them to come up with your down payment.

Selling Personal Property

For those Homebuyers who do sell personal property in order to come up with their down payment, the verification process can be arduous. Lenders are much stricter about documenting this method of coming up with your source of funds.

Selling a car is perhaps the easiest to document. First, you need to photocopy the registration that shows you actually own the vehicle. You will have to provide a copy of the page in the “Blue Book” that shows your model and its value. Then you need to photocopy the bill of sale showing the transfer to another individual and a copy of the check used to purchase the vehicle. Do not get paid in cash because that makes it impossible to show you actually received the funds. Make a copy of the receipt when you deposit the funds into the bank.

Other types of personal property are more difficult because you have to show that you actually own the property and that it actually has the value that you sold it for. This is a little harder to do for most assets than it is for automobiles.

Records showing you purchased the property would be helpful. You could also provide an old inventory that documents ownership. To determine value, you may have to contract with an independent appraiser or a specialist who has the knowledge for that particular type of property.

If you cannot document the item’s value, the lender will not view the sale as an acceptable source of funds. Just like selling a car, you have to prove you own the item, make a copy of the bill of sale, copy the check used to purchase the item, and make a copy of your receipt when you deposit the funds into your bank.

Closing Costs When Buying or Refinancing a Home

This is a detailed summary of costs you may have to pay when you buy or refinance your home. They are listed in the order that they should appear on a Good Faith Estimate you obtain from a mortgage lender. There are two broad categories of closing costs. Non-recurring closing costs are items that are paid once and you never pay again. Recurring closing costs are items you pay time and again over the course of home ownership, such as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Some of the items that appear here do not traditionally appear on a lender’s Good Faith Estimate and lenders are not required to show all of these items.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs Associated with the Lender.

Loan Origination Fee - The loan origination fee is often referred to as points. One point is equal to one percent of the mortgage loan. As a rule, if you are willing to pay more in points, you will get a lower interest rate. On a VA or FHA loan, the loan origination fee is one point. Any additional points are called discount points.

Loan Discount - On a government loan, the loan origination fee is normally listed as one point or one percent of the loan. Any points in addition to the loan origination fee are called discount points. On a conventional loan, discount points are usually lumped in with the loan origination fee.

Appraisal Fee - Since your property serves as collateral for the mortgage, lenders want to be reasonably certain of the value and they require an appraisal. The appraisal looks to determine if the price you are paying for the home is justified by recent sales of comparable properties. The appraisal fee varies, depending on the value of the home and the difficulty involved in justifying value. Unique and more expensive homes usually have a higher appraisal fee. Appraisal fees on VA loans are higher than on conventional loans.

Credit Report - As part of the underwriting review, your mortgage lender will want to review your credit history. The cost of running the credit report can vary and is included in closing costs.

Lender’s Inspection Fee - You normally find this fee on new construction and is associated with what is called a 442 Inspection. Since the property is not finished when the initial appraisal is done, the 442 Inspection is done when the building is completed and verifies that construction is complete with carpeting and flooring installed.

Mortgage Broker Fee - About seventy percent of loans are originated through mortgage brokers and they will sometimes list your points in this area instead of the Loan Origination Fee category. They may also add any broker processing fees in this area so you clearly understand how much is being charged by the wholesale lender and how much is being charged by the broker. Wholesale lenders offer lower costs/rates to mortgage brokers than you can obtain directly, so you are not paying extra by going through a mortgage broker.

Tax Service Fee - During the life of your loan you will be making property tax payments, either on your own or through your impound account with the lender. Since property tax liens can sometimes take precedence over a first mortgage, it is in your lender’s interest to pay an independent service to monitor property tax payments.

Flood Certification Fee - Your lender must determine whether or not your property is located in a federally designated flood zone. This is a fee usually charged by an independent service to make that determination.

Flood Monitoring - From time to time flood zones are re-mapped. Some lenders charge this fee to maintain monitoring on whether this re-mapping affects your property.

Other Lender Fees

We put these in a separate category because they vary so much from lender to lender and cannot be associated directly with a cost of the loan. These fees generate income for the lenders and are used to offset the fixed costs of loan origination. The Processing Fee mentioned above can also fall into this category, but since it is listed higher on the Good Faith Estimate Form we did not also include it here. You will normally find some combination of these fees on your Good Faith Estimate.

Document Preparation - Before computers made it fairly easy for lenders to draw their own loan documents, they used to hire specialized document preparation firms for this function. This was the fee charged by those companies. Nowadays, lenders draw their own documents but this fee is charged on almost all loans.

Underwriting Fee - Once again, it is difficult to determine the exact cost of underwriting a loan since the underwriter is usually a paid staff member.

Administration Fee - If an Administration Fee is charged, you will probably find there is no Underwriting Fee. This is not always the case.

Appraisal Review Fee - Even though you will probably not see this fee on your Good Faith Estimate, it is charged occasionally. Some lenders routinely review appraisals as a quality control procedure, especially on higher valued properties.

Warehousing Fee - This is rarely charged and begins to border on the ridiculous. However, some lenders have a warehouse line of credit and add this as a charge to the borrower.

Items Required to be Paid in Advance

Pre-paid Interest - Mortgage loans are usually due on the first of each month. Since loans can close on any day, a certain amount of interest must be paid at closing to get the interest paid up to the first. For example, if you close on the twentieth, you will pay ten days of pre-paid interest.

Homeowner’s Insurance - This is the insurance you pay to cover possible damages to your home and other items. If you buy a home, you will normally pay the first year’s insurance when you close the transaction. If you are buying a condominium, your Homeowners’ Association Fees normally cover this insurance.

VA Funding Fee - On VA loans, the Veterans Administration charges a fee for guaranteeing your loan. The fee will be a percentage of the loan balance but the exact percentage will vary depending on whether you have used your VA eligibility in the past. Instead of actually paying this as an out-of-pocket expense, most veterans choose to finance it, so it gets added to the loan balance. This is why the loan balance on VA loans can be higher than the actual purchase amount.

Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) - This is charged on FHA purchases of single-family residences (SFR’s) or Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). Like the VA Funding Fee it is normally added to the balance of the loan. Unlike a VA loan, the homebuyer must also pay a monthly mortgage insurance fee, too. This is why many lenders do not recommend FHA loans if the homebuyer can qualify for a conventional loan. Condominium purchases do not require the UFMIP.

Mortgage Insurance - Though it is rare nowadays, some first-time homebuyer programs still require the first year mortgage insurance premium to be paid in advance. Most mortgage insurance (when required) is simply paid monthly along with your mortgage payment. Mortgage insurance covers the lender and covers a portion of the losses in those cases where borrowers default on their loans.

Reserves Deposited with Lender

If you make a minimum down payment, you may be required to deposit funds into an impound account. Funds in this account are your funds, and the lender uses them to make the payments on your homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and mortgage insurance (whichever is applicable). Each month, in addition to your mortgage payment, you provide additional funds which are deposited into your impound account.

The lender’s goal is to always have sufficient funds to pay your bills as they come due. Sometimes impound accounts are not required, but borrowers request one voluntarily. A few lenders even offer to reduce your loan origination fee if you obtain an impound account. However, if you are disciplined about paying your bills and an impound account is not required, you can probably earn a better rate of return by putting the funds into a savings account. Impound accounts are sometimes referred to as escrow accounts.

Homeowners Insurance Impounds - your lender will divide your annual premium by twelve to come up with an estimated monthly amount for you to pay into your impound account. Since a lender is allowed to keep two months of reserves in your account, you will have to deposit two months into the impound account to start it up.

Property Tax Impounds - How much you will have to deposit towards taxes to start up your impound account varies according to when you close your real estate transaction. For example, you may close in November and property taxes are due in December. Your deposit would be higher than for someone closing in May.

Mortgage Insurance Impounds - When required, most lenders allow this to simply be paid monthly. However, you may be required to put two months’ worth of mortgage insurance as an initial deposit into your impound account.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs not associated with the Lender

Closing/Escrow/Settlement Fee - Methods of closing a real estate transaction vary from state to state, as do the fees.

Title Insurance - Title Insurance assures the homeowner that they have clear title to the property. The lender also requires it to insure that their new mortgage loan will be in first position. The costs vary depending on whether you are purchasing a home or refinancing.

Notary Fees - Most sets of loan documents have two or three forms that must be notarized. Usually your settlement or escrow agent will arrange for you to sign these forms at their office and will charge a notary fee.

Recording Fees - Certain documents get recorded with your local county recorder. Fees vary regionally.

Pest Inspection - This is also referred to as a Termite Inspection. This inspection tests not only for pest infestations, but also other items such as wood rot and water damage. If repairs are required, the amount to cover those repairs can vary. The seller will usually pay for the most serious repairs, but this is a negotiable item. Usually (not always) the pest inspection fee is paid by the seller of the home and is not normally reflected on the Good Faith Estimate.

Home Inspection - Since it is the homebuyer’s choice to obtain a home inspection or not, this cost is not usually reflected on a Good Faith Estimate. However, it is recommended. Keep in mind that the home inspector has a certain set of standards he uses when inspecting a home, and those standards may be higher than required by local building codes. An example is that an inspector may note there is no spark arrestor on a chimney but the local building code may not require it. This sometimes leads to conflicts between buyer and seller.

Home Warranty - This is also an optional item and not normally included on the Good Faith Estimate. A Home Warranty usually covers such items as the major appliances, should they break down within a specific time. Often this is paid by the seller.

Refinancing Associated Costs (but not charged by the new Lender)

Interest - When you close the transaction on your refinance, there will most likely be some outstanding interest due on the old loan. For example, if you close on August twentieth (and you made your last payment), you will have twenty days interest due on the old loan and ten days prepaid interest on the new loan. Your first payment on the new loan would not be until October 1st since you have already paid all of August’s interest when you closed the refinance transaction (since interest is paid in arrears, a September payment would have paid August’s interest, which has already been paid in closing).

Reconveyance Fee - This fee is charged by your existing lender when they “reconvey” their collateral interest in your property back to you through recording of a Reconveyance.

Demand Fee - Your existing lender may charge a fee for calculating payoff figures.

Sub-Escrow fee - Though it sounds like an escrow fee, this fee is actually charged by the Title Company. Assume it is an income-generating fee similar to some of the lender fees mentioned above.

Loan Tie-in Fee - Though it sounds like a lender fee, this cost is actually charged by the Escrow Company.

Homeowner’s Association Transfer Fee - If you are buying a condominium or a home with a Homeowner’s Association, the association often charges a fee to transfer all of their ownership documents to you.

Asking the Seller to Pay Closing Costs - Rules and Advice.

It has become common to ask the seller to pay some or all of the closing costs when you purchase a home. Essentially, this is financing your closing costs since you will probably pay a little bit more for the property than you would if you were paying your own costs.

Keep in mind a few simple rules. On conventional loans you can only ask the seller to pay non-recurring costs, not prepaid fees or items to be paid in advance. If you are putting ten percent down or more, the most the seller can contribute is six percent of the purchase price. If you are putting less down, the most the seller can contribute is three percent.

On VA loans, you can ask the seller to pay everything. This is called a “VA No-No”, meaning the buyer is making no down payment and paying no closing costs.

On FHA loans, the seller can pay almost any cost, but the buyer has to have a minimum three percent investment in the home/closing costs.

Most refinances include the closing costs and prepaids in the new loan amount, requiring little or no out-of-pocket expenses to close the deal.

If you didn’t get bored as you read through this, now you know everything (almost) about closing costs.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages - The Basics

An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) has an interest rate that fluctuates periodically. This is in contrast to a fixed rate mortgage, which always has the same interest rate.

Every ARM has basic components:

  1. An index
  2. A margin
  3. Adjustment Period
  4. An interest rate cap
  5. An initial interest rate

The Index

An ARM’s interest rate is tied to one of many economic indices, some examples of which are the 1-year constant maturity Treasury security, the Cost of Funds Index, or the London Interbank Offered Rate. Different indices move at different rates so know the characteristics of the index used for your ARM.

The Margin

The interest rate for your ARM will be calculated by adding a margin to the interest rate from the index. The margin is basically the markup charged by the lender that allows them to make a profit off of your loan, such as adding 2% to the index, where the 2% is the margin. The margin of your loan usually does not fluctuate.

The Adjustment Period

The Adjustment Period controls when and how often your interest rate changes. For example, if your ARM has an adjustment period of 1 year, your interest rate will be subject to change at the end of each year and your monthly mortgage payment will be recalculated to reflect this change.

The Interest Rate Cap

Interest rate caps are built into the loan to protect the borrower from drastic interest rate fluctuations. The caps limit how much the interest rate or monthly payment can change at the end of each adjustment period. An ARM can also have a cap for the life of the loan. For example, during the life of a loan, the interest rate can only be increased by 5%.

The Initial Interest Rate

The Initial Interest Rate is the interest rate that you start with at the beginning of your loan period. The length of time your loan stays at this rate is built into the loan. For example, you may stay at the initial interest rate for 1 year, 5 years, or another length of time depending on your specific mortgage. This type of ARM is generally referred to as a Hybrid ARM. The initial interest rate for an adjustable rate mortgage is generally lower than that of a fixed rate mortgage.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages - The PROS & CONS

Now that you know what an ARM is and how it works, you may be wondering what the advantages and disadvantages are. So let’s explore that issue.

Offering adjustable rates allows lenders to transfer part of the interest rate risk from themselves to the borrower. If you get a fixed rate mortgage and the interest rate then goes up, it costs the lender money. However, if you have an adjustable rate mortgage, as the interest rate goes up, so does your payment, thus compensating the lender. Adjustable rate mortgages are particularly useful when unpredictable interest rates make fixed rate loans hard to get.

One of the main advantages of an adjustable rate mortgage is that the initial interest rate is lower than that of a fixed rate mortgage. A lower rate means lower payments, which may help you qualify for a larger loan. This is an important detail if you expect your future earnings to rise. In this case, the ARM will allow you to qualify for a larger loan amount earlier rather than later.

However, this information should only be used with care. If you use an ARM to qualify for a larger loan amount than a fixed rate would allow you and the interest rate then rises drastically or your income doesn’t rise, you may not be able to afford the larger monthly payments, thus causing you to default on your loan.

A situation in which an adjustable rate mortgage makes sense would be if you are only going to keep the house for a short period of time. If you are only planning to own your house for only a few years, the risk of the interest rate rising goes down. This means that you will get a better rate with an ARM, making it a good choice. However, if you plan on staying in your home for a long period of time, a fixed rate may be a better option.

The lesson here is to have a plan. Know what your goals are in purchasing a home and plan for all eventualities. Do your research when shopping for an ARM and consider the worst-case scenario.

Real Estate Glossary

A

Acceleration Clause

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

Acceptance

An offeree’s consent to enter into a contract and be bound by the terms of the offer.

Additional Principal Payment

A payment by a borrower of more than the scheduled principal amount due in order to reduce the remaining balance on the loan.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

A mortgage that permits the lender to adjust its interest rate periodically on the basis of changes in a specified index.

Adjusted Basis

The original cost of a property plus the value of any capital expenditures for improvements to the property minus any depreciation taken.

Adjustment Date

The date on which the interest rate changes for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Adjustment Period

The period that elapses between the adjustment dates for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Administrator

A person appointed by a probate court to administer the estate of a person who died intestate.

Affidavits

A formal sworn statement of fact. As part of the closing process, you’re likely to sign numerous affidavits. You may be required, for example, to sign an affidavit of occupancy. It states that you will use the property as a principal residence. Or, you and the seller may have to sign an affidavit stating all of the improvements to the property required in the sales contract were completed before closing.

Your lender can provide additional information regarding any of these documents you will sign.

Affordability Analysis

A detailed analysis of your ability to afford the purchase of a home. An affordability analysis takes into consideration your income, liabilities, and available funds, along with the type of mortgage you plan to use, the area where you want to purchase a home, and the closing costs that you might expect to pay.

Amenity

A feature of real property that enhances its attractiveness and increases the occupant’s or user’s satisfaction although the feature is not essential to the property’s use. Natural amenities include a pleasant or desirable location near water, scenic views of the surrounding area, etc. Human-made amenities include swimming pools, tennis courts, community buildings, and other recreational facilities.

Amortization

The gradual repayment of a mortgage loan by installments.

Amortization Term

The amount of time required to amortize the mortgage loan. The amortization term is expressed as a number of months. For example, for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the amortization term is 360 months.

Amortize

To repay a mortgage with regular payments that cover both principal and interest.

Amotization Schedule

A timetable for payment of a mortgage loan. An amortization schedule shows the amount of each payment applied to interest and principal and shows the remaining balance after each payment is made.

Annual Mortgagor Statement

A report sent to the mortgagor each year. The report shows how much was paid in taxes and interest during the year, as well as the remaining mortgage loan balance at the end of the year.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The cost of a mortgage stated as a yearly rate; includes such items as interest, mortgage insurance, and loan origination fee (points).

Annuity

An amount paid yearly or at other regular intervals, often on a guaranteed dollar basis.

Application

A form used to apply for a mortgage loan and to record pertinent information concerning a prospective mortgagor and the proposed security.

*See also “Loan Application” entry.

Appraisal

A written analysis of the estimated value of a property prepared by a qualified appraiser. Contrast with home inspection.

Appraised Value

An opinion of a property’s fair market value, based on an appraiser’s knowledge, experience, and analysis of the property.

Appraiser

A person qualified by education, training, and experience to estimate the value of real property and personal property.

Appreciation

An increase in the value of a property due to changes in market conditions or other causes. The opposite of depreciation.

Assessed Value

The valuation placed on property by a public tax assessor for purposes of taxation.

Assessment

The process of placing a value on property for the strict purpose of taxation. May also refer to a levy against property for a special purpose, such as a sewer assessment.

Assessment Rolls

The public record of taxable property.

Assessor

A public official who establishes the value of a property for taxation purposes.

Asset

Anything of monetary value that is owned by a person. Assets include real property, personal property, and enforceable claims against others (including bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds, and so on).

Assignment

The transfer of a mortgage from one person to another.

Assumable Mortgage

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

A provision in an assumable mortgage allows a buyer to assume responsibility for the mortgage from the seller. The loan does not need to be paid in full by the original borrower upon the sale or transfer of the property.

Assumption

The transfer of the seller’s existing mortgage to the buyer.

*See also “Assumable Mortgage” entry.

Assumption Clause

A provision in an assumable mortgage that allows a buyer to assume responsibility for the mortgage from the seller. The loan does not need to be paid in full by the original borrower upon sale or transfer of the property.

Assumption Fee

The fee paid to a lender (usually by the purchaser of real property) resulting from the assumption of an existing mortgage.

Attorney-In-Fact

One who holds a power of attorney from another to execute documents on behalf of the grantor of the power.

Automated Underwriting

After you complete your loan application with a lender, it is sent to “underwriting” for review. In short, underwriting is the process used to analyze how you have managed credit obligations in the past, whether you have the ability to repay the mortgage loan you are applying for (i.e., your income and assets), and whether the price you are willing to pay for the home is supported by the price of the property.

Back to the top
 

B

Balance Sheet

A financial statement that shows assets, liabilities, and net worth as of a specific date.

Balloon Mortgage

A mortgage that has level monthly payments that will amortize it over a stated term but that provides for a lump sum payment to be due at the end of an earlier specified term.

Balloon Payment

The final lump sum payment that is made at the maturity date of a balloon mortgage.

Bankrupt

A person, firm, or corporation that, through a court proceeding, is relieved from the payment of all debts after the surrender of all assets to a court-appointed trustee.

Bankruptcy

A proceeding in a federal court in which a debtor who owes more than his or her assets can relieve the debts by transferring his or her assets to a trustee.

Before-Tax Income

Income before taxes are deducted.

Beneficiary

The person designated to receive the income from a trust, estate, or a deed of trust.

Bequeath

To transfer personal property through a will.

Betterment

An improvement that increases property value as distinguished from repairs or replacements that simply maintain value.

Bill of Sale

A written document that transfers title to personal property.

Binder

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

Biweekly Mortgages

Your lender will probably tell you that a biweekly mortgage is structured just like a traditional fixed-rate, level-payment, fully amortizing mortgage. However, you make your payments every 14 days instead of once a month. The monthly payment is split in half, resulting in the same total monthly mortgage, but the resulting 26 and sometimes 27 biweekly payments a year translate into 13 monthly payments, or one extra monthly payment per year.

Borrowers can qualify for a 30-year monthly payment amount, but get a loan that pays off in approximately 22 years at current interest rates. At higher rates, the actual term declines.

If you are looking to build up equity in your home faster without the higher mortgage payments that come with a shorter-term mortgage, you may want to consider the biweekly mortgage. Payments can be deducted from your bank account and scheduled to coincide with your payroll deposits to simplify budgeting. Lenders may charge an initial set-up fee to automatically debit your checking account.

Blanket Insurance Policy

A single policy that covers more than one piece of property (or more than one person).

Blanket Mortgage

The mortgage that is secured by a cooperative project, as opposed to the share loans on individual units within the project.

Bona Fide

In good faith, without fraud.

Bond

An interest-bearing certificate of debt with a maturity date. An obligation of a government or business corporation. A real estate bond is a written obligation usually secured by a mortgage or a deed of trust.

Breach

A violation of any legal obligation.

Bridge Loan

A form of second trust that is collateralized by the borrower’s present home (which is usually for sale) in a manner that allows the proceeds to be used for closing on a new house before the present home is sold. Also known as “swing loan.”

Broker

A person who, for a commission or a fee, brings parties together and assists in negotiating contracts between them.

Budget

A detailed plan of income and expenses expected over a certain period of time. A budget can provide guidelines for managing future investments and expenses.

Budget Category

A category of income or expense data that you can use in a budget. You can also define your own budget categories and add them to some or all of the budgets you create. “Rent” is an example of an expense category. “Salary” is a typical income category.

Building Code

Local regulations that control design, construction, and materials used in construction. Building codes are based on safety and health standards.

Buydown Account

An account in which funds are held so that they can be applied as part of the monthly mortgage payment as each payment comes due during the period that an interest rate buydown plan is in effect.

Buydown Mortgage

A temporary buydown is a mortgage on which an initial lump sum payment is made by any party to reduce a borrower’s monthly payments during the first few years of a mortgage. A permanent buydown reduces the interest rate over the entire life of a mortgage.

Back to the top
 

C

Call Option

A provision in the mortgage that gives the mortgagee the right to call the mortgage due and payable at the end of a specified period for whatever reason.

Cap

A provision of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) that limits how much the interest rate or mortgage payments may increase or decrease.

*See also “lifetime payment cap”, “lifetime rate cap”, “periodic payment cap”, and “periodic rate cap”.

Capacity

Lenders will want to know if you can repay the mortgage debt you incur -- this is known as your capacity. Lenders will base their evaluation on employment information, how long you’ve worked, and how much you are paid. Lenders will also review your expenses and any other debt obligations you have. This means they’ll want to know how many dependents you have and whether you pay any alimony or child support, for example.

Capital

 

  1. Money used to create income, either as an investment in a business or an income property.
  2. The money or property comprising the wealth owned or used by a person or business enterprise.
  3. The accumulated wealth of a person or business.
  4. The net worth of a business represented by the amount by which its assets exceed liabilities.

 

Capital Expenditure

The cost of an improvement made to extend the useful life of a property or to add to its value.

Capital Improvement

Any structure or component erected as a permanent improvement to real property that adds to its value and useful life.

Cash-Out Refinance

A refinance transaction in which the amount of money received from the new loan exceeds the total of the money needed to repay the existing first mortgage, closing costs, points, and the amount required to satisfy any outstanding subordinate mortgage liens. In other words, a refinance transaction in which the borrower receives additional cash that can be used for any purpose.

CD-Indexed (Certificate of Deposit) ARMs

The Certificate of Deposit index represents the weekly average of secondary market interest rates on six-month negotiable CDs.

The initial interest rate and payments adjust every six months after an initial six-month period.

ARMs with this index typically come with a per-adjustment cap of 1 percent and a lifetime rate cap of 6 percent.

Certificate of Deposit

A document written by a bank or other financial institution that is evidence of a deposit, with the issuer’s promise to return the deposit plus earnings at a specified interest rate within a specified time period.

*See also “Adjustable-Rate Mortgage” entry.

Certificate of Deposit Index

An index that is used to determine interest rate changes for certain ARM plans. It represents the weekly average of secondary market interest rates on six-month negotiable certificates of deposit.

*See also “Adjustable-Rate Mortgage” entry.

Certificate of Eligibility

A document issued by the federal government certifying a veteran’s eligibility for a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgage.

Certificate of Reasonable Value (CRV)

A document issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that establishes the maximum value and loan amount for a VA mortgage.

Certificate of Title

A statement provided by an abstract company, title company, or attorney stating that the title to real estate is legally held by the current owner.

Chain of Title

The history of all of the documents that transfer title to a parcel of real property, starting with the earliest existing document and ending with the most recent.

Change Frequency

The frequency (in months) of payment and/or interest rate changes in an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Change Orders

After construction begins, you may discover that you need to make unplanned and necessary changes to the work. The contingency reserve covers unforeseen repairs or deficiencies found during renovation. Unnecessary additions or changes are treated differently.

These change orders are considered discretionary and must first be approved by your lender. You must deposit additional funds to pay for the work in the escrow account before work on the changes begins. These change orders - as well as any that result from unforeseen repairs - must be added as amendments to your construction contract.

Chattel

Another name for personal property.

Clear Title

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

Closing

A meeting at which a sale of a property is finalized by the buyer signing the mortgage documents and paying closing costs. Also called “settlement”.

*See also “Settlement” entry.

Closing Agent

As a potential home buyer, you will need a closing (or “settlement”) agent to coordinate the various closing activities. These can include but are not limited to preparing and recording the closing documents and disbursing funds.

The types of services provided by a closing agent depend on the person you hire, but typically the closing is conducted by title companies, escrow companies or attorneys. It is usually held at the lender’s or real estate sales professional’s office.

Closing Cost Item

A fee or amount that a home buyer must pay at closing for a single service, tax, or product. Closing costs are made up of individual closing cost items such as origination fees and attorney’s fees. Many closing cost items are included as numbered items on the HUD-1 statement.

Closing Costs

Expenses (over and above the price of the property) incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property. Closing costs normally include an origination fee, an attorney’s fee, taxes, an amount placed in escrow, and charges for obtaining title insurance and a survey. Closing costs percentage will vary according to the area of the country; lenders or REALTORS® often provide estimates of closing costs to prospective homebuyers.

Closing Date

After your lender has approved your mortgage and you accept the commitment letter, the next step is to set a closing date. Many times, your real estate sales professional coordinates the setting of this date with you, the seller, the closing agent, and your lender.

Remember, you need to ensure that the closing occurs before your lender’s commitment letter - and the rate lock-in, if there is one - expire. You can now finalize your moving plans.

Cloud on Title

Any conditions revealed by a title search that adversely affect the title to real estate. Usually clouds on title cannot be removed except by a quitclaim deed, release, or court action.

Co-Maker

A person who signs a promissory note along with the borrower. A co-maker’s signature guarantees that the loan will be repaid, because the borrower and the co-maker are equally responsible for the repayment.

Coinsurance

A sharing of insurance risk between the insurer and the insured. Coinsurance depends on the relationship between the amount of the policy and a specified percentage of the actual value of the property insured at the time of the loss.

Coinsurance Clause

A provision in a hazard insurance policy that states the amount of coverage that must be maintained - as a percentage of the total value of the property - for the insured to collect the full amount of a loss.

Collateral

An asset (such as a car or a home) that guarantees the repayment of a loan. The borrower risks losing the asset if the loan is not repaid according to the terms of the loan contract.

Collection

The efforts used to bring a delinquent mortgage current and to file the necessary notices to proceed with foreclosure when necessary.

Commercial Banks

Commercial banks, like thrifts, originate and service mortgage loans. In some cases, commercial banks may have mortgage banking subsidiaries that perform this function. Banks may choose to hold a loan in their own portfolio or sell the loan to an investor.

Commission

The fee charged by a broker or agent for negotiating a real estate or loan transaction. A commission is generally a percentage of the price of the property or loan.

Commitment Letter

A formal offer by a lender stating the terms under which it agrees to lend money to a homebuyer. Also known as a “loan commitment”.

Common Area Assessments

Levies against individual unit owners in a condominium or planned unit development (PUD) project for additional capital to defray homeowners’ association costs and expenses and to repair, replace, maintain, improve, or operate the common areas of the project.

Common Areas

Those portions of a building, land, and amenities owned (or managed) by a planned unit development (PUD) or condominium project’s homeowners’ association (or a cooperative project’s cooperative corporation) that are used by all of the unit owners, who share in the common expenses of their operation and maintenance. Common areas include swimming pools, tennis courts, and other recreational facilities, as well as common corridors of buildings, parking areas, means of ingress and egress, etc.

Common Law

An unwritten body of law based on general custom in England and used to an extent in the United States.

Community Land Trust Mortgage Option

An alternative financing option that enables low- and moderate-income home buyers to purchase housing that has been improved by a nonprofit Community Land Trust and to lease the land on which the property stands.

Community Property

In some western and southwestern states, a form of ownership under which property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be owned jointly unless acquired as separate property of either spouse.

Community Seconds

An alternative financing option for low- and moderate-income households under which an investor purchases a first mortgage that has a subsidized second mortgage behind it. The second mortgage may be issued by a state, county, or local housing agency, foundation, or nonprofit organization. Payment on the second mortgage is often deferred and carries a very low interest rate (or no interest rate at all). Part of the debt may be forgiven incrementally for each year the buyer remains in the home.

Comparables

An abbreviation for “comparable properties”; used for comparative purposes in the appraisal process. Comparables are properties like the property under consideration; they have reasonably the same size, location, and amenities and have recently been sold. Comparables help the appraiser determine the approximate fair market value of the subject property.

Compound Interest

Interest paid on the original principal balance and on the accrued and unpaid interest.

Condemnation

The determination that a building is not fit for use or is dangerous and must be destroyed; the taking of private property for a public purpose through an exercise of the right of eminent domain.

Condition of the Home

Potential homeowners should know of major problems in a home before they make an offer. As a potential buyer, you should carefully examine all elements of the home. Ask questions to the seller and the real estate sales professional about any concerns you may have. Both the seller and the real estate agent can be held liable if they do not disclose any defects they know about in the home.

Condominium

A real estate project in which each unit owner has title to a unit in a building, an undivided interest in the common areas of the project, and sometimes the exclusive use of certain limited common areas.

Condominium Conversion

Changing the ownership of an existing building (usually a rental project) to the condominium form of ownership.

Condominium Hotel

A condominium project that has rental or registration desks, short-term occupancy, food and telephone services, and daily cleaning services and that is operated as a commercial hotel even though the units are individually owned.

Construction Contract

The terms and conditions of any major renovation job should be part of a formal, legally binding contract between you and your contractor - this is called the construction contract. The lender you choose will likely want to review this contract before you sign it.

Construction Loan

A short-term, interim loan for financing the cost of construction. The lender makes payments to the builder at periodic intervals as the work progresses.

Contingencies for Repairs

In your purchase offer, you may consider stating that the seller must make sure the electrical systems, heating and cooling, plumbing, and mechanical systems are functioning properly at the closing. You may also state that your purchase is contingent upon the satisfactory completion of a professional home inspection, which will check these systems and other elements more completely. These are both ways to ensure that surprises don’t arise when your moving day arrives.

If you do not include this clause in your contract, you are essentially accepting the house “as is.”

Contingency

A condition that must be met before a contract is legally binding. For example, home purchasers often include a contingency that specifies that the contract is not binding until the purchaser obtains a satisfactory home inspection report from a qualified home inspector.

Contingency for Clear Title

Your purchase contract should include a contingency that the purchase is subject to your receiving clear title to the property. This process includes a title search and title insurance.

Contingency for Financing

When you make a formal offer on a house, your contract should include a financing contingency. It specifies if you don’t get the money you need to purchase the house at the terms you want, the offer is void and you will be refunded your deposit.

Don’t be surprised if the seller includes a clause in the contract that states you must make a “good faith effort” to get the mortgage. This is the seller’s way to ensure that you explore all options to get a mortgage loan.

Contingency for Personal Property

Your purchase contract should specify appliances, fixtures, and other personal property that must remain in the home. You can avoid any surprises by listing in your contract everything that is to be left behind when the seller moves out.

Contingency Reserve

Most mortgages for purchase-renovation require an additional 10 percent of the total cost of the project to be put aside into a reserve account. This contingency reserve is only used when unforeseen repairs or deficiencies are found during renovation.

Contract

An oral or written agreement to do or not to do a certain thing.

Contractor

A general contractor is a person who oversees a construction project and handles aspects such as scheduling workers and ordering supplies.

Conventional Mortgage

A mortgage that is not insured or guaranteed by the federal government. Contrast with government mortgage.

Convertibility Clause

A provision in some adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) that allows the borrower to change the ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage at specified timeframes after loan origination.

Convertible ARM

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

Cooperative (co-op)

A type of multiple ownership in which the residents of a multiunit housing complex own shares in the cooperative corporation that owns the property, giving each resident the right to occupy a specific apartment or unit.

Cooperative Corporation

A business trust entity that holds title to a cooperative project and grants occupancy rights to particular apartments or units to shareholders through proprietary leases or similar arrangements. A business trust entity that holds title to a cooperative project and grants occupancy rights to particular apartments or units to shareholders through proprietary leases or similar arrangements.

Cooperative Mortgages

Mortgages related to a cooperative project. This usually refers to the multifamily mortgage covering the entire project but occasionally describes the share loans on the individual units.

Cooperative Project

A residential or mixed-use building wherein a corporation or trust holds title to the property and sells shares of stock representing the value of a single apartment unit to individuals who, in turn, receive a proprietary lease as evidence of title.

Corporate Relocation

Arrangements under which an employer moves an employee to another area as part of the employer’s normal course of business or under which it transfers a substantial part or all of its operations and employees to another area because it is relocating its headquarters or expanding its office capacity.

Cost of Funds Index (COFI)

An index that is used to determine interest rate changes for certain adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) plans. It represents the weighted-average cost of savings, borrowings, and advances of the 11th District members of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.

*See also “adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)”.

Costs of Settling Into Your Home

When figuring out how much home you can afford, you need to account for the costs associated with getting into your home.

These can include the cost for repairs that need to be made before you can occupy your residence. There may also be the cost of purchasing appliances, such as a washer and dryer, refrigerator, or stove.

The bottom line is you do not want to spend all your money on purchasing the home and not have any left to pay these types of costs.

Covenant

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

Credit

An agreement in which a borrower receives something of value in exchange for a promise to repay the lender at a later date.

Credit Bureau

The three main credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus, are Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You can order a copy of your credit report (a nominal fee may apply) via telephone at:

* Equifax: (800) 685-1111

* Trans Union: (800) 916-8800

<

* Experian: (800) 682-7654

Credit History

A record of an individual’s open and fully repaid debts. A credit history helps a lender to determine whether a potential borrower has a history of repaying debts in a timely manner.

Credit Life Insurance

A type of insurance often bought by mortgagors because it will pay off the mortgage debt if the mortgagor dies while the policy is in force.

Credit Profile

There are several ways to ensure you have a good credit report and credit score. One of the most effective is to manage your existing credit in a positive way.

Ask your lender for suggestions about ways to control the amount of money you owe. Or, you can choose a credit counselor from the list provided on this site. Some lenders may view consumers as a greater risk if they have used most or all of their available credit. Consumers who are considered “overextended” may be viewed this way even if they have made all their debt payments on time.

Missing a payment on a bill should be avoided, as should late payments on any of your credit obligations. Experiencing a mortgage foreclosure, filing for bankruptcy, or having your vehicle repossessed can also affect your credit score and credit report, limiting your ability to get new credit at a reasonable rate.

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.

Credit Report Fee

The credit report fee covers the lender’s cost for ordering your credit report from a credit bureau.

This report will verify some of the information you provided on your loan application as well as additional information from the credit agency’s files and from public records.

When a credit report is received, your lender will check it against your application and look for any discrepancies. You may be asked to explain information in your credit report.

Credit Reporting Agency

An organization that prepares reports that are used by lenders to determine a potential borrower’s credit history. The agency obtains data for these reports from a credit repository as well as from other sources.

The three main credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus, are Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You can order a copy of your credit report (a nominal fee may apply) via telephone at:

* Equifax: (800) 685-1111

* Trans Union: (800) 916-8800

* Experian: (800) 682-7654

Credit Repository

An organization that gathers, records, updates, and stores financial and public records information about the payment records of individuals who are being considered for credit.

Credit Scoring

Your credit score is based on all the information in your credit report. This information is converted into a number - a credit score - that the lender uses to determine whether you are likely to repay your loan in a timely manner. The scores used in mortgage lending are typically in the 300 to 900 range. A general guide is that the higher your score the better. But you should keep in mind that your credit score is just one of several factors that will be used to evaluate your mortgage loan application.

Credit Unions

A credit union is a financial institution that is owned and run by its members. It is a nonprofit, cooperative institution that offers members a place to save and borrow. A credit union often works by having its members pool their funds so additional loans can be made to other members.

Creditor

A person to whom money is owed.

Back to the top
 

D

Debt

An amount owed to another. See installment loan and revolving liability.

Deed

The legal document conveying title to a property.

The deed is the document that transfers ownership from the seller to you. Only the seller signs the deed at closing, and you’ll receive a copy of it.

The closing agent will record the deed with you listed as the new property owner. Your name and the names of any other buyers appear on the deed, and it will be sent to you after it is recorded.

Deed of Trust

The document used in some states instead of a mortgage; title is conveyed to a trustee.

In some states, a “deed of trust” is used instead of a mortgage. When homeowners sign a deed of trust, they receive title to the property but convey title to a neutral third party - called a trustee - until the loan balance is paid in full.

Deed-in-Lieu

A deed given by a mortgagor to the mortgagee to satisfy a debt and avoid foreclosure. Also called a “voluntary conveyance.”

Default

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

Delinquency

Failure to make mortgage payments when mortgage payments are due.

Department of Veterans Affairs

An agency of the federal government that guarantees residential mortgages made to eligible veterans of the military services. The guarantee protects the lender against loss and thus encourages lenders to make mortgages to veterans.

The Veterans Administration is a federal government agency authorized to guarantee loans made to eligible veterans under certain conditions. To obtain more information, you can contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The qualification guidelines for VA loans are more flexible than those for either the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or conventional loans.

If you are a qualified veteran, this can be an attractive mortgage program. To determine whether you are eligible, check with your nearest VA regional office.

Deposit

A sum of money given to bind the sale of real estate, or a sum of money given to ensure payment or an advance of funds in the processing of a loan.

See earnest money deposit.

Depreciation

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

Detached Single-Family Home

The most traditional type of single-family home is one that is “detached.” This type of home stands separate from any other housing structure and serves as a place of residence for the occupants.

Direct Leveraging Loan Program

The Direct Leveraging Loan Program makes it easier and more economical for rural residents to own a home through lower interest rates and no down payment.

Under this program, the lender offers up to 50 percent of the mortgage amount as a conventional 30-year, fixed-rate first mortgage and the Rural Housing Service (RHS) offers the balance as a second mortgage at an interest rate that is generally below market.

The RHS is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Discount points

Discount points are often used to describe a type of fee that lenders charge. Discount points are additional funds you pay the lender at closing to get a lower interest rate on your mortgage.

A point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. So, if you and your lender agree to a mortgage of $100,000, one point would equal $1,000.

Typically, each point you pay for a 30-year loan lowers your interest rate by .125 of a percentage point. If the current interest rate on a 30-year mortgage is 7.75 percent, paying one point would lower the interest rate to 7.625.

Ask your lender if you have the option of paying 1, 2, or 3 discount points - or you can choose not to pay any discount points. It often makes more sense to pay discount points if you plan to stay in your home for a long time.

Dower

The rights of a widow in the property of her husband at his death.

Down Payment

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

Saving for a down payment is usually one of the most difficult parts of preparing to buy a home. If you believe you have the needed funds, you are in a better position to seek pre-qualification from a lender to get the mortgage that is right for you.

Most homeowners rely on a mortgage from a financial institution, and most mortgage products require buyers to include a portion of their own funds towards the purchase of the home. This is called the down payment. Lenders feel more secure when buyers include a down payment, indicating they are less likely to walk away from their investment if their finances take a downturn.

Historically, buyers usually made a down payment that totaled 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. Under this scenario, a down payment for a $100,000 home is $20,000. But today, new mortgage products allow buyers to put down as little as 3 percent to 5 percent, provided private mortgage insurance is obtained. The down payment for a $100,000 home with 5 percent down payment is just $5,000.

Sources for down payments may come from buyers’ savings accounts, checking accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, and gifts.

Due-on-sale Provision

A provision in a mortgage that allows the lender to demand repayment in full if the borrower sells the property that serves as security for the mortgage.

Due-on-transfer Provision

This terminology is usually used for second mortgages.

*See also “due-on-sale provision”.

Back to the top
 

E

Earnest Money Deposit

A deposit made by the potential home buyer to show that he or she is serious about buying the house.

The earnest money deposit is a “good-faith” payment you submit with your offer on a home to show the seller you are serious about proceeding.

The earnest money is deposited in an escrow account and will be applied to your closing costs.

Sometimes, your lender will want you to bring a receipt for the earnest money deposit along with your sales contract to the initial loan application meeting.

Easement

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

Effective Age

An appraiser’s estimate of the physical condition of a building. The actual age of a building may be shorter or longer than its effective age.

Effective Gross Income

Normal annual income including overtime that is regular or guaranteed. The income may be from more than one source. Salary is generally the principal source, but other income may qualify if it is significant and stable.

Eminent Domain

The right of a government to take private property for public use upon payment of its fair market value. Eminent domain is the basis for condemnation proceedings.

Encroachment

An improvement that intrudes illegally on another’s property.

Encumbrance

Anything that affects or limits the fee simple title to a property, such as mortgages, leases, easements, or restrictions.

Endorser

A person who signs ownership interest over to another party. Contrast with co-maker.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

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.

Equity

A homeowner’s financial interest in a property. Equity is the difference between the fair market value of the property and the amount still owed on its mortgage.

A lender determines how much equity you have in your home by taking the appraised value of the home and subtracting any mortgage debt.

For example, if your house is valued at $150,000 and your mortgage balance is $80,000, you have $70,000 equity in the house.

Errors in Credit Report

Your credit report may contain inaccuracies. The best way to ensure there are no errors in your credit report is to request copies and review the information.

Since each of the main credit bureaus keeps its own records, you may want to request copies from all three: Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian.

If you have been turned down for credit because of the information in your credit report, you are entitled to receive a free copy of your report within 60 days of the denial. If you haven’t been denied credit, you can still request a copy of your credit report, usually for a nominal fee.

If you find errors in your report, follow the directions in the credit report and contact the agencies to have the errors corrected. They will investigate the targeted items and remove incorrect information.

You don’t have to delay applying for a mortgage while errors in your report are being corrected. Explain the discrepancies in the report to your lender and state that the credit agency is correcting them.

Escrow

An item of value, money, or documents deposited with a third party to be delivered upon the fulfillment of a condition. For example, the deposit by a borrower with the lender of funds to pay taxes and insurance premiums when they become due, or the deposit of funds or documents with an attorney or escrow agent to be disbursed upon the closing of a sale of real estate.

Escrow Account

The account in which a mortgage servicer holds the borrower’s escrow payments prior to paying property expenses.

An escrow account is money that is deposited with a third party - outside the buyer and the seller - to be used to pay various fees. A borrower typically provides funds that will pay taxes, mortgage insurance, lease payments, hazard insurance premiums, and other payments when they are due.

An escrow payment by the holder of a mortgage is also known as “impounds” or “reserves” in some states.

When escrow funds are used to pay taxes, hazard insurance, and other fees, it is called an escrow disbursement. Periodically, an escrow analysis will be performed to determine if current monthly deposits provide sufficient funds to pay bills when they are due.

Escrow Analysis

The periodic examination of escrow accounts to determine if current monthly deposits will provide sufficient funds to pay taxes, insurance, and other bills when due.

Escrow Collections

Funds collected by the servicer and set aside in an escrow account to pay the borrower’s property taxes, mortgage insurance, and hazard insurance.

Escrow Disbursements

The use of escrow funds to pay real estate taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, and other property expenses as they become due.

Escrow Payment

The portion of a mortgagor’s monthly payment that is held by the servicer to pay for taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, lease payments, and other items as they become due. Known as “impounds” or “reserves” in some states.

Establishing a Credit Report

It is possible to establish a credit history even if you do not have a traditional credit record that shows credit card payments or payments on a student or car loan.

You can build a nontraditional credit history, for example, by documenting your monthly payments to previous and current landlords; to utility companies for your gas, water and telephone services; and to insurance companies for medical, life, and automobile coverage.

Your lender can provide further details on how you can effectively establish a credit record.

Estate

The ownership interest of an individual in real property. The sum total of all the real property and personal property owned by an individual at time of death.

Eviction

The lawful expulsion of an occupant from real property.

Examination of Title

The report on the title of a property from the public records or an abstract of the title.

Exclusive Listing

A written contract that gives a licensed real estate agent the exclusive right to sell a property for a specified time, but reserving the owner’s right to sell the property alone without the payment of a commission.

Executor

A person named in a will to administer an estate. The court will appoint an administrator if no executor is named. “Executrix” is the feminine form.

Back to the top
 

F

Fair Credit Reporting Act

A consumer protection law that regulates the disclosure of consumer credit reports by consumer/credit reporting agencies and establishes procedures for correcting mistakes on one’s credit record.

Fair Market Value

The highest price that a buyer, willing but not compelled to buy, would pay, and the lowest a seller, willing but not compelled to sell, would accept.

Fannie Mae (FNMA)

A New York Stock Exchange company and the largest non-bank financial services company in the world. It operates pursuant to a federal charter and is the nation’s largest source of financing for home mortgages.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

An agency of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Its main activity is the insuring of residential mortgage loans made by private lenders. The FHA sets standards for construction and underwriting but does not lend money or plan or construct housing.

Fee Simple

The greatest possible interest a person can have in real estate.

Fee simple ownership provides the owner with unrestricted powers to dispose of the owned property as the owner sees fit. Of all types of ownership a person can have in real estate, fee simple provides the greatest amount of personal control.

Fee Simple Estate

An unconditional, unlimited estate of inheritance that represents the greatest estate and most extensive interest in land that can be enjoyed. It is of perpetual duration. When the real estate is in a condominium project, the unit owner is the exclusive owner only of the air space within his or her portion of the building (the unit) and is an owner in common with respect to the land and other common portions of the property.

FHA Coinsured Mortgage

A mortgage (under FHA Section 244) for which the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the originating lender share the risk of loss in the event of the mortgagor’s default.

FHA Loans

With FHA insurance, you can purchase a home with a low down payment from 3 percent to 5 percent of the FHA appraised value or the purchase price, whichever is lower.

FHA mortgages have a maximum loan limit that varies depending on the average cost of housing in a given region. In general, the loan limit is less than what is available with a conventional mortgage through a lender.

FHA Mortgage

A mortgage that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Also known as a government mortgage.

With FHA insurance, you can purchase a home with a low down payment from 3 percent to 5 percent of the FHA appraised value or the purchase price, whichever is lower.

FHA mortgages have a maximum loan limit that varies depending on the average cost of housing in a given region. In general, the loan limit is less than what is available with a mortgage through a lender.

Final Walk-Through Inspection

Your sales contract should include a clause that allows you to examine the property you want to purchase within the 24 hours before closing.

This walk-through, during which you will be accompanied by the real estate sales professional, is your chance to ensure that the seller has vacated the house and left behind whatever property was agreed upon.

Make sure to check that all lights, appliances, and plumbing fixtures are in working order.

You will also want to make sure that all conditions of the sales contract have been met. If they aren’t, or you observe major problems, you have the right to delay the closing until the problems are corrected.

One other option is to make sure money to correct the problems is placed in an escrow account at closing to cover the cost of repairs.

Financial Index

An index is a number to which the interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) is tied. It is generally a published number expressed as a percentage, such as the average interest rate or yield on U.S. Treasury bills. A margin is added to the index to determine the interest rate that will be charged on ARMs. This interest rate is subject to any caps associated with the mortgage.

The interest rate changes on an ARM are tied to some type of financial index. Some of the most common type of indexed ARMs are:

  • Treasury-Indexed ARMs
  • CD-Indexed ARMs (Certificate of Deposit)
  • Cost of Funds-Indexed ARMs (COFI)
  • LIBOR-Based ARMs

When comparing ARMs, look at how the index to which it is tied has performed recently. Your lender can provide information on how to track the index and a history of the index they use.

Finders Fee

A fee or commission paid to a mortgage broker for finding a mortgage loan for a prospective borrower.

Firm Commitment

A lender’s agreement to make a loan to a specific borrower on a specific property.

First Mortgage

A mortgage that is the primary lien against a property.

A “first mortgage” is the primary lien against a property. The term is usually coined “first mortgage” only when a “second mortgage” is obtained on a property. A “second mortgage” is a lien that is subordinate to the first mortgage. Usually, the interest rates on second mortgages are slightly higher than the interest rates on a first mortgage. The amount of a second mortgage you can take out will depend on the equity you have built up in your home, the appraised value of your property, your credit history, and any other liens you may have against your property, such as a home equity line of credit.

Borrowers will typically get a second mortgage to tap into the equity they’ve built in their home - and use that for home improvements, debt consolidation, medical bills, or other purposes. You apply for a second mortgage with the same process you follow for a first mortgage. However, some of your closing costs may be less.

When you have a first and second mortgage, you theoretically have two loans, both requiring interest and principal payments.

Fixed Installment

The monthly payment due on a mortgage loan. The fixed installment includes payment of both principal and interest.

Fixed-Period Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

This type of adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) maintains the same initial interest rate for the first three, five, seven, or 10 years of your loan, depending on the term you choose. Your interest rate then adjusts annually, and can move up or down as market conditions change. Be sure to ask your lender about the interest rate caps for both the annual adjustments and for the life of the loan.

Advantages:

  • Your initial interest rate will be lower than a fixed-rate mortgage, so you may be able to afford more home.
  • You are protected against interest rate increases for the first three, five, seven, or 10 years of the loan, depending on which type of fixed-period ARM you choose.
  • You may have the option to convert your ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage at the first, second, or third interest rate adjustment dates.
  • You have time to improve your financial position (i.e. salary increases) or accumulate additional assets before the interest rate adjusts at the end of the fixed period.

Details:

  • The lifetime interest rate cap for fixed-period ARMs is typically 5 to 6 percentage points above your initial rate. Your annual cap during the adjustable period is typically 1 to 2 percentage points above or below over the current rate.
  • Can be used to buy one- to four-family residences including second homes and condos, co-ops and planned unit developments. Manufactured homes are also eligible. (Manufactured housing units must be built on a permanent chassis at a factory and then transported to a permanent site and attached to a foundation.)

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

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

Fixed-rate mortgages, the most popular type of mortgage, offer the peace of mind that your interest rate will remain the same for as long as you have your loan. If you expect to live in your home for many years, having the same interest rate may be your key concern. If you decide that you like the stable, predictable payments of a fixed-rate loan, you have the option of choosing from a variety of repayment terms: 15, 20, and 30 years are the most common. Typically, the longer the term of the mortgage, the more interest you pay over the life of your loan. However, stretching out your repayment term means your monthly mortgage payments will be less than they would be with a comparable shorter-term mortgage. Lenders offer a wide array of fixed-rate mortgages:

  • Balloon Mortgages
  • Biweekly Mortgages

Fixture

Personal property that becomes real property when attached in a permanent manner to real estate.

Flood Insurance

Insurance that compensates for physical property damage resulting from flooding. It is required for properties located in federally designated flood areas.

Foreclosure

The legal process by which a borrower in default under a mortgage is deprived of his or her interest in the mortgaged 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.

If you repeatedly do not make your mortgage payments on time, your lender could sell your home and evict you from it in a legal procedure called foreclosure. A foreclosure on your property can result in the loss of your home and your good credit rating. Foreclosure is most often a last resort effort that lenders will take if you repeatedly don’t make your mortgage payments. Before going to foreclosure, lenders will work with you if you are facing financial hardships to come up with repayment plans that will let you get back on track and remain in your home.

Forfeiture

The loss of money, property, rights, or privileges due to a breach of legal obligation.

FSBO (For Sale by Owner)

For Sale By Owner, or FSBO, is the process of marketing, buying and selling of real estate without the representation of a real estate broker. FSBO can refer to both the individual selling the property “They are a FSBO,” or the property itself “that house is a FSBO.”

Fully Amortized ARM

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) with a monthly payment that is sufficient to amortize the remaining balance, at the interest accrual rate, over the amortization term.

Back to the top
 

G

General Contractor

A general contractor is someone whom you may work closely with during your home improvement project. The general contractor is the person who oversees the construction project and handles various aspects such as scheduling workers and ordering supplies.

If you are borrowing mortgage funds to renovate a home, your lender may need to review whether your contractor meets all federal, state, and local registration, licensing and certification standards.

Good Faith Estimate

The good-faith estimate is a report from your lender that outlines the costs you will incur to get your mortgage. It is based on the lender’s typical loan origination costs for the area where your home is located. The estimate usually changes between application and closing, so you’ll want to review your settlement form before the closing meeting.

The settlement form will list the actual amount of money you’ll need to bring to closing. You’ll need to pay your closing costs in the form of a certified or cashier’s check because personal checks usually are not accepted.

Government Mortgage

A mortgage that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the Rural Housing Service (RHS). Contrast with conventional mortage.

Government National Mortgage Association

A government-owned corporation within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Created by Congress on September 1, 1968, GNMA assumed responsibility for the special assistance loan program formerly administered by Fannie Mae. Popularly known as Ginnie Mae.

Grantee

The person to whom an interest in real property is conveyed.

Grantor

The person conveying an interest in real property.

Ground Rent

The amount of money that is paid for the use of land when title to a property is held as a leasehold estate rather than as a fee simple estate.

Group Home

A single-family residential structure designed or adapted for occupancy by unrelated developmentally disabled persons. The structure provides long-term housing and support services that are residential in nature.

Growing-Equity Mortgage (GEM)

A fixed-rate mortgage that provides scheduled payment increases over an established period of time, with the increased amount of the monthly payment applied directly toward reducing the remaining balance of the mortgage.

Guarantee Mortgage

A mortgage that is guaranteed by a third party.

Guaranteed Loan

Also known as a government mortgage.

Back to the top
 

H

Hazard Insurance

Insurance coverage that in the event of physical damage to a property from fire, wind, vandalism, or other hazards.

Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM)

A special type of mortgage that enables older home owners to convert the equity they have in their homes into cash, using a variety of payment options to address their specific financial needs. Unlike traditional home equity loans, a borrower does not qualify on the basis of income but on the value of his or her home. In addition, the loan does not have to be repaid until the borrower no longer occupies the property. Sometimes called a reverse mortgage.

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is a type of home loan that lets homeowners aged 62 or over with little or no remaining balance on their mortgage convert their equity into cash. The equity can be paid to the homeowner in a lump sum, in a stream of payments, draws from a line of credit, or a combination of monthly payments and line of credit.

Whatever payment plan you select, you do not have to repay any part of this reverse mortgage until you sell the home or vacate it for an

Why Do You Need Title Insurance?

Title Insurance.

It’s a term we hear and see frequently - we see reference to it in the Sunday real estate section, in advertisements and in conversations with real estate brokers. If you’ve purchased a home before, you’re probably familiar with the benefits and procedures of title insurance. But if this is your first home, you may wonder, “Why do I need another insurance policy? It’s just one more bill to pay.”

The answer is simple: The purchase of a home is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. You, and your mortgage lender, want to make sure that the property is indeed yours - lock, stock and barrel - and that no individual or government entity has any right, lien, claim to your property.

Title insurance companies are in business to make sure your rights and interests to the property are clear, that transfer of title takes place efficiently and correctly and that your interests as a homebuyer are protected to the maximum degree.

Title insurance companies provide services to buyers, sellers, real estate developers, builders, mortgage lenders and others who have an interest in a real estate transfer. Title companies routinely issue two types of policies - “owner’s”, which cover you, the homebuyer; and “lender’s”, which covers the bank, savings and loan or other lending institution over the life of the loan. Both are issued at the time of purchase for a modest, one-time premium.

Before issuing a policy, however, the title company performs an extensive search of relevant public records to determine if anyone other than you has an interest in the property. The search may be performed by title company personnel using either public records or more likely, information gathered, reorganized and indexed in the company’s title plant.

With such a thorough examination of records, any title problems usually can be found and cleared up prior to your purchase of the property. Once a title policy is issued, if for some reason any claim which is covered under your title policy is ever filed against your property, the title company will pay the legal fee involved in defense of your rights, as well as any covered loss arising from a valid claim. That protection, which is in effect as long as you or your heirs own the property, is yours for a one-time premium paid at the time of purchase.

The fact that title companies work to eliminate risks before they develop makes the title insurance decidedly different from other types of insurance you may have purchased. Most forms of insurance assume risks by providing financial protection through a pooling of risks for losses arising from an unforeseen event, say a fire, theft or accident. The purpose of title insurance, on the other hand, is to eliminate risks and prevent losses caused by defects in title that happened in the past. Risks are examined and mitigated before property changes hands.

This risk elimination has benefits to both you, the homebuyer, and the title company: it minimizes the chances adverse claims might be raised, and by so doing reduces the number of claims that have to be defended or satisfied. This keeps costs down for the title company and your title premiums low.

Buying a home is a big step emotionally and financially. With title insurance you are assured that any valid claim against your property will be borne by the title company, and that the odds of a claim being filed are slim indeed.

Isn’t sleeping well at night, knowing your home is yours, reason enough for title insurance?

Article by CLTA

Understanding Title Insurance

What is title insurance? Newspapers refer to it in the weekly real estate sections and you hear about it in conversations with real estate brokers. If you’ve purchased a home you may be familiar with the benefits of title insurance. However, if this is your first home, you may wonder, “Why do I need yet another insurance policy?” While a number of issues can be raised by that question, we will start with a general answer.

The purchase of a home is one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. You and your mortgage lender will want to make sure the property is indeed yours and that no one else has any lien, claim or encumbrance on your property.

The Land Title Association, in the following pages, answers some questions frequently asked about an often misunderstood line of insurance - title insurance.

What is the difference between title insurance and casualty insurance?

Title insurers work to identify and eliminate risk before issuing a title insurance policy. Casualty insurers assume risks.

Casualty insurance companies realize that a certain number of losses will occur each year in a given category (auto, fire, etc.). The insurers collect premiums monthly or annually from the policy holders to establish reserve funds in order to pay for expected losses.

Title companies work in a very different manner. Title insurance will indemnify you against loss under the terms of your policy, but title companies work in advance of issuing your policy to identify and eliminate potential risks and therefore prevent losses caused by title defects that may have been created in the past.

Title insurance also differs from casualty insurance in that the greatest part of the title insurance premium dollar goes towards risk elimination. Title companies maintain title plants, which contain information regarding property transfers and liens reaching back many years. Maintaining these title plants, along with the searching and examining of title, is where most of your premium dollar goes.

Who needs title insurance?

Buyers and lenders in real estate transactions need title insurance. Both want to know that the property they are involved with is insured against certain title defects. Title companies provide this needed insurance coverage subject to the terms of the policy. The seller, buyer and lender all benefit from the insurance provided by title companies.

What does title insurance insure?

Title insurance offers protection against claims resulting from various defects (as set out in the policy) which may exist in the title to a specific parcel of real property, effective on the issue date of the policy. For example, a person might claim to have a deed or lease giving them ownership or the right to possess your property. Another person could claim to hold an easement giving them a right of access across your land. Yet another person may claim that they have a lien on your property securing the repayment of a debt. That property may be an empty lot or it may hold a 50-story office tower. Title companies work with all types of real property.

What types of policies are available?

Title companies routinely issue two types of policies: An “owner’s policy” which insures you, the Homebuyer, for as long as you and your heirs own the home; and a “lender’s” policy which insures the priority of the lender’s security interest over the claims that others may have in the property.

What protection am I obtaining with my title policy?

A title insurance policy contains provisions for the payment of the legal fees in defense of a claim against your property which is covered under your policy. It also contains provisions for indemnification against losses which result from a covered claim. A premium is paid at the close of a transaction. There are no continuing premiums due, as there are with other types of insurance.

What are my chances of ever using my title policy?

In essence, by acquiring your policy, you derive the important knowledge that recorded matters have been searched and examined so that title insurance covering your property can be issued. Because we are risk eliminators, the probability of exercising your right to make a claim is very low. However, claims against your property may not be valid, making the continuous protection of the policy all the more important. When a title company provides a legal defense against claims covered by your title insurance policy, the savings to you for that legal defense alone will greatly exceed the one-time premium.

What if I am buying property from someone I know?

You may not know the owner as well as you think you do. People undergo changes in their personal lives that may affect title to their property. People get divorced, change their wills, engage in transactions that limit the use of the property and have liens and judgments placed against them personally for various reasons.

There may also be matters affecting the property that are not obvious or known, even by the existing owner, which a title search and examination seeks to uncover as part of the process leading up to the issuance of the title insurance policy.

Just as you wouldn’t make an investment based on a phone call, you shouldn’t buy real property without assurances as to your title. Title insurance provides these assurances.

The process of risk identification and elimination performed by the title companies, prior to the issuance of a title policy, benefits all parties in the property transaction. It minimizes the chances that adverse claims might be raised, and by doing so reduces the number of claims that need to be defended or satisfied. This process keeps costs and expenses down for the title company and maintains the traditional low cost of title insurance.

Article by CLTA

Understanding Preliminary Reports

After months of searching, you’ve finally found it -- your perfect dream home. But is it perfect?

Will you be purchasing more than just a beautiful home? Will you also be acquiring liens placed on the property by prior owners? Have documents been recorded that will restrict your use of the property?

The preliminary report will provide you with the opportunity, prior to purchase, to review matters affecting your property which will be excluded from coverage under your title insurance policy unless removed or eliminated before your purchase.

To help you better understand this often bewildering subject, the Land Title Association has answered some of the questions most commonly asked about preliminary reports.

What is a Preliminary Report?

A preliminary report is a report prepared prior to issuing a policy of title insurance that shows the ownership of a specific parcel of land, together with the liens and encumbrances thereon which will not be covered under a subsequent title insurance policy.

What role does a Preliminary Report play in the real estate process?

A preliminary report contains the conditions under which the title company will issue a particular type of title insurance policy.

The preliminary report lists, in advance of purchase, title defects, liens and encumbrances which would be excluded from coverage if the requested title insurance policy were to be issued as of the date of the preliminary report. The report may then be reviewed and discussed by the parties to a real estate transaction and their agents.

Thus, a preliminary report provides the opportunity to seek the removal of items referenced in the report which are objectionable to the buyer prior to purchase.

When and how is the Preliminary Report produced?

Shortly after escrow is opened, an order will be placed with the title company which will then begin the process involved in producing the report.

This process calls for the assembly and review of certain recorded matters relative to both the property and the parties to the transaction. Examples of recorded matters include a deed of trust recorded against the property or a lien recorded against the buyer or seller for an unpaid court award or unpaid taxes.

These recorded matters are listed numerically as “exceptions” in the preliminary report. They will remain exceptions from title insurance coverage unless eliminated or released prior to the transfer of title.

What should I look for when reading my Preliminary Report?

You will be interested, primarily, in the extent of your ownership rights. This means you will want to review the ownership interest in the property you will be buying as well as any claims, restrictions or interests of other people involving the property.

The report will note in a statement of vesting the degree, quantity, nature and extent of the owner’s interest in the real property. The most common form of interest is “fee simple” or “fee” which is the highest type of interest an owner can have in land.

Liens, restrictions and interests of others which are being excluded from coverage will be listed numerically as exceptions in the preliminary report. These may be claims by creditors who have liens or liens for payment of taxes or assessments. There may also be recorded restrictions which have been placed in a prior deed or contained in what are termed CC&Rs- covenants, conditions and restrictions. Finally, interests of third parties are not uncommon and may include easements given by a prior owner which limit your use of the property. When you buy property you may not wish to have these claims or restrictions on your property. Instead, you may want to clear the unwanted items prior to purchase.

In addition to the limitations noted above, a printed list of standard exceptions and exclusions listing items not covered by your title insurance policy may be attached as an exhibit item to your report. Unlike the numbered exclusions, which are specific to the property you are buying, these are standard exceptions and exclusions appearing in title insurance policies. The review of this section is important, as it sets forth matters which will not be covered under your title insurance policy, but which you may wish to investigate, such as governmental laws or regulations governing building and zoning.

Will the Preliminary Report disclose the complete condition of the title to a property?

No. It is important to note that the preliminary report is not a written representation as to the condition of title and may not list all liens, defects, and encumbrances affecting title to the land, but merely report the current ownership and matters that the title company will exclude from coverage if a title insurance policy should later be issued.

Is a Preliminary Report the same thing as title insurance?

Definitely not.

A preliminary report is an offer to insure, it is not a report of a complete history of recorded documents relating to the property. A preliminary report is a statement of terms and conditions of the offer to issue a title insurance policy, not a representation as to the condition of title.

These distinctions are important for the following reasons: first, no contract or liability exists until the title insurance policy is issued; second, the title insurance policy is issued to a particular insured person and others cannot claim the benefit of the policy.

Can I be protected against title risks prior to the close of the real estate transaction?

Yes, you can. Title companies can protect your interest through the issuance of “binders” and “commitments”.

A binder is an agreement to issue insurance giving temporary coverage until such time as a formal policy is issued. A commitment is a title insurer’s contractual obligation to insure title to real property once its stated requirements have been met.

Discuss with your title insurer the best means to protect your interests.

How do I go about clearing unwanted liens and encumbrances?

You will wish to carefully review the preliminary report. Should the title to the property be clouded, you and your agents will work with the seller and the seller’s agents to clear the unwanted liens and encumbrances prior to taking title.

Who can I turn to for further information regarding Preliminary Reports?

Your real estate agent and your attorney, should you choose to use one, will help explain the preliminary report to you. Your escrow and title company can also be helpful sources.

CONCLUSION

In a business which is directed at risk elimination, the efforts leading to the production of the preliminary report, which is designed to facilitate the issuance of a policy of title insurance, is perhaps the most important function undertaken.

Article by CLTA

Contact Me














n/a

n/a










* fields are required

Quick Search


view all


Any

Any

No Min.

No Max.