Real Estate Definitions

Below are many common terms used in real estate. You can scroll through this or use CTRL+F to search for key terms. We hope you find this helpful.

Abstract – A brief synopsis of legal documents, affecting a specific piece of property, which is compiled in chronological order and includes all the instruments in the chain of title.

Abstract Certificate – A certificate appearing at the end of an abstract showing the time period covered and the public records that have been searched. Limitations that affect possible liability are included.

Abstracter – The person or company making abstracts.

Abstract of Judgment – A brief transcript of the essentials of a judgment.

Abstract of Title – See Abstract.

Abstract Plant – A set of records of all the recorded instruments in a county indexed geographically by the real property description (property index – “PI”) and a set of records indexed alphabetically as to other miscellaneous instruments that affect real property by operation of law (tract index or “TI”). It is so arranged that all the instruments affecting a piece of land can be immediately found under the index heading of such land. See also Name File, Property Index.

Acreage – A piece of property described according to the land survey system. This property has not been platted or subdivided.

Acreage Breakdown Code – A numeric representation of a square area within a section that is derived by systematically quartering a section into a grid system.

Acreage Description – See Metes and Bounds.

Ad Valorem – According to the value.

Ad Valorem Taxes – Taxes calculated on the assessed value of real property.

Affidavit – A written statement as to certain facts, made voluntarily under oath, before a notary public or other judicial officer.

Agent – An individual or corporation who acts in another’s behalf within the scope of the authority granted by the other.

ALTA – See American Land Title Association.

ALTA Format – Standard American Land Title Association format for commitments, policies, and miscellaneous title insurance forms.

American Land Title Association (ALTA) – A national trade association of the land title industry.

Assessed Value – The value given to a piece of property for tax purposes, usually fixed by the tax assessor (now called county property appraiser).

Assignment of Mortgage – A transfer of ownership of a mortgage.

Assumption of Mortgage – The taking of title to real property by a grantee (buyer), wherein the grantee expressly assumes personal liability for the payment of an existing note secured by an existing mortgage against the property.

Attorney’s Opinion – The written statement of an attorney setting forth what he or she believes to be the condition of a real estate title, based upon an examination of an abstract of title.

Automated Title Information Data System (ATIDS) – Florida’s largest title computer data base, which gives a law office instant access to title information.

Balloon Mortgage – A mortgage securing a note that calls for interest only payments or has level monthly payments for a stated term, but is amortized over a longer period and provides for a large final payment (balloon) to be due at maturity.

Base Title – Prior title information that covers the title to a certain point in time.

Binder – See Commitment.

Blanket Mortgage – A single mortgage that covers more than one parcel of real estate.

Block – A subdivision of a plat. Each block is assigned a unique number or letter in relation to other blocks.

Certificate of Title – A judicial transfer of title subsequent to a foreclosure which vests title in the successful bidder at a sale.

Certification Date – (1) The date through which recorded documents affecting title have been compiled for title search. All abstracts and chains should always have a certification date shown on the face of the product. In preparing commitments, the title information’s certification date becomes the effective date of the commitment; (2) the date through which title plant records have been indexed, regardless of the type of indexing system.

Chain of Title – A listing of all deeds, wills, or other conveyances and transfers of title to real property along with encumbrances of all kinds. The word chain refers to link, that is, linking the deeds and encumbrances.

Claim – A right to assert, or the assertion or a demand for money due; a demand entered of record by a mechanic or materialman for work done or material furnished in the erection or repair of a building or other improvement to property.

Closeout Certificate – Supplemental title information, which is ordered after the recording of closing documents.

Closing – The formality of finalizing a transaction, either the transferring or refinancing of property, or both.

Closing Protection Letter – An instrument issued to a proposed insured in which the underwriter assumes liability for loss due to the fraud of, dishonesty of, misappropriation of funds by, or failure to comply with written closing instructions by an Member Agent in connection with a real estate transaction for which a title insurance policy by the underwriter is to be issued.

Closing Services – Services performed by a licensed title insurer, title insurance agent or agency, or attorney agent in the agent or agency’s capacity as such, including, but not limited to, preparing documents necessary to close the transaction, conducting the closing, or handling the disbursing of funds related to the closing in a real estate transaction in which a title insurance commitment or policy is to be issued.

Closing Statement – The statement, in the form of a balance sheet, used in a real estate closing to show the charges and credits for each party to the closing transaction, and also the balance due from or to the respective parties. See also HUD-I.

Co-insurance – Two or more policies of title insurance issued by different underwriters, each covering a portion of the same risk, which when taken together provide total coverage of the risk. This should not be confused with reinsurance.

Commercial Name Directory – An alphabetical listing of business or corporate names that are indexed in ATIDS.

Commitment – An assurance to the lender or to the buyer of real property that title has been checked through the most current certification date contemporary with the date of closing. This creates an obligation to write a final policy by the same underwriter who issued the commitment. Commitment Schedule B, Part I, lists all items necessary to be obtained or problems to be cleared before the issuance of a final policy. Schedule B, Part 2, will display all matters that will be shown on a final policy as exceptions.

Concurrent Issue – See Simultaneous Issue.

Condominium – A condominium is a form of ownership, not a building type. Usually it is an apartment house, office building, or other multiple unit building or group of buildings in which the apartments or other units intended for separate occupancy or use are individually owned and the unit owners collectively own the common facilities.

Condominium Property – This includes the following: (1) the lands and leaseholds that are subjected to condominium ownership, whether or not contiguous, and all improvements thereon; (2) all easements and rights owned in addition to the property intended for use in connection with the condominium.

Condominium Unit – The apartment (or residential unit) or office space in a condominium complex together with an undivided interest in the common areas. These units are considered real property.

Continuation of Abstract – Also known as an extension of supplementary abstracts. It is commonly referred to as a partial abstract, and it begins at the final certification date of the previous abstract and includes all instruments recorded since the prior abstract to a current certification date.

Continuation Sheet – A blank form provided by THE FUND to use when one runs out of room on either Schedules A or B of any Fund commitment, policy, or endorsement.

Conventional Loan – Generally indicates a mortgage loan that is neither insured by the FHA nor guaranteed by the VA and is not generally intended to be sold on the secondary market.

Conveyance – The transfer of title of land from one to another; also, the instrument that accomplishes this transfer.

Core Title Agent Services – Services required by Section 8 of RESPA that the attorney of the seller or buyer must perform in order to receive compensation as a title agent. These core services include: (1) evaluation of the title search to determine the insurability of the title; (2) clearance of underwriting objections; (3) actual issuance of the policy or policies on behalf of the title insurance company; (4) issuance of the title commitment and conducting of the title search and closing; (5) assumption of liability for the core title agent services performed.

County Number – A unique two-digit number in ATIDS that designates the county for title searching. All counties in the system have a county number.

Cut-off Number – The authorization number that entitles an attorney who is writing 25 or more policies in the same subdivision or condominium to search at a reduced rate on the ATIDS System. The cut-off number must be requested from the Help Desk.

Date of Filing (DOF) – The month, day, and year a document was filed in the public records.

Date of Instrument (DOl) – The month, day, and year a document was prepared.

Deed – A written instrument signed and witnessed by two persons by which one person conveys title of land to another. While more commonly used to convey title to real property, it may also be used to convey title to personal property. See also Fee Simple Deed, Warranty Deed, Quitclaim Deed.

Description – See Legal Description.

Disbursement – Paying out all funds due to the seller, buyer, real estate agent, attorney, surveyor, or other parties at closing rather than holding monies in escrow for a clearing period.

Document (Instrument) – Written or printed piece of paper that can be used as decisive evidence and notice of transactions and obligations, such as conveyances of land, mortgages, liens, judgments, etc.

Duplicate Policy – Is a copy of a previously issued policy.

Easement – A right or interest in the land of another, which entitles the holder to some use, privilege, or benefit (such as to place power lines, pipe lines, roads, or to travel over, etc.) out of or over said land.

Effective Date of Commitment – The date through which the attorney has examined physical documents affecting title to property being transferred. See also Certification Date.

Effective Date of Policy – The date the instrument creating the estate or interest being insured is recorded (or a date after it); usually the date closing documents (deed, mortgage) are recorded.

Encumbrance – Any claim, right, or lien upon the title to real property; most common example is a mortgage.

Endorsement – Form provided by THE FUND, which is used for the amendment of information or coverage contained in a Fund commitment or policy.

Escrow – (1) A transaction in which a third party as a depository for seller and buyer or for borrower and lender acts in carrying out the instructions of both first and second parties, and also in handling and disbursing the papers and funds; (2) special account used by attorneys and REALTORS® to hold down payments, earnest money, and funds from closing for a specified clearing period if custom allows.

Estoppel Letter – A document executed by a party to a debt (mortgagor or mortgagee) acknowledging the current loan balance and terms. Having thus acknowledged the balance and terms, the party making the document is prevented from later claiming that the information was not accurate. It is most commonly used to confirm the loan balance in connection with the sale of a mortgage by the mortgagee or in connection with the sale of the underlying real property by the mortgagor. It is also used to confirm or deny any outstanding balance due to a homeowner’s or condominium association.

Exceptions – Any items that will not be covered by the policy, usually easements, restrictions, leases, etc., which are found of record, and are not cleared before closing.

Fee Simple – The highest estate or interest in land. The terms fee, fee simple, and fee simple absolute are all synonymous.

Fee Simple Deed – A transfer or conveyance of fee-simple title without warranties; it implies that the grantor has good title to convey.

Filing – In the title business, same as recording. See Recording.

First Party – Usually the person(s) initiating the action of a document. The document is usually signed by the first party, such as the grantor, mortgagor, etc.

Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C. or Fla. Admin. Code) – The rules and regulations governing title insurance are found in Ch. 690-186 of the Code.

FLTA – Florida Land Title Association.

Foreclosure – A court proceeding against real property to satisfy a debt. The property is sold under court order when it is used as security for a debt that is not paid.

Fund or THE FUND – The logo used to identify Attorneys’ Title Services Fund, Inc.

Fund Corporate Agent – See Agent.

Gap – The period of time between the effective date of a commitment and the recording date of the instrument creating the estate or interest being insured. Sec. 627.7841, F.S., requires the title insurer to give, under certain conditions, protection to the insured for defects first appearing of record in the gap period.

General Index (GI) – See Name File.

Grantee – One receiving title to real property, such as the purchaser of property; a person to whom a grant is made.

Grantor – One who signs a deed thereby granting title, such as the seller of real property.

Hard Copy – Photocopy of a document filed at a county courthouse.

Homestead – A property defined by law and designated by a natural person as a house or home that is not subject to forced sale to pay his debts. In Florida, homestead land receives tax benefits, is protected from creditors’ claims, and can be alienated or devised under limited circumstances.

HOD-I – The uniform settlement statement (closing statement) prescribed for use in federally related mortgage transactions. The use of this form is mandated under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Index – (1) Any alphabetical or numerical listing used to locate prior files, policies, abstracts, etc.; in the recording office of the clerk of the circuit-court comptroller, (2) a chronological, alphabetical listing of names of parties reflected on recorded instruments; commonly referred to as the grantor/grantee index or the direct/indirect index.

Instrument – See Document.

Insurer – The term applied to the title insurance company or underwriter.

Jacket – The serialized exterior into which Schedules’ A and B fit. It is the only portion of the policy that must be accounted for due to serializing.

Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship – Two or more persons who hold title to real estate jointly, with equal rights, with clearly stated rights of survivorship according to statute. If one of the joint tenants conveys his interest, the survivorship feature is terminated and they would all be tenants in common.

Judgment – The decision of a court of law awarding payment of money or other relief against one party for the benefit of another.

Lease – A contract between an owner and a tenant, setting forth conditions upon which the tenant may occupy and use the real property and the term of the occupancy.

Leasehold – An estate or interest in real estate held by the lessee by virtue of a lease.

Legal Description – A statement that clearly describes the location of the boundaries of a tract of real property with respect to some point of reference. Metes and bounds, lots and blocks in platted subdivisions, and units in condominiums are several types of legal descriptions. Street addresses and tax parcel ID numbers are generally not legally sufficient descriptions for the purpose of transferring an interest in real estate.

Lessee – The party who contracts to lease from the lessor or landlord; a tenant.

Lessor – The party who enters into a lease with another; the owner.

Lien – A claim on the property of another person as security for the payment of a debt.

Limited Residential Search – A specialized ATIDS search that may be used for platted residential properties and for issuing the Owner’s Policy Residential form and Mortgagee Policy Short Form.

Lot – Usually the smallest division of property shown on a plat.

Marketability – The status of a title when viewed in the light of whether it is in such condition as to be free from legal doubt or uncertainty; also known as a merchantable title.

Marketability Policy – An owner’s policy extending coverage to insure against loss or damages because of the inability to sell the property in the future due to title problems.

Master Mortgage – A form of blanket mortgage recorded and used as reference in the actual mortgage and in which are included many of the basic terms and requirements of the lender. The actual mortgage is a short form and does not repeat the terms in the master mortgage but, by reference, makes it and its terms a part of the mortgage obligations.

Metes and Bounds – Used in legal descriptions of land by surveyors. Metes are measurements such as feet, yards, chains, and miles. Bounds are boundaries both natural and artificial, such as lakes, rivers, roads, and railroads.

Mortgage – The pledging of property to a creditor as security for payment of a debt.

Mortgagee – The holder of a mortgage; the lender.

Mortgagee Policy (MP) – Used to insure the mortgage lien that a lender is acquiring. It insures that the mortgage has been executed in accordance with the law, and is a valid lien against the real property described.

Mortgagee Policy Short Form (MPP) – Provides all the coverages of the “long form” policy, but uses preprinted general exceptions rather than exceptions that are specifically described by date and recording information.

Mortgagor – The debtor; the person who executes a mortgage; the borrower.

Name File (General Index or GI) – An ATIDS file that contains documents/entries indexed by name. There are documents that may affect a person’s obligation or right to convey property, but do not affect a specific piece of property. A document in the name file very rarely contains a legal description.

Official Records (OR) – In a broad sense, this term might include several different public record books. For title purposes, Official Records pertain to the set of index books as defined by the Legislature, which the clerk of the circuit court must maintain, and which takes the place of deed books, mortgage books, judgment books, etc., so that one set of books would simplify the records. A simplified recording system currently in use, which provides constructive notice for all documents filed.

Owner’s Policy. Marketability (OPM) – See Marketability Policy.

Owner’s Policy, Residential (OPR) – Provides all the coverages of the “long fonn” owner’s policy but uses preprinted general exceptions rather than exceptions that are specifically described by date and recording infonnation. This is the only owner’s policy form that may be issued based on the Limited Residential Search.

Parcel – A general term referring to any described piece of real property.

Personal Property – Any property that is not real property (examples: stocks, bonds, mortgages, notes, cars, boats, furniture).

Plat – A map or plan of a subdivision.

Plat Book – The public record book in which maps, plats, and copies of surveys are recorded.

Postings – Any documents and legals that have been entered into ATIDS.

Premium – The charge made by a title insurer for a title insurance policy, including the charge for performance of primary title services by a title insurer or title insurance agent or agency.

Primary Title Services – Determining insurability in accordance with sound underwriting practices based upon evaluation of a reasonable title search or a search of the records of a Uniform Commercial Code filing office and such other information as may be necessary, determination and clearance of underwriting objections and requirements to eliminate risk, preparation and issuance of a title insurance commitment setting forth the requirements to insure, and preparation and issuance of the policy. Such services do not include closing services or title search for which a separate charge or charges may be made.

Principal – There are three meanings of this term for title persons: (1) a sum of money owed as a debt or borrowed; (2) a person who empowers another to act as his agent or representative; (3) a person primarily responsible for an obligation, as distinguished from one who is a surety or endorser.

Prior Exposure (Prior Policy) – A policy issued in the past is known as a prior exposure or prior policy and may be used as a base for title searching.

Prior Policy – (1) Any policy written by a corporate title insurer on property insuring title to that property. It can sometimes be used as a base for searching title and can be used for prior policy reissue rate under limited circumstances (2) any policy on property insured by THE FUND since 1948. If a prior Fund policy exists on the same land transferred today, the effective date of the prior Fund policy can be used as a base for searching title, sometimes with a minimum overlap. Copies of prior policies are available to Fund Member Agents if using ATIDS and issuing a policy on Old Republic National Title Insurance Company through Attorneys’ Title Fund Services, LLC.

Property Index (Property File or PI) – An ATIDS file that contains any documents that directly affect property.

Public Records – The records consisting of instruments transcribed on the record books of governmental offices, in particular the clerk of the circuit court or comptroller’s office.

Purchase Money Mortgage – A mortgage given by the buyer to the seller of particular property as part of the purchase price. The term may, under certain conditions, include a mortgage to a third party.

Quitclaim Deed – A simple form of deed containing no warranties, which releases or conveys any interest the grantor may have in the property described.

REALTOR® – A copyrighted trade name that can be legally used only by persons belonging to the National Association of Realtors.

Recording (Filing) – The placing of any instrument that affects the title of real property on the records of the county in which that property is located.

Reinsurance – One insurance company insuring another insurer against loss exceeding a specified amount; used as standard underwriting practice when the amount is large.

Reissue – The issuance of a new title insurance policy based on a prior exposure or prior policy.

Reissue Rate – A discounted rate used to calculate the Fund title premium when a prior owner’s policy is provided, under limited circumstances.

Replat – A new plat changing all or portions of a former plat.

RESPA – Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, found in 12 U.S.C., Secs. 2601 et seq., initially enacted Dec. 22,1974. RESPA is implemented by Regulation X, found at 24 CFR Part 3500, most recently amended December 2, 1992.

Restrictions (or Restrictive Covenants) – Limitations in a deed or by separate instrument, which restricts the use, occupation, and improvement of land.

Risk – The risk that a title company assumes when it insures an interest of real property.

Sales Contract – A contract by which one party agrees to buy and the other agrees to sell certain real property according to the terms of a written contract.

Schedule A – First page of a commitment or policy inserted in a jacket cover. Schedule A of a commitment and policy includes the effective date of the commitment or policy, the name of the insured, the amount of insurance and the legal description of the land insured.

Schedule B – Second page of a commitment or policy inserted in a jacket cover. Schedule B-1 of a commitment includes the requirements for insuring and the exceptions to coverage. Schedule B-2 of a policy lists the exceptions to coverage.

Search – Exploring or checking the public records to determine the title of a particular piece of real property.

Second Party – Anyone who is the recipient of an action created by a document, such as a grantee, mortgagee, etc.

Serialized Forms – Any policy form on which a pre-assigned serial number appears (e.g., commitment, mortgagee policy, and owner’s policy insuring marketability jackets). The annual audit and forms controls sheets identify these forms by listing the serial numbers.

Simultaneous Issue – Owner and mortgagee policies covering identical land that are issued with the same effective dates.

Subdivision – A tract of land laid out and divided into lots, blocks, etc.

Supplement (or Update, BringdoWD, Closeout, Closeout Certificate) – Written certified supplemental title information ordered before the issuance of a final title policy. Usually, it will supplement information from the effective date of commitment through the recording date of the last instrument that creates the interests to be insured.

Survey – The act by which the boundaries and quantity of land are determined; the map or plat drawn by a surveyor that shows the results of the survey.

TAC – See Title Assumption Certificate.

Timeshare – A facility or property where ownership and/or use is divided into time periods.

Title – A combination of all elements that constitute the legal right to own, possess, use, control, enjoy, and dispose of real estate. It is a right of ownership recognized and protected by law.

Title Assumption Certificate (TAC) – Certified information showing the condition of an examined lot or condominium unit, usually through the recording of the subdivision plat or the condominium declaration. TACs are given solely for the purpose of issuing Old Republic policies through Attorneys’ Title Fund Services, LLC.

Title Certificate – An examined summary of the status of title to specific real property, including liens and encumbrances, to be used by attorneys for the issuance of title insurance commitments and final policies written on Old Republic National Title Insurance Company through Attorneys’ Title Fund Services, LLC.

Title Commitment – See Commitment.

Title Insurance – Indemnity against loss resulting from defects in or undisclosed liens upon a title.

Title Plant – See Abstract Plant.

Title Search – 1) “The compiling of title information from official or public records.” Sec. 627.7711 (4), F.S. 2) a general term referring to a search and examination of the public records for recorded instruments that affect the title to the parcel of land under search. It may be in the form of an abstract, chain of title, title certificate, etc.

Title Search Report – Report from which status of title can be determined. Requires examination by an Agent. May be relied on for the issuance of Fund commitment and policy.

Tract – Some plats may be subdivided into areas designated as tracts. Each tract is assigned a unique number or letter in relation to other tracts. In many cases, this can be an unused portion of a subdivision that is outside the subdivided areas known as lots, blocks, etc. Tract is also used as a general term to indicate a large area of property.

Underlying Property – The property description prior to a plat or condominium declaration.

Underwriter – An insurance company that is given a certificate of authority by the Florida Department of Financial Services Office of Insurance Regulation to engage in the business of issuing policies of title insurance. Section 624.401 (1), F.S.

Underwriter Share – The amount remitted to the underwriter whenever a policy is written; the share of the premium paid by the Fund Member Agent for issuance of a policy.

Unit (Apartment) – A part of a legal description that designates the portion under individual ownership within a condominium building and an undivided interest in the common areas.

Unit (Subdivision) – A development portion or phase of a subdivision, usually encompassed by a separate plat.

Unrecorded Subdivision (UN X) – A surveyor plat of subdivided lots and/or blocks that has not been recorded according to applicable laws and regulations

Warehousing – A system of temporary funding, whereby the warehouse bank holds mortgages originated by a mortgage broker, putting up the funds for same until such time as the broker is ready to transfer the mortgages to a permanent lender.

Warrant – To assure the title to the real property sold by an express covenant to that effect in the deed or conveyance; to stipulate by an express covenant that the title of a grantee shall be good and his possession undisturbed.

Warranty – In a broad sense, an agreement or undertaking by a seller to be responsible for present or future losses growing out of the interest in or encumbrances on the title; to guarantee the title.

Warranty Deed – Generally the same as General Warranty Deed; a deed containing five common law warranties: (1) covenant of warranty; (2) covenant of seisin; (3) covenant of quiet enjoyment; (4) covenant against encumbrances; and (5) covenant of further assurance.

We help people throughout Florida with personal injury, real estate closings, foreclosure defense, probate, and estate planning. If you or someone you know needs help in any of those areas of law, contact us today. Let the Law Offices of Evan M. Rosen serve you!

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