A-Z Glossary: 50+ Common Real Estate Terms You Should Know

In this article:

Complicated real estate jargon can make the home buying and selling process even more confusing. We’re here to help you understand the vocabulary and make your buying and selling experience as smooth as possible. Below is a comprehensive list of real estate terms to refer to as you plan your move. 

Active listing/on-market listing 

An active listing, or on-market listing, is a property that is currently available for sale and accepting offers.

Active with contract listing (AWC)

The active with contract status means that the seller has accepted an offer on the listing but is still taking backup offers in case the accepted offer falls through. You can make an offer on an “active with contract listing,” but the seller cannot accept the bid unless their first offer falls through. 

Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)

An adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, is a type of home loan with a fluctuating interest rate versus a fixed rate. The initial interest of an adjustable-rate mortgage is typically lower than a fixed-rate mortgage but the interest rate is adjusted at specific intervals during the loan period. The ARM interest rates often change depending on the interest rate index they are tied to, such as the London interbank offered rate (LIBOR) or the cost of funds index (COFI).

Appraisal

An appraisal is an unbiased, impartial analysis to determine a property’s market value. An appraisal can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a week, depending on the condition of your home. Seeking an appraisal helps a lender determine if a buyer is requesting to borrow an appropriate amount of money for the property. 

Appraisal contingency

An appraisal contingency is a clause that allows a buyer to terminate their purchase agreement if the property’s appraised value is less than the sale price. An appraisal contingency protects the buyer and in many cases, allows the buyer to get their earnest money back. 

As-is condition

A property listed in “as-is condition” means the seller is listing the house in its current condition and is unwilling to perform any repairs on the property. A buyer must be willing to accept the property in the condition that it is in when the offer is written and are responsible for any repairs.

Back on the market (BOM)

A listing that’s back on the market (BOM) means the property is available for sale again after a previous offer or contract fell through. If you’re interested in buying a listing that’s back on the market, ask why the original contract fell through to make sure there aren’t glaring problems with the property. 

Blind offer

A blind offer is when a buyer sends a purchase agreement on a property they have not seen. Blind offers often occur in competitive markets and are used in an attempt to be the first to submit an offer and purchase a property.

Buyer’s agent/listing agent

A buyer’s agent is a licensed real estate agent who represents the buyer through purchasing a new home. The buyer’s agent is legally obligated to protect the buyer’s interest and make sure they’re getting the best price and terms on their purchase. 

Closed listing 

A closed listing is a property that has been sold and is no longer available. 

Closing costs

Closing costs are the associated expenses and fees that come with purchasing a home. These fees may include charges from homeowner’s associations, real estate agents, lenders, insurance companies, appraisal services, and other services used during the purchasing process. You pay for closing costs at the end of your real estate transaction.

Comparable (comp)

A comparable, or comp, is a recently sold home that is similar to your house in location, size, features, and condition. Agents review comparable homes to determine your home’s value. When you're buying a home, your agent can also pull a home's comps to help you determine if it is priced fairly.

Comparative market analysis (CMA)

A comparative market analysis (CMA) estimates a property’s value by evaluating similar recently sold homes in the neighborhood, called comparables. A CMA can help a seller set an appropriate listing price for their property. Typically, your real estate agent performs a CMA to help you set a listing price. 

When you work with Orchard, we start you off with an online home valuation, then send out an Orchard Home Advisor to do a walkthrough and run a comparative market analysis. This is a complimentary, no-strings attached service.

Get a free home valuation

We'll review recently sold homes, market trends, and your home's unique features. Our valuations are 40% more accurate than other leading estimates.

Contingent listing

A contingent listing means that a seller has accepted an offer, but the property remains active in case the buyer or seller are unable to meet certain criteria before closing the sale. These contingencies can include clauses related to finances, inspections, and appraised home value, among others.

Counter offer

Home sellers make counter offers when they are unhappy with the buyer’s initial bid. A counter offer signals that the buyer is interested in selling to you but wants to make changes to your original offer. Changes could include modifications to the sales price, the closing date, contingencies, or adding or removing personal property from the sale, among other changes. Buyers can also make counter offers if they are dissatisfied with the seller's counter offer.

Days on market (DOM) 

“Days on market” refers to the number of days that a property has been listed for sale, from the time it’s listed on the MLS to the date the seller accepts a purchase agreement. A low average DOM indicates a strong seller’s market.

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

A debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, is the percentage of someone’s gross monthly income that’s put towards paying off debts. Mortgage lenders utilize this number to determine how much someone will be able to afford each month towards a mortgage. 

To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, add up all your monthly expenses, and divide them by your gross monthly income. According to Investopedia, lenders prefer to see a debt-to-income ratio smaller than 36%, and in most cases, 43% is the highest ratio you could have to qualify for a mortgage. 

Due diligence

Due diligence refers to the time period when a buyer can inspect a property and review important information before they finalize the purchase. In layman’s terms, a home buyer is “doing their homework” to make sure the home is a wise purchase. During this time, buyers often hire experts to perform tests and inspect the property to ensure there are no faults with the property that would cause a buyer to cancel the purchase.

The due diligence period starts after both parties sign a purchase contract and typically lasts 10 to 14 days. In Texas, the option period lasts 10 days. 

Earnest money deposit (EMD)

An earnest money deposit, or EMD, is the initial funds that a potential buyer is willing to put down after a seller accepts the buyer’s offer. The amount of an EMD usually paid is between 1% and 5% of the property's sale price. An earnest money deposit is sometimes referred to as a “good faith deposit”.  

Expired listing 

An expired listing is a property that does not sell before the stipulated expiration date found in the listing contract between the listing agent and the seller.

FHA loan

A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is a mortgage insured by the federal government for low-to-moderate-income borrowers. The FHA ensures that if a borrower cannot pay the loan, the federal government will cover any losses the lender would have incurred. Popular among first-time buyers, FHA loans have a minimum 3.5% down payment for those with a credit score of at least 580. 

FHA 203k rehab loan

The FHA 203k rehab loan is often known as the “fixer-upper” or renovation loan. An FHA 203k loan allows homeowners to borrow money to use for both a property purchase and home renovation costs. Like an FHA loan, the FHA 203k rehab loan is insured by the federal government. This renovation loan is not intended to be used towards luxury improvements; it is to be used towards renovations such as energy upgrades or plumbing upgrades.

Fixed-rate mortgage

A fixed-rate mortgage is a mortgage loan with a set interest rate throughout the loan period, regardless of whether interest rates go up or down. A 30-year fixed loan is common and indicates that an individual will pay a loan over a 30-year period with the interest rate fixed at the time of purchase. 

For sale by owner (FSBO)

Properties that are for sale by the owner, or FSBO, indicate that the owner is not using a listing agent to sell the property. Sellers do this when they want to save money on an agent’s commission, but the downside is that the seller is solely responsible for photographing, listing, marketing, and negotiating. 

Foreclosure 

A foreclosure is a home that has been seized by the bank after the owner fails to make their mortgage payments. The foreclosure process varies by state and by the terms of the loan. The bank or lender often attempts to recover financial losses by auctioning foreclosed properties.

GREC

The Georgia Real Estate Commission (GREC) regulates the brokerage industry and is in charge of licensing real estate practitioners in Georgia. The GREC regulates initial licensing, license renewal, maintains licensee records, and investigates and imposes necessary penalties for license violations.

Gross sales price

The gross sales price, or gross purchase price, is the total amount a buyer pays for the home, excluding seller concessions, broker’s commission fee rebates, and service fees charged by a home buyer to a home seller.

Hold period

A hold period refers to the duration of time that a person owns or “holds” a home. Generally, the hold period begins the day after the property is bought and ends when the property is sold. It’s a commonly used term for real estate investors who buy properties for resale. 

Home sale contingency

A home sale contingency is a clause that says that a buyer’s offer on a house is only valid if the buyer’s house sells. Home sale contingencies can be risky for sellers because there is no guarantee that a buyer’s property will sell by the specified date in the contract. 

In a hot market, sellers will rarely take a contingent offer. Buyers have to either make an offer and risk their home not selling, or make a less competitive, contingent offer. Another option is working with Orchard. Orchard allows buyers to make a non-contingent, competitive offer without having to wait on their existing home to sell.

Don't miss out on a home you love

With Orchard, make a stronger, non-contingent offer. Enter your current address to see if you qualify.

Homeowner’s association (HOA)

A homeowner’s association (HOA) is an organization that manages a shared housing community or condominium. All property owners within the community pay monthly or annual HOA fees. The HOA fee provides funding for property care, such as necessary repairs, grounds maintenance, and facility upkeep. 

iBuyer

An iBuyer is an online real estate service that makes a cash offer on your property and buys the property directly from you. iBuyers offer a more streamlined process though your cash offer may be lower than market value. 

Inspection & inspection contingency

An inspection is an in-depth investigation of a house by a licensed inspector. An inspection allows buyers to assess the house’s condition and discover any defects or necessary repairs before purchasing the home. An inspection contingency, otherwise known as a “due diligence contingency,” is a clause that gives buyers a predetermined amount of time to conduct an inspection and back out of the purchase if the inspection uncovers serious issues.

Leaseback

A leaseback allows an individual to rent property from a company that has purchased that property. The previous owner becomes the lessee, and the purchaser becomes the lessor. It’s popular for people who are waiting on their new home to close but want to finalize the sale of their existing home. Orchard’s Move First service allows you to skip leasebacks by letting you move into your new home before you sell.  

MLS

An MLS, or a multiple listing service, is a local or regional database that compiles available properties and accompanying detailed information submitted by real estate agents and broker members.

Option period

Specific to Texas, an option period gives the buyer 1 to 10 days to perform due diligence on a house. The timeframe in which termination can be done and the cost for this ability are negotiable between buyer and seller. If a home buyer chooses to terminate the contract within the option period, they will receive a refund on their earnest money deposit. The option fee is typically between $100 and $200, and once the fee is received, the option period beings. 

Pending listing 

A pending listing indicates that a buyer has submitted an offer and the seller has accepted it, but legal work is being processed to complete the sale. Interested in a pending listing? You may be able to make an offer on a home that’s pending but you may not be able to tour the property. 

You may also come across “active with contract” listings, so what’s the difference between “pending and “active with contract”? Both statuses mean that the seller has accepted an offer but an active with contract listing is still being actively marketed and shown. In short, a pending listing is one step closer to being sold. 

Pre-approval letter

A pre-approval letter is a letter from a lender that shows the loan amount you can access to buy a home. Pre-approval is determined by having buyers submit an application to a lender that allows the lender to determine buyers’ financial situation, their debt-to-income ratio, and ability to repay their debt.

Principal

Principal refers to the amount of money you borrow when you take out a home mortgage loan. 

Proof of funds letter

A proof of funds letter shows sellers that buyers have the necessary cash available for a down payment and closing costs. Proof of funds must come from a verified authority or entity. 

Purchase and sale agreement (PSA)

A purchase and sale agreement, or PSA, is a written contract between a buyer and seller that outlines all the agreed-upon terms for the sale and purchase of a home. 

REALTOR®

A REALTOR® is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). REALTORS® promise to uphold the NAR standard of ethics and to conduct their practice in a manner that is consistent with the organization’s standards. All of Orchard Home Advisors are licensed REALTORS.

Seller concession

Seller concessions are incentives offered to potential buyers that work to create an attractive deal. Seller concessions often include a credit towards a buyer’s closing costs or funds to make specific repairs.

Seller disclosure

A seller disclosure is a set of documents provided by the seller that outlines any known issues with a house that may affect a buyer’s decision to purchase. According to TREC, a sellers disclosure notice is required in most Texas real estate transactions, even if you have not occupied the property before selling. 

Short sale 

A short sale occurs when a property sells for less than what the homeowner owes on their mortgage. Because all lenders must approve the sale, short sales typically take more time to be approved than a traditional sale. Short sale homes differ from foreclosures, as the property still belongs to the owner and not the bank. If a short sale fails, the property becomes foreclosed. 

Title company

A title company makes sure that the seller has the legal right to transfer ownership of their home to a buyer. This is an essential step of closing on a home and protects the owner from any lawsuits or illegal claims to the property.

TREC

The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) regulates Texas' real estate industry and seeks to protect consumers in all matters related to real estate transactions and valuations. The TREC interprets and enforces real estate-related law found in The Texas Real Estate Law (TRELA) and regulates educational and licensing programs for industry practitioners.

Under contract 

A listing that is under contract means that a potential buyer and the seller have an agreed-upon contract but the sale has not closed yet. This is a later stage than a “pending sale” status. 

VA loan

A Veteran Affairs (VA) loan is a special loan that is guaranteed by the US Department of Veteran Affairs that requires little-to-no down payment and has a competitive interest rate. The VA loan is available only to eligible veterans (active and retired,) select spouses, and potentially other beneficiaries.

Withdrawn listing

A withdrawn listing indicates that a property has been pulled off the market and is not available for sale anymore.

The stress-free way to buy and sell

With Orchard, secure your dream home before you list. Avoid home showings, double mortgages, and double moves.

Learn More