Glossary Shortcuts:

B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Z

Abstract of Title

A compilation of the recorded documents relating to a parcel of land..

Acceptance

Action of offeree in agreeing to terms of an offer, thereby creating a contract.

Acceleration Clause

A provision in a mortgage or other contact that gives a party (such as a lender) a right to demand immediate payment of an entire principal balance.

Acknowledgement

A declaration made by a person signing a document before a notary public or other officer.

ARM - Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

A mortgage under which the lender may change the interest rate periodically on the basis of changes in a specified index.

Adjustment Period

The length of time between the adjustment dates for an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Administrator

Male party responsible for probate of an intestate estate.

Administratrix

Female party responsible for probate of an intestate estate.

Adverse Possession

Control or occupancy of real property under circumstances that indicate that such use is by right on the part of the possessor. Adverse possession may establish title if continued a certain period of time, at common law, twenty years.

Amortization

The process of reducing a debt by regular payments of both principal and interest.

APR - Annual Percentage Rate

The cost of credit expressed as an annual rate. It is defined and calculated by using a formula set by federal law and disclosed to the borrower to aid in comparing different credit plans. All finance charges imposed by a lender are included in this calculation, and an APR is always higher than the simple interest rate when such finance charges such as points, origination fees or mortgage insurance are charges by a lender.

Appraised Value

The value of a property at a given time, based on facts regarding location, improvements, etc., of the property and surroundings.

Assessed Value

The value of real property established for the purpose of computing real property taxes.

Assignment 

A process by which a person sells, transfers and/or assigns their rights under an agreement.

Assumable Loan

A loan secured by a mortgage or deed of trust containing no "due on sale" provision. Most pre-1989 FHA loans and pre-1988 VA loans are assumable without qualification. Some newer loans may be assumed with the express permission of the note holder.

Assumption of Mortgage

Agreement by a buyer to assume the liability under an existing note secured by a mortgage or deed of trust.    

Attachment

Process of creating a lien, security interest, or other creditor's interest in property; results when the creditor has complied with all requirements.

Attorney-in-fact

A person authorized to act on behalf of another, usually by grant of a written power of attorney.

B (Back to Top)

Balloon Mortgage

A note calling for periodic payments that are insufficient to fully amortize the face amount of the note prior to maturity, so that a principal sum known as a "balloon" is due at maturity.

Bequest

A gift of personal property by will.

Beneficiary

A person designated to receive the income or other proceeds, as from a trust or estate.

Bridge Loan

A form of second mortgage 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 another property before the present home is sold.

Broker

An agent who negotiates contracts for purchase and sale or real property. In Massachusetts, real estate brokers and salespersons are licensed by the state Real Estate Board.

C (Back to Top)

Capital Gain

Profit from sale of a capital asset, such as real property.

Citation

Reference to legal authority, such a case, statue, regulation or ordinance.

Chain of Title

The chronological order of conveyance of a parcel of land from the original owner to the present owner.

Closing

In a real estate transaction, a meeting in which the deed is delivered to the buyer, payment is made to the seller, title is transferred, and agreed-on costs are paid. Also called "settlement".

Cloud on title

An uncertainty, doubt or claim against the rights of the owner of a property.

Commitment

A written promise to make or insure a loan for a specified amount.

Condemnation

The determination that a building is not fit for use or is dangerous and must be destroyed; or, the taking of private property eminent domain.

Condominium

A form of real estate ownership in which a property is divided into individually-owned units and common areas, the common areas being owned by the unit owners in undivided shares.

Consideration

The price or thing (tangible or otherwise) given in exchange as part of an agreement or contract. For example, in a purchase and sale or real estate, the considerations are the buyer's money and the seller's property.

Contingency

The dependence upon a stated event which must occur before a contract is binding.

Conventional Mortgage

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

Convertible ARM

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

Cooperative

A form of ownership in which the residents of a multiunit housing complex own shares in a cooperative corporation which owns the property and each resident the right to occupy a specific apartment or unit.

Co-ownership

Label given to ownership of property by more than one person.

Corporation

A form of business organization in which the business is a legal entity separate from its owners and employees. Corporations can act, own property, or have claims brought against them in their own name, as compared, for example, to a sole proprietorship, in which all legal benefits and liabilities (even where a business name is used) are personal to the owner.

Counterclaim

Claim made by the Defendant against the Plaintiff in a lawsuit.

Covenant

Promise that affects or limits the use of the conveyed property.

D (Back to Top)

Declaration of Condominium

Master Deed creating a condominium.

Deed

Instrument used to convey title to real property.

Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure

Deed used by a borrower surrendering title to his/her property to prevent lender foreclosure.

Deed of Trust

Security interest in real property in which title is held by a trustee until the borrower and occupant of the land repays the beneficiary (lender) in the amount of the loan.

Default

Failure to comply with a contractual obligation.

Devise

Gift of real property by will.

Discharge of Mortgage

Document from a lien holder releasing a mortgage once it has been paid in full.

DOR - Massachusetts Department of Revenue

Governmental Agency responsible for enforcing the Commonwealth's tax, child support and municipal finance laws.

Dower

At common law, rights of a widow in real estate owned by her deceased husband during their marriage. Under Massachusetts statute, dower rights are gender neutral.

Due on Sale Clause

A provision in a mortgage or deed of trust that gives the lender the option to require payment in full of the indebtedness upon transfer of title to the property (or any interest therein).

E (Back to Top)

Easement

Right to use another's property for a specific purpose.

Easement Appurtenant

Easement that benefits a particular tract of land; generally an access easement or right of way.

Easement in Gross

An easement that does not benefit a particular tract of land; e.g. utility easements that run through all parcels of land in an area.

Eminent Domain

A constitutional right for a governmental entity to acquire title to private property for public purposes, with the payment of just compensation.

Encumbrance

A claim, lien, or charge against real property.

EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

Governmental agency responsible for the enforcement of environmental laws.

Escheat

Process whereby property of a decedent is given to the state because of no available heirs.

Escrow

Delivery of money, property or a deed into the custody of a third party or delivery to a grantee only after the fulfillment of the conditions specified.

Executor

Male party responsible for the probate of a decedent's estate pursuant to the decedent's will.

Executrix

Female party responsible for the probate of a decedent's estate pursuant to the decedent's will.

F (Back to Top)

Federal Tax Lien

A Federal lien imposed for non-payment of taxes.

Fee

Term referring to an inheritable interest in land.

Fee Simple

Highest land interest; full title; right to convey or transfer by will or mortgage without restriction.

Fee Simple Absolute

Another term for fee simple.

Fee Simple Defeasible

A fee simple estate that can be lost by violation of a condition or use restriction placed in the transfer by the grantor.

Fee Simple Determinable

Full title to land so long as certain conduct is avoided; e.g., "To A so long as the premises are never used for a bar".

Fee Simple Subject to a Condition Subsequent

Full title provided that there is compliance with a condition; e.g., "To A upon the condition that the property is used for school purposes".

Fee Tail

Full title restricted in its passage to direct descendants of the owner.

Fiduciary

Party in position of trust and confidence with another; an agent or trustee.

Financing Statement

Document filed to protect a security interest in personal property.

Fixtures

Personal property that becomes attached to and is so closely associated with real property that it becomes a part of the real property.

Foreclosure

Process of selling mortgaged property to satisfy the debt owed by the defaulting mortgagor.

Forfeiture

Loss of rights, claim or interest as a result of one's failure to meet one's legal obligations.

Freehold

Estates uncertain or unlimited in their duration.

G (Back to Top)

Grantee

Person to whom land is conveyed.

Grantor

Person conveying title to land.

H (Back to Top)

Heirs

Persons entitle to a portion of a decedent's estate.

Homestead

Debtor protection that exempts principal residence to a certain dollar amount from certain creditor claims.

I (Back to Top)

Injunction

An equitable remedy in the form of a court order requiring a party to perform an act or cease certain conduct.

Installment Land Contract

An agreement wherein the buyer makes payments to seller. Buyer has equitable title and seller has legal title until paid in full. Also known as 'contract for deed' or 'contract for sale'.

Inter Vivos

Term used in law to describe agreement gifts made while living.

Intestate 

Designates the estate or condition of failing to leave a will at death.

Intestate Succession

A statutory method for distributing the property of those who die without a will (intestate).

Involuntary Lien

A lien that does not result from a contractual arrangement or consent; e.g., a tax lien or a judicial lien.

J (Back to Top)

Joint Tenancy

An undivided interest in property, taken by upon death of a joint tenant the interest passes to the surviving joint tenants, rather than to the heirs of the deceased.

L (Back to Top)

Lease

Agreement between the owner of land and another party for the use and occupation of the land.

Lease-purchase

Financing method that permits potential buyers to lease property for a period with an option to buy.

License

Revocable right to enter another's property.

Lien

An encumbrance against property for money, either voluntary (mortgage), involuntary (judgment), or by operation of law (property tax lien).

Life Estate

An estate in real property for the life of a living person.

Limited Partnership

A partnership with at least one general partner in which limited partners can purchase interest and be held liable only to the extent of their interest and not risk personal liability.

Lis Pendens

A legal notice recorded to show that a court suite or action affecting a particular property is pending.

M (Back to Top)

Marketable Title

Form of title generally required to be delivered at the sale of property; property is free from liens and no defects in title other than those noted or agreed to.

Mass Tax Lien

Tax Lien put on by the Commonwealth of Mass for non-payment of taxes. 

Mass Tax Lien Release

Document evidencing that payment of taxes to the Commonwealth of Mass has been made.

Master Deed

The document recorded in a condominium development to reflect the location of the project and the individual's unit.

Mechanic's Lien

A lien created by statute for the purpose of securing priority of payment for the price or value of work performed and materials furnished in construction of repairs or improvements to land.

Metes and Bounds

Method of land description that begins with a permanent object and then through distances and directions describes the parcel of land.

Mortgage

Lien on real property used to secure a debt.

Mortgagee

One who lends money and holds the mortgage lien on a property.

Mortgagor

One who borrows money to purchase property.

Municipal Lien

A Lien put on by each City and or Town shows that taxes are paid up to date.

N (Back to Top)

Negative Easement

An easement that prohibits a property owner from doing something that affects the property of another. 

Nonconforming use

A use that does not comply with the area's zoning but that existed prior to the time the zoning was effective.

Note

A written promise to repay a certain sum of money on specified terms. 

Notice Betterment Agreement

Usually refers to property being assumed for sewage.

Notice Statute

Form of recording statute that gives later bona fide purchasers priority in the case of multiple purchases for the previous purchaser's failure to give notice by recording their transactions. 

O (Back to Top)

Offer

Initial communication in contract formation that, if accepted, results in the formation of a contract.

Open Listing

Listing that pays commission to whichever broker or salesperson sells the property; permits the owner to list with more than one and be liable for only one commission. 

Option

The unilateral right to do something. For example, the right to purchase property during a certain period of time. This right is paid for with consideration.

Order of Conditions

A document, usually issued by a conservation commission, containing conditions that regulate or prohibit an activity proposed in resource area (e.g.wetlands).

Ordinance

Laws passed on a local level of city, county or state governments.

P (Back to Top)

Per Stirpes

Method of distributing property to heirs whereby those closer in relation to the decedent receive greater shares.

Plat Map

Method of land description that relies on a recorded map of a subdivision, with each deed making reference to the map and the particular lot being conveyed.  

Posthumous Heirs

Heirs born after the death of the decedent.

Premises

The words of conveyance in a deed; e.g., "do hereby grant and convey". 

Prepayment Penalty

Clause in mortgage or promissory note that requires the mortgagor to pay an additional charge for paying off the loan early.

Prescription

Process of acquiring an easement through adverse use of the easement over a required period of time..  

Probate

Process of collecting the assets of a decedent; paying the decedent's debts, determining the decedent's heirs, and distributing the property to the heirs.

Promissory Note

Two-party debt instrument that, in real estate, is generally secured by a mortgage or a deed of trust or some other interest in real estate.

Purchase Money Mortgage

A loan obtained in conjunction with the purchase of real estate.

Q (Back to Top)

Quasi-Easement

A right-of-way as it existed when there was unity of ownership in a parcel of land. 

Quiet Title Action

Court action brought to determine the true owner of a piece of land.

Quitclaim Deed

Deed that serves to transfer title if the grantor has any such title; there are no guarantees that the grantor has any title or good title.

R (Back to Top)

REIT - Real Estate Investment Trust

A form of real estate syndication in which investors hold trust estates and enjoy profits of trust's real estate holdings.

RESPA - Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act

A federal law which regulates the settlement practices within the real estate industry.

Recording

Process of placing a deed or other document on the public records to give notice of a transaction or interest in land.

Refinancing

The repayment of a loan from the proceeds of a new loan using the same property as collateral.

Remainder

A future interest in someone other than the grantor; a remainder follows a life estate. 

Recission

The cancellation of a contract by law or consent by the parties involved.

Reversion

Future interest in grantor that results after life estate terminates and no remainder interest was given.

Right of Entry

The legal right to take or resume possession of land, or the right of a person to go onto another's real property without committing trespass.  

Right of Redemption

In mortgage foreclosures, the right of the mortgagor to redeem his or her property for six months after the foreclosure sale by paying off the debts and costs of the foreclosure.

Rule against Perpetuities

Rule that prohibits the control of estates from the grave; provides a cap on use restrictions on contingent remainders and executory interests. 

S (Back to Top)

Security Deposit

Generally, a deposit of money to secure performance. 

Second Mortgage

A loan secured by a mortgage or trust deed in which the lien is junior to a first mortgage or deed of trust.

Self-Proving Will

A will that is acknowledged or notarized and thereby enjoys the  presumption of validity if executed with all the formalities required by state law.

Sheriff's Deed

Form of title given to a buyer of a property that was sold under court order to pay off a debt.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
(formerly the Soldier's and Sailor's Civil Relief Act) 

A Federal law that protects servicemembers from being sued while in active military service.

Special Warranty Deed

Deed that provided warranty of title only for the period during which the grantor owned the property. 

Specific Performance

Equitable remedy that requires a party to a contract to perform the contract promise or promises.

Statute of Frauds

Statue dictating what types of contract must be in writing to be enforceable. Contracts concerning real estate must comply with the statue of frauds.

Subdivision

Parcel of land developed with building lots, streets, homes, parks, etc...

Sublease

Arrangement in which a tenant leases rental property to another, and the tenant becomes the landlord to the subtenant. 

Subordination

The process by which a lien holder agrees to permit his lien to become junior or "subordinate" to another lien.

Surety

One who stands as a guarantor for an obligation; as in payment or performance bond. 

T (Back to Top)

Taking

Term used to describe the government action of using private property for public purposes.

Tax Deed

Form of title given in the event property is sold to satisfy taxes; carries no warranties.  

Tax Lien

Lien placed on property for amount of unpaid taxes.

Tax Sale

Foreclosure sale on property for nonpayment of taxes.

Tenancy by the Entirety

Form of co-ownership between a husband and wife; a joint tenancy. Husband and wife each own the entire property.

Tenancy in Common

Simplest form of co-ownership. Each owner owns his/her percentage of the property.

Testamentary

Disposition by will.  

Time-sharing Properties

Form of multiunit housing in which owners own the unit for a limited period of time during each year.

Title Abstract

Summary of the history of title to a parcel of land.

Title Insurance

Insurance that protects the lender ("Loan Policy") or the owner ("Owners Policy") in the event certain title defect arise.

Title Theory

Theory of mortgage law that puts title in the mortgagee and possession in the mortgagor. 

Torrens System

A method of registration of land title, designed to prevent the selling of the same parcel of land to more than one person.

Tract Index

Form of land record that keeps history of title through identifications within the particular tract.

Trustee

Third party responsible for handling the property of another; as in deed of trust or real estate investment trust.

U (Back to Top)

UCC - Uniform Commercial Code

Uniform laws governing commercial transactions.

Usury

Charging interest rates in excess of the statutory allowed maximums.

V (Back to Top)

Variances

Approved uses of land outside the scope of an area's zoning.

Vested Remainder

A remainder that will automatically take effect when the life estate ends.

Voluntary Lien

A lien created because of a contract as opposed to a tax lien, which is involuntary.

W (Back to Top)

Waiver

An intentional or voluntary relinquishment of a known right.

Warranty

A promise that a proposition or fact is true.

Warranty Deed

Deed that conveys title and carries warranties that the title is good, that the transfer is proper, and there are no liens and encumbrances other than as disclosed in the deed. 

Way

A passage, path, road, or street, or a right of passage over land.

Wetlands

Lands on which water covers the soil or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or much of the year, such as swamps and marshes. Wetlands are subject to extensive government regulation, and there are variations among legal definitions in use.

Will

Document used to specify the transfer of property after the testator's death.

Wrap-Around Mortgage

A form of loan transaction, sometimes used in seller-financing, in which the lender assumes (or continues to have) responsibility for a pre-existing mortgage (i.e. the new mortgage "wraps-around" the first).

Z (Back to Top)

Zoning

Local government land use regulations, including provisions permitting or prohibiting particular uses (such as business or residential) in defined areas.

Back to Top

Disclaimer- This glossary is provided as a pubic service, for general information only. It is not meant to be inclusive of all terms used at the Registry of Deeds nor is it to be construed as legal advice.