Abstract of Title
A summary of the public records affecting the title to a particular piece of
land. An attorney or title insurance company officer creates the abstract
of title by examining all recorded instruments (documents) relating to a
specific piece of property, such as easements, liens, mortgages, etc.

To touch or border upon. For example, a piece of land bordering on a
street or an adjoining property is said to abut such street or property.

Adverse Possession
Acquisition of title to real property through continued occupation over a
period of time (usually five years); title acquired in this way is not
considered marketable until established by court proceedings against
the owner of record.

A written statement or declaration that is sworn to or affirmed before
somebody who has the authority to administer an oath or affirmation.

A legally binding contract made between two or more persons.

Assessed valuation
The value placed on property by the count assessor; used as a basis for
computing property taxes.

The person who receives ownership of a contract by transfer by another

A transfer in writing of one’s interest in something, as to assign an
interest in a promissory note and deed of trust.


Bargain and Sale Deed
A deed of conveyance which presumes that the grantor holds title, but
which makes no warranty with respect to the title. Also called “Fee
Simple Deed.”

A person who is eligible to receive funds or property under the terms and
provisions of a will or trust or insurance policy.

Bill of Sale
The instrument by which title to personal property (not real property) is

Written confirmation of insurance coverage provided by an insurer prior
to issuance of the actual policy.

A written promise to pay to the bearer or owner a stated sum of money at
a specified time, with interest usually represented by interest coupons
attached to the bond. Also a written commitment assuring the payment of
a stipulated sum of money. A certificate of debt issued by a government
or corporation guaranteeing payment to bearer of a specified sum of
money, plus interest, on a specified future date.

Book and page
The location of a recorded document in an office of records referenced
by separate book number and page number, and within that book,
documents are listed chronologically and alphanumerically. Frequently
replaced by document number or official records.


Certificate of Title
Written opinion by an attorney that ownership of a particular property is
as stated in his or her certificate.

Chain of Title
The history of ownership of a parcel of real estate; each deed or other
instrument transferring the title is called a link and all of these links make
up the chain of title.

Personal property.

A right to assert a demand for payment of money due; or the surrender or
delivery of possession of property or the recognition of some right.

Clear Title
Title that is free of liens or legal questions as to ownership of the property

An attorney or other person responsible for orchestrating a closing, often
including drafting legal documents, receipting and explaining documents,
handling funds, and meting terms of the purchase agreement, lender
requirements, and Title Company.

In some areas called “settlement” or “escrow.” Process of completing a
real estate transaction during which deeds, mortgages, leases and other
required instruments are signed and/or delivered, an accounting between
the parties is made, the money is disbursed, the papers are recorded,
and all other details such as payment of outstanding liens and transfer of
hazard insurance policies are attended to.

Cloud on Title
An irregularity, possible claim, or encumbrance, which, if valid, would
adversely affect or impair the title.

Commitment of title
similar to preliminary title report; guarantees that a title company will
issue title insurance.

Common Areas
all the areas in a condominium or planned unit development that are not
specifically reserved for the individual owners; includes walkways,
parking lots, and yards.

legally qualified.

Co tenancy
ownership shared by more than one person; tenancy in common and joint
tenancy are both co tenancy arrangements.

Contract for Deed – (land contract)
An agreement to sell and purchase under which the legal title is withheld
from the purchaser until such time as the required payments to the seller
have been completed.

The transfer of title to property from one person to another.

County Records
A system for recording documents in permanent books or records at the
county court house; maintained by each county and provided by law.
Open to public examination.

A formal agreement or contract between two parties in which one party
gives the other certain promises and assurances, such as covenants of
warranty in a warranty deed.

Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions
Often associated with condominium documents. Limitations sometimes
put on the use and enjoyment of real property. This is done by
agreements contained in deeds and other documents/


A written document that transfers title to property; there are several
different types; a grant deed, the most common, is simply used to convey
property; a gift deed is used to make a gift of property; a quitclaim deed
is used to transfer an interest owned in a property and contains no
warranties; a tax deed is used to convey title held by the state, and a
deed of reconveyance is used to convey legal title back to the borrower
from the trustee.

Deed of Reconveyance
A legal instrument that conveys title from a trustee back to the borrower
under a mortgage once the mortgage has been paid off.

Deed of Trust
Security for a property loan; deed the property to a third party (trustee) to
hold until the loan is paid.

Deed Restriction
A restriction contained in a deed which limits the use or occupancy of the
real estate or the type, size, purpose and location of improvements
to be constructed on it.

Deemer Period
Refers to the way a state regulates rate filing by title companies, in other
words, how approval is obtained for rate filings by the regulatory

Failure to make good on a promise, such as failure to make payments on
a note or to live up to the terms of a contract.

A blemish, imperfection or deficiency. A defective title is one that is
irregular and faulty.

Deficiency Judgment
A personal judgment in a foreclosure action for whatever amount remains
owing after the foreclosure sale of an encumbered property.

A reference to certain maps, plats, and other instruments that are
recorded with the county and serve to make positive property

Documentary Stamps
Tax applicable to property transfers and affixed to the grant deed; varies
from county to county, city to city; sometimes called a transfer tax

A right of one person to make limited use of another’s property, for
example, the right to cross a property and maintain a road or right-of-way
to install and maintain public utility services.

A means for departing from one’s own property without trespassing on
another person’s property, as applied to an easement.

Eminent Domain
The government’s right to acquire private property for public, or
quasipublic use through condemnation; requires full compensation.

Extension of an improvement onto the lane of another.

Addition to or modification of a title insurance policy, which expands or
changes the coverage of the policy, fulfilling specific requirements of the

Equitable Rights
Rights established primarily by court decisions based upon principles of
fairness, honesty, justness and morality, and not upon enacted law or
common law.

Equitable Title
Title of the purchaser under a contract of sale or the right to acquire the
legal title.

The wearing away of land surfaces by forces of nature such as wind and

Escrow Account
A special account maintained by the lender/title company containing
money to use to pay the special costs on the owner’s mortgage or
property as these costs become due (for example, taxes, hazard
insurance, flood insurance, mortgage insurance, or title insurance).

A legal restraint which stops or prevents a person from contradicting or
reneging on his previous position or previous assertions or

As used in the title industry means to study and interpret the instruments
related to the chain of title of a property and to determine their effect and
condition in order to reach a conclusion as to the status of the title.

The title examiner.

A conditional item listed on a preliminary title report and affecting the title;
would be excluded from coverage by a title insurance policy.

Also known as an exception. The deduction or subtraction from inclusion.

To give validity by signing documents so that an intention may be

A person named in a will to carry out its provisions.


Fee Simple
The greatest interest one may hold in real property; usually means
ordinary ownership of real estate and is sometimes called fee title.

Someone entrusted with financial responsibility in someone else’s behalf.

Relates to the delivery of real estate instruments to a recorder for

File and Use
Title insurers in most states file rate schedules, policy forms, and
endorsement forms with the state insurance department; they may then
use those rates and forms after a specified waiting interval; rates so filed
are mandatory.

First Mortgage
A mortgage having priority as a lien over any other mortgage or lien on
the same property.

Personal property which is permanently attached to real estate such as
plumbing fixtures.

A legal process that deprives a mortgagor of his or her interest in a
property because he or she has failed to comply with the terms of the

Forfeiture of title
Common penalty for the violation of conditions or restrictions imposed by
the seller upon the buyer in a deed or other proper document.

The fraudulent signing of another’s name to an instrument such as a deed
or mortgage or check.


General Lien
A lien filed against the name of an individual, corporation, that attaches to
all properties owned by the individual, both real and personal.

General Warranty
A warranty provision in a deed or mortgage or other real estate
instrument containing all of the common law items of warranty.

To convey title of property by means of a deed; a grantor conveys a
property to a grantee.

One to whom a grant is made.

A person who transfers by a written instrument, an interest in land.

An agreement in which a guarantee or assurance of a set of facts or the
performance of an objective or obligation is given.


Homeowner’s endorsement
An addition to a policy of title insurance that extends the normal policy to
cover items other than those stated in the standard policy; may include
such items as mineral rights and mechanic’s liens.

Property designated by the head of a family as his home, which is
protected by law from forced sale to pay debts. Land claimed by a settler
under the National Homestead Act.

HUD-1 settlement statement
A document that provides an itemized listing of the funds that were paid
at closing, such as real estate commissions, loan fees, points, and initial
escrow amounts.


To agree to make payments for a loss.

Insurance against possible loss or damage. A policy of title insurance is
a contract of indemnity.

A deed or other real estate contract executed between two or more

A means for entering one’s own property without trespassing on another
person’s property, as applied to an easement.

A written legal document such as a contract, a promissory note, a deed,
or a grant.

Insurable Title
A property title that a title insurance company is willing to insure.

Insured closing letter
A letter issued by a title underwriter to a lender or buyer accepting
responsibility for certain closing (nontitle) issues.


Joint Tenancy
One way for several persons to hold title; joint tenants own an undivided
equal interest and have equal rights to use the entire property; they are
said to have the right of survivorship, that is, they inherit the property
automatically upon the death of the other joint tenant; this right if the
principal distinction between a joint tenancy and a tenancy in common.

A court’s final decree, generally resulting in a lien; may encumber the sale
of a property and must be satisfied before it can be sold.

Judicial foreclosure
Type of foreclosure that requires court proceedings; mortgage
foreclosure requires court proceedings while deed-of-trust foreclosures
generally do not; state laws dictate..


Legal description
A description of land recognized by law and based on government
surveys, spelling out the exact boundaries of the entire piece of land;
should so thoroughly identify a parcel that it cannot be confused with any

A legal claim upon property for the payment of a debt; a money
encumbrance; such as, a mortgage lien, a judgment lien, or a mechanic’s

Lien waiver
A document provided by a contractor, subcontractor, or materialman,
showing that they have been paid for their work and are waiving rights to
file a lien.

Life Estate
Use of property only during a person’s lifetime; this interest may be sold,
encumbered, or leased, but only for the term of the life estate.

As referred to in the title industry, damage suffered by a person resulting
from defects or liens upon his title to real estate. Also could be money
paid by a title insurance company in settlement of policy claims.


Marketable title
A “good” title, one where there is no reasonable doubt as to the interest
held in land; one that can be readily transferred to another party.

Market Value
An average between the highest price which a buyer, willing, but not
compelled to buy, would pay and the lowest price a seller, willing, but not
compelled to sell, would accept.

Mechanic’s Lien
A lien that s subcontractor, laborer, or supplier of materials may put on a
property after furnishing labor or materials to improve the property without
being paid.

Mineral Rights
Ownership of minerals found on a property.

A person under 18 years of age.

Mortgagee Policy
A policy of title insurance insuring the hold of a mortgage against loss
caused by the impairment or invalidly of the lien of such mortgage or
because of defects in, superior liens upon, or unmarketability of the title.

Mortgage insurance
Insurance required to be paid for by the borrower to protect the lender in
the event payment s are not made on time; most often required when the
loan amount exceeds 80% of the purchase price.


The omission of or failure to use reasonable precaution, care or action

Capable of being assigned or transferred by endorsement’ checks,
drafts, and notes are all negotiable.

Non-recurring closing costs
Fees and costs that are paid only once, usually at closing, such as title
insurance or points.

Notary Public
Person who acknowledges oaths, such as the signing of a grant deed or
deed of trust; must be duly appointed by the property authorities.

Notice of Default
A formal recorded declaration that a default has occurred; starts
foreclosure proceedings.

Official Records
A master set of books kept by the county recorder in which copies of all
recorded documents in that county are stored; may be microfilmed..

Owner’s Policy
A policy of title insurance usually insuring an owner of real estate against
loss occasioned by defects in, liens against, or unmarketablility of the
owner’s title.


Land fitting in a single description

Parcel Map
A map of a given area, designed, drawn, and labeled for the purposed of
identifying parcels and distinguishing them from one another in a given
area. May be called a subdivision map or a plat map

A lawsuit between joint owners of real estate in which the court either
divides the property between them or orders the property sold and
divides the proceeds between them

The boundary lines enclosing a tract or land. Also the length of the
boundary lines enclosing a tract of land.

Plat Book
Set of books in the public records in which maps, plats, and copies of
surveys are recorded.

Plat map
Map of a land subdivision or housing development

Possession date
Day when the buyer actually moves into the property; may be different
from the close of escrow or recording date.

Power of Attorney
The authority given one person by another to act on his or her behalf.

Preliminary Report
A report showing the current status of a property and the condition under
which a title company is willing to insure title as of a specified date

Taking place in rank or order; taking precedence over; in real estate
transaction, priority is established by the order in which documents
affecting a property are recorded and also by the language contained in
those documents.

Public Records
The transcriptions in a recorder’s office of instruments which have been
recorded, including the indexes pertaining to them


Quit Claim Deed
A deed in which the grantor releases any claim he or she may have on a
property; most commonly used between spouses and in partnerships; it
contains no warranties.


Real Property
Term used to describe land and that which is permanently attached to the
land; includes surface, subsurface and air rights.

The noting in the clerks office of the details of a properly executed legal
document, such as a deed, a mortgage note, a satisfaction of mortgage,
or an extension of mortgage, which makes it a part of the public record.

Transfer of title from the trustee back to the real owner of property; occurs
when a loan has been paid in full; releases the trustor (borrower) from any
further liabilities for that debt

Refinance transaction
The process of paying off one loan with the proceeds from a new loan
and using the same property as security.

Release Clause
A stipulation allowing for the release of a specific piece of property from
a blanket lien that covers it and other property in exchange for a specific

Release of Lien
The instrument by which a lien is released from the real estate which it

Provisions in a deed or other instrument whereby an owner of land
prohibits or restricts certain use, occupation, and improvement of the

Right of Way
The right to cross or pass over a parcel of land; may be a right to use a
road or driveway, a right to construct power lines through the property, or
a right to put pipes underground.


The payment of a debt or fulfillment of an obligation. May be an
instrument executed by the holder of a lien, debt or obligation which
acknowledges payment or fulfillment

A careful exploration and perusal of the public records in an effort to find
all recorded instruments relation to a particular chain of title.

The minimum distance a building or other improvement must stand from
property lines, in accordance with local zoning ordinances and deed

Time at which property purchase is finalized, closing costs paid, deed
exchanged and

Specific Lien
A lien filed against a specific piece of real estate that does not impact
other real estate or personal property of the lienee. For example, a
mortgage or deed of trust, or a mechanic’s lien.

Statue of limitations
Law specifying time limits for initiating enforceable legal action.

Subject to
To take title without paying off the existing loan or deed of trust; original
borrower remains ultimately responsible for repaying the loan; the buyer
(new borrower) does not make a formal agreement with the lender.

An area of land lay out and divided into lots, blocks and building sites,
and in which public facilities are laid out, such as streets, alleys, parks,
and easements for public utilities

The map or plat drawn by a surveyor which represents the property
surveyed and shows the results of a survey. Shows the location,
boundaries, area, or the elevations of land and structures upon the earth’s
surface by means of courses in relation to the North Pole, and the
measuring of angles and distances by using techniques of geometry and


Tax Deed
The instrument of conveyance when a government body sells a property
to pay for arrears of taxes

Tax Lien
The lien which is imposed upon real estate by operation of law which
secures the payment of real estate taxes.

Tenancy in Common
A form for taking title when two or more people buy property and own it
together with either equal or unequal shares; if any one of the tenants in
common dies, his or her interest passes to his or her heirs, not to the
remaining tenants.

Evidence of a person’s right to property

Title Agent
A representative of a title underwriter, one who “writes” the policies of the
actual insurer or underwriter.

Title Commitment
A document that reflects all of the title research done on property. Its
purpose is to inform all parties of any encumbrances affecting the
property and to commit to insure property, subject to certain stated

Title Defect
Any possible or patent claim or right outstanding in a chain of title which
is adverse to the claim of ownership. Or, a material irregularity in the
execution or effect of an instrument in the chain of title.

Title examination
A review that requires the examination of public records or an abstract of
title and will reveal a property’s previous owners as well as any

Title Insurance
A policy of indemnity issued by a title insurance underwriter or its agent
that insures a buyer or lender against monetary loss or damage due to
errors in the title as described in the policy and undeterminable facts that
affect title such as fraud, forgery, unrecorded documents, unknown heirs,
and many other factors.

Title Search
An examination or search of public records, laws, and court actions to
verify that the seller of a property is its legal owner and to disclose all
claims or encumbrances that exist on the property.

Title Underwriter
The title insurer who holds a statutory premium reserve and is
responsible for claims on title under a title insurance policy.


An insurance company which issues insurance policies either to the
public or to another insurer. The actual company that holds reserves to
pay losses on title policies, as opposed to an agent, who sells the
policies of the underwriter. Also, can be the person responsible for
evaluating risk of title defects and determining conditions to the
commitment to insure.

The analysis completed by a lender to determine the worthiness of a
requested loan.


Vested Interest
An interest that if fixed or determined.

Voluntary Lien
Any lien placed on property with consent of, or as a result of, the voluntary
act of the owner.


The release of a right to require something to take place, such as the
waiver of a contingency found in the purchase agreement.

Warranty Deed
A deed with written guarantees of title.

A formal legal document issued by a court ordering or prohibiting the
performance of some action.

Writ of Execution
A direct command from the court to the sheriff to carry out the action
required by the write.


City or county regulations governing the use of property.

Zoning Ordinances
Laws passed by local governments regulating the size, type, structure
nature and use of buildings. Often referred to as zoning laws and zoning
regulations, and divided into those which regulate the height or bulk of
buildings within certain designated zones or districts and those which
prescribe the type of buildings which may be constructed, and the use to
which buildings within certain designated zones or distracts may be put.