6 Real Estate Terms You Should Know

Posted August 31, 2023 by in Home

Taking your first steps into the real estate world can feel like a whirlwind. Be it buying your dream home, selling a place you’ve outgrown, or dipping your toes into investing, the journey has its language. Even though the jargon seems tricky at the start, understanding these terms is crucial to the homeownership journey. It turns the unfamiliar into something you can navigate with confidence.

Finding that perfect house, navigating the purchase, and finally holding the keys feels special. Did you know that as of early 2023, the homeownership rate in the United States was around 66%? With that in mind, you must know that you’re not alone in feeling clueless about the complexities of the home-buying process.

Mortgage Basics

Mortgage loans are for buying property; when you take out a mortgage loan, you’re borrowing money to buy a house, for instance. In exchange, the property serves as a guarantee for the lender. This means that if you don’t pay back the loan, the lender can take the property. The property remains under this guarantee until you’ve paid off the entire loan.

Mortgages with a fixed interest rate and those with a variable interest rate are the two most common options. A fixed-rate mortgage guarantees a constant interest rate and payment schedule. With adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate of interest may shift at times. Moreover, your credit score is like your report card when you’re looking to get a mortgage. It decides the interest you get and whether you even get the loan.

Reverse Mortgage

On the topic of mortgages, let’s not forget the reverse mortgage. But what is a reverse mortgage? This option caters to older homeowners, allowing them to convert a portion of their home’s equity into liquid cash. In addition, the reverse mortgage rule is that the lender pays you monthly, rather than the other way around. Over time, as the lender sends you these payments, the equity, or value, you have in your home reduces.

It’s like drawing from your home’s bank. But remember, you still need to pay property taxes, keep the house in good shape, and have insurance. Here’s the crucial part: You have to pay back that loan if you sell your home or live somewhere else for a long time. Moreover, the loan becomes due and payable when the homeowner passes away. Many times, the house is sold to pay off the debt. But if someone wants to keep the house, they’ll need to repay the entire loan.

Types of Property Ownership

Owning property sounds simple, but it has its nuances. You’ve got the terms freehold and leasehold. With freehold, you own the property and the ground below it. With leasehold, however, you own just the property and lease the ground for a set time, maybe years or even lifetimes.  

And if you’re sharing property ownership, it’s good to know about joint tenancy vs. tenants in common. Joint tenancy means all owners have an equal share in the property, and if one dies, their share goes to the remaining owners. Tenants in common, however, can have different ownership percentages, and if one dies, their share can be passed on to a beneficiary of their choosing.

Understanding Escrow

Escrow is another term that frequently comes up. In many types of real estate deals, an escrow account is essential. It’s a secure account that holds onto something valuable, usually money, until all agreed-upon conditions are satisfied. This protects both buyers, ensuring the seller is serious, and sellers, ensuring the buyer has the necessary funds.

Real Estate Agent vs. Realtor

The services of a real estate agent should be sought out by anybody looking to buy, sell, or rent real estate. However, only members of the NAR can use the title ‘realtor’ in legal documents. Realtors stand out from the crowd because of their professionalism and devotion to a rigid code of ethics. At the end of the day, regardless of whom you work with, just make sure they are licensed and come highly recommended.

Closing Costs Explained

The final step in most real estate transactions is the closing, and with it comes closing costs. These are fees and expenses, outside of the property price, that buyers and sellers incur to complete a transaction. They can include appraisal fees, title searches, and insurance. Closing costs can vary based on location, property type, and the specifics of the contract. It’s wise to budget for them and understand each fee.

Embarking on a real estate journey can be exhilarating, but it’s crucial to grasp the terminology to ensure everything goes smoothly. As you’ve seen, understanding terms from mortgages to escrows can equip you for success. If ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to seek more information or consult a real estate professional. Knowledge is the foundation of a successful homeownership venture.

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