As you look at buying or selling a home—even if you’ve done it before—you can be faced with a lot of real-estate-specific terms that you might not fully understand. Here’s a quick primer on some of those terms so that you can be a more educated real estate consumer.
A deposit made to a seller when going under contract, to show the buyer’s good faith in purchasing a home. Earnest money is typically held jointly by the seller and buyer in a trust or non-interest bearing escrow account. If a contract falls through and it is through seller neglect, the earnest money can be awarded back to the buyer. But if the buyer backs out of the contract without proper justification, the money can be relinquished to the seller.
Appraisal vs. Inspection
Both an inspection and an appraisal may be required in the sale of a home, but they are very different. Appraisers are engaged by lenders to ensure both buyer and lender are making a sound investment decision, and consider such issues as: the age, size, and construction of the home; number of bedrooms, bathrooms, closets and parking; type of energy and any energy conservation features; building code compliance; and overall health of the neighborhood, schools, and local real estate market. They may provide conditional requirements to the lender involving repair requirements, but generally advise the lender on whether the sale price is a fair one given the status of the home.
Inspectors do detailed, hands-on evaluations. They examine all accessible areas on both the interior and exterior of the property to evaluate both safety and the need for maintenance or repairs. An inspection is a tool for the prospective buyer to know exactly what they’re purchasing. There are many types of inspections that are offered and recommended for different types of properties.
Good Faith Estimate
Within three days of the lender taking a prospective buyer’s loan application, they must provide an estimate of the fees due at closing. While borrowers can use this as a tool to compare lenders, it is only an estimate, and the final figure can sometimes vary.
An evaluation of a potential borrower by a lender that determines the maximum amount the lender is willing to extend based on the borrower’s credit and other financials. Getting pre-approval from a lender before you start looking for a home can help refine your search so you are not wasting your time with properties out of your price range. Many lenders offer a pre-qualification—this does not take into account the borrower’s credit or financial history and is not as strong as a pre-approval.
Comparables or “comps” as they are more commonly known, are properties with characteristics similar to a subject property to help determine that property’s value. By looking at houses that are similar in size, age, and location, an agent can better determine a fair price for a home their client is looking to buy or sell.
An MLS, or Multiple Listing Service, is a marketing database set up by a group of cooperating real estate agents. In metro Denver, this means that all properties listed using a licensed agent are entered into this database and thereby searchable by all the other agents. This is the system agents use to find houses meeting the requirements of their buyers and set showings for those properties. It is illegal for an agent to list a property for sale without listing it on the MLS unless they have proper, written direction from the seller. ALL residential properties that are for sale are required to be listed on MLS.
Title insurance covers the loss of an interest in a property due to legal defects and is required if the property is under mortgage. The seller generally pays for the owner’s title policy on behalf of the borrower or buyer. The borrower, or buyer, generally pays for the lender’s title policy.
Escrow is money held by a third party until specific conditions are met. In the case of your mortgage, your lender might set up an escrow account on your behalf in which a portion of your monthly payment is deposited toward property tax and insurance.
If you run into any other terms that you don’t recognize, please ask me! I’m here to make sure you fully understand the home-buying or home-selling process and that we address any concerns or confusion you might have along the way.