Title Glossary

Without a doubt title industry has its own language, here are some commonly used words and meanings.


ABSTRACT – Collection of all recorded deeds, mortgages, leases and other instruments affecting the title to a particular piece of land.

ABSTRACTING – The process of making and compiling an abstract.

ABSTRACTOR – The person or company engaged in making abstracts.

ABSTRACT OF TITLE – Just a longer name for an abstract.

ABSTRACT PLANT – There are a hundred different types. Basically it is an index of the recorded instruments in a county or political subdivision geographically grouped according to land description so that all of the instruments affecting a piece of land can be immediately found under the indexed heading of such land. (See also “Title Plant”)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – (1) Generally, the act of the maker or makers of a real estate instrument in going before a Notary Public or other judicial officer and acknowledging that they signed such instrument without fear or compulsion, and for the purposes expressed in such instrument. The laws making provision for acknowledgments incident to real estate papers were enacted to help prevent forgeries or undue advantage taken over the makers of such instruments. Forms and procedures incident to acknowledgments vary from state to state, some being considered probate procedures in which the probity or authenticity of the instrument is proven.
(2) Generally, a form of certificate made by a notary public or judicial officer, appended to deeds, mortgages, leases and other real estate instruments, certifying that the maker or makers of such instruments appeared before the notary or judicial officer and acknowledged that they signed the instrument without compulsion or fear and for the purposes indicated in the instrument.

ADMINISTER – To pay the debts and wind up the business of a deceased person’s estate. Also, to handle and dispose of properties of an estate by an executor, administrator or trustee in conformity with legal procedures and provisions of wills or trust instruments.

ADMINISTRATOR – A person appointed by a probate court to administer the estate of a person who dies intestate; that is without leaving a will.

ADVERSE POSSESSION – The unauthorized occupation of land belonging to another, by a person who does not have the consent of the owner. Said occupier is said to hold possession adversely to the rights and interests of the owner. In most states, by operation of law, title to the land becomes vested in such occupier after a fixed number of years of peaceful occupancy.

AFFIDAVIT – A written statement made under oath before a notary public or other judicial officer.

AGENCY – An individual or corporation authorized to act for another person or corporation. The scope of an agency depends upon the authority given to the agent.

AGENT – On who, having received authority from another, acts in such other person’s behalf within the scope of such authority.

AGREEMENT – A legally binding compact made between two or more persons.

APPRAISE – From Latin “appretiare” meaning to set or fix a value. To judge or estimate the value of real estate.

APPRAISAL – The act, also the published results, of appraising.

APPROVED ATTORNEY – A practicing lawyer whose examinations of title and title opinions are acceptable to a title insurance company as a basis for the issuance of its title insurance policies.

APPURTENANCE – A minor right or privilege that is incident to, but outside of, the principal property such as a right-of-way to a highway across the land of another. Water rights are also an example.

APPURTENANT – Belonging to, or accessory to, or incident to a principal property.

ARBITRATION – the process by which parties who cannot agree among themselves submit the dispute to the judgment of an impartial party.

ASSESSED VALUATION – The estimated value of property for tax purposes, usually fixed by the tax assessor.

ASSESSMENT – (1) The act of fixing the amount of taxes or special improvement charges.
(2) The amount of taxes or special improvement charges. Special improvement charges are usually for the costs of streets, sidewalks, sewers, etc.

ASSIGNEE – For example, the person who receives ownership of a contract or a mortgage by transfer from another.

ASSIGNMENT – an amendment, revision, supplementation, or cancellation of a will.

ASSIGNOR – For example, the person who transfers ownership of a contract or mortgage to another.

ATTORNEY’S OPINION – The written statement of an attorney setting forth what he believes to be the condition of a real estate title.

AVIGATION EASEMENT – An easement over private property which abuts and extends out from the end of airport runways with said easement restricting the graduated height of agricultural crops, bushes, trees and other objects in the take off and landing path of aircraft.

AVULSION – A change or shift in a water boundary resulting in loss of land by an owner and the acquiring of such land by another.


BACK TITLE LETTER – Also called “Back Title Certificate” in some areas, and “Starter” in others. Where titles have been previously examined up to a certain date by reliable examiners, title companies sometimes give subsequent examiners of such titles a letter which sets forth the condition of the title at the time of the previous examination and authorizes them to begin their subsequent examination with the terminal date of the previous examination.

BANKRUPTCY – A proceeding in U.S. District court wherein assets of a debtor unable or unwilling to pay his debts are applied by an officer of the court in satisfaction of creditor claims.

BARGAIN AND SALE DEED – Sometimes called “fee simple deed.” A deed of conveyance which presumes that the grantor holds title, but which makes no warranty with respect to the title.

BENEFICIARY – A person who is entitled 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 is transferred or conveyed.

BINDER – (1) Sometimes called “Preliminary Certificate.” It is a preliminary report as to the condition of a title and a commitment to issue a title insurance policy in a certain manner when certain conditions are met.
(2) Also, a deposit in escrow of a small part of the purchase price of real estate as evidence of good faith and to bind an agreement to purchase.

BLANKET MORTGAGE – A mortgage which covers all of a class of property or all of the property of the mortgagor. For example, railroads sometimes give mortgages on all of their cars and locomotives presently owned or to be acquired in the future, without specifically describing them. Or they may give a mortgage on all the assets of the railroad company.

BRINGDOWN – is a continuation search for the day of closing. Also known as “Rundown” search. The searcher goes back and checks the records for the time period from the date of the title commitment to the date of closing. That will reveal most new items. It will not discover new items in the “gap”, i.e. items not discoverable due to delays in recording in the county clerk’s office or recorder of deeds office.

BROKER – One who acts as an agent for another in negotiating sales or purchases in return for a fee or commission.

BROKERAGE – A fee or commission paid to a broker.

BUILDING CODE – Laws specifying the type, kind, area and manner of construction of buildings, and prohibiting construction or repair of buildings in violation of such specifications. (Also See Zoning Ordinances)

BUILDING LINE – (See set-back line.) A line inside the boundary lines of a piece of real estate beyond which no building may be constructed. Building lines may be established by municipal ordinances, restrictions, and subdivision plats.


CERTIFICATE OF TITLE – A certificate issued by a title examiner stating the condition of a title. Usually more formal than an attorney’s opinion.

CHAIN OF TITLE – Beginning with a conveyance out of an original source of title such as a government, each succeeding deed, will or other medium which conveys and transfers the title to succeeding owners constitutes a link in the chain of title. The chain of title is the composite of all such links.

CLAIM – A right to assert, or the assertion of, a demand for payment of money due; or the surrender or delivery of possession of property or the recognition or some right. A demand for something as one’s rightful due.

CLOSING – In some areas called a “settlement” or “consummation”. The 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.
CLOSING SERVICE LETTER or CSL is a contract by which the Underwriter agrees to idemnify the Lender for any errors and mistakes which J&A Abstract, as an agent, makes in comlying with the Lender’s closing instructions.


CLOSING STATEMENT – also called as Hud1, a summation, in the form of a balance sheet, made at a closing, showing the amounts of debits and credits to which each party to a real estate transaction is entitled.

CLOUD ON TITLE – An irregularity, possible claim, or encumbrance which, if valid, would adversely affect or impair the title.

CO-INSURANCE – Literally, two or more policies of title insurance issued by different insurers, each covering a portion of the same risk, with interlocking provisions and which, when taken together, provide total coverage of the risk.

COMMISSION – The amount due a real estate broker or mortgage loan broker for services performed in such capacity. The term also applies to regulatory tribunals such as Real Estate Commissions.

CONDEMN – (1) The legal declaration of a government that something is unfit for further use or existence, or constitutes a peril to life, health, safety or well-being of the public, and ordering its removal or destruction, such as declaring a building unfit for use and a menace to health and public safety and ordering its destruction, or to order the slaughter of diseased animals.
(2) The selection of private property by a government or public service corporation for acquisition for public or quasi-public use.

CONDEMNATION – (1) The taking of private property for public or quasi-public use, with compensation to the owner, under the right of eminent domain. All governments and so-called public service corporations, such as railroads and electric companies, have the right to condemn and take private property.
(2) The destruction by government of private property which imperils the life, health or safety of the public.

CONDITIONS – This term is first cousin to restrictions and reservations. It refers to provisions in deeds and other real estate instruments which provisions make a particular right contingent upon the occurrence of some future event.

CONDOMINIUM – A group or complex of residential units in the nature of apartments wherein each unit is separately and individually owned, the unit owners owning together the commonly used appurtenances such as gardens, sidewalks, supporting and dividing elements, elevators, and hallways. It is also possible for condominiums to encompass business buildings, office buildings, and manufacturing plants.

CONDOMINIUM UNIT – A residential unit in a condominium complex.

CONSTRUCTIVE EVICTION – The inability of a purchaser or lessee to obtain possession because of an outstanding right or superior title.

CONTRACT – Same as “agreement”, but usually more formal.

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

COVENANT – 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.


DEDICATION – The setting aside of certain land by the owner and declaring it to be for some public use, accompanied by the acceptance of such use by the public. Example: Streets, sidewalks, parks.

DEED – An instrument, of various forms, by which title to real estate is conveyed from one party to another.

DEED BOOK – A book among the public records in which deeds are recorded.

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.

DEFAULT – Failure to perform a promised task or to pay an obligation when due.

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

DEFICIENCY JUDGMENT – When property at a mortgage foreclosure sale does not bring enough money to pay the mortgage debt plus costs of foreclosure, the court will enter a deficiency judgment against the mortgage debtor for the difference between the sale price and the mortgage debt plus costs.

DEMISE – (1) Death. (2) To transfer title to property or an interest in property by will or lease.

DEPOSIT AGREEMENT – Sometimes called “Deposit Receipt.” An agreement, used in some areas, prepared by real estate agents and signed by purchaser and seller acknowledging that a sale has been agreed to and that, in order to bind the deal, a certain amount of good faith money has been deposited by the purchaser with the agent or a title company. Such agreements are often as comprehensive, with respect to terms of sale, as regular real estate sales agreements.

DEPRECIATION – Loss in value occasioned by ordinary wear and tear; destructive action of the elements; or functional or economic obsolescence.

DEVISE – A gift of real estate made by a will.

DEVISEE – One who is given real estate under a will.

DOMINANT ESTATE – The property for the benefit of which a right-of-way easement exists across another’s adjoining piece of land is said to be the dominant estate. The land across which the easement runs is said to be the servient estate.

DOWER – A right which a wife has in her husband’s property effective at the time of his death.

DRAW – A partial advance of the proceeds of a construction loan mortgage, to which the borrower is entitled when construction reaches a certain specified stage.


EARNEST MONEY – The advance, by a purchaser, or a small part of the purchase price as evidence of good faith.

EASEMENT – A right held by a person to enjoy or make limited use of another’s real property.

EGRESS – The right to a path or right-of-way over which a person may leave or go away from his own real estate.

EJECTMENT – (1) Eviction or dispossession.
(2) A law suit to regain possession of real estate held by another.

EMINENT DOMAIN – The right of a government to take privately owned property for public purposes under condemnation proceedings upon payment of its reasonable value.

ENCROACHMENT – The extension of a structure from the real estate to which it belongs across a boundary line and onto adjoining property.

ENCUMBRANCE – A claim, right, or lien upon the title to real estate, held by someone other than the real estate owner.

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.

EQUITY – A system of jurisprudence supplementing the common law and enacted law under which justice, impartiality, and fairness is applied in circumstances not covered by enacted or common law.

EQUITY OF REDEMPTION – The right of one who has mortgaged his property to redeem that property upon payment of the mortgage debt, and especially the right to redeem within a reasonable time after the due date.

EROSION – The wearing away of land surfaces by forces of nature such as winds and water.

ESCHEAT – The reversion of property to the state when an owner dies leaving no legal heirs, devisees or claimants.

ESCROW – Technically, this term strictly refers to a deed delivered to a third person to be held by him until the fulfillment or performance of some act or condition by the grantee. In title industry parlance it means the depositing with an impartial third party called the escrow agent (usually the title company) of anything pertaining to a real estate transaction including money and documents of all kinds which are to be disbursed and delivered to the rightful parties by the escrow agent when all conditions of the transaction have been met.

ESCROW AGREEMENT – A written agreement usually made between buyer, seller, and escrow agent, but sometimes only between one person and the escrow agent. It sets forth the conditions to be performed Glossary-9 incident to the object deposited in escrow, and gives the escrow agent instructions with respect to the disposition of the object so deposited.

ESTATE – (1) A sizable piece of rural land usually with a large house and other pretentious improvements.
(2) The whole of one’s possessions, especially all of the property, assets, debts, and liabilities left by a deceased or bankrupt person.
(3) The nature and extent of an owner’s rights in real estate.

ESTATE BY ENTIRETIES – An estate or interest in real estate predicated upon the legal fiction that a husband and wife are one person. A conveyance or devise to them (unless contrary intent is expressed) vests title in them as one person. Upon the death of either husband or wife, full title passes to the survivor.

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

ET UX – Abbreviations of Latin “et uxor” meaning “and wife”. Joe Doaks et ux means Joe Doaks and wife.

ET VIR – A Latin term meaning “and husband.” Jane Allen et vir means Jane Allen and husband.

EVICTION – To expel or oust a person, by legal process, from possession of real estate.

EXAMINATION – In title industry parlance, to peruse and study the instruments and muniments incident to a chain of title and to determine their effect and condition in order to reach a conclusion as to the status of the title.

EXAMINER – Usually referred to, in title industry parlance, as title examiner. One who examines and determines the condition and status of real estate titles.

EXCEPTION – In title industry parlance, a provision in a title insurance binder or policy which excludes liability regarding a specified title defect or an outstanding lien or encumbrance.

EXECUTE – (1) To create and make valid a real estate instrument. A deed is said to be executed when it is signed, sealed, witnessed and delivered.
(2) To perform or do whatever is required.

EXECUTION – The act of executing. (See Execute.)

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


FALSE PERSONATION – The act of a person who falsely and fraudulently claims to be another person.

FALSIFICATION – The forging, altering, or counterfeiting of a document, or knowingly making untruthful statements or misrepresentations.

FEE SIMPLE – The highest degree of ownership which a person can have in real estate. An interest in real estate which gives the owner unqualified ownership and full power of disposition.

FEUDAL SYSTEM – A political and economic system which prevailed in Europe based upon the Glossary-10 relation of overlord to vassal. The feudal lord held paramount title to the land. The interest in land acquired by vassals was impermanent, and title always reverted to the lord upon the vassal’s death.

FIDUCIARY – A person who bears a special relationship of trust, confidence, and responsibility to others, such as a trustee or agent.

FILING – In title industry parlance, this term relates to the delivery of real estate instruments to a recorder for recordings.

FIRST MORTGAGE – A mortgage having priority as a lien over any other mortgage or lien on the same property.

FIXTURE – Personal property which is permanently attached to real estate such as plumbing fixtures. So long as a fixture is permanently attached, it is usually regarded as part of the real estate.

FORECLOSURE – A legal proceeding for the collection of real estate mortgages and other types of liens on real estate, which results in cutting off the right to redeem the mortgaged property and usually involves a judicial sale of the property to pay the mortgage debt.

FORESHORE – Land between the low water mark and high water mark, covered and uncovered by the ebb and flow of the tide.

FORFEIT – (1) Money or a right which a person loses upon failure to perform an agreement, obligation, or duty. (2) The act of losing money or a right as described.

FORGED – Fraudulently executed, counterfeited.

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

FRAUD – A deception deliberately practiced in order to obtain an unfair or unlawful gain.

FRAUDULENT – Obtained, performed, or characterized by deceit or fraud.

FREEHOLD – A life estate or a fee simple estate.


GENERAL WARRANTY – A warranty provision in a deed or mortgage or other real estate instrument containing all of the common law items of warranty. Also known as a full warranty.

GRANT – A transfer of real estate, between individuals, by deed. A transfer of real estate from a sovereign by patent or royal decree.

GRANTEE – One to whom a grant is made.

GRANTOR – One who makes a grant.

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

GUARDIAN – A person who is legally responsible for the care and management of the person or property of one who is legally incompetent to manage his own affairs.


HABENDUM CLAUSE – That provision in deeds which begins with the words “to have and to hold” and which, in effect, defines the quality of the estate or interest which is being conveyed to the grantee.

HAZARD – A danger, peril or risk. Incident to title insurance, it relates to the risk assumed under a title insurance policy.

HEIR – A person who inherits or who is entitled to inherit real estate by provisions of law or under the provisions of a will.

HEREDITAMENTS – Any and all kinds of estates, interest, and rights in real estate which can be inherited.

HOMESTEAD – (1) Property designated by the head of a family as his home, which is protected by law from forced sale to pay his debts.
(2) Land claimed by a settler under the National Homestead Act.
(3) Under some state laws, the real estate upon which one’s home is situated.


IMPROVEMENT LIENS – Liens imposed by municipalities on real estate which has been directly benefited by municipal improvements such as the construction of streets, sidewalks and sewer lines. Such liens secure payment of the proportionate costs of such improvements.

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

INDENTURE – A deed or other real estate contract executed between two or more parties.

INDEX – (1) An alphabetical listing in the public records of the names of parties to recorded real estate instruments together with the book and page number of the record.
(2) The listing in abstract and title plants of recorded real estate instruments in groups according to land descriptions, known as a geographic index.
(3) The alphabetical listing in abstract and title plants, by names of the parties, of all recorded instruments which affect but do not describe particular real estate, such as judgments, powers of attorney, wills and probate proceedings. Such indexes are known by various names such as General Index, Judgment Index, and Name Index.

INGRESS – The right or permission to enter; also the means or place of entry such as a right-of-way across adjoining land.

IN GROSS – A type of offbeat easement which is not attached to a dominant estate and is in the nature of a personal right rather than an interest in real estate. It is not assignable or inheritable.

INSTALLMENT CONTRACT – A real estate purchase agreement providing for the payment of the purchase price in several successive payments such as monthly payments.

INSTRUMENT – Any written document by which something is done regarding rights or interests in real estate.

INSURER – One that insures, sometimes called an underwriter, such as a title insurance company.

INTERESTS – Estates, rights, or legal claims in and to real estate.

INTESTATE – Dying without leaving a legal will.


JOINT TENANTS – Two or more persons who hold title to real estate jointly, with equal rights to share in its enjoyment during their respective lives with the provision that upon the death of a joint tenant, his share in the property passes to the surviving tenants, and so on, until the full title is vested in the last survivor. A joint tenant cannot legally sell or encumber his interest without the consent or joinder of all of the other joint tenants.
Example: Andy, Beth and David own Green Acre one-third each (1/3rd each). If Beth dies, Andy and David will each own one-half (1/2) of Green Acre.

JUDGMENT – A conclusion or determination by a court of law usually awarding the payment of money or relief of some kind to one of the parties to a lawsuit.

JUDICIAL – Of or pertaining to courts of law or the administration of justice.

JUNIOR MORTGAGE – A mortgage lower in lien priority than a first mortgage.

JURISDICTION – (1) the right and power of courts to interpret and apply the law.
(2) The legal power of control over persons and property.
(3) A geographical area in which a court has power and authority to act.

JURISPRUDENCE – A system of laws. The science or philosophy of the law.


KAPUT – Destroyed, incapacitated, useless, terminated.


LAND – The solid ground of the earth as distinguished from the sea.

LAND CONTRACT – A contract between buyer and seller for the purchase and sale of land, the purchase price usually being payable in installments over a considerable period.

LANDLORD – (1) A person from whom a tenant leases land or buildings.
(2) One who runs a rooming house or inn.

LATENT – Existing, but lying hidden or concealed.

LEASE – An agreement granting the use or occupancy of land during a specified period in exchange for rent.

LEASEHOLD – (1) Property held by lease.
(2) The estate or interest in real estate created by a lease.

LEGAL – (1) Relating to or concerned with the law.
(2) The conformity with or permitted by law.

LESSEE – A tenant holding a lease.

LESSOR – One who gives a lease to a lessee.

LIABILITY – A legal obligation or responsibility for the payment of a loss or damages or a debt.

LICENSE – In title industry parlance, permission to go upon or use the land of another, the permission being a personal privilege and not constituting an interest in the land.

LIEN – The liability of real estate as security for payment of a debt. Such liability may be created by contract, such as a mortgage, or by operation of law, such as a mechanics lien.

LIFE ESTATE – An estate of ownership in real estate which exists only during the term of a certain person’s life.

LINEAL – (1) Being in the direct line of descent and inheritance from an ancestor.
(2) A direct line as related to a measurement.

LIS PENDENS – A pending lawsuit. A lis pendens notice is legal notice to the world that a lawsuit is pending.

LISTING – (1) Placing real estate with a broker for sale or lease.
(2) A conditional agreement to pay a commission to the broker if and when he finds a qualified buyer or tenant.

LITIGATION – Legal proceedings, a lawsuit in which a dispute is submitted to a court for determination.

LOSS – (1) In title industry parlance, damage suffered by a person resulting from defects in or liens upon his title to real estate.
(2) Money paid by a title insurance company in settlement of policy claims.


MARKETABLE TITLE – A title which a court of equity considers to be so free of material defects and liens that it will force the title’s acceptance by questioning purchaser. Also known as a merchantable title.

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 on real estate, created by operation of law, which secures the payment of debts due to persons who perform labor or services or furnish materials incident to the construction of buildings and improvements on the real estate.

MEETING OF MINDS – The state that exists when all parties to a contract agree to the exact terms thereof.

METES AND BOUNDS – A land description in which boundaries are described by courses, directions, distances, and monuments.

MORTGAGE – (From the Latin Terms “mors” and “mort” meaning death or dead.) A temporary conditional pledge of property to a creditor as security for the payment of a debt which may be killed or cancelled by payment.

MORTGAGE BOOK – A book in the public records in which mortgages are recorded.

MORTGAGEE – The holder of a mortgage. The party to whom a mortgage is made.

MORTGAGEE POLICY – (Sometimes called a mortgage policy.) A policy of title insurance insuring the holder of a mortgage against loss occasioned by the impairment or invalidity of the lien of such mortgage or because of defects in, superior liens upon, or unmarketability of the title.

MORTGAGOR – A person who mortgages property. A person who executes a mortgage.

MULTIPLE LISTING – The pooling, in a central bureau, of listings of properties for sale, which listings are held individually by members of a group of real estate brokers, with the agreement that any member of the group may sell the properties and in case of a sale, the commission will be divided among the broker making the sale, the broker who filed the listing, and the bureau.


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

NEGOTIABLE – Capable of being legally transferred by endorsement from one person to another, such endorsement carrying with it, without written provisions, implications of certain contractual obligations.

NET LISTING – The listing, with a broker, of real estate for sale for a specified price, net to the seller, exclusive of commission and closing costs.

NOTE – See Promissory Note.


OFFICIAL RECORD BOOK – One of a set of books in the public records in which is recorded all papers filed for record. Such books supplant deed books and mortgage books.

OPINION – In title industry parlance, referred to as title opinion. The conclusion and judgement of a skilled person as to the status of a title, based upon a title examination.

OWNER’S POLICY – A policy of title insurance usually insuring an owner of real estate against loss occasioned by defects in, liens against, or unmarketability of the owner’s title.


PARTITION – In title industry parlance, 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.

PARTY WALL – A wall built along the boundary line of adjoining properties and shared by the respective property owners or tenants.

PERCENTAGE LEASE – A lease of property in which the rental is based upon the volume of sales made by the lessee on the leased property.

PERIMETER – (1) The boundary lines enclosing a tract of land.
(2) The length of the boundary lines enclosing a tract of land.

PERSONAL PROPERTY – Temporary or movable property as distinguished from real estate.

PERSONALTY – Personal property.

PLAT BOOK – One in a set of books in the public records in which maps, plats, and copies of surveys are recorded.

POLICY – See Owner’s Policy and Mortgagee Policy.

POWER OF ATTORNEY – A legal instrument authorizing one to act as another’s agent or attorney.


PREMIUM – (1) The amount payable for an insurance policy.
(2) A sum of money or bonus paid in addition to the regular price.

PRINCIPAL – (1) A sum of money owed as a debt upon which interest is payable.
(2) A person who empowers another to act as his representative or agent.
(3) The person having prime responsibility for an obligation as distinguished from one who acts as a surety or endorser.

PROBATE – A legal procedure in which the validity and probity of a document, such as a will, is proven.

PROMISSORY NOTE – A written promise to pay or repay a specified sum of money at a stated time, or on demand, to a named person. In addition to the payment of principal, a promissory note usually provides for the payment of interest.

PROPERTY – (1) Something tangible or intangible capable of being owned and controlled.
(2) Lands or chattels in which a person owns some right, title, or interest to the exclusion of all others.

PUBLIC RECORDS – The transcriptions in a recorder’s office of instruments which have been recorded, including the indexes pertaining to them.

PUBLIC TRUSTEE – A public official to whom title to real estate may be conveyed by trust deed to be held by him as security for repayment of a loan. Usually found in areas where trust deeds are used as security instruments in lieu of mortgages.

PURCHASE MONEY MORTGAGE – A mortgage given by a purchaser to a seller on the subject property to secure payment of a part of the purchase price.


QUASI – To some degree, almost, partially, somewhat. Also resembling but not quite being the thing in question.

QUIET ENJOYMENT – (1) One of the common law warranties.
(2) Assurance that one’s title, possession, or use of real estate will not be disturbed or disrupted by a legitimate cause or adverse right.

QUIET TITLE SUIT – A lawsuit brought by an owner of real estate for the purpose of cancelling, wiping out, and putting a quietus upon supposedly immaterial, inconsequential, and unenforceable claims and interests which cloud his title.

QUIT CLAIM DEED – A deed which does not imply that the grantor holds title, but which surrenders and gives to the grantee any possible interest or rights which the grantor may have in the property.


RATE – This term, when used in the title industry, usually refers to the rate for title insurance. In this sense it means the cost per dollar unit of title insurance. For example, the rate for a ten thousand dollar title insurance policy is (so many) dollars. A rate schedule is the respective costs of dollar units of title insurance listed on an ascending scale.

REAL ESTATE – Land, including all inherent natural attributes and any man-made improvements of a permanent nature placed thereon.

REAL PROPERTY – See Real Estate.

REALTOR – A copyrighted trade name which can be legally used only by those persons belonging to the National Association of Real Estate Boards.

REALTY – Another name for real estate.

RECORDING – The act of a recorder of receiving and transcribing, in a book or on film of the public records, instruments affecting the title to real estate.

RECORDS – See Public Records.

RECORD TITLE – The aspects of a title which appear in the public records as distinguished from unrecorded title aspects and interests.

REDEMPTION – See Equity or Redemption.

REINSURANCE – Insurance insuring an insurer. When an insurance company has issued a policy and does not want to be fully exposed to loss for the full amount of the policy, such company may purchase a reinsurance policy from another insurance company to insure that first company against a part or all of the loss which the first company may have to pay under its policy.

RELEASE – (1) To relieve from debt or security or abandon a right, such as the release of a mortgage lien from a part or all of the land mortgaged.
(2) The instrument affecting a release.

RELEASE OF DOWER – (1) The deed or other instrument by which a wife releases her inchoate dower rights in land.
(2) The act of releasing dower.

RELEASE OF LIEN – (1) The instrument by which a lien is released from the real estate which it encumbers.
(2) The act of releasing a lien.

REMAINDER – An estate or interest in land which comes into being upon the termination of an existing estate or interest. When a grantor conveys a life estate to “A” with remainder to “B”, it means that “A” has a part of the absolute title and “B” has the remainder. Also, that “A” will own the property during his natural life, but at his death, instead of the property going to “A’s” heirs or devisees, it goes to “B”.

RESTRICTIONS – Often called restrictive covenants. Provisions in a deed or other instrument whereby an owner of land prohibits or restricts certain use, occupation, and improvement of the land.


REVERSION – (1) The return of an estate or interest to a grantor or lessor after the grant or lease has expired.
(2) The interest retained by a fee simple owner of real estate after granting a terminable estate or interest in such property to another. For example, when a fee simple owner gives a lease to a tenant, the interest which the owner has left is known as the reversion.
(3) A provision accompanying restrictive covenants in a deed, which provision stipulates that in the event the restrictions are violated, title to the property shall revert to the grantor.

REVERTER CLAUSE – (See Reversion (3).)

RIGHT – A power, privilege, prerogative, estate, or interest incident to real estate.

RIGHT OF WAY – (1) The right to pass over property owned by another, usually based upon an easement.
(2) A path or thoroughfare over which passage is made.
(3) A strip of land over which facilities such as highways, railroads, or power lines are built.

RIPARIAN OWNER – One who owns the upland bordering on a stream or other body of water.

RIPARIAN RIGHTS – The many rights of a person in, to, and over the banks, bed, shallows, shore, and water of a stream or body of water upon which his land borders.

RISK – Exposure to loss. A title insurance company assumes the risk incident to a possible title loss when it insures the owner of the title.

RUNDOWN – is a continuation search for the day of closing. Also known as “Bringdown” search. The searcher goes back and checks the records for the time period from the date of the title commitment to the date of closing. That will reveal most new items. It will not discover new items in the “gap”, i.e. items not discoverable due to delays in recording in the county clerk’s office or recorder of deeds office.


SALE AGREEMENT – A contract entered into between a buyer and seller, setting forth the terms, provisions, and conditions of a sale of real estate.

SALES CONTRACT – (See Sale Agreement.)

SATISFACTION – (1) The payment of a debt or fulfillment of an obligation.
(2) An instrument executed by the holder of a lien, debt or obligation which acknowledges payment or fulfillment. For example, a satisfaction of a mortgage sometimes is referred to as a satisfaction piece.

SEARCH – In title industry parlance, a careful exploration and perusal of the public records in an effort to find all recorded instruments relating to a particular chain of title.

SECOND MORTGAGE – A mortgage ranking in priority immediately below a first mortgage. See Junior Mortgage.

SECURITY – Assurance against the default or non-payment of a debt or obligation which makes the enforcement of a promise or an obligation more certain than the personal commitment of the debtor or obligator. Usually the pledge of property.

SEISIN – (Also spelled Seizin) An Old English term meaning legal possession or the right to legal possession of real estate under a freehold title.

SERVIENT ESTATE – Incident to an easement, the property upon or across which an easement exists. (See Dominant Estate.)

SERVITUDE – A right or interest in a piece of real estate, which right or interest serves or benefits another unrelated property. For example, an easement across one piece of property which serves another piece of property is said to constitute a servitude regarding the property upon which it is located.

SET ASIDE – To declare invalid or void; to annul. For example, a court may set aside an erroneous judgment or decree.

SETBACK LINE – (See Building Line.)

SETTLEMENT – (See Closing.)

SKY LEASE – A lease of air space above a piece of land. The ownership of land extends down to the center of the earth and up to the sky. Space above the land can, therefore, be leased or sold. Cantilever or bridge type buildings which do not depend on the lessor’s land for support may be built in such air space.

SOLE OWNER is a way to hold title. An undivided ownership interest by one person with no other party having a right or interest in or to the Property.

SPECIAL ASSESSMENT – (See Improvement Liens.)

SPECIAL WARRANTY DEED – A deed which warrants the title only with respect to acts of the grantor and the interests of anyone claiming by, through, or under him.

SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE – A lawsuit in which the court compels one of the parties to perform or carry out the provisions of a contract into which he has entered.

SPECULATIVE BUILDER – One who constructs buildings for sale without having firm purchase commitments. Speculative building is quite common in residential housing developments and in condominiums.

SQUATTER – One who settles upon unoccupied land without legal claim or authority. (See Adverse Possession.)

STARTER – (See Back Title Letter.)

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS – A statute setting a time limit on the enforcement of a right or on the collection of a debt in certain cases.

SUBDIVISION – An area of land laid 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.

SUBJACENT – A term applied to land or property lying contiguous to, but at a lower level than, another piece of property.

SUBLET – To rent property which one holds by lease, to another.

SUBORDINATION – Giving a lien or interest an inferior status. For example, an existing mortgage may be subordinated to the lien of a new construction loan mortgage in which case the construction loan mortgage becomes a prior lien.

SUBROGATION – The legal doctrine under which the law substitutes one creditor or claimant for another. When a title insurance company pays a claim under a title insurance policy, it is entitled to step into the shoes of the insured with respect to any rights the insured may have against parties who warranted the title to him.

SUIT – Usually meaning a lawsuit.

SUIT TO QUIET TITLE – (See Quiet Title Suit.)

SURETY – (1) A person who agrees to be responsible for a debt or obligation of another.
(2) The pledge or agreement by which one undertakes responsibility for the debt or obligation of another.

SURVEY – (1) To determine 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 Star, and the measuring of angles and distances by using the techniques of geometry and trigonometry.
(2) The map or plat drawn by a surveyor which represents the property surveyed and shows the results of a survey.


TAX LIEN – The lien which is imposed upon real estate by operation of law which secures the payment of real estate taxes.

TENANT – (1) Usually one who holds possession of real estate under a lease.
(2) In a broader sense, one who holds or possesses lands and tenements by any kind of title.
TENANTS BY THE ENTIRETY is a way to hold title. An undivided ownership by both husband and wife, with the right to the entire property passing to the surviving spouse upon the death of one (1) spouse.

TENANTS IN COMMON is a way to hold title. An individual ownership interest in a portion of the Property (either equal or unequal) with another party and sharing a common interest and right to use as to the whole. Tenants in Common does not provide for survivorship rights. Thus, a will is recommended to identify the recipient of the ownership interest upon the death of one of the owners. Example 1: Andy, Beth and David own Green Acre. Beth owns seventy percent (70%), Andy owns twenty percent (20%), and David owns ten (10%). David dies.David had a will which states that his interest should pass to his mother, Charlene. Charlene now owns a ten percent (10%) interest in Green Acre. If David dies without a will, his ten percent (10%) interest shall pass according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and State of New Jersey Example 2: Andy and Beth are married but own Green Acre with David. Andy and Beth own a sixty percent (60%) interest in Green Acre, which they hold as Tenants by the Entirety. David owns a forty percent (40%) interest in Green Acre. As between David and the unit made up of Andy and Beth, the parties own Green Acre as Tenants in Common, for percent (40%) to David, sixty percent (60%) to Andy and Beth jointly.

TENANT AT SUFFERANCE – One who continues to hold possession of real estate after his authorized term of occupancy has expired.

TENANT AT WILL – A tenant whose occupancy of real estate is subject to the will of the owner.

TENEMENT – (1) A building or complex of buildings containing residential rental units.
(2) A rundown, low-rental apartment or flat building or rooming house.
(3) Real property held by a person under a right or authority conferred by an owner.

TESTAMENT – Commonly used in the phrase “last will and testament” and generally considered synonymous with will. Technically speaking, it is a document providing for the disposition of one’s personal property upon his death.

TESTATE – Having made a legally valid will and leaving it at death.

THIRD PARTY – A term usually applied to persons who are not principal parties to a contract or other instrument, but who have some right, interest or duty which such contract or instrument affects. For example, where a sale contract between buyer and seller of real estate provides that the money and documents involved in the transaction will be deposited with a title company pending the closing of the deal, the title company becomes a third party to the transaction.

TITLE – (1) A combination of all the elements that constitute the highest legal right to own, possess, use, control, enjoy, and dispose of real estate or an inheritable right or interest therein.
(2) The rights of ownership recognized and protected by the law.

TITLE ASSURANCE – Assurance of title afforded by abstracts, attorneys’ opinions, title insurance, and surveys.

TITLE COMMITMENT – is a title report with various terms and conditions set forth in commitment.

TITLE COVENANTS – Covenants ordinarily inserted in conveyances and in transfers of title to real estate for the purpose of giving protection to the purchaser against possible insufficiency of the title received. A group of such covenants known as “common law covenants” includes: (a) covenants against encumbrances; (b) covenant for further assurance (in other words, to do whatever is necessary to rectify title deficiencies); (c) covenant of good right and authority to convey; (d) covenant of quiet enjoyment (see Quiet Enjoyment); (e) covenant of seisin; (f) covenant of warranty. (See Warranty, also see Covenant).

TITLE DEFECT – (1) Any possible or patent claim or right outstanding in a chain of title which is adverse to the claim of ownership.
(2) Any material irregularity in the execution or effect of an instrument in the chain of title.

TITLE REPORT – is a title search, where title examiner identifies the property, establishes a chain of title, determines if there any encumbrances on title such as mortgages. If there are no encumbrances, title is considered “good and marketable”.

TITLE EXAMINATION – (See Examination.)

TITLE EXAMINER – (See Examiner.)

TITLE INSURANCE – Indemnity against loss resulting from defects in or liens upon a title.

TITLE INSURER – A company which insures the title to real estate.

TITLE PLANT – (1) In many areas, synonymous with Abstract Plant. (See Abstract Plant.)
(2) A geographically filed assemblage of title information which is to help in expediting title examinations, such as copies of previous attorneys’ opinions, abstracts, tax searches, and copies or take-offs of the public records.

TITLE SEARCH – A search and perusal of the public records for recorded instruments which affect the title to a particular piece of land. (See also Abstract and Examination.)

TITLE SEARCHER – One who searches titles.

TITLE UNDERWRITER – Synonymous with Title Insurer.

TRUST DEED – An instrument in the nature of a mortgage which secures the payment of a debt. Distinguished from a mortgage in that the title is transferred to, and held by, a trustee for the benefit of the holder of the debt.


UNDERWRITER – An insurance company which issues insurance policies either to the public or to another insurer.

USURY – (1) Any premium, profit, bonus, fee, or charge which is demanded, required, or extracted by a lender in excess of legal interest on money loaned.


VENDEE – The purchaser under a sale contract of real estate.

VENDOR – The seller under a sale contract of real estate.

VOID – Binding on no-one, kaput, constituting a nullity. Something which is conclusively of no effect, the defect of which is not subject to being waived, revitalized or cured by confirmation or ratification.

VOIDABLE – Sufficiently defective to make void, the deficiency, however, being curable by confirmation or ratification.


WAIVER – The voluntary and intentional relinquishment of a known right, claim, or privilege.

WARRANTY – In a broad sense, it is an agreement or undertaking by a seller to be responsible for present or future losses of the purchaser occasioned by deficiency or effect in quality, condition, or quantity of the thing sold. In a stricter sense, it is the provision or provisions in a deed, lease, or other instrument conveying or transferring an estate or interest in real estate under which the seller becomes liable to the purchaser for defects in or encumbrances on the title. (See Title Covenants.)

WARRANTY DEED – A deed containing one or more title covenants. (See Title Covenants.)

WAREHOUSING – In title industry parlance, the temporary funding and holding by a lending institution of mortgages originated by a mortgage broker until such time as the mortgage market improves or until the mortgage broker accumulates a sufficient amount of mortgages to interest a permanent mortgage purchaser.

WAYS TO HOLD TITLE – there are four ways to hold title:
An undivided ownership interest by one person with no other party having a right or interest in or to the Property.
An undivided ownership by both husband and wife, with the right to the entire property passing to the surviving spouse upon the death of one (1) spouse. JOINT TENANTS:
An equal ownership interest by all parties named on the deed with rights of ownership vesting in the survivor of all owners.
Example: Andy, Beth and David own Green Acre one-third each (1/3rd each). If Beth dies, Andy and David will each own one-half (1/2) of Green Acre. TENANTS IN COMMON:
An individual ownership interest in a portion of the Property (either equal or unequal) with another party and sharing a common interest and right to use as to the whole. Tenants in Common does not provide for survivorship rights. Thus, a will is recommended to identify the recipient of the ownership interest upon the death of one of the owners.
Example 1: Andy, Beth and David own Green Acre. Beth owns seventy percent (70%), Andy owns twenty percent (20%), and David owns ten (10%). David dies.David had a will which states that his interest should pass to his mother, Charlene. Charlene now owns a ten percent (10%) interest in Green Acre. If David dies without a will, his ten percent (10%) interest shall pass according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and State of New Jersey Example 2: Andy and Beth are married but own Green Acre with David. Andy and Beth own a sixty percent (60%) interest in Green Acre, which they hold as Tenants by the Entirety. David owns a forty percent (40%) interest in Green Acre. As between David and the unit made up of Andy and Beth, the parties own Green Acre as Tenants in Common, for percent (40%) to David, sixty percent (60%) to Andy and Beth jointly.

WILL – (1) An instrument executed by a competent person, in the manner prescribed by law, whereby he makes disposition of his property to take effect on and after his death.
(2) A holographic will is a will entirely written and signed by the testator in his own handwriting. In some states some of the legal requirements regarding the execution of wills do not apply in cases of holographic wills.
(3) A nuncupative will is one made orally before witnesses, usually during the testator’s last hours of life. Under English law, sailors and soldiers may make nuncupative wills any time during their military service.

WRIT – A formal legal document issued by a court ordering or prohibiting the performance of some action. There are at least a hundred different kinds of writs each covering a different action or subject. In most writs, an officer of the court, such as a sheriff, is directed to serve the writ or carry out its directions.

WRIT OF EXECUTION – A direct command from the court to the sheriff to carry out the action required in the writ. It may be to hang a convicted criminal, or to seize property and sell it to pay a money judgment.


ZONING ORDINANCES – Laws passed by local governments regulating the size, type, structure, nature and use of buildings. Zoning ordinances, often referred to as zoning laws and zoning regulations, are divided into two classes:
(1) those which regulate the height or bulk of buildings within certain designated zones or districts – in other words, those which relate to structural and architectural design, and
(2) those which prescribe the type of buildings which may be constructed, and the use to which buildings within certain designated zones or districts may be put.