These terms are defined in their most commonly used form. Should more precise interpretations of these terms be necessary, we advise you to seek the counsel of an attorney.



Abstract of Title – A condensed history or summary of all transactions affecting a particular tract of land.
Access – The right to enter and leave a tract of land from a public way. Can include the right to enter and leave over the lands of another.
Accretion – The slow build-up of lands by natural forces such as wind or water.
Acknowledgment – The act by which a party executing a legal document goes before an authorized officer or notary public and declares the same to be his or her voluntary act and deed.
Acre – A tract of land measuring 208.71 feet linear, and containing 43,560 square feet of land.
Administrator – A person appointed by a probate court to settle the affairs of an individual dying without a will. The term is “administratrix” if such a person is a woman.
Adverse Possession – A claim made against the lands of another by virtue of open and notorious possession of said lands by the claimant.
Affidavit – A sworn statement in writing.
Agent – A person or company that has the power to act on behalf of another or to transact business for another, similar to Attorney-in-Fact.
ALTA – American Land Title Association, a national association of title insurance companies, abstractors and attorneys specializing in real property law. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C.
Appurtenance – Anything so annexed to land or used with it that it will pass with the conveyance of the land.
Attorney-in-Fact – One who holds a power of attorney from another allowing him or her to execute legal documents such as deeds, mortgages, etc., on behalf of the grantor of the power.


Bankruptcy – A federal court proceeding in which debtors are relieved of liability for their debts after surrender of their assets to a court appointed trustee .
Bureau of Land Management – The branch of government in charge of surveying and managing public lands.


C & R ‘ s – Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.
See “Conditions and Restrictions .”
Chain – A term of land measurement that is 66 feet in length.
Chain of Title – A term applied to the past series of transactions and documents affecting the title to a particular parcel of land.
Clear Title – One which is not encumbered or burdened with defects.
Closing – Also known as “escrow,” “or “settlement.” The process of executing legally binding documents, such as deeds and mortgages most commonly associated with the purchase of real estate and the borrowing of money to assist in the purchase .
Clouded Title – An encumbered title.
Commitment to Insure – A report issued by a title insurance company, or its agent, committing the title insurance company to issue the form of policy designated in the commitment upon compliance with and satisfaction of requirements set forth in the commitment.
Condemnation – Taking private property for public use through court proceedings .
Condition or Conditions – A proviso in a deed or will that, upon the happening or failure to happen of a certain event, limits, enlarges, changes or terminates the title of the purchaser or devisee.
Conditions and Restrictions – A common term used to designate conditions and restrictions on the use of land. Includes penalties for failure to comply. Commonly used by land subdividers on newly platted areas.
Conveyance – An instrument by which title is transferred; a deed. Also, the act of transferring title.
Covenant – An agreement written into deeds and other instruments promising performance or non-performance of certain acts, or stipulating certain uses or non-uses of the property.
Cul-de-Sac – The terminus of a street or alley. Usually laid out by modern engineers to provide a circular turn around for vehicles.


Deed – A written document by which the ownership of land is transferred from one person to another.
Deposit – Advance payment of part of the purchase price to bind a contract for property.



Easement – An interest in land owned by another that entitles its holder to a specific limited use, such as laying a sewer, putting up electric power lines, or crossing the property.
Egress – The right to leave a tract of land. Often used interchangeably with “access.”
Eminent Domain – The power of the state to take private property for public use upon payment of just compensation.
Encroachment – A trespass or intrusion onto another’s property, usually by a structure, wall or fence.
Encumber – To burden a parcel of land with a lien or charge, e.g., a mortgage.
Encumbrance – A lien, liability or charge upon a parcel of land.
Escrow – A procedure whereby a disinterested third party handles legal documents and funds on behalf of a seller and buyer, and delivers them upon performance by the parties.
Estate – A person’s possessions. The extent of a person’s interest in real property.
Examination of Title – The investigation and interpretation of the record title to real property based on the title search or abstract.
Exception – In legal descriptions, that portion of land to be deleted or excluded. The term often is used in a different sense to mean an objection to title or encumbrance on title.


Fee Simple Estate – The greatest interest in a parcel of land that it is possible to own. Sometimes designated simply as “Fee.”
Fixtures – Any item of property so attached to real property that it becomes a part of the real property.


Grantee – A person who acquires an interest in land by deed, grant, or other written instrument.
Grantor – A person, who, by a written instrument , transfers to another an interest in land.



Heir – One who might inherit or succeed to an interest in land of an individual who dies without leaving a will (intestate).
HUD 1 – A form settlement (closing) statement required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where federally related mortgages are being made on residential properties. It is a balance sheet showing the source of funds and the distribution of funds in connection with the purchase and/or mortgaging of residential property.



Indemnify – To make payment for a loss.
Ingress – The right to enter a tract of land. Often used interchangeably with “access.”
Intestate – Designates the estate or condition of failing to leave a will at death. “To die intestate.”



Judgment – A decree of a court. In practice this is the lien or charge upon the lands of a debtor resulting from the Court ‘s award of money to a creditor.



Lease – A grant of the use of lands for a term of years in consideration of the payment of a monthly or annual rental.
Lender’s Policy – A form of title insurance policy which insures the validity, enforceability and priority of a lender’s lien. This form does not provide protection for the owner.
Lessee – One who takes lands upon a lease.
Lessor – One who grants lands under a lease.
Lien – A hold, claim, or charge allowed a creditor upon the lands of a debtor. Some examples are mortgage liens, judgment liens, mechanics’ liens.
Link – A term of land measurement being 1/100th of a chain or 66/100ths of a foot.
Lis Pendens – A notice recorded in the official records of a county to indicate that a suit is pending affecting the lands where the notice is recorded.
Lot – A part of a subdivision or block having fixed boundaries ascertainable by reference to a plat or survey.



Marketable Title – A good title about which there is no fair or reasonable doubt.
Mechanic’s Lien – A lien allowed by statute to contractors, laborers and material suppliers on buildings or other structures upon which work has been performed or materials supplied.
Metes and Bounds – A description of land by courses and distances.
Mortgage – An instrument used to encumber land as security for a debt.
Mortgagee – The mortgage lender.
Mortgagor – The mortgage borrower.



Notary – A public officer commissioned to serve the public in non-contentious matters. A notary’s main functions are to administer oaths and affirmations, take affidavits and statutory declarations, witness and authenticate the execution of certain classes of documents, and take acknowledgments.
Note – The instrument evidencing the indebtedness secured by a security instrument such as a mortgage or deed of trust.



Owner’s Policy – A policy of title insurance which insures an owner’s interest and possession in real property. This form does not provide protection for a lender.
Ownership – The right to possess and use property to the exclusion of others.



Patent – A document or grant by which the federal or state government originally transferred title to public lands to an individual. The first in the series of transfers by which title comes down to present owners.
Plat or Plot – A map representing a piece of land subdivided into lots with streets shown there on.
P.M.I. – Private Mortgage Insurance. An insurance contract which insures that the named lender will re cover a specific percentage of the loan amount from the insurer in the event the loan goes bad. Many lenders require this on higher percentage loans.
Policy – A written contract of title insurance.
Policyowner – The insured on a title insurance policy.
Power of Attorney – An instrument authorizing another to act on one’s behalf as his or her agent or attorney.
Prorate – To allocate between seller and buyer their proportionate share of an obligation paid or due. For example, a proration of real property taxes or fire insurance premiums.



Quiet Title – An action in a proper Court to remove record defects or possible claims of other parties named in the action.



Range – A part of the government survey, being a strip of land six miles in width, and numbered east or west of the principal meridian.
Real Property – Land, together with fixtures, improvements and appurtenances.
Realtor® – A federally registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors® a n d subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.
Right – of – Way – The right which one has to pass across the lands of another. An easement.
Riparian – Rights to use of water and waterways in adjoining lakes or rivers.



Set Back Lines – Those lines which delineate the required distances for the location of structures in relation to the perimeter of the property.
Sub-surface Right – The right of ownership to things lying beneath the physical surface of the property.
Survey – The process of measuring land to determine its size, location and physical description and the resulting drawing or map.


Tenant – Any person occupying real property with the owner’s permission.
Testament – Another term for a will. Commonly referred to as “last will and testament.”
Testate – The estate or condition of leaving a will at death. “To die testate.”
Title – The evidence of right which a person has to the ownership and possession of land. Commonly considered as a history of rights.
Title Defect – Any legal right held by others to claim property or to make demands upon the owner.
Title Insurance – Insurance against loss or damage resulting from defects or failure of title to a particular parcel of real property.
Title Search – An examination of public records, laws, and court decisions to disclose the current facts regarding ownership of real estate.
Township – A division of territory six miles square, containing 36 sections or 36 square miles.
Tract – A particular parcel of land.



Vendee – A purchaser of real property under land contract.
Vendor – A seller of real property under land contract.



Warranty – A promise by the grantor of real property that he or she is the owner and will be responsible to the buyer if title is other than as represented.
Will – A written document providing for the distribution of property owned by a person after his or her death. See also, Testament.



Zoning – The right of a municipality to regulate and determine the compatible character and use of property.

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