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Real Estate Glossary

This glossary was created by a team of real estate professionals. It contains terms regarding real estate buying and selling, home finance, home improvement, as well as legal terms. For your convenience, the glossary is searchable alphabetically.


A movable plate in a fireplace that allows smoke and fumes to travel up the chimney's flue.

Doing Business As. Business names or aliases filed with the county

Bonds issued without security

debt service
The total amount of credit card, auto, mortgage or other debt upon which you must pay

debt-service ratio
The measurement of debt payments to gross household income which may include, in addition to the main wage earner's salary, salaries of other wage earners, commissions, bonuses, overtime, etc.

Deceptive Trade Practices Act
Part of the federal Consumer Protection Act originally passed in 1973 and made specifically applicable to real estate in 1975, specifically prohibiting a lengthy number of false, misleading and deceptive acts or practices.

In tax law, an amount that you can subtract from the total amount on which you owe tax. Examples of federal income tax deductions include mortgage interest, charitable contributions and certain state taxes. For example, if Aimee receives an income of $60,000 in 1998 and pays $12,000 in mortgage interest during that same year, she can deduct $12,000 when she fills out her federal tax return, leaving an amount of $48,000 upon which she must pay tax

A written instrument by which title to land is conveyed

deed in lieu (of foreclosure)
A means of escaping an overly burdenome mortgage. If a homeowner can't make the mortgage payments and can't find a buyer for the house, many lenders will accept ownership of the property in place of the money owed on the mortgage. Even if the lender won't agree to accept the property, the homeowner can prepare a quitclaim deed that unilaterally transfers the homeowner's property rights to the lender.

deed restrictions
Common name used in the Houston area to denote as covenants, conditions & restrictions (CC&R's). Deed restrictions cover allowable land uses and home types and sizes within a neighborhood. They are especially important within Houston, and unincorporated parts of Harris County, since zoning does not exist in these areas.

Non-performance of a duty arising under a contract or otherwise


A clause in a deed, lease, will or other legal document that completely or partially negates the document if a certain condition occurs or fails to occur. Defeasance also means the act of rendering something null and void. For example, a will may provide that a gift of property is defeasable--that is, it will be void--if the beneficiary fails to marry before the willmaker's death

The actual transfer of the deed, or an act of a seller showing intent to make a deed effective, without which, there is no transfer of title to the property

A loss in value

Acquisition of property through inheritance laws when there is no will (when a person dies intestate.

A transfer of real estate by will or last testament


The making known of a fact that had previously been hidden; a revelation. For example, in many states you must disclose major physical defects in a house you are selling, such as a leaky roof or potential flooding problem

discount points (or points)
The amount paid either to maintain or lower the interest rate charged. Each point is equal to one percent (1%) of the loan amount (i.e., two points on a $100,000 mortgage would equal $2,000).

discount rate

1) The rate charged member banks who borrow from the Federal Reserve System. (2) The rate used to convert future income into present value.

To oust from land by legal process

dominant tenement
Property that carries a right to use a portion of a neighboring property. For example, property that benefits from a beach access trail across another property is the dominant tenement

down payment

An amount of money the buyer pays which is the difference between the purchase price and the mortgage amount.

dual agency

Representing the buyer and the seller in the same transaction by the same agent. Since there is an inherent conflict in fiduciary obligations to two different principals, dual agency, at best, is a risky undertaking. TRELA requires that all parties to a dual agency have full knowledge and consent (Disclosed Dual Agency). Contrast with intermediary.

due on sale
A clause in a mortgage agreement providing that, if the mortgagor (the borrower) sells, transfers, or, in some instances, encumbers the property, the mortgagee (the lender) has the right to demand the outstanding balance in full


Forcing action or inaction against a person's will