Real Estate Terms – From Easements to Good Title

When buying or selling a property, it always helps to have a basic understanding of real estate terms. In this on going series of articles, we take a look at definitions starting with “easements.”

1) Easement – permission given to (or acquired by) someone who does not own a parcel of real property enabling that person (or entity) to use that parcel for a specific purpose. It may add or detract value. It may be neutral so far as the value of the property is concerned. Examples include easements to utility companies for the purpose of running power lines, easements to municipalities for running sewer lines, and an easement to a neighbor to use your driveway for ingress and egress to his property.

2) Encroachment – a building, fence, wall, driveway, etc. which is intended to be part of one property and is found to be on, or partially on, another property.

3) Escrow – money and other items of value held by a third party for the benefit of the buyer and seller of real property. In California, items are accumulated in escrow for a stated period of time until all items needed to finalize the sale are in the hands of the escrow agent and properly processed. In Virginia, the items are accumulated but are not signed until everyone meets at the settlement table. Then the deed is signed, the lender releases funds, and so on. It is usually the next day before the change of ownership can be recorded at the courthouse, so while it isn’t customarily referred to that way, the settlement agent is usually an escrow agent for about 24 hours in Virginia.

4) Equity – The wealth value of a property for the owner. The equity in a property is equal to the fair market value minus any debts such as mortgages and taxes.

5) Good Title – title to the real property being clear and clean enough that a title insurance company will insure it and a lender will make a loan with it as collateral.

As you can image, there are many real estate terms for which you have a general understanding. In our next article, we continue with the terms starting with “Home Inspection.”

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