The Vocabulary of the Housing Market

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Buying real estate — or even taking a look at what's on the market — can mean dealing with a new and confusing vocabulary. May Ling of White House Properties, a real estate firm in Los Angeles, defines some common real estate terms:

Entry-Level House: A single-family home that is a reasonable price for the given area. In a city like Los Angeles, an entry-level home can cost $500,000 — not so reasonable.... In other cities and towns, "entry level" often means a house one-tenth that price.

3/4 Bathroom: A bathroom with a sink, a toilet and shower. A full bath has a sink, toilet, shower and bathtub.

A half bath has a sink and toilet.

Buyer's agent: A real estate agent who works with someone looking for a home.

Seller's agent: An agent who works on behalf of an owner to sell a house.

Broker: Someone who manages a real estate brokerage company and oversees agents.

Listings sheet: A list of features of a house, like square footage and appliances. A potential buyer should always double-check true home specifications against the sheet.

Physical inspection: A potential buyer should hire an inspector (often a builder or contractor) to do a physical inspection of the house before buying. If the house has hidden problems, the potential buyer can back out of the deal or ask the seller to lower the price.

Offer: If you decide to bid on a house, you make a written offer of how much you are willing to pay. You can offer more, less, or exactly the same as the listing price.

Escrow: If a bid is accepted, a buyer deposits a sum of money into an "escrow account." If the deal later falls through — for example, because the house does not pass a physical inspection — the buyer gets the money back. A house with a sign that says "in escrow" means it is not officially sold yet, but the buyer and seller have a tentative deal.

Solds: Houses sold in the same neighborhood within the last three months — good for comparison purposes.

FICO score: A credit score. (The term FICO comes from Fair Isaac Company, the firm that developed the scoring.) The maximum score is 850. The higher a score, the easier it is to borrow money for a mortgage. A good range for a first-time buyer is 700+. Those with a lower score, in the 500s and 600s, may be able to borrow money, but at a higher interest rate.

Lates: Shorthand for late payments, which take points off your FICO score.



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