Real Estate Terminology

Real Estate Terms (S-Z)

Sale Price

The sale price, also referred to as the purchase price, refers to the amount of money paid by the purchaser to the seller.

Sales Comparison Approach

The sales comparison approach is an appraisal tool for estimating the value of a property with other similar properties that have sold recently.

Satisfaction of Mortgage

The satisfaction of mortgage indicates that a mortgage has been paid in full.

Schedule A

A list in the offering plan of all the apartments being sold in a newly-constructed building or one that is undergoing conversion.  It presents allocated shares or unit-percentage interest, room count, and other material cost elements, including the projected maintenance charge and the tax-deductible portion of the maintenance.

Schedule B

The projected cost of operating a cooperative or condominium during its first year of operation and is part of the offering plan.

Section 421 A

A New York City tax program intended to stimulate new construction by permitting a phase-in of the real estate tax over a period of ten years.

Security Deposit

The security deposit is the payment required by the landlord that guarantees that the tenant will meet their financial obligations under the terms of the lease.  Besides guarding against any unpaid rent, it also guards against any potential damage that may be incurred by the tenant.

Seller Contribution

The seller contribution is a payment by the seller of a property of some, or all, of the buyer's closing costs.

Seller's Agent

A seller's agent is the listing agent that works in the best interests of the seller.

Service Drop

A service drop is the above-ground electrical cables that come from the nearest electrical pole connecting the electrical service of the house.

Service Lateral

Service lateral are the underground electrical wiring connecting the electrical service of the house.


Servicing are activities the lender performs such as collecting the payments and/or paying taxes and insurance from an escrow account.

Servient Tenement

Servient tenement refers to land encumbered by an easement.


The setback is the distance from the front or interior property line to the point where the structure is located.


Severalty refers to ownership by only one person.


When purchasing in a cooperative building, the apartment is not actually purchased directly as real estate but rather shares in the cooperative corporation are purchased.  The amount of shares represent the portion of the building owned based on the size and location of the unit in the apartment.  A proprietary lease is then issued by the corporation for a specific unit to the purchaser.


A soffit is the area under the roof extension of a structure that can be made of wood, vinyl or aluminum.

SONYMA (Sonny Mae)

SONYMA or State of New York Mortgage Agency raises money from the sale of New York tax-free bonds and uses these funds for mortgage loans.


The sponsor is the developer or owner of the property that initiates the conversion of a property from single ownership to cooperative or condominium ownership.

Square Footage

The area measured in square feet of a certain property.  Square footage can be measured in different ways and is usually considered approximate.  Condominium apartments have specific laws that determine the way in which the apartment is measured and usually more accurately reflect the actual square footage within a property.

Standing Mortgage

A standing mortgage is an interest-only mortgage with no principal reduction over time.  See "Balloon Mortgage".

Subject to Financing

A clause in the contract of sale for a cooperative apartment stipulating that the agreement is conditioned upon the buyer's obtaining financing from a financial institution in an agreed-upon amount.


A sublet is when the owner of an apartment or the main lease holder decides to rent the apartment to a sub-tenant.

Super Jumbo Loan

This is a loan that exceeds $1,000,000.


A survey is a document indicating measurements, boundaries and the area of a property.

Tax Abatement

A tax abatement is a financial incentive offered by a local or municipal government to stimulate development in a particular area.  The owner of the property and/or the developer has reduced taxes for a specific period of time, typically 10-15 years.  The taxes are raised incrementally to the full tax burden over the period of a few years.

Tax Deductible

A tax deductible expense helps to reduce taxable income.  The tax deductible expenses related to real estate are interest payments on mortgages and real estate taxes.

Tenancy by the Entirety

Tenancy by the entirety refers to co-ownership limited to husband and wife, with the right to survivorship.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common is co-ownership that does not include the right of survivorship.

Term, Amortization

The amortization term is the period of time in which the interest and principal payments of a loan must be made.

Term Mortgage

A term mortgage is a mortgage with interest payments only during the mortgage term, with the principal due at the end of the term.


The title of a property is the evidence or documentation that an owner is in lawful possession of the property, such as a property deed.

Title Insurance

Title insurance is an insurance policy protecting the insured from financial loss caused by a defect or question about the title to real property.

Title Search

Title search is a process that examines local public records, laws and related court decisions to determine if any other parties have valid claims against the subject property (such as past due taxes, judgments or mechanics' liens).  It also discloses past and current facts about the subject property's ownership.

Title Transfer Tax

Title transfer tax is a tax imposed on the conveyance of title to real property by deed.


A townhouse is a private residence where at least one wall is shared with another residence. 

Treasury Index

The Treasury Index is the weekly average yield on US Treasury securities adjusted to a constant maturity of one, three or five years, as made available by the Federal Reserve Board.

Triple Mint

Triple mint condition refers to a residence that is in immaculate condition.

Triple Net Lease

Triple net lease refers to a condition when the lessee pays all the expenses associated with the property in addition to the rent.


A triplex is an apartment that has three levels.

Truth-in-Lending Disclosure

Federal law requires that the lender must give this document to the home buyer within three business days after the loan application.  This disclosure gives details of the mortgage payments along with the corresponding APR and finance charges.

12 MAT Index

Stands for "12-month average Treasury index" and is a 12-month average of the one-year U.S. Treasury rates used for one form of a monthly adjustable mortgage.  Since it is based on historical experience, this index lags current interest rates.


In mortgage lending, underwriting is the decision-making process used to determine whether the loan risk is acceptable to the lender.  Underwriting involves the satisfactory review of the property appraisal and examination of the borrower's ability and willingness to repay the debt and sufficiency of collateral value of the property.

Unencumbered Property

Unencumbered property is property that is free of any lien.

Unity of Interest

Unity of interest occurs when co-owners all have the same percentage of ownership in a property.

Unity of Possession

Unity of possession occurs when all co-owners have the right to possess any and all portions of the property owned, without physical division.

Unity of Time

Unity of time occurs when co-owners receive title at the same time in same conveyance.

Unity of Title

Unity of title occurs when co-owners have the same type of ownership in a property.

Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI)

A special federal tax levied on investment income generated from property held in a pension plan in which there is a mortgage.  The property ownership is allocated between the cash investment and the mortgage, and all gain allocable to the mortgage portion is subject to UBTI tax.

Unsold Shares

Shares of stock in a cooperative corporation transferred to the sponsor at the completion of the conversion process.  The sponsor normally gets special rights to rent and/or sell these shares (representing special apartments) without board approval.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

A federal agency that administers funding for projects related to housing.

Useful Life

Useful life is the period of time that a property is expected to be economically useful.

Use Variance

Use variance is the permission to use the land for a purpose which, under the current zoning restrictions, is prohibited.


Usury is charging a rate of interest higher than the rate allowed by law.

Vacancy Rate

The vacancy rate is the projected rate of the percentage of rental units that will be vacant in a given year.

VA Guaranteed Loan

A VA guaranteed loan is a mortgage loan in which the loan payment is guaranteed to the lender by the Department of Veteran Affairs.


Valuation establishes an opinion of value utilizing an objective approach based on facts related to the property, such as age, square footage, location, cost to replace, etc.

Value in Use

Value in use is the present worth of the future benefits of ownership.


A variance is a deviation from specific requirements of a zoning ordinance due to special conditions of the property.

Vendor's Affidavit

A vendor's affidavit is a document signed under oath by the seller stating that the seller has not encumbered title to real estate without full disclosure to the purchaser.

Vesting Options

Vesting options are choices buyers have in how to acquire property.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability is one person being responsible for the actions of another.

Walk-up Building

A walk-up building is a building that does not have an elevator and are usually four or five stories.

Walk-Through Inspection

The walk-through inspection of a property occurs right before a closing to ensure that the property is being delivered as stipulated in the contract of sale.


Wetlands are federal and state protected transition areas between uplands and aquatic habitats that provide flood and storm water control, surface and groundwater protection, erosion control, and pollution treatment.

Words of Conveyance

Words of conveyance is a stipulation in a deed demonstrating the definite intent to convey a specific title to real property to a named grantee.

Wraparound Mortgage

A wraparound mortgage is a junior mortgage in an amount exceeding a first mortgage against the property.

Writ of Attachment

A writ of attachment is a court order preventing any transfer of attached property during litigation.


The yield refers to the return on an investment.


An area of a municipality or specific building that is zoned for a specific use, such as residential, commercial, etc.


Zoning are the laws regulating land use.

Zoning Ordinance

Zoning ordinance is a statement settling forth the type of use permitted under each zoning classification and specific requirements for compliance.