Dictionary B



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back title letter
A letter that a title insurance company gives to an attorney who then examines the title for insurance purposes.
back-end ratio
A lender calculation that compares a borrower’s total debt (principal, interest, property taxes, and insurance, plus other monthly debt payments) to gross monthly income.
back-to-back escrow
Arrangements that an owner makes to oversee the sale of one property and the purchase of another at the same time.
A rigid board used beneath tile.
Soil used to solidify the foundation of a structure.
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The area behind and above a countertop, typically covered to prevent water from splashing onto the wallboard.
backup offer
A secondary bid for a property that the seller will accept if the first offer fails.
backwater valve
A valve in a sewer line that prevents sewage from flowing back into a house.
A device used as a heat shield to deflect the byproducts of combustion.
balance sheet
A statement that shows the assets, liabilities, and net worth of an individual.
ball cock
One type of inlet valve assembly inside a toilet tank that, when opened automatically, fills the tank with water.
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ballcock assembly
The toilet tank mechanism that controls flushing.
balloon loan
A mortgage in which monthly installments are not large enough to repay the loan by the end of the term. As a result, the final payment due is the lump sum of the remaining principal.
balloon payment
The final lump-sum payment due at the end of a balloon mortgage.
balloon-frame construction
A type of framing used in two-story homes in which studs extend from the ground to the ceiling of the second floor.
Intermediate vertical support for a stair railing, often made from turned hardwood.
Railing held up by a set of posts on a porch or stairway.
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A proceeding in which an insolvent debtor can obtain relief from payment of certain obligations. Bankruptcies remain on a credit record for seven to 10 years and can severely limit a person’s ability to borrow.
bargain sale
The sale of a piece of property for less than market value.
base loan amount
The amount upon which loan payments are based. If the borrower finances his or her closing costs, those costs will be added to the base loan amount.
Any board or molding found at the bottom of an interior wall.
baseboard electric heat
Heating units installed in the floor that can be controlled by a central thermostat.
The area of a home below ground level.
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basis point
A basis point is one one-hundredth of one percentage point. For example, the difference between a loan at 8.25 percent and a mortgage at 8.37 percent is 12 basis points.
A narrow piece of material used on the outside of a house to cover joints in walls.
The opening between two columns or walls that forms a space.
bay window
A window that projects outward in a curve.
bearing wall
A wall that supports its own weight in addition to other parts of a structure.
before-tax income
Total income before taxes are deducted.
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The lender who makes a loan, also called a mortgagee. The person borrowing money is the mortgagor.
Personal property given to a person through a will.
A built-up lip of concrete designed to prevent runoff water from entering the garage or driveway.
An improvement that increases a property’s value as opposed to repairs that maintain the value.
An improvement that increases the property’s value.
A home that has two levels. Typically, a garage or storage area is situated in the lower level and the home in the upper section. Most bi-level structures were built after 1950.
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bi-metal coil
Part of a mechanical thermostat. Consists of two different types of metal that expand and contract at two different rates with changes in room temperature.
bid out
The process that contractors use to estimate the cost of a house or project before it is completed.
bidding war
Offers from multiple buyers for a piece of property. Agents also sometimes compete to list a house for sale.
bilateral contract
A contract in which the parties involved give mutual promises. Also called a reciprocal contract.
bill of sale
A document that transfers ownership of personal property.
A report issued by a title insurance company that details the condition of a home’s title and provides guidelines for a title insurance policy.
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A preliminary agreement between buyer and seller.
biweekly mortgage
A mortgage that requires payments every two weeks and helps repay the loan over a shorter term.
blanket insurance policy
A policy that covers more than one person or piece of
blanket mortgage
A mortgage that covers more than one property owned by the same borrower.
blighted area
A neighborhood that has deteriorated.
blind nailing
Nails driven into a wall and concealed with putty.
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The illegal practice of inducing homeowners to sell their properties by making representations regarding the entry of a particular race into the neighborhood.
blue-ribbon condition
A house maintained close to its original condition. Also called mint condition.
blue-sky laws
Regulations on the sale of securities to prevent consumers from investing in fraudulent or high-risk companies without being informed of the
The plan for a home or other structure.
board and batten
A type of siding composed of vertical boards and batten slats that cover wall joints.
board foot
Measurement of lumber that is the equivalent of 144 cubic inches.
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board of equalization
A state board charged with ensuring that local property taxes are assessed in a uniform manner.
board-and-batten siding
Siding composed of 8- to 12-inch-wide wooden boards nailed vertically to create a barn-like exterior.
Form language used in deeds, mortgages, and other documents. Details can be added by individual parties.
bona fide
A legal term that refers to actions or persons that are honest and in good faith.
An agreement that insures one party against loss by acts or defaults of another party.
bonus room
A room with no specifically designated function, unlike a living room, bedroom, or kitchen.
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book value
The value of a property as a capital asset based on its cost plus any additions, minus depreciation.
A piece of sheet metal that connects a heating or cooling duct and a vent.
boring test
An analysis of soil in which holes are bored into the ground and samples are removed.
A section of a city that has authority over local matters.
Sand, gravel, or other material used for grading.
borrow pit
The hole at a site that has been excavated.
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A street lined with trees or constructed with a landscaped median.
The dividing line between two adjacent properties.
braced framing
A construction method in two-story homes in which the frame is reinforced with posts and braces.
The technique used to reinforce a structure.
branch circuit
An electrical circuit with its own circuit breaker in the service panel.
breach of contract
The failure to perform provisions of a contract without a legal excuse.
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breach of covenant
The failure to obey a legal agreement.
breach of warranty
A seller’s inability to pass clear title to a buyer.
break-even point
The point in which the owner’s rental income matches expenses and debt.
A roofed passageway with open sides.
Building material made from clay molded into oblong blocks and fired in a kiln.
brick veneer
A brick facade on a wall or fireplace.
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bridge loan
A short-term loan for borrowers who need more time to find permanent financing.
Anyone who acts as a go-between. A real estate broker is licensed to handle property transactions and operate a brokerage firm. A mortgage broker is an individual or firm that matches borrowers to lenders and loan programs for a fee.
The act of bringing together two or more parties in exchange for a fee or commission. Real estate brokerages are firms or companies that are licensed to conduct real estate transactions.
broom clean
The ideal condition of a building when it is turned over to an owner or tenant.
A vintage row house constructed of red sandstone.
buffer strip
A parcel of land that separates two or more properties.
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The feasibility of constructing a home or other structure on a piece of land. Parcels for which a building permit cannot be obtained may be considered “unbuildable.”
builder upgrades
Extra features or better finishing materials offered by a builder.
building and loan association
An organization that raises money to helps its members purchase real estate or construct a building.
building code
A comprehensive set of laws that controls the construction or remodeling of a home or other structure.
building inspector
A city or county employee who enforces the building code and ensures that work is correctly performed.
building line or setback
Guidelines that limit how close an owner can build to the street or an adjacent property.
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building moratorium
A halt on home construction to slow the rate of
building paper
A thick, water-resistant paper that serves as insulation.
building permit
A permit issued by a local government agency that allows the construction or renovation of a house.
building restrictions
Regulations that limit the manner in which property can be used.
Appliances or other items that are framed into a home or permanently attached.
A retaining mwall designed to hold back water from the ocean or other body of water.
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bundle of rights
The various interests or rights an owner has in a property.
A small one-story house or cottage.
The way in which two boards meet so that the ends touch in a continuous line.
butterfly roof
A roof formed by two gables that dip in the middle to resemble a butterfly’s wings.
buydown mortgage
A home loan in which the lender receives a premium as an inducement to reduce the interest rate during the early years of the mortgage.
buyer’s agent
An agent representing a buyer in a home purchase, either as a single agent or as an exclusive buyer’s broker.
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buyer’s broker
A real estate broker who exclusively represents the buyer’s interests in a transaction and whose commission is paid either by the buyer or through the seller or listing broker at closing.
buyer’s market
A slow real estate market in which buyers have the advantage.
buyer’s remorse
An emotion felt by first-time homebuyers after signing a sales contract or closing the purchase of a house.
Buyers Resource Real Estate
National buyer’s brokerage company with offices in 13 states. Call (800) 359-4092 for information and referrals.
Buyers’ Home Finding Network
National referral service for buyer’s brokers only. Call (800) 500-3569 for information and referrals.
The rules and regulations that a homeowners association or corporation adopts to govern activities.