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ABSTRACT OF TITLE – A condensed history of title to real property.  It includes copies of all material documents placed in the public record that affect title to a specific parcel of real estate in any manner (e.g., deeds and other conveyances mortgages, liens, easements, encumbrances, marriages, divorces, deaths, and wills).

Ad valorem – a term according to value.  For example, ad valorem taxes on Florida real estate are based upon the assessed value of the property.

Adverse possession – acquisition of title to another person’s real property by a person who enters into open, adverse, hostile, notorious, exclusive, and continuous possession of the property for a statutory period of time without the consent of the owner.  In Florida, possession must continue with seven or more consecutive years with the real estate property taxes paid during all the years of possession.

Appraisal – an estimate of the value of a specific parcel of real property and/or item(s) of personal property as of a given date.

Assessed value – the value of a specific parcel of real estate as determined by the County Property Appraiser that serves as the basis for computing property taxes.  Whenever the property is purchased, there is a new fair market value and the property is reassessed and revalued.  The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that all assessments are to be made on the basis of just valuation, which is considered to be fair market value.

Beneficiary – A person receiving personal property in a Will 

Bequest – the Gift of personal property in a Will.

Chain of Title – A list of all recorded documents such as deeds, conveyances, mortgages, liens or other instruments affecting title to a particular parcel of real property.  It has been called the basic tool of the title search, for the chain of title begins from the government or original source of title and continues down to the present titleholder.

Closing – The termination of a real estate transaction when title to the seller’s property is conveyed to the buyer in return for the purchase price as stated in the sales contract.  Although it concludes the broker’s legal responsibilities, good business practice dictates that closing does not terminate his ethical responsibilities to the parties to the transaction.

Closing Costs Expenses incurred by the Seller and Buyer on the sale of real property.  The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), which is a federal statute, regulates the full disclosure of such costs to borrowers.

Closing Date – the date on which the final legal documents pertaining to the sale of real property are completed, and title to the seller’s property is conveyed to the buyer in return for the purchase price as stated in the sales contract.

Closing Statement – A detailed financial accounting of a real estate sales transaction.  Some transactions involve three statements 1) the Seller’s statement; 2) the Buyer’s statement; and 3) the broker’s statement.  Also called HUD-1 or ALTA Settlement Statement.

Cloud on title – any valid claim or encumbrance on real property that, if valid, affects or impairs the owner’s title in the property.  If a properly executed quitclaim deed does not clear a cloud or defect on title, it is necessary to file a suit (or action) to quiet title.

Commitment – an agreement, promise, or pledge to do something (e.g., a loan commitment by a lender that a loan will be made under certain terms if the potential borrower accepts the commitment on or before a certain date).

Common elements – Parts of the condominium association property that are necessary or convenient to the existence, maintenance and safety of the condominium property and the unit owners.  Also called common areas.  As defined in Chapter 718 F.S., the portion of the condominium property not included in the units.

Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) A report provided to a real estate agent’s customers that provides information helpful in establishing a list price for sellers or offering price for buyers. 

Construction Lien (Mechanic’s lien, material-man’s lien) A lien filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court no later than 90 days after the last labor is performed or last supplies are delivered.  It is based on the principal of unjust enrichment and a property owner cannot use materials and labor to improve their property without paying the appropriate party.  Once filed, the lien is retroactive to the first day of work.  Once filed, the lien is valid for only one year.

Contract for Sale and Purchase.  A contract in which the owner of a parcel of real property agrees to convey title to the property to the buyer in the future, and the buyer agrees to purchase the property for a specified price, and under certain terms and conditions, on the same date.  This document also may be called a sales contract, purchase agreement or contract for purchase.

Conventional mortgage loan.  A mortgage loan originated with an institutional lender such as a commercial bank, savings and loan association or a private lender, which pledges real property as security for the debt.

Deed – a written instrument, signed by the grantor and witnessed by two persons, which transfers title to real property and declares or creates legal rights and obligations.  There are different types of deeds such as a Special Warranty Deed, quitclaim deed, ladybird or survivorship deed, or Warranty Deed.

Deed in lieu of foreclosure.  A borrower may want to voluntarily deed the mortgaged property to the lender when he or she anticipates foreclosure.  The borrower should obtain cancellation of the unpaid debt.  The lender avoids the costs and time associated with foreclosure and the wait involved in redemption periods.

Deed Restriction – a Clause in a deed that limits the use of land or prohibits certain uses (e.g., the use, type, style, design, or size of a structure that may be constructed on the land).  The restrictions cannot be discriminatory against any of the protected classes established by the Federal Fair Housing Act.  The restrictions only apply to a specific property whereas restrictive covenants apply to an entire subdivision.

Default – The failure or omission to perform or fulfill a legal duty, obligation, or promise.

Defeasance clause – a clause in a mortgage contract that defeats conveyance of the borrower’s property to the lender so long as the borrower repays the debt as agreed, and complies with the terms and conditions of the mortgage contract.

Delivery – the actual transfer of a properly executed deed to the grantee by the grantor, with the intention that the deed is to take effect as a conveyance from the date of delivery.

Deposit – As applied to real estate, a sum of money or its equivalent given by a potential buyer to a broker or sales associate as earnest money or security for the performance of a contract.  It is often forfeited if the depositor (i.e. the buyer) fails to perform in accordance with the contract.

Descent and Distribution – the transfer or passing of title to property by inheritance upon the death of the property owner who died without leaving a will (i.e., intestate).

Devise – a written document that disposes of real and personal property, but which does not take effect until after the death of the person making it (e.g., a last will and testament)

Division of Real Estate (DRE)  A division established within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation that provides recordkeeping, examination services, legal services, investigative services, plus any other services required to implement Chapter 475 and 455, F.S.  The DRE is funded by fees and assessments of the FREC.  Funds collected by the FREC are only used to fund real estate regulation.

Documentary Stamp Tax – A Florida state tax on deeds, conveyances and written promises to repay money (e.g., notes and mortgages) which is collected when the document is recorded into the public record.  Documentary stamp tax on the deed is based on the total sales price and documentary stamp tax on the note is based on the total amount of the notes (new and assumed).

Down Payment – the Amount of money or percentage of sales price or appraised value the lender requires the borrower to provide.  Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is applied to a contract if only 3% is provided for a down payment.  If 10% is provided on the real estate contract sales price, then PMI is not applied.

Easement – the legal right of a person to trespass or use the land of another for a specific purpose, which is considered to be an interest in real property.

Easement appurtenant – an easement interest that attaches to the land and passes with it from owner to owner.

Easement by necessity – an interest in real property that permits an owner of a landlocked parcel to cross a portion of land retained by a grantor (both parcels must have been part of a single unit of land at one time).

Easement by prescription – an interest in real property created by the wrongful use and long-continued enjoyment of another’s property for a statutory period of time – 20 years in the State of Florida. 

Easement in gross – a personal interest in and right to use the land of another (e.g., rights of way for water or sewer lines, or power lines).

Effective date – the date specified in the contract when the last party has signed or initialed an offer of final counter-offer.

Elective share – an amount equal to 30% of a decedent’s net distributable estate to which the surviving spouse is entitled if he or she files for an elective share as required by law.  It does not apply to the decedent’s homestead or any property held in a tenancy by the entirety.

Eminent domain – the power of the local, state or federal government to obtain title to private property for public use and without the consent of the owner.  This governmental right must be exercised through condemnation proceedings and a fair price must be paid.  It is often done for the purpose of acquiring a right of way for road construction, land for public buildings or projects and so on.

Encumbrance – any claim, lien mortgage, lease, encroachment, easement or right of way, unpaid taxes and so on attached to and binding real property which may cause the title to be clouded and thus affect the property’s value.

Equitable title – the legal interest in real property acquired by the buyer when a sales contract is executed (i.e. signed) by the seller and buyer.  The buyer becomes the equitable owner of the property while the seller retains legal title as security for payment of the purchase price by the buyer.

Equity – the surplus value or remaining interest belonging to an owner of real property over and above any mortgage indebtedness or other liens against the property.

Escheat – the right of the government to obtain title to the real and personal property of a person who died intestate (i.e. without a will) and with no known heirs.

Escrow – A system of transfer in which money, documents, or real or personal property are delivered to a disinterested third party and held in trust for others until all conditions in a contract or agreement are fulfilled (e.g. delivery of a deed to an escrow agent until full payment under a contract for deed is made).  The title agent then provides an escrow letter showing that they are holding the escrow money for the real estate contract.

Escrow Account – A trust account maintained by a neutral third party in which the funds of others are deposited until the terms of an agreement or contract are fulfilled by the parties; for example, a separate account maintained by a broker where binder and earnest money deposits are held before closing.  Florida real estate license law requires brokers escrow accounts to be in a Florida bank, savings association or credit union.

Grant – the transfer or conveyance of title to real or personal property by deed or writing.

GranteeThe person or entity that acquires an interest in real property by receiving a deed or other conveyance of title.  For example, the buyer is the grantee in a real estate transaction.

Grantor – The person or entity that conveys or transfers an interest in real property to another by giving a deed or other conveyance of title.  For example, the seller is the grantor when title to real property is conveyed at closing.

Heir – a person who inherits the real and/or personal property of a decedent who died testate (i.e., with a will) or by laws of descent and distribution of a decedent who died intestate (i.e., without a will).

Home Equity Loan – allows property owners to tap the equity that has built up in their homes, largely due to appreciation and mortgage balance decline.  The interest on home equity loans is tax deductible up to $100,000 of equity loan.

Homestead – the real property owned and occupied by a natural person as his primary residence, which includes the land and buildings surrounding the dwelling.

Homestead exemptionAn exemption provided in the Florida Constitution which reduces the amount of property taxes owed.  Homeowners are entitled to a $25,000 exemption from assessed value of the home for city, county and school board taxes.  Homeowners are entitled to an additional $25,000 exemption from only city and county taxes on the property’s assessed value between $50,001 and $75,000.  If the assessed value exceeds $75,000, then the full $50,000 homestead exemption applies.  There are also homestead exemptions for blind people, elderly, disabled veterans, and widows.

Joint Estate (joint tenancy) – a form of real property ownership in which two or more persons receive an undivided interest in the property at the same time, by the same conveyance, and with an undivided right of possession.

Kickback – a return of part of a sum of money received, which could result from a confidential agreement or coercion.  Generally, the term infers an illegal improper act, which could result in disciplinary action by the Commission if it involves a real estate licensee.

Life Estate  – a freehold estate in real property of indeterminate duration that is limited to the life of the person holding it (i.e., the life tenant), or the life of some other person.  Upon the death of the life tenant, or the other person as the case may be, the property passes to the holder of the remainder interest or the grantor by reversion.  A life estate is created usually by a Ladybird deed or by a survivorship deed, when a person wants to transfer an interest to a remainderman.

Listing (Listing contract) – a broker’s employment contract with his principal or customer that 1) creates the agency relationship between the parties or nonagency relationship; and 2) establishes the broker’s right to compensation if he performs as stated in the agreement.

Mechanic’s Lien – a statutory lien created for the purpose of securing priority payment for labor or materials furnished to construct or improve real property.  It is enforced by foreclosure, but such action must be taken within one year or the lien becomes void.  Upon closing, the title agent will need to obtain a sufficient assets affidavit in order to close a property with a mechanic’s lien.

Multiple Listinga listing available only to real estate brokers and their sales associates who are members of a multiple listing service (MLS).  It usually consists of an exclusive right to sell listing contract which authorizes and obligates the listing broker to place the listing in the MLS.

Offer – in real estate contracts, the proposal of a potential buyer to purchase the real property of another under stated terms, conditions, and so on.  In order for a firm offer to occur, a sum of money must be given for an offer to be taking seriously.  The offer must be in writing, and signed by the potential buyer.

Offeror – the person who makes the offer (e.g., a potential buyer of real property).

Opinion of title  – an opinion of the condition or status of title in a specific parcel of land, which is based upon facts revealed in an abstract of title.  It is an opinion rendered by an attorney-at-law or other person competent to examine titles that does not guarantee that the documents in the abstract are genuine or that the owner has a good and marketable title in the property.

Owner’s title policy insurance that indemnifies the property owner only up to the amount of the policy for any loss (not exempted in the policy) sustained by reason of defective title.  If the owner sells the property, the policy is not assignable (transferable) to future owners.

Planned Unit Development (PUD) – In a closing, a PUD needs to have a specific endorsement in a policy to protect the interests of the PUD.  The PUD is used by homeowners to protect their value in the interest of the land and makes sure there is some uniformity.  A high density residential development that has mixed land uses and open spaces that are maintained by a nonprofit community association.

Plat (Plat Map) that has an increase in plottage and plottage value.  A survey map of a parcel of land that has been subdivided into lots and blocks.  After a plat map has been prepared and recorded, legal descriptions may be defined by referring to a given map, plus lot and block numbers.  In appraising, an increase in value that results from combining vacant and unimproved adjacent parcels of land into a larger tract held by one owner.

Power of attorney – A written instrument authorizing a person to act as the agent of another, such as an attorney-in-fact.

Quitclaim deed – a type of deed in which the grantor makes no covenants for title and merely releases or relinquishes all right, title, or interest that he has in the real property, without claiming any interest whatsoever.  It is commonly used to cure defects in or remove clouds from a title.  Quitclaim deeds are used to transfer ownership of a property to give property to a family member, and used for a survivorship or ladybird deed.

Ready, willing, and able – words usually contained in listing contracts implying that a potential buyer will complete the transaction at the time and place specified in the contract; has the desire to complete the transaction under the terms and conditions of the contract; and has the financial capability to complete the terms and conditions of the contract.

Real Estate Sales Contract  “as-is contract” – An agreement whereby one party agrees to buy and the other party (the owner) agrees to sell certain real property according to the price, terms, and conditions of the contract.  Also known as an agreement for sale, an agreement of sale, a contract for purchase, a contract for sale, contract for sale and purchase, a purchase agreement, and a purchase and sale agreement.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) (Regulation X) – a federal law that requires lenders to fully disclose the type and amount of closing costs that borrowers are required to pay on government-under written mortgage loans, or on federally related residential mortgage loans.  RESPA attempts to eliminate kickbacks.

Right of survivorshipThe right of a surviving joint owner of property to receive the interest of a deceased joint owner.  Upon the death of a life tenant, then the remaindermen shall receive the interest of the property.  If expressly stated in the instrument which creates the transfer of property.

Satisfaction of Mortgagewhen a mortgage is paid in full, Florida law requires the lender to file a satisfaction of mortgage discharging the debt within 60 days of receiving the last payment.

SAVE OUR HOMES (SOH)Chapter 193, 155 F.S. states that beginning in 1995 and thereafter, homestead property shall be reassessed annually on January 1st and any change shall not exceed the lesser of 3% of the assessed value or the change in the Consumer Price Index.

Special Warranty Deeda type of bargain and sale deed in which the grantor promises only to guarantee and defend the title to the real property against lawful claims made by himself or anyone claiming by, through or under him.  This type of deed is given by corporations, personal representatives, or Guardians transferring interest in their land.

Specific Performance – the actual performance of a contract by a party required to fulfill it, a type of legal action in which one party to a contract requests the court to require another party to perform according to the exact terms of the contract.

Suit to Quiet Titlea proceeding to establish a plaintiff’s claim to real property by bringing into court any adverse claimant and require him to establish his claim or thereafter be prevented from doing so.


  • The process by which a parcel or tract of land is measured and its boundaries and contents determined
  • A map, plat or explanation of the results of a survey

Surveyorone who makes surveys and determines the area of a parcel or tract of land, the length and duration of its boundary lines and contour of its surfact

Tax deeda deed used to convey title to real property that has been foreclosed by a court order for nonpayment of real estate taxes.

Title The right by which a party is entitled to the present or future ownership of real estate.  Ownership includes the right of possession, occupancy, use enjoyment, and disposition of the property.  Title is also the evidence of ownership of real estate.  One who owns property has title to it.

Title Insurance – a title insurance company’s guarantee against loss or damage from defects or encumbrances in the title to a specified parcel of land to which the company has not taken an exception.  At Rock Solid Title, we use the Attorney’s Title Fund Services and Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, also known as The Fund.

Title Searchan examination of the public records and other publicly available records for documents that affect title to a parcel of real estate to determine whether any defects exist in the chain of title.  At Rock Solid Title, we use the Attorney’s Title Fund Services and Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, also known as The Fund.

Underwriting – When a lender analyzes risk and accepts it for funding a proposed mortgage.  At Rock Solid Title, we use the Attorney’s Title Fund Services and Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, also known as The Fund.

Warrant – a promise that certain facts are true as declared to be.

Warrant of encumbrances – an assurance to the grantee by the grantor that there are not encumbrances or liens against the property being conveyed other than those specifically listed in the deed.

Warrant of further assurance – an assurance to the grantee by the grantor to do such further acts in the future as the grantee may reasonably require to perfect the grantee’s title.

Warrant of quiet enjoyment – an assurance to the grantee by the grantor that the grantee shall enjoy the possession of the property in peace and without disturbance by hostile claimants.

Warrant of Seisen – an assurance to the grantee by the grantor that the grantor has the estate of title in the quantity and quality that he or she purports to convey.  This is essentially a claim of ownership, warranty against grantor’s acts.  A provision in a bargain and sale deed which the grantor transferring title of property from a decedent’s estate warrants or promises that he or she has done nothing to injure or adversely affect the title while her or she was the personal representative of the estate and had control of the property.

Warranty Deed (general warranty deed) – a type of bargain and sale deed that contains five (5) covenants of title.  It is the most commonly used deed and best for the grantee, for the grantor promises to guarantee and defend the title against defects arising both before and during the title that he held title to the real property.