Real Estate Terms
Back fill Soil used to solidify the foundation of a structure.
Back title letter A letter that a title insurance company gives to an attorney who then examines the title for insurance purposes.
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.
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.
Balance sheet A statement that shows the assets, liabilities and net worth of an individual.
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.
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.
Balustrade Railing held up by a set of posts on a porch or stairway.
Bankruptcy A proceeding in which an insolvent debtor can obtain relief from payment of certain obligations. Bankruptcies remain on a credit record for seven 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.
Baseboard 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.
Basement The area of a home below ground level.
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.
Bay 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.
Beneficiary The lender who makes a loan, also called a mortgagee. The person borrowing money is the mortgagor.
Before-tax income Total income before taxes are deducted.
Bequest Personal property given to a person through a will.
Betterment An improvement that increases a property’s value as opposed to repairs that maintain the value.
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 “reciprocal” contracts.
Bill of sale A document that transfers ownership of personal property.
Binder 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.
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 property.
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.
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 risks.
Board-and-batten siding Siding is composed of 8- to 12-inch wide wooden boards nailed vertically to create a barn-like exterior.
Board foot Measurement of lumber that is the equivalent of 144 cubic inches.
Board of Equalization A state board charged with ensuring that local property taxes are assessed in a uniform manner.
Boilerplate 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.
Bond An agreement that insures one party against loss by acts or defaults of another party.
Book value The value of a property as a capital asset based on its cost plus any additions, minus depreciation.
Boring test An analysis of soil in which holes are bored into the ground and samples are removed.
Borough A section of a city that has authority over local matters.
Borrow Sand, gravel or other material used for grading.
Borrow pit The hole at a site that has been excavated.
Boulevard A street lined with trees or constructed with a landscaped median.
Boundary 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.
Breach of contract The failure to perform provisions of a contractwithout a legal excuse.
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.
Breast height The height at which the diameter of a tree is measured: four feet, six inches above the ground.
Breezeway A roofed passageway with open sides.
Brick Building material made from clay molded into oblong blocks and fired in a kiln.
Bridge loan A short-term loan for borrowers who need more time to find permanent financing.
Brokerage The act of bringing together two or more parties in exchange for a fee or commission.
Broker A person licensed by the state to deal in real estate.
Broom clean The ideal condition of a building when it is turned over to an owner or tenant.
Brownstone A vintage row house constructed of red sandstone.
Buffer strip A parcel of land that separates two or more properties.
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 moratorium A halt on home construction to slow the rate of development.
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 of home or renovation of a house.
Builder upgrades Extra house features or better finishing materials that a builder offers.
Building line or setback Guidelines that limit how close an owner can build to the street or an adjacent property.
Building restrictions Regulations that limit the manner in which property can be used.
Built-ins Appliances or other items that are framed into a home or permanently attached.
Bulkhead A retaining wall designed to hold back water from the ocean or another body of water.
Bundle of rights The various interests or rights an owner has in a property.
Bungalow A small one-story house or cottage.
Butterfly roof A roof formed by two gables that dip in the middle to resemble a butterfly’s wings.
Buy-down 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 broker A real estate broker who exclusively represents the buyer’s interests in a transaction and whose commission is paid by the buyer rather than the seller.
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.
Bylaws The rules and regulations that a homeowners association or corporation adopts to govern activities.