Acronyms of Real Estate: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Real estate is a regular smorgasbord of acronyms – everything from APR to REO. Here’s a list of the ones you’re likely to run into and what they mean when you’re buying or selling a house:

Acronyms You’ll Hear Associated with Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents, builders and most other realty-related professions have numerous professional designations, all designed to set them apart from those who haven’t taken advanced courses in their fields. These designations don’t mean that professionals without letters after their names are not as experienced or skilled, but rather only that they haven’t taken the time to further their educations.

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

Let’s start with the letter “R,” which stands for Realtor. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade group. NAR says it speaks for homeowners, and it usually does. But in that rare occasion when the interests of its members and owners don’t align, it sides with those who pay their dues.

Read: A Timeline of the History of Real Estate

NAR embraces a strict code of ethics. There are about 2 million active and licensed real estate agents nationwide, and 1.34 million can call themselves Realtors.

NAR members sometimes have the letters GRI or CRS after their names. The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation signifies the successful completion of 90 hours of classroom instruction beyond the continuing education courses required by many states for agents to maintain their licenses. After the GRI, an agent may become a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) by advancing his or her education even further.

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Builders can obtain the GBI – Graduate Builder Institute – designation by completing nine one-day classes sponsored by the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders. Those who pass more advanced courses become Graduate Master Builders, or GMBs. Remodeling specialists with at least five years of experience can be Certified Graduate Remodelers, or CGRs. And, salespeople can be CSPs, or Certified New Home Sales Professionals.

In the mortgage profession, the Mortgage Bankers Association awards the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) and Accredited Residential Originator (ARO) designations, but only after completing a training program that may take up to five years to finish. To start the process, CMB and ARO candidates must have at least three years’ experience and be recommended by a senior officer in their companies.

Acronyms Associated with Mortgage Lending

When obtaining a mortgage, you will be quoted an interest rate; however, perhaps the more important rate is the annual percentage rate, or APR, which is the total cost of the loan per year over the loan’s term. It measures the interest rate plus other fees and charges.

An FRM is a fixed-rate mortgage, the terms of which never change. Conversely, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) allows rates to increase or decrease at certain intervals over the life of the loan, depending on rates at the time of the adjustment.

Female client consulting with a agent in the officeFemale client consulting with a agent in the office

A conventional loan is one with an amount at or less than the conforming loan limit set by federal regulators on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major suppliers of funds for home loans. These two quasi-government outfits replenish the coffers of main street lenders by buying their loans and packing them into securities for sale to investors worldwide.

Other key agencies you should be familiar with are the FHA and the VA. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages up to an amount which changes annually, as does the conforming loan ceiling. The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees loans made to veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

LTV stands for loan-to-value. This important ratio measures what your are borrowing against the value of the home. Some lenders want as much as 20% down, meaning the LTV would be 80%. But in many cases, the LTV can be as great as 97%.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), is a fee you’ll have to pay if you make less than a 20% down payment. PMI covers the lender should you default, but you have to pay the freight. Fortunately, you can cancel coverage once your LTV dips below 80%.

Your monthly payment likely will include more than just principal and interest. Many lenders also want borrowers to include one-twelfth of their property tax and insurance bills every month, as well. That way, lenders will have enough money on hand to pay these annual bills when they come due. Thus, the acronym PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Real-estate owned (REO) properties are foreclosed upon by lenders when borrowers fail to make their payments. When you buy a foreclosure, you buy REO. Short sales are not REO because, while they are in danger of being repossessed, they are still owned by the borrower.

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Acronyms You’ll Hear During an Appraisal

There is no acronym for an appraisal, which is an opinion of value prepared by a certified or licensed appraiser (though sometimes other types of valuation methods are used in the buying and selling process).

A Certified Market Analysis (CMA) is prepared by a real estate agent or broker to help determine a home’s listing price. A Broker Price Opinion (BPO) is a more advanced estimate of the probable future selling price of a property, and an automated valuation model (AVM) is a software program that provides valuations based on mathematical modeling.

AVMs are currently used by some lenders and investors to confirm an appraiser’s valuation, but they are becoming increasingly popular as replacements of appraisals, especially in lower price ranges.

Other Terms to Know

If you hear the term MLS, you should know it stands for multiple listing service. An MLS is a database that allows real estate brokers to share data on properties for sale, making the buying and selling process more efficient. There are many benefits to both homebuyers and sellers utilizing an MLS, for more information on how to get your home available through an MLS, work with a real estate professional when selling.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Did you know? Homes.com has some serious MLS partnerships, no joke! When you start your home search on Homes.com, you’ll see accurate property information quickly so you’ll never have to wonder if a home is actually available.

House tourHouse tour

However, not all properties for sale are listed on the MLS. A home may be a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO), if the owner is selling his or her property without an agent and bypassing an MLS listing. In addition, some agents fail to enter their listings in the MLS for days or weeks at a time in hopes of selling to a list of preferred clients.

Read: Advantages of Buying With or Without an Agent

Finally, you may find yourself buying into a homeowners association (HOA) when you purchase a house or condominium apartment. HOAs are legal governing bodies that establish requirements everyone must adhere to in order to keep the community it oversees running smoothly and ensure property values are maintained.


Lew Sichelman

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Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

Mortgage applications dip as rates climb

The seesaw nature of mortgage applications continued for the week ending Feb. 5, as applications decreased 4.1% from the prior week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Applications were up 8.5% the week ending Jan. 29 – breaking a two-week stretch of decreases – before falling again last week.

Mortgage rates have increased in four of the six weeks of 2021, according to Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, which could be causing the dip in applications.

“Jumbo rates [were] the only loan type that saw a decline last week,” Kan said. “Despite some weekly volatility, Treasury rates have been driven higher by expectations of faster economic growth as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues.”

The refinance index decreased 4% from the previous week but was still 46% higher year-over-year. The seasonally adjusted purchase index also decreased from one week earlier – down 5% – though the unadjusted purchase Index increased 2% compared with the prior week and was 17% higher than the same week in 2020.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate increased to 2.96% – a high not seen since November 2020, Kan said. This has led to an uptick in refinancing, he said, as borrowers race to lock in a rate below 3%.

“Government refinance applications did buck the trend and increase, and overall activity was still 46% higher than a year ago,” he said. “Demand for refinances is still very strong this winter. Homebuyers are still very active.”

The higher-priced segment of the market continues to perform well, Kan said, with the average purchase loan sizes increasing to a survey-high of $402,200.

The FHA share of total mortgage applications increased to 9.5% from 9.1% the week prior. The VA share of total mortgage applications increased to 13.3% from 12.1% the week prior.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of this week’s mortgage application data:

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) increased to 2.96% from 2.92%
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $548,250) decreased to 3.11% from 3.12% – the third week in a row of decreases
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 2.97% from 2.94%
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 2.50% from 2.44%
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 2.92% from 2.88%

Source: housingwire.com

Mortgage rates spike to highest levels in nearly two months – The Washington Post

Freddie Mac, the federally chartered mortgage investor, aggregates rates from about 80 lenders nationwide to come up with weekly national average mortgage rates. It uses rates for high-quality borrowers with strong credit scores and large down payments. These rates are not available to every borrower.

Because the survey is based on home purchase mortgages, rates for refinances may be different. This is especially true because the price adjustment for refinance transactions took effect in December. The adjustment is 0.5 percent of the loan amount (e.g., it is $1,500 on a $300,000 loan) and applies to all Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refinances.

The 15-year fixed-rate average also moved higher, to 2.23 percent with an average 0.7 point. It was 2.16 percent a week ago and 3.09 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average grew to 3.12 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 2.75 percent a week ago and 3.39 percent a year ago.

“Mortgage rates headed higher this week, continuing the strong upward trend that followed last week’s election results” in the Georgia Senate race, said Matthew Speakman, a Zillow economist. “The upward movements over the past couple weeks were a long-awaited deviation from the glacial, downward trend that rates have followed for the past few months. Rates have risen in the past week at their fastest pace since the spring and recently touched their highest level since mid-November.”

Until it fell back Wednesday, the 10-year Treasury yield had been on a steady climb as fears of rising inflation pushed long-term bond yields higher. By Tuesday, the yield had reached 1.15 percent, the highest it has been since March. But then it retreated to 1.1 percent on Wednesday on weakened inflation concerns. Mortgage rates typically follow the same path as the 10-year Treasury yield but have done so less lately.

“After several days of the sharpest increases in rates in months, Treasury and MBS markets should calm,” said Dick Lepre, senior loan officer at RPM Mortgage. “One-party control of D.C. triggered belief that fiscal stimulus would increase and lead to inflation. Once we have a new occupant in the White House, the discussion is likely to turn to tax increases to address the deficit. Markets will then ponder the effects of those and volatility will increase as uncertainty increases. The next six months will be trying.”

Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that nearly half the experts it surveyed predicted rates will rise in the coming week. More than a third expected them to fall. Elizabeth Rose, sales manager at AmCap Mortgage in Dallas, anticipates rates will move higher.

“Inflation concerns and added supply are weighing heavily on the bond market, setting the stage for higher rates,” she said. “Inflation is the enemy of mortgage bonds and added supply doesn’t help matters any.”

Meanwhile, the dip in mortgage rates to start the year caused applications to soar last week to their highest level in 10 months. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — increased 16.7 percent from a week earlier to its highest level since March. The purchase index climbed 8 percent from the previous week and was 10 percent higher than a year ago. The refinance index jumped 20 percent and was 93 percent higher than a year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 74.8 percent of applications.

“The mortgage market got off to a fast start in the first full week of 2021, with both applications to refinance and buy a home solidly increasing on a weekly and annual basis,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and chief executive. “With mortgage rates well below 3 percent but expected to rise slowly this year, many homeowners are acting now. Refinancing … represented three-quarters of all applications.”

The MBA also released its mortgage credit availability index (MCAI) that showed credit availability decreased in December. The MCAI slid 0.1 percent to 122.1 last month. A decrease in the MCAI indicates lending standards are tightening, while an increase signals they are loosening.

“Credit availability in December remained essentially unchanged, with an increase in government credit offset by a decrease in conventional credit,” Joel Kan, an MBA economist, said in a statement. “The decline in conventional credit availability was the first in three months and was driven by fewer ARM offerings. ARM loans have increasingly seen a smaller share of the market, given the historically low rates for fixed-rate mortgages. Availability for government loans and jumbo loans [has] increased for four months and three months in a row, respectively.”

Source: washingtonpost.com

Housing, civil rights groups ask Congress for $25B

A large partnership of housing and civil rights organizations reached out on Monday to congressional leaders advocating for further relief for homeowners in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.  

The letter was signed by representatives of more than 350 housing and civil rights organizations, including American Bankers Association, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Realtors, National Association of Home Builders and the Housing Policy Council, the NAACP, National Urban League, National Fair Housing Alliance and National Consumer Law Center.

The letter calls for $25 billion in direct assistance to homeowners facing hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least $100 million for housing counseling, and just under $40 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

Of the approximately 3.8 million homeowners past due on their mortgages, over half of them are persons of color, according to Census Bureau.

Recent homebuyers that relied on low- or no-down payment loans from FHA, VA or the Rural Housing Service are at particular risk, the group contends, noting that even six months of forbearance can put borrowers underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their home is worth.


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“Moreover, these borrowers are predominantly Black and Latinx families, first-time buyers and low to moderate-income families,” the letter says. “Mortgage payments assistance will be critically important to the nearly 3 million borrowers that remain in long-term forbearance plans from their mortgage servicers. We cannot begin to tackle the racial homeownership and wealth gaps if we do not take steps to prevent a wave of COVID-induced foreclosures and loss of home equity.”

The group is hoping the bulk of the requested $25 billion comes through the recently reintroduced Homeowner Assistance Fund, which can be used by state housing finance agencies. In the letter to Congress, the group states that the HAF can help homeowners by providing direct assistance with mortgage payments and get into affordable loan modifications, while assisting with utility payments, property tax and insurance payments, homeowner association dues and other support to prevent the loss of home equity.

The outreach from housing and civil rights groups comes at a pivotal time for the American housing industry. Recently appointed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said she will play a key role in pushing the Biden administration’s economic agenda on Capitol Hill – which includes aggressive aid distribution in order to avoid an even longer recession.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said his administration is focused on providing aid for those in need of affordable housing, and his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was recently voted into the budget reconciliation process in order to speed up passage. The plan calls for an additional $30 billion in funding for emergency rental, energy and water assistance for hard-hit households, plus $5 billion in emergency assistance to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

All of this at a time in the country where Black homeownership has declined year-over-year, according to a recent Census Bureau report, and the percentage of Americans experiencing housing insecurity has risen to 9.5% – up from 7.2% in late 2020.

“A critical lesson of the Great Recession is that the communities most impacted need targeted, early intervention,” the group wrote in the letter. “Acting now to include these key provisions in the pending COVID-19 relief package will help stem what could be a damaging housing crisis in the U.S. concentrated in low income communities and communities of color.”

Source: housingwire.com