Terms of Homeownership: Click for special real estate section.

If you're just getting started in the homebuying process, chances are you're drowing in new terminology, trying not to feel dumb, and asking the same questions over and over. If that sounds close to home, try our online glossary with more than 100 entries to help you get things straight.  -- Definitions excerpted from The Fearless Home Buyer (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006) by Elizabeth Razzi

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ABR: Accredited Buyer Representative. A designation available to Realtors who have documented their experience representing homebuyers, completed coursework, and passed a test.

Abstract: Short for abstract of title, this is a history of all deeds or other legal documents (such as a lien) affecting ownership of the property.

Adjustment period: The frequency with which the interest rate changes on an adjustable-rate loan. A one-year ARM, for example, has an annual adjustment period.

Agent: Someone who acts on behalf of someone else. A real estate agent is working on behalf of a broker, who, in turn, is an agent of the buyer or seller who hired that broker. A buyer cannot assume a real estate agent is representing the buyer's interests unless the buyer has signed an agreement with a broker who agrees to act as the buyer's agent.

Amortization: The process of paying off a debt through a series of regularly scheduled payments of principal and interest. Appraisal: A licensed appraiser's estimate of market value based on recent completed sales of comparable properties and taking into account a home's special features and flaws.

APR: Annual Percentage Rate. This single number, stated as a percentage (0 percent to 10 percent, for example) combines prepaid interest and the monthly rate to indicate the real cost of a loan. Federal law requires that lenders disclose the APR on all loans.

ARM: Adjustable-rate mortgage. These loans carry interest rates that will rise and fall with market rates from year to year, or perhaps at shorter intervals, depending on the specifics of the loan.

ASH: The American Society of Home Inspectors and its members.

Assessment: An estimate of a property's market value conducted by an assessor (either a government employee or private contractor). Local governments use these assessments in calculating property taxes. The assessment will assign a dollar value to the land and a dollar value to the home or other structures built upon it.

Balloon: A single, lump-sum payment required at the end of a loan's term if the schedule of monthly payments has not been great enough to pay off the loan's principal. See negative amortization.

Bridge loan: A loan (often a home-equity loan on your current residence) designed to provide money to make the down payment on a new home before the other one has been sold.

Broker: Someone who is licensed by the state to represent buyers and/or sellers in the purchase or sale of real estate. Some states require that all people who offer real estate sales services hold a broker's license; others issue different licenses to brokers and to salespeople (agents). Typically, a licensed real estate agent works under the umbrella of a licensed broker, and it is the broker with whom buyers and sellers have contracts for representation in the sale or purchase of real estate. Often, if an experienced agent has qualified for a broker's license but is still performing the duties of an agent, he or she will be called a broker-associate and still will work under the umbrella of another broker.

Buy-down: To lower the interest rate by paying upfront interest, or points, at closing. A seller may offer to buy down the interest rate for a buyer by paying for those points, typically 1 percent to 3 percent of the loan amount. See points.

Buyer's broker, buyer's agent: A real estate salesperson who has agreed to represent the buyer in a transaction. If a buyer has not reached such an agreement the buyer should assume that a sales person is an agent of the seller.

Buyer's market: A market in which there are more sellers than buyers, and therefore buyers have an easier time winning negotiations over price and other terms of the sale.