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The Top Real Estate Terms Sellers Should Know

Cara Pearlman

With over two decades of industry experience, Cara possesses an extensive knowledge of the local real estate market...

With over two decades of industry experience, Cara possesses an extensive knowledge of the local real estate market...

Jul 23 8 minutes read

We know real estate terminology can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Familiarizing yourself with the terminology used in the industry can help you navigate the selling process with confidence and make informed decisions. If you’re selling your home soon, here are some terms you should know to feel confident during the process.

Selling agent vs. listing agent

Let’s start with an easy one! Typically, buyers and sellers have different real estate agents. A real estate agent who works with the home shopper or buyer is called the selling agent or a buyer’s agent. A real estate agent who works with the home seller is called the listing agent because they are listing your home for sale.

It’s possible to have one agent representing both sides in some jurisdictions but Compass as well as our team have a policy against this regardless of what state the sale is occurring in. Why you might ask? There is a conflict of interest in the case where one agent attempts to assist both parties, because real estate agents should always negotiate in their client’s best interest—which is impossible to do when you’re representing both parties. For this reason, dual agency is actually illegal in some states.

Contingency

A contingency is a clause in a real estate contract that allows one or both parties to back out of the deal if certain conditions are not met. Some common contingencies include:

  • Appraisal contingency: allows the buyer to back out of the deal if the property appraises for less than the agreed-upon purchase price.

  • Home inspection contingency: allows the buyer to back out of the deal if the home inspection reveals major problems.

  • Mortgage contingency: allows either party out of the deal if the buyer is unable to obtain financing.

  • Home sale contingency: allows the buyer to back out of the deal if they are unable to sell their current home.

  • Seller's purchase of replacement property contingency: allows the seller to back out of the deal if they are unable to find a suitable replacement property in time.

Contingency clauses can be a valuable tool for both buyers and sellers, but they can also slow down your real estate transaction. By their nature, contingencies make it easier for either party to leave the deal—which can leave you back at square one. But that doesn’t mean you should turn down all offers that include a contingency. Instead, talk to your real estate agent about the offer, and they can offer expert advice based on your market and your specific situation.

Equity

Equity is the difference between your property’s current market value and how much you still owe on the mortgage. For example, if your property is worth $500,000 and you owe $300,000, then you have $200,000 in equity.

The more equity you have, the better, because this is the amount of cash you’ll make from your sale (minus any transaction fees). More equity will make it easier to purchase your next home, or you can use it for saving, investing, retirement, education, and more.

Did you know? A report from CoreLogic shows that the equity homeowners have in the U.S. recently hit a record high—making it a great time to sell your home.

Seller concession

A seller concession is something offered by the home seller to the buyer to incentivize the purchase. These can encompass a variety of closing costs typically paid by the buyer, including appraisal fees, origination fees, interest rate buydowns or points, real estate tax service fees, and more—but they can’t include other purchase costs like the buyer’s down payment.

Should you make a seller concession? That depends on your market. In a seller’s market where houses move quickly and receive multiple offers, seller concessions are usually unnecessary. But in a buyer’s market where available homes outnumber buyers and take a while to sell, a seller concession is a good way to stand above the competition and attract attention. Ask your real estate agent for their advice on your specific situation.

Covenants, conditions & restrictions (CC&Rs)

CC&Rs are a set of rules that govern what you can do with a certain piece of property in a given area. You may be familiar with Homeowner’s Association (HOA) rules in your neighborhood, which are a type of CC&R, but they’re also common in planned communities, condominium buildings, and industrial parks.

What are the purposes of CC&Rs and what types of things can they govern? These rules can apply the following:

  • Home maintenance like keeping your flower beds weed free, your lawn mowed, and your home in good repair

  • Home appearance like the color of your exterior paint or the type of trash can or mailbox you can have

  • Parking such as where you’re allowed to park or whether you can add a sunshade or carport for your vehicle

  • Pets such as breed and species restriction

  • And more!

Usually, the idea behind these rules is to keep an area aesthetically pleasing, safe, and to improve and maintain home values. Why is it important for you, a home seller, to understand the CC&Rs in your area? Buyers typically want to know this information before making an offer, and if you live somewhere with HOA rules and fees, you’ll have to disclose those in advance.

MLS

The Multiple Listing Service or MLS is the database in which all real estate listing information is stored. There are separate MLSs for states, regions, and even individual cities—and they don’t all have the same rules. MLS organizations in different areas require different information to be disclosed in a listing before it can go live in the database. Some basic information required by most MLSs include the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the square footage, the price, and the name of the listing agent—but there’s a lot more!

Rent-back or Post Settlement Occupancy Agreement

A rent-back or post-settlement occupancy agreement is an agreement between a buyer and a seller that allows the seller to stay living in the home after closing in exchange for making rent payments. Why would a seller want a rent-back? In very competitive markets, it can be difficult to find a new home after you’ve sold the old one. In this case, if the buyer is able, they can offer a rent-back to the seller in a written agreement that gives you more time before you have to move out.  Most lenders prohibit periods that extend beyond 60 days as that would make it appear to be an investment property.  At closing, you sign an affidavit stating that you will be occupying the property.

Settlement (Closing)

Settlement is when the home sale has been finalized. When does this happen? A sale is considered closed when the contingencies have been met, all the paperwork has been signed, and all the money has exchanged hands—and in some areas, when the deed has been recorded with the county clerk’s office. When these steps are completed, you’ll hand over the keys, and the buyer will be the new homeowner. 

By familiarizing yourself with these top real estate terms, you'll be better equipped to communicate effectively and ultimately achieve a successful sale. Our dedicated team is here to guide you through every step of the real estate process and address any questions you may have.  Together, we can surpass your real estate goals and ensure a seamless transaction. 


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