Real Estate Terminology 101


Thinking of jumping into the real estate market?  Take a minute to familiarize yourself with these terms, every industry has its own jargon, and real estate is no different.

From adjustable-rate mortgages to title insurance to amortization, it can be a bit overwhelming for first-time buyers or those who haven’t moved in a while.  But don’t worry—we’ve compiled a list of the 29 most common terms you’re likely to encounter:

1. Adjustable-rate Mortgage

There are two types of conventional loans: the fixed-rate and the adjustable-rate mortgage. In an adjustable-rate mortgage, the interest rate fluctuates in sync with the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate and can change over the course of the loan.
Depending on your tolerance for risk, this may not be your safest option as you run the chance of your payments increasing if interest rates go up. 

2. Amortization

The period of time it will take you to completely pay off your mortgage debt, interest and principal payments are combined in one recurring payment, allowing you to build more equity in your home early on.

3. Appraisal

In order to get a loan from a bank to buy a home, you first need to get the home appraised so the bank can be sure they are lending the correct amount of money. The appraiser will determine the value of the home based on an examination of the property itself, as well as the sale price of comparable homes in the area.

4. Assessed Value

This is how much a home is worth according to a public tax assessor who makes that determination in order to figure out how much city tax the owner will be required to pay.  In a competitive market, this can often be a lower price point than what is actually paid for the purchase of the home.

5. Buyer’s Agent

This is the agent who represents the buyer in the home-buying process. On the other side is the listing agent, who represents the seller.

6. Closing

The closing refers to the meeting that takes place where the sale of the property is finalized. At the closing, lawyers representing the buyers and sellers sign the final documents, and the buyer makes the down payment and pays closing costs.

7. Closing Costs

In addition to the final price of a home, there are also closing costs, which will typically make up about two to five percent of the purchase price, not including the down payment. Examples of closings costs include loan processing costs, title insurance, land transfer tax, and legal fees.


Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. A Crown corporation that administers the National Housing Act for the federal government and encourages the improvement of housing and living conditions for all Canadians. CMHC also develops and sells mortgage loan insurance products.

9. Comparative Market Analysis

Comparative market analysis (CMA) is a report on comparable homes in the area that is used to derive an accurate value for the home in question, often used when establishing a pricing or offer strategy.

10. Conditions

This term refers to conditions that have to be met in order for the purchase of a home to be finalized. For example, common conditional clauses that may be included in an offer include a home inspection, financing, or the revue of a Status Certificate when purchasing a condo.  There is usually a stipulated time limit within which the specified conditions must be met.

11. Dual Agency (Multiple Representation)

Dual agency is when one agent represents both sides, rather than having both a buyer’s agent and a listing agent.

12. Equity

Equity is ownership. In homeownership, equity refers to how much of your home you actually own—meaning how much of the principal you’ve paid off. The more equity you have, the more financial flexibility you have, as you can refinance against whatever equity you’ve built. Put another way, equity is the difference between the fair market value of the home and the unpaid balance of the mortgage. If you have a $1M home, and you still owe $650,000 on it, you have $350,000 in equity.

13. Escrow

Escrow is part of the homebuying process. It happens when a third party holds something of value during the transaction. Most often, the “value” the third party holds onto is the buyer’s earnest money check.  When the transaction is complete (usually at closing), the third party will release those funds to the seller.

14. Fixed-rate Mortgage

There are two types of conventional loans: the fixed-rate and the adjustable-rate mortgage. In a fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate stays the same throughout the life of the loan, this can typically be locked down for a five-year term.

15. Home Warranty

This warranty protects from future problems to things such as plumbing and heating, which can be extremely expensive to fix.

16. Inspection

Home inspections are required once a potential buyer makes an offer. Typically, they cost a few hundred dollars. The purpose is to check that the house’s plumbing, foundation, appliances, and other features are up to code. Issues that may turn up during an inspection may factor into the negotiation on a final price. Failing to do an inspection may result in surprise costly repairs down the road for the home buyer.

17. Interest

This is the cost of borrowing money for a home.  Interest is combined with principal to determine monthly mortgage payments. The longer a mortgage is, the more you will pay in interest when you have finally paid off the loan.

18. Listing

A listing is essentially a home that is for sale. The term gets its name from the fact that these homes are often “listed” on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

19. Listing Agent

This is the agent who represents the seller in the home-buying process. On the other side is the buyer’s agent, who represents the buyer.

20. Mortgage Broker

The broker is an individual or company that is responsible for taking care of all aspects of the deal between borrowers and lenders, whether that be originating the loan or placing it with a funding source such as a bank.

21. Offer

This is the initial price offered by a prospective buyer to the seller.  A seller may accept the offer, reject it, or counter with a different offer.

22. Pre-approval Letter

Before buying a home, a buyer can and should, obtain a pre-approval letter from a bank, which provides an estimate on how much the bank will lend that person. This letter will help determine what the buyer can afford.

23. Principal

The principal is the amount of money borrowed to purchase a home. Paying off the principal allows a buyer to build equity in a home. Principal is combined with interest to determine the monthly mortgage payment.

24. Private Mortgage Insurance

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is an insurance premium that the buyer pays to the lender in order to protect the lender from default on a mortgage. These insurance payments typically end once the buyer builds up 20% equity in a home.

25. Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a professional with a real estate license who works under a broker and assists both buyers and sellers in the home-buying process.

26. Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is a real estate agent who has passed a provincial broker’s exam and met a minimum number of transactions. These brokers are able to work on their own or hire their own agents.

27. Realtor

A Realtor is a real estate agent who specifically is a member of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CRA) and Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) which has a code of standards and ethics that members must adhere to.

28. Refinancing

Refinancing is when you restructure your home loan, replacing your old loan with an entirely new loan that has different rates and payment structures. The main reason people refinance their home loans is to get a lower interest rate on their mortgage, and therefore lower not only the monthly payment but also the overall debt owed.

29. Title insurance

Title insurance is often required as part of the closing costs. It covers research into public records to ensure that the title is free and clear, and ready for sale. If you purchase a home and find out later that there are liens on the home, you’ll be glad you had title insurance.

Come across a foreign term or need help navigating the OREA paperwork?  We're here to help, contact us HERE.

An interest in land owned by another person that benefits the person who has the easement, for a specific limited purpose (i.e. right of way permitting passage over a particular strip of land) such as with public utilities.

An amount agreed to by the seller and the real estate broker/associate and stated in the listing agreement. It is payable to the brokerage on closing and shared, if applicable, among those Associates involved in the sale.