By Christina Kass


Real estate terms can become confusing when you are buying or selling a property. At Vanguard Title, we have defined some of the most common title terms to assist you along the way. If you have any questions, or need the help of an expert, call our office and talk to one of our title team members. Feel free to share this article with others that are buying and selling! 

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A written summary relating to the title to a particular parcel of land researched in the public records.


The person who swears to or affirms the statement in an affidavit.


A legal document that is a written declaration, sworn to before an officer who has authority to administer an oath. An example of an affidavit is signing the declaration in front of a Notary Public.

Attorney in Fact

An individual that is acting as an agent allowing them to transact business and execute legal documents on behalf of the party that appointed them. 


This is the date and time when the legal documents for the consummation of the transaction are signed and all monies are collected and disbursed by the title agent. 


A legal document that transfers ownership interest in the property from one person to another. 

Earnest Money Deposit

A deposit or partial payment made by the purchaser as evidence of good faith that they will abide by terms of the purchase agreement. 


A right granted by the land owner to another to access the property for a certain and necessary purpose.


A physical item constructed on a property from a neighboring property such as a garage, fence, building or wall. 


A right or interest to land held by a person other than the owner of the land, examples include a claim, lien, or liability. 

Fee Simple

The owner is entitled to all ownership of the property.


The buyer that is granted the property. 


The owner that grants property rights to another


Some states grant exemptions or protection for homestead property (primary residents) against creditors, in Michigan an example would be judgment liens for marital residency. There are also property tax exemptions that are meant for primary residency and sometimes referred to as homestead exemption. The property term is Principal Residence Exemption and requires an affidavit to be filed with the city assessor’s office.

Joint Tenancy

Also referred to as Joint Tenants with Full Right of Survivorship is the ownership to property which mean each party owns the whole property and that ownership is not separate. In the event of the death of one party, the survivor owns the property in its entirety.


Money judgments that have been decided upon in a court of law and when recorded, become a lien on real property of the defendant.


A legal claim against a property that must be dealt with before the closing when the property is sold. Examples could include a mortgage or a deed.

Lis Pendens 

A legal notice recorded to show there is a pending law suit that involves the real estate.


The legal document that secures the Note for the repayment of the loan. The purchaser signs this legal document and it is sent for recording in the public record.


A legal document signed by the purchaser and is the promise to repay the lender in the amount of the new loan used to purchase the home.

Purchase Agreement

A legally binding written contract between the buyer and the seller for the purchase of real estate that outlines the terms and conditions of the sale.


A drawing or map showing the legal boundaries of a property, any improvements, easements, rights of way, encroachments, and other physical features of the property.

Tenancy in Common

As opposed to joint tenancy, when there are two or more individuals on title to a piece of property, this type of ownership does not pass ownership to the others in the event of death. In the event of death, each owners share passes to their heirs.


Is the legal right to own, possess, use and enjoy real estate.

Title Agency

A title agency is a company that has an underwriting agreement with a title insurance underwriter to issue title insurance policies.

Title Commitment

A preliminary report outlining the interest in the property and requirements that must be met prior to issuing the title insurance policy.

Title Insurance Policy

Title insurance offers a peace of mind that the new home owner’s property rights are protected. The most common policies are the Standard Owner’s Policy which protects new home owners from previous defects in title for as long as they or their heirs own the home. In Michigan, it is standard for the seller to pay for the Owner’s Policy. The lender’s policy is required by the new lender and protects their financial interest in the property and the buyer pays for this policy. Both policies are paid for at closing as a onetime fee.

Title Search

The title agency conducts a review of the public record to uncover issues, problems, or defects that need to be handled prior to closing.


A title insurance company which appoints agents to issue title insurance policies, commitments, endorsements, and other title assurances approved by the insurer for real estate transactions through an underwriting or policy-issuing agreement.

Warranty Deed

Conveys and warrants all interest in the real estate is transferred to the new owner.