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Escrow Terms & Phrases

Terms and Phrases is Lawyers Title's Glossary of definitions, meanings, and descriptions of significance for some of our industry's most often used terms and phrases.

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Sales-Associate -- One who is licensed to work in real estate under a licensed broker.

Sales Kit -- Material carried by a salesperson to aid in listings and sale. This is the "tool kit" of real estate, containing forms, maps, tape measure, amortization schedules, pens, paper, etc.

Satisfaction -- Discharge of an obligation by payment of the amount due, as on mortgage, trust deed, or contract; or payment of a debt awarded, such as satisfaction of a judgment. Also the recorded instrument stating said payment has been made.

Secondary Financing -- A loan secured by a mortgage or trust deed, which lien is junior (secondary) to another mortgage or trust deed.

Secondary Mortgage Market -- The buying and selling of first mortgages or trust deeds by banks, insurance companies, government agencies, and other mortgagees. This enables lenders to keep an adequate supply of money for new loans. The mortgages may be sold at full value (par) or above, but are usually sold at a discount. The secondary mortgage market should not be confused with second mortgage.

Second Mortgage -- A mortgage which ranks after a first mortgage in priority. Properties may have two, three or more mortgages, deeds of trust, or land contracts, as liens at the same time. Legal priority would determine whether they are called a first, second, third, etc. lien.

Selling Agent -- The real estate agent obtaining the buyer rather than listing the property. The listing and selling agent may be the same person or company.

Settlement Statement -- A statement prepared by broker, escrow, or lender, giving a complete breakdown of costs involved in a real estate sale. A separate statement is prepared for the buyer and seller.

Sheathing -- The covering over the outside studs (or rafters) of a roof. May be wallboard, plywood, etc.

Short Form Document -- A document which refers either to another document not of record containing the total agreement, or incorporates by reference a document of record.

Simultaneous Issue -- A simultaneous issuance by a little insurance company of policies insuring both an owner and a lender. The Lender's policy is issued at a reduced rate.

Single Family House -- A general term originally used to distinguish a house designed for use by one family from an apartment house. More recently, used to distinguish a house with no common area from a planned development or condominium.

Slant Drilling -- A method of drilling for oil or gas from adjoining property when surface rights have not yet been granted.

Special Assessment -- Lien assessed against real property by a public authority to pay costs of public improvements (sidewalks, sewers, streetlights, etc.) which directly benefits the assessed property.

Spite Fence -- A fence built for the purpose of causing a problem for one's neighbor. May ruin the view, make access of a new vehicle, etc., or simply ugly.

Square Foot Method -- Determining the replacement cost of a building by finding the cost per square foot of comparable building.

Standard Coverage Policy -- A title insurance policy used in several states, not having as broad coverage as the nationally recognized American Land Title Association (A.L.T.A.) policies.

Start Card -- A file card used as a record of the opening of an escrow. It lists the date the escrow opened, escrow number, name of escrow officer, names of parties to the escrow, lender, title company, legal description of the property, consideration, and type of transaction (sale, loan, etc.).

Starter -- A copy of the last policy issued by a title insurer, which describes the condition of the title to land upon which a new policy is to be written. In some states this is furnished to an attorney for his opinion as to the condition of the title, and is called a back title letter or back title certificate.

Statement of Information -- A confidential form filled out by buyer and seller to help a title company determine if any liens are recorded against either. Very helpful when people with common names are involved. Also called a statement of identity.

Statute of Frauds -- State laws, requiring certain contracts to be in writing. All contracts for the sale of real property must be in writing. Leases (personal property) for more than one year must be in writing.

Statutory Lien -- An involuntary lien (created by law rather than contract). Includes tax liens, judgment liens, mechanic's liens, etc.

Street Improvement Bonds -- Interest bearing bonds, issued by a local government, to secure assessments for street improvements. The owners of the property assessed may pay in a lump sum or pay installments on the bonds, including interest.

Strip Center -- Any shopping are, generally with common parking, comprised of a row of stores. Usually does not contain major department stores or grocery chain stores.

Studs (Studding) -- Vertical supports (wood or metal) in walls and partitions.

Subcontractor -- One who works under a general contractor (builder), such as an electrical contractor, cement contractor, etc.

"Subject To" Clause -- A clause in deed, stating that the grantee takes title "subject to" an existing mortgage. The original mortgagor is alone responsible for any deficiency, should there be foreclosure of the mortgage. Differs from an "assumption" clause, whereby the grantee "assumes" and agrees to pay the existing mortgage.

Subordination Agreement -- An agreement by which an encumbrance is made subject (junior) to a junior encumbrance. For example: A loan on vacant land is made subject to a subsequent construction loan.

Substitution Agreement -- A document which is recorded to change the trustee under a deed of trust. A simple procedure in some states; more regulated in others.

Surface Rights -- The rights (easements) to use the surface of the land, including the right to drill or mine through the surface when subsurface rights are involved.

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