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Important to Know: Real Estate Terminology

Curiale Hostnik PLLC  Oct. 3, 2023

Real estate in Washington State usually presents various legal legwork. Whether you're purchasing or selling a residential or commercial property, there are several procedures involved in every real estate transaction. In addition, you may need to inspect the property, conduct due diligence, draft contracts, negotiate the price, and complete other legal requirements. As a result, getting detailed guidance is crucial to understanding the vague terminologies and advocating for a seamless real estate deal. 

At Curiale Hostnik PLLC, we have the diligence and resources to advise and guide clients in the legal matters of real estate. Our dedicated Washington State real estate law attorneys are available to discuss your unique situation, enlighten you about some important terms, and help you navigate crucial decisions in your real estate transactions. We're proud to serve clients across Tacoma, Puyallup, University Place, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, and Pierce County, Washington. 

Important Terms to Know 

Before you can successfully carry out a real estate transaction in Washington State, you need to understand the different terms that are often used. Here are some common terminologies used in real estate matters and a brief explanation: 

Deed: A legal document that is used to transfer ownership of a real estate property from one person (the seller or grantor) to another person (buyer or grantee). 

Title: The legal right to ownership of real estate property or land. The title also gives the holder the right to use or sell the property. 

Escrow: A legal arrangement whereby a neutral third party holds funds and other crucial documents temporarily during a real estate transaction—until a particular condition is fulfilled. 

Earnest Money: A good faith deposit or sum of money made by the buyer to show their good faith and seriousness about the real estate transaction. The earnest money will be held in escrow until the real estate transaction is finalized. 

Closing: The final step in executing a real estate transaction where the property ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer. 

Mortgage: An agreement between you and a lender, used to purchase real estate. If you fail to repay the mortgage and accumulated interest, the lender will have the right to take or repossess your property. (Washington doesn't recognize mortgages, see Deeds of Trust instead.)

Deeds of Trust: A deed of trust is a legal instrument through which ownership of real property is transferred to a trustee. This transfer serves as collateral to secure a loan until the grantor, or borrower, fulfills their repayment obligations, as stipulated in a connected promissory note.

Foreclosure: The legal process through which a lender can repossess or take possession of a property from a borrower who has failed to repay their mortgage. 

Zoning: A set of regulations that outline how real property or land can and cannot be used in a specific area. Zoning laws govern land use, building heights, size, setback, scale, shape, and more within a certain geographic area. 

Easement: A legal right that allows someone to use another person's property or land or a portion of the property for a particular purpose, such as access road or utility lines. 

Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R): The rules and regulations that govern the use and maintenance of a property in a homeowners association (HOA), Condo association, or a planned community. 

Assessment: The process of evaluating or determining the actual value of a property for taxation purposes. 

Property Tax: Real estate taxes levied by local governments on the value of real property owned by a person or entity. These real estate taxes are used to fund local services and infrastructure. 

Joint Tenancy: A form of co-ownership where multiple parties have an equal ownership interest in the property. When one of the joint owners dies, their share will be automatically transferred to the surviving owners. 

Tenancy in Common: A form of co-ownership where each owner holds a separate (equal or unequal) and undivided interest in the property. When one of the owners dies, their interest in the property will be transferred to their surviving heirs. 

Chain of Title: The historical sequence of ownership transfers of the title of a property. It is the story of the ownership of a property, land, or home. 

Homestead Exemption: A legal provision that protects a portion of the equity of a homeowner's property value from creditors during bankruptcy. 

Encumbrance: A lien, claim, or liability that affects the title of a property, such as a property tax lien or mortgage. It limits how the homeowner can use the property or land. 

Lien: A type of security interest, legal right, or claim granted over a property to secure the repayment of a debt or performance of an obligation. 

Quiet Title Action: A legal proceeding that may be initiated to establish a clear and marketable title when there are questions or disputes about the ownership of a land or property. 

Community Property: A system of property ownership whereby assets acquired during a marriage are considered to be jointly owned by both spouses. 

Real Estate Broker: A licensed professional who facilitates real estate transactions between the buyer and the seller. 

How a Real Estate Attorney Can Help  

Real estate transactions usually involve a lot of paperwork and require due diligence. For more than 30 years, we have been offering outstanding legal services and assisting clients in their real estate-related matters. Whether you are buying, selling, investing in, renting, managing, or otherwise involved in any form of real estate deals, our trusted legal team can walk you through the legal procedures involved and help you navigate intelligent decisions. 

Contact us at Curiale Hostnik PLLC today to schedule an initial consultation with knowledgeable real estate law attorneys. Our skilled attorney can offer you the personalized counsel and reliable advocacy you need to make informed decisions in your real estate transactions. We proudly serve clients across Tacoma, Puyallup, University Place, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, and Pierce County, Washington.