Glossary of Real Estate Investing Terms

Below is a Real Estate Glossary that defines the key terms that investors should Know. 


1% Rule: A calculation to determine whether an investment property’s cash flow makes it a good buy. To run the 1% rule on a property, calculate 1% of the property’s purchase price to determine the minimum monthly rent to charge. For more information, click here.

1031 Exchange: A tax break that allows you to sell a business property or real estate held as an investment and swap it for a new one for the same purpose while deferring the capital gains tax on the sale. For more information, click here.

2% Rule: In real estate, the 2% rule advises that for an investment property to have a positive cash flow, the monthly rent should be equal to or greater than two percent of the purchase price. For more information, click here.


Accessory Dwelling Unit: A smaller, independent residential dwelling unit located on the same lot as a stand-alone (i.e., detached) single-family home.

Accredited Investor: A type of real estate investor that is allowed to invest in riskier investments. The most common qualifications are having a $1M net worth or earning an income of $200,000 for 2 years in a row ($300,000 if married).

Acquisition Cost: The total cost of buying an investment property, including mortgage loan fees, closing costs, inspection fees, etc. 

Ad Valorem Tax: Ad valorem is Latin for “according to value.” So, unlike excise or transactional taxes, where the tax amount or percentage is constant, ad valorem tax is proportional to the property’s assessed value. For more information, click here.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM): A mortgage that does not have a fixed interest rate – that is, the interest rate fluctuates based on the benchmark interest rate. For more information, click here.

Affordable Housing: Dwelling units that cost no more than 30% of an area’s median household income as determined by the federal government, local government, or a recognized national affordability index. For more information, click here.

After Repair Value (ARV): The value of a property after repairs and improvements have been made. For more information, click here.

Amortization: Amortization refers to the amount of principal and interest paid each month over the course of the loan. Even though the mortgage repayment amount is the same each month, the amount going towards the principal starts out small, with the majority of the payment going towards interest. For more information, click here.

Annual Depreciation Allowance: This is the amount an investor is allowed to deduct or write off in taxes every year based on the depreciation of a property. It includes costs related to improving a rental property and is often distributed over the “useful life” of a property rather than as one big lump sum. 

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The cost of credit expressed as a yearly interest rate. It compares the costs of different loans, such as mortgages and other real estate loans. For more information, click here.

Anticipated Hold Period: This is the period of time that an investor anticipates holding each home before looking to liquidate the property. Financing terms are often matched to this hold period to optimize returns.

Appraisal: The process of determining the value of a property through an independent survey, often required by a lender in order to ensure the money being borrowed is a fair amount for the property.

Appraised Value: The appraised value of a property is determined by an independent survey conducted by a lender and is useful in determining how much money can be borrowed for its purchase and under what terms.

Appreciation: A measure of the estimated increase in value of an asset over a certain time frame. For more information, click here.

Assumable Mortgage: A financing arrangement in which a buyer assumes the mortgage of the seller after paying the difference between the home price and the mortgage balance. For more information, click here.


Building Classifications: Investment properties in the real estate market are divided into four classifications (A, B, C, and D) based on value, allowing investors to determine the value, risk, and profitability of a potential purchase. Class A properties are more expensive, in high-demand markets, and often newer builds. 

Broker Price Opinion (BPO): A real estate professional’s opinion of a property’s value. For more information, click here.

BRRR Method: A real estate investing strategy. BRRRR is an acronym for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat. Using this method, Investors purchase properties that need renovations. They rehab them and rent them out. Then, after they’ve built up equity, they do a cash-out refinance to use their profit on another property. For more information, click here.


Capital Expenditures (CapEx): Large, one-time expenses undertaken to extend the life or add value to a real estate property. These include renovations and upgrades, as well as equipment or supply costs needed to make the improvements. 

Capital Gains Tax: Capital gains refer to the profit earned from the sale of a real estate investment. The amount of tax paid on this profit is termed capital gains tax. For more information, click here.

Capitalization Rate (Cap rate): The cap rate is the NOI divided by the purchase price. The cap rate is an indicator of the risk and return of a property. It tells you the return of an investment before financing costs. For more information, click here.

Cash Flow: The amount of money moving in and out of a business, property, or other cash-generating asset. For more information, click here.

Cash-on-Cash Return: The cash return on investment compared to the amount of cash invested. For example, an investment with cash distributions of $50 on a $1,000 investment has a 5% cash-on-cash return. For more information, click here.

Cash-Out Refinance: A type of new mortgage loan that enables homeowners to pull equity out of their homes.

Clear Title: A clear title is a property where there is no dispute over ownership and no lien from creditors. 

Closing Costs: One-off expenses paid by the buyer during the purchase of a property. These include application fees, appraisal costs, attorney fees, closing and courier fees, homeowners insurance, property taxes, mortgage insurance premiums, and underwriting fees. For more information, click here.

Comparables / Comparative Market Analysis (CMA): An analysis done to compare similar properties in the same market with the goal of understanding the value of the property and the rent that can be charged.

Commercial Real Estate (CRE): Commercial real estate is the purchase and sale of commercial properties, such as office buildings, retail centers, industrial properties, or land to be developed into a commercial project in the future. 

Contingent Offer: An offer with a protective clause on behalf of the buyer. For more information, click here.


Debt-to-Equity Ratio (D/E): A ratio that shows how much of a property an investor owns versus how much is owed on the mortgage. This is an important measure of ownership of a property. For more information, click here.

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DR, D:I): This ratio is used to measure a borrower’s ability to pay back the loan. It compares the monthly minimum debt payment to the borrower’s monthly income. 

Debt Service Coverage Ratio: A financial metric that compares a company’s or individual’s total debt obligations to its income. Lenders use it to determine a borrower’s financial health. For more information, click here.

Depreciation: The loss of value of a property over time due to wear and tear. For more information, click here.

Digital Real Estate: A property that exists in online spaces, such as metaverses or virtual worlds. For more information, click here.

Distressed Property: A property that has been subject to financial stress or has fallen into disrepair. For more information, click here.

Diversification: The process of investing in different investments to reduce a portfolio’s overall risk. For more information, click here.

Dividend Yield: A ratio of annual target cash distributions per share divided by the price per share. Alternatively, it is a ratio of the total cash distributions divided by the property purchase price. 

Dollar-Cost-Averaging (DCA): An investment strategy of buying a fixed dollar amount of a stock on a regular basis, regardless of the price per share. For more information, click here.

Down Payment Assistance: Financial assistance provided by government agencies or private organizations to help first-time homebuyers.


Earnest Money: Earnest money, also known as a good faith deposit, is the amount of money put down by a buyer to express their intention of buying a home. It is often applied to the down payment of the home. 

Effective Gross Income (EGI): The Effective Gross Income or EGI is the measure of the potential positive monthly cash flow a rental property can produce. It is the Potential Gross Rental Income (plus any other income) minus expenses and vacancy. 

Equity: Equity is the difference between the current market value of a property and how much you owe on the mortgage. If you sell a property, the equity is your profit in cash after you’ve paid off the mortgage. 

Escrow: An escrow is a third-party financial account that holds funds, such as earnest money, or documents while the buyer and seller are in negotiations. For instance, when you buy a home, you’ll pay a down payment for the purchase, and this money will be held by an impartial third party until the contract is signed and the deal closed. 


Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): A federal law enacted to prevent misuse of consumer information. For more information, click here.

Fair Housing Act: The Fair Housing Act is a law that prohibits discrimination against people based on race, color, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, disability, and family by anyone who has an influence in the decision-making process of buying, selling, renting, or financing of housing. This includes real estate brokers, landlords, and sellers. For more information, click here.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC): An independent federal agency established through the Banking Act of 1933 whose primary role is to insure deposits at U.S. Member banks. For more information, click here.

FHA Loan: A type of loan that is issued by the FHA (Federal Housing Administration). The down payment required for these types of loans is a lot lower than conventional loans, typically between 3-5 percent of the home value. For more information, click here.

Financing: The percentage of the property Purchase Price that will be funded through long-term bank financing.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage: A type of mortgage that has a set or a fixed interest rate that stays constant throughout the term of the loan. Since the mortgage amount remains the same through the term of the loan, a fixed-rate mortgage can help more accurately predict the return on an investment. For more information, click here.

Flipping: The process of buying a property, fixing it up or renovating it to increase its market value, and selling it for a profit. For more information, click here.

FMV (Fair Market Value): The Fair Market Value of a property is what a property would reasonably sell for in the open market without undue pressure to complete a transaction. The FMV of a property allows buyers to ascertain whether they’re paying the right price and sellers to know if they’re leaving money on the table. 

Fractional Ownership: An investment structure in which multiple people or entities each buy a portion of a real estate investment, sharing both in the costs of purchase and upkeep as well as the profit. For more information, click here.

FRBO (For Rent by Owner): This is a property that is being rented directly by the owner, without the involvement of a real estate management company. 

FSBO (For Sale by Owner): This is a property that is being sold directly by an owner, without the involvement of a real estate agent or realtor.


Gross Rent Multiplier (GRM): The ratio of the price of a rental property to its gross rental income before expenses. The GRM is a metric that helps to calculate how many years it would take an investment to pay for itself based on the gross rental income received. For more information, click here.

Gross Rental Income (GRI): The total amount of money collected in rent plus fees, including parking fees, pet fees, advance rent, and others. 

Gross Rental Yield: The total income generated by a property divided by the price paid for the property plus any associated costs. Gross Rental Yield = (Monthly rent x 12) ÷ (Purchase price + closing costs)


HOA Fees: When you buy a property in a homeowners association or HOA, you become a member in the HOA and are required to pay monthly HOA fees for the maintenance of the properties within the association. 

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): A secured line of credit that uses the equity you have built in your home as collateral. For more information, click here.

Home Inspection: A comprehensive examination of the condition of a property in which the physical structure of the home, such as the roof and the siding, as well as systems, such as plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling (HVAC), are looked at to find any significant faults. For more information, click here.

Home Warranty: A type of contract that covers the service, repair, or replacement of major household appliances and home systems, including electrical, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning.

House Hacking: A way of generating rental income from your home, either through buying a multifamily property and renting out the units you don’t live in or renting out bedrooms, garages, attics, etc., in a house you already own. For more information, click here.

Housing Market Recession: A state of economic downturn in the real estate and housing market, which typically occurs when home prices drop for an extended period.


Income-Producing Assets: Real estate investments that create passive income for the property owner. 

Individual Retirement Account (IRA): A retirement account designed to encourage people to save for retirement. For more information, click here.

Inflation: Inflation is simply the rate at which the price of goods and services rises over a period of time. As inflation increases, if your money is in cash or an asset that doesnt increase with the inflation rate, your purchasing power decreases. Real estate investments are a great way to protect against inflation, you can learn more here. For more information, click here.

Inspection Contingency: An inspection contingency is a clause put in the agreement to allow the buyer to have the home inspected and negotiate costs or terminate the agreement with the seller based on the results of the inspection.

Internal Rate of Return (IRR): This is the best measure of a property’s performance, used to measure an asset’s long-term profitability. It is defined as the point where the net value of the expenses equals the gross rental income. For more information, click here.


Leverage: Leverage is using a loan to invest into real estate. It has the effect of amplifying returns or losses.

Loan Origination Fee: A one-time fee, typically between 0.5% and 1%, that is charged by a lender to process a new mortgage application. 

Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV): The loan-to-value ratio is an important calculation to determine the amount of the loan compared to the value of the property. (LTV = Mortgage amount ÷ appraised property value or sale price)

Long-Term Rental: A type of rental property where the tenant signs a lease for a longer-term period, typically a year.  


Management Fee: The Management Fee is an operating expense paid to the operator to cover costs of managing the property operations, like annual accounting, audit, and tax filings.

Mixed-Use Building: A mixed-use building is a property that’s been zoned for both personal and commercial purposes, such as a family home where the ground floor is a convenience store. 

Mortgage: A mortgage is the sum of money borrowed from a lender, such as a bank, to purchase a property. Though it can be higher, a mortgage is frequently given for up to 80% of the property’s value.

Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP): In order to minimize the risk for a lender, if you’re purchasing a property with less than a 20% down payment, you will be required to take out mortgage insurance. The type of insurance you’ll pay will depend on the type of loan you have. For a conventional loan, you’ll have PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) and for an FHA loan, you’ll have MIP. For more information, click here.

Multi-Family Home: A multi-family home is a type of residential property, such as an apartment complex, condominium, or a duplex, that has more than one residential unit. 


Net Asset Value: The value of a fund’s assets minus the value of its liabilities. For more information, click here.

Net Cash Flow: This is the Target Cash Flow that will be available to distribute to investors through dividend payments. Net Cash Flow = Rent Payments  – Operating Expenses.

Net Operating Income (NOI): Net Operating Income (NOI) is the gross profit of a rental property. It’s calculated as gross rents – all expenses other than interest. For more information, click here

Net Yield: The net yield is the annual profit (income minus costs) generated by any asset divided by its price. In real estate terms, the net yield provides an assessment of the return that you’ll get from a property after all expenses have been deducted. 


Occupancy Rate: The ratio of space rented out or used to the total amount of available space.. For more information, click here.

Operating Expenses: Operating Expenses include all of the anticipated costs for operating the rental property. Some expenses include Insurance, Property Tax, Vacancy, Maintenance, and Property Management.

Opportunity Zone: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines a qualified opportunity zone (QOZ) as “an economically distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.” For more information, click here.


Pass-Through Taxation: The process in which a company that does not pay a corporate income tax passes all of its earnings to its owners. The owners then pay taxes on the company income. This is also called single taxation.

PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance): An acronym that describes the components that make up your monthly mortgage payment. For more information, click here.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): In order to minimize the risk for a lender, if you’re purchasing a property with less than a 20% down payment, you will be required to take out mortgage insurance. The type of insurance you’ll pay will depend on the type of loan you have. For a conventional loan, you’ll have PMI and for an FHA loan, you’ll have a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). For more information, click here.

Portfolio: A variety of investments and assets.

Pre-Approval: The process a lender uses to determine how much money a borrower can borrow to purchase a home. For more information, click here.

Pre-Qualification: The process a lender uses to provide an estimate as to how much someone can borrow. For more information, click here.

Price-to-Rent Ratio: A financial metric real estate investors use when evaluating investment properties, such as single-family rentals (SFRs). It is calculated by dividing the house price by the annual gross rental income it can generate. For more information, click here.

Principal: The principal is the amount of money owed on a loan or mortgage, not including the interest. 

Principal Reduction: A principal reduction is a decrease in the amount owed on a mortgage. It’s an alternative to a home foreclosure, sometimes offered by lenders as financial relief to homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgage.

Pro-forma: A pro-forma is the estimated financials for an investment. Pro-formas combine known revenue and expenses with estimates to create reasonable financial projections. For more information, click here.

Probate Sale: The process of transferring property ownership from a deceased owner to heirs or beneficiaries. This includes real estate and other assets such as savings, stocks, and bonds. For more information, click here.

Projected Annual Appreciation: This is a projection of the potential increase in value for the property typically based on 3rd party valuation tools. 

Property Management: A company that’s paid for by a landlord to oversee the day-to-day repairs, management, and administrative tasks on an investment property. For more information, click here.

Purchase Agreement: The legal contract that outlines all the terms and conditions of the sale of a property.


Qualified Business Income (QBI): The IRS defines this as “the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction, and loss from any qualified trade or business, including income from partnerships, S corporations, sole proprietorships, and certain trusts.” For more information, click here.


Real Estate Agent: A licensed professional who assists in real estate transactions. For more information, click here.

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT): A Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) is a type of company that is designed to invest in real estate. REITs get special tax advantages as long as they adhere to strict requirements. For more information, click here.

Real Estate Owned (REO): An REO property is one that’s been foreclosed on by a bank that held the mortgage and that is now owned by that bank. REO properties are often resold below market value. For more information, click here.

Recession: A period of economic activity decline that occurs when the gross domestic product (GDP) falls for two consecutive quarters or more. For more information, click here.

Refinance: The process of replacing your existing mortgage with a new one.

Rehabilitation: Repairs and renovations that need to be completed on an investment property to prepare it for resale or make it tenant-ready.

Remote Investing: A type of real investment in which investors buy properties outside of their immediate geographical area. These properties are often managed by a property management company. 

Rent Control: A term used to describe any legislation that controls rent prices. Rent control laws restrict how much and how frequently rent can be raised. Rent increases can be limited by a flat percentage or an actual price. For more information, click here.

Rental Income: Income generated from leasing out a property to tenants who pay to live in it for the term of the lease. 

Retail Investors: Retail investors are individual or small investors who invest in property for their personal accounts as opposed to institutional investors, who generally invest significantly larger amounts on behalf of institutions, for instance, fund managers or private equity firms. 

Rent to Own (RTO): Rent to own is a combination of a rental and purchase agreement. With an RTO, the tenant’s monthly payment to the landlord is divided up in a way that part of it goes towards the monthly rent and the remainder towards the purchase price of the house as set out in the agreement. (Sometimes also referred to as Lease-to-Purchase.)

Return on Assets (ROA): A measure of a company’s profit relative to its total assets. For more information, click here.

Return on Investment (ROI): The percentage of invested money that’s made back after subtracting all expenses and costs. (ROI = Investment Gain – Investment Cost) ÷ Investment Cost. For more information, click here.

Reverse Mortgage: A type of loan functions similarly to a traditional mortgage in that homeowners borrow money against their home equity. They are called “reverse” mortgages because instead of the borrower making payments to the lender, the lender provides tax-free money to the borrower. The loan proceeds can pay for home repairs, health care bills, or other expenses. For more information, click here.

Roth IRA: A retirement account used as a savings option for retirement, particularly by people who expect to be in higher tax brackets during their later years.


Section 8: A federal government housing program that allows low-income families and disabled and elderly individuals to rent housing in the private market based on eligibility criteria such as income and family size. For more information, click here.

Self-Directed IRA (SDIRA): A Self-Directed IRA or retirement account is similar to a traditional IRA with one key difference: in addition to stocks and bonds, an SDIRA can also be used to invest in the real estate industry. Any returns from this type of investment are tax-deferred and must be deposited back into the IRA. For more information, click here.

Seller Concessions: Closing costs that the seller has agreed to pay. For more information, click here.

Series LLC: The series LLC refers to the specific offering that is being put up for sale and that owns the property. Each property is purchased and placed in an LLC for liability and tax purposes. For more information, click here.

Short Sale: When the property is sold for less than what is owed on the mortgage. All the proceeds of this real estate transaction go to the lender. For more information, click here.

Short-Term Rental: Also known as a vacation rental, this is a type of property that is leased out for very short periods of time, typically through marketplaces such as Airbnb. Often used by vacationers, the properties are furnished with listed amenities. For more information, click here.

Single-Family Home (SFH): A type of rental property that is designed for just 1 family to live in. This can be a typical house or townhouse. Duplexes and apartment buildings are considered to be “multi-family” housing because the property can house multiple families. 

Squatter: One who unilaterally decides to occupy a structure or a parcel of land without the owner’s permission or an unauthorized occupant. For more information, click here.

Squatters’ Rights: Laws that allow a squatter (see term above) to use or inhabit another person’s property. For more information, click here.

Systematic Risk: The risk of an individual investment. This risk can be reduced through proper diversification. 


Tax Deed Sale: A legal document that grants ownership of a property to the government when taxes on the property are unpaid for a certain period of time.

Tax Lien: A legal claim against your property when you don’t pay your taxes to the government. For more information, click here.

Tenant Screening: The process of vetting tenants. This typically involves doing due diligence through interviews, background and credit checks, and calling references. 

Title Insurance: Title insurance is a type of indemnity insurance. It’s taken out to protect both lenders and homebuyers from financial loss resulting from defects in a title to a property, such as back taxes, liens, and conflicting wills. 

Total Return: An annualized return for equity investments that includes cash distributions, appreciation, financing percent, and overall expenses.

Truth in Lending Act: A 1968 federal law that was enacted to protect consumers against unscrupulous lending practices and allow consumers to compare loans offered by various lenders. For more information, click here.

Turnkey (also Turn Key) Property: A rent-ready property, that is, an investment property that does not require any repairs or renovations to rent out to tenants and is updated to current market standards. For more information, click here.


Underwriting: Underwriting is a process through which a lender verifies the borrower’s ability to make the loan payments. This is done through checks on income, assets, debt, and property details. 

USDA Home Loan: A loan offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that helps low and moderate-income households purchase homes in eligible rural areas. For more information, click here.


Vacancy Provision: Money that’s put aside by an investor to cover expenses in the event that a rental property sits vacant for a period of time. For more information, click here.

Vacancy Rate: Vacancy rate is the percentage of all units in a rental property portfolio that are vacant, that is, have no occupancy at any given time. For more information, click here.

Vacation Rental: Furnished apartments, houses, or professionally-managed resorts or complexes that are rented out, often to tourists, as an alternative to hotels. These short-term rental properties are stocked with basic amenities, and the stay is usually no more than 30 days. For more information, click here.


Wholesaling: A real estate investment strategy where a wholesaler gets a contract to sell a distressed property to an investor. For more information, click here.

Wraparound Mortgage: A wraparound mortgage is a secondary type of financing extended by the seller. The buyer agrees to take over the existing mortgage and adds the amount of money on top of it, usually the new purchase price. The wraparound mortgage becomes a second or third mortgage on the same property. It’s also known in the industry as a carry-back mortgage or a wrap loan. For more information, click here.

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