Glossary of Terms

Common Terms

The following definitions of real estate terms are meant to be an aid to understanding common real estate and public records forms and concepts. These terms and their definitions are not intended to replace professional or legal advice and should not be construed as such.

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Abstract of Title

A written history of all recorded instruments affecting the title to real property.


Legal verification by a notary public or public official that a signature on a legal document is authentic and that such document was freely executed. Also, the verification that makes a document recordable.


A measure of land equal to 43,560 square feet or 160 square rods.

Administrator’s Deed

A deed ordered by the court from the administrator of the estate being probated.


One who makes an affidavit.


A legal document swearing (under oath) to the truth of something.


Anything so annexed to land or used with it that will pass with the conveyance of the land.

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Certified Copy

A copy of a document that is certified by a stamp and signature that it is a true copy of the original document.


A unit of measurement equaling 66 feet, or four rods.

Chain of Title

A list of previous owners of a parcel of land showing the succession of conveyances from a specified time to the present owner showing how title was obtained.


That which is received by the grantor in exchange for their deed.

Contract for Deed

Agreement between buyer and seller of real estate which sets the price and terms of the sale. A contract under which the seller retains title until receiving the last payment from the buyer. This instrument is not a deed. A deed, not a contract for deed, is required to convey an interest in property. See also Land Contract.


A written agreement between two or more parties.


A transfer of real property.

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The giving by an owner of private property for public use, and the acceptance by the proper public authority. Most commonly the dedication by a builder of the streets in a subdivision.


A written instrument by which ownership of land is transferred. A legal document used to transfer real estate title.

Deed of Trust

An instrument much like a mortgage. Property is transferred to a trustee by the borrower in favor of the lender, and re-transferred to the borrower upon payment in full. An instrument type normally used in the State of Missouri.

Deed Restrictions

Clauses in a deed limiting the future uses of the property.


Any written instrument meeting all statutory requirements and may be recorded with the Register of Deeds Office.

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A right to use the land of another for a specific purpose, such as for utilities or right of way.


Any lien (such as a mortgage, taxes, etc.) easement, or any other restrictions on the use of the land that may diminish the value of the property.

Equitable Interest

The interest held by the buyer of real property under a land contract. The equitable right to obtain absolute ownership to property when legal title is held in another’s name. See also Land Contract.


The general arrangement under which legal documents or property is handled by an unbiased or independent third party on behalf of a buyer and seller until the occurrence of a condition, at which time the third party is to hand over the documents or property to the promisee.


To make a legal document valid by signing. To complete, make, sign, or perform.

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Fee Simple Estate

An interest in land that is the broadest property interest allowed by law continuing forever.

Financing Statement

A document filed to notify third parties, usually prospective buyers and lenders of a secured parties interest in the property. See also Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).

First Mortgage

A mortgage under which the mortgagee has the right to be paid before all other mortgages in case of foreclosure.


A proceeding in or out of court to extinguish all rights, title, and interest of the owner of a property in order to sell the property to satisfy a lien against it.

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The buyer of property.


The seller of property.

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A system which indicates where all recorded and filed documents can be found.

Ingress & Egress

A right to enter upon and pass through land.


Any writing having legal form and significance, such as a deed, mortgage, will, lease, etc.

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Joint Tenancy

Ownership of real estate between two or more parties named in one conveyance as joint tenants. Upon the death of a joint tenant, his or her interest passes to the surviving joint tenant(s) by right of survivorship.


A court’s final determination of the rights and obligations of the parties in a case. A final decision in a lawsuit.

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Land Contract

An installment contract for the sale of land. The seller has legal title until paid in full. The buyer has equitable title during the contract term.


A contract by which the rightful possessor of property conveys the right to use that property to another in exchange for a fee.

Legal Description

The writing of descriptions of land which is specifically directed to and for the purpose of delineating a certain area of land or space which cannot apply to such a condition anywhere else. The use of the word “legal” pertains to the fact that the description must be able to withstand attack under law.


One who receives property by lease.


One who conveys property by lease.


A hold or claim put in place by a creditor upon the lands or property of a debtor.

Life Estate

A reservation of the right of use or ownership for the life of an individual.

Lis Pendens

A notice recorded in official records to show that an action affecting a particular property has been filed in court. Used to inform others that, depending on the outcome of a lawsuit, the title to a tract of land may be affected.


A measured parcel of land having fixed boundaries.

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Marital Rights

Rights held by a spouse in real estate because of the fact of marriage.

Marketable Title

Clear title that is reasonably free from the risk of litigation over possible defects.

Mechanics Lien

A lien allowed by statute to contractors, laborers, etc. on buildings and structures upon which work has been performed. These liens are filed in district court.

Metes and Bounds

A description of a tract of land using courses and distances to create a perimeter of the property.


A pledge of real estate as security for the payment of a debt.

Mortgage Assignment

An instrument transferring the secured rights of a mortgage to another party by the original party which possessed those rights.


A lender in a mortgage transaction.


The borrower in a mortgage transaction.

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One authorized to attest official documents.

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A piece of real property described in legal terms and numbered for appraisers' uses.


A document to grant public lands to an individual.


A map representing a piece of land that has been subdivided that gives the location and boundaries of the subdivision.

Power of Attorney

A written instrument authorizing a person to act on behalf of another person to the extent of the document.

Principal Meridian

Longitudinal starting line from which range is measured to the east and west.

Priority of Liens

The priority of liens determined by the chronological order in which they were recorded, except for tax liens which have priority.

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Quarter Section

Containing 160 acres, this is one-fourth the size of a Section of land. See also: Section.

Quiet Title

An action in District Court to remove record defects.

Quit Claim Deed

A deed operating as a release; intended to pass any title, interest, or claim which the grantor may have in the property, but not containing any warranty of a valid interest in or title by the grantor.

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A column of land running north and south, usually measured six miles wide, beginning at the principal meridian and moving outward. Used to create coordinates identifying townships.


The recording of a document for the second time to correct an error contained in the document when originally recorded.

Real Estate

Land and anything permanently attached to the land whether by nature or by person.

Real Property

Land and all affixed to it, as well as the interests, benefits, and rights inherent in real estate ownership.


A county office where instruments are recorded, giving public notice. Also known as the Register of Deeds, Registrar of Deeds, and Recorder.


The act of entering or recording documents in the Register of Deeds Office. Documents are recorded to protect the interests of the people. Documents accepted for recording are time stamped, receive a unique document number, are indexed, are copied to create a digital image, and then returned to the designated source.


An instrument relinquishing the hold on a previously established claim against property. Most commonly used as a Release of Lien or Release of Mortgage where the debt has been satisfied or forgiven.


A limitation of the use of real property. Also referred to as a deed restriction.

Right of Way

The right which one has to cross the lands of another.

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A portion of a township that is approximately one mile by one mile (containing 640 acres).

Sectional Land Descriptions

Land descriptions using the section, township, and range of a piece of real property.

Sheriff’s Deed

A property sold by sheriff at public auction, showing date and place of sale, description and location of property, consideration, grantee, parties to execution, acknowledgement, date filed, and certificate of recorder.

Site Address

The location of a property with a structure, independent of a Legal Description. Vacant land does not have a Site Address unless it possessed structure in the past. Also known as a Situs Address.


A tract of land which has been divided into lots according to the recorded subdivision plat.

Subordination Agreement

An agreement between two entities describing which is inferior and which superior to the other in lien position. The subordinate lien is sometimes referred to as being “second place” or “second position." Most commonly used when two mortgages are on a single property.


The process by which boundaries are measured and land areas are determined; usually performed by a land surveyor.

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Any person in possession of real property with the owner’s consent.

Tenants in Common

A form of co-ownership by which each owner holds an undivided interest in real property as if they were the sole owner. Unlike joint tenants, tenants in common have right of inheritance.


The right to and evidence of ownership of land.

Title Insurance

An agreement to indemnify against damage or loss arising from a defect in title to real property, usually issued to the buyer of real estate by the title company that conducted the title search.


A strip of land running east and west, usually measured six miles wide, beginning at the base line and moving outward.


A parcel of land.

Transfer on Death Deed

A document that conveys ownership of real property from one person to another upon the death of the grantor or owner. A Transfer on Death Deed can be revoked at any time.


One who holds title to real property under the terms of a deed of trust.

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Uniform Commercial Code or UCC

A secure financial transaction to include other related statements filed in the Secretary of State’s Office and the Register of Deeds Office. Copies obtained may need to be stamped “Official Copy” or similar to have official bearing. Also known as Financing Statements.

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Warranty Deed

A deed in which the grantor fully warrants good clear title to the property. A warranty deed offers the greatest protection of any deed.

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