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Real Estate Terms


  • Sale-leaseback   A transaction in which the buyer leases back the property to the seller for a specified period of time.
  • Sales contract   A contract signed by the buyer and sellerthat details the terms of a home purchase.
  • Saltbox style   A design that dates to colonial times and takes its name from the shape of saltboxes.
  • Sanitary sewer   The drain line in a house that carries away food and human wastewater to a municipal sewer system or a septic system.
  • Sash   One of two windows in a double-hung window.
  • Schematic designs   Renderings of floor plans and the exterior of a house.
  • Second mortgage   Another loan placed upon a piece of property.
  • Secondary mortgage market   A market of packaged home loans that are resold as securities to investors. Major players are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Secured loan   Any loan backed by collateral.
  • Security   Apiece of property designated as collateral.
  • Seller broker   A seller broker represents the interest of the seller.
  • Seller carry-back   An agreement in which the seller provides financing for a home purchase.
  • Seller take-back   An agreement in which the seller provides financing for a home purchase.
  • Seller’s market   A hot real estate market in which sellers have the advantage and multiple offers are common.
  • Semi-custom home   The buyer of a semi-custom home is free to make some design changes but not to the home’s structural plan.
  • Septic system   A self-contained sewage treatment system that distributes wastewater to an underground storage area and relies on bacterial action to decompose solid waste matter.
  • Servicer   A firm that collects mortgage payments and manages borrowers’ escrow accounts.
  • Setback   The minimum distance a house or buildings must be from the lot line.
  • Settlement statement   A document that details who has paid what to whom.
  • Shared-appreciation mortgage   A loan that allows a lender or other party to share in the borrower’s profits when the home is sold.
  • Shared-equity transaction   A transaction in which two buyers purchase a property, one as a resident co-owner and the other as an investor co-owner.
  • Shed ceiling   A shed ceiling pitches upward at one end.
  • Shed roof   A shed roof pitches up longer on one side than the other.
  • Shingle style   An alternative style of Victorian homes that evolved in the late 19th century to simplify the complexity of the traditional Victorian house.
  • Shingles   Thin, wedge-shaped pieces of wood or flat rectangular pieces of slate, mineral fiber, glass fiber or composition asphalt installed on a roof to prevent water seepage.
  • Shoe molding   An unobtrusive finish trim between the floor and the baseboard designed to hide any irregularities in the seam between the floor and wall or baseboard.
  • Sill plate   A horizontal piece of wood placed on top of the foundation.
  • Sill cock   An exterior threaded faucet connection for garden hoses that provides water outside a home.
  • Skylight   A window in a roof that allows natural light to illuminate a room.
  • Slab foundation   A foundation built directly on soil with no basement or crawl space.
  • Slider window   A window that is composed of two windows, or sashes, that glide open and closed on a metal track.
  • Soffit   An external area under the overhang of a roof.
  • Soils test   A test of the subsoil to ensure that foundations can be safely constructed.
  • Spanish Mission style   A design that is derived from the original missions established by the Spanish in the Southwest.
  • Special assessment   When a homeowners’ association needs or wants extra funds, it levies a special assessment upon the owners.
  • Special deposit account   Rehabilitation mortgages require a special deposit account from which restoration and remodeling funds included in the loan are disbursed to the appropriate contractors as work is completed.
  • Specifications   The written requirements for materials, equipment, construction systems and standards.
  • Speculation home   A home that has been built without a buyer.
  • Splash block   A slanted block used to divert runoff water from a downspout away from the foundation.
  • Split-level style   A home that is a ranch-style house stacked to fit on a smaller lot and perhaps to accommodate a garage.
  • Square footage   The number of square feet of livable space in a home or building.
  • Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area   Areas designated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget that contain a city of 50,000 or more.
  • Standard payment calculation   A calculation that is used to determine the monthly payment necessary to repay the balance of a home loan in equal installments.
  • Starter home   Homes that fall within the lower price range of a typical first-time buyer.
  • Steel framing   A construction method used by commercial and residential builders.
  • Step-rate mortgage   A loan that allows a gradual increase in the interest rate during the first few years of the loan.
  • Storm sewer   A drain line, which is not connected to the sewer line, removes all other wastewater from a home.
  • Storm windows   Sets of windows and screens that are installed on older double-hung windows.
  • Strike plate   The metal part of a lock that is anchored to the doorframe and holds the door closed.
  • Straight purchase   A transaction in which the buyer gives a new-home builder a deposit to begin building and the balance when the sale of the house closes.
  • Stucco   A mixture of sand and cement used to cover the exterior surface or interior walls of a home or building.
  • Studs   The upright pieces of lumber or steel in a wall to which panels, siding, drywall or other coverings are attached.
  • Subagent   When an agent brings a buyer to a property, they in effect act as a subagent to the listing agent.
  • Subcontractor   Specialty construction companies hired by the general contractor to perform certain tasks.
  • Subdivision   The process in which the owner of a large piece of property divides it into smaller parcels.
  • Sub-flooring   The sheathing, usually made of plywood, placed on top of floor joists and covered by flooring.
  • Subordinate loan   A second or third mortgage.
  • Sump pump   A pump that moves water from a basement sump pit.
  • Survey   A precise measurement of a piece of property by a licensed surveyor.
  • Sweat equity   The non-cash value put into a piece of property by the owner, such as do-it-yourself home improvements.