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 By: Charlestien Harris

We have reached the end of June, and throughout this National Homeownership Month, we have provided you with insightful information regarding various aspects of the housing industry and the home-buying process. My hope is that you have acquired valuable knowledge and useful tips to guide you on your homeownership journey.

Naturally, every industry has its own set of common terms that are used in conducting business, and it’s important for you to be familiar with them. Knowledge is a powerful tool, and understanding the language spoken by your realtor, lender, or insurance agent can give you a significant advantage. The list below offers a sample of such terms, and having a good understanding of their meaning will greatly benefit you

1. Earnest money: Often, I receive the question of what “earnest money” is and its purpose. In simple terms, earnest money refers to the amount a buyer pays the seller before the completion of the sale, demonstrating the buyer’s serious intent to purchase the desired house. It is sometimes referred to as a “good faith” deposit, as it provides assurance to the seller that you are committed to following through with the home purchase. The good news for buyers is that earnest money is usually refundable, as long as the buyer has acted in good faith and hasn’t violated any contract agreements or missed decision deadlines.

2. Escrow account: An escrow account serves two purposes. The first purpose is linked to the previous term mentioned. It is created to hold the earnest money while the seller and buyer work out the contract details. The second purpose of an escrow account is to hold insurance and tax payments if your lender manages the account. If you choose to include insurance and tax payments in your monthly mortgage note, an account is established to hold those payments until they are due to the relevant agencies. The total payments are divided by the number of mortgage payments made in a year, and when the amounts are due, payments are made to the insurance company holding your homeowner’s policy and the tax assessor’s office for your county or city property taxes.

3. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Private mortgage insurance, also known as PMI, is a type of mortgage insurance that may be required if you have a conventional loan and put less than 20 percent down on your home loan. PMI protects the lender, not the home buyer, in the event that you stop making loan payments. Typically, PMI is included in the monthly payment. However, it can be removed once you have paid down enough of the mortgage’s principal. When your loan balance reaches 78 percent of the home’s original purchase price, your lender must automatically terminate your PMI. Alternatively, you can request the removal of PMI once you have 20 percent equity in your home. Making a down payment equal to at least one-fifth of the home’s purchase price is one way to avoid paying PMI.

4. Appraisal: An appraisal is a written document that provides an opinion or estimation of a property’s value. It also offers additional useful information about the property. The lender requests an appraisal of the property to determine the amount of money they are willing to lend for its purchase. This ensures that you are not paying more for the home than it is worth. The downside is that the buyer typically pays for the appraisal. If the house appraises for $100,000 and the seller is asking for $120,000, but the lender is only willing to finance $80,000, you, as the buyer, will have to make up the difference. Keep in mind that the lender will not finance a loan for more than the house’s value if you still wish to proceed with the purchase.

5. Home inspection: Let’s clarify that a home inspection is not a mere cursory examination of the property to see if everything is okay. It is a thorough assessment of the condition and safety of the real estate being sold. As a buyer, you should hire a qualified home inspector to assess the heating and cooling system, water and sewage systems, plumbing, electrical work, and identify potential fire or safety hazards. This is crucial because you don’t want to end up with a property riddled with problems and spend excessive amounts of money fixing issues that could have been discovered before the purchase.

These terms are essential for buyers and sellers involved in property transactions. The more you understand about the home-buying process, regardless of whether you are the buyer or the seller, the smoother the transaction will be. If you find yourself uncertain about any aspect of your home purchase, you can always reach out to a HUD-certified counselor at a HUD-approved counseling agency. To find a counselor near you, visit Southern Bancorp Community Partners is a HUD-approved counseling agency with four certified counselors on staff, ready to assist you.

If you would like more information on this and other financial topics, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or call me at 662-624-5776.

Until next week – stay financially fit!