Once you enter the realm of real estate, whether buying or selling, you’ll hear a lot of language that may sound foreign.

Keep this decoder handy – you’ll most likely need to refer to it often.


Addendum – Any time a change is made in the original purchase contract the party that makes the change must submit an addendum to the other party. Some of the changes that may be made include an extension of the closing date, additional time for inspections or changes in the purchase price to reflect the seller’s payment for repairs.

Adjustable-rate mortgage – A mortgage in which the interest changes periodically, according to corresponding fluctuations in an index. All ARMs are tied to indexes.

Appraisal – The buyer’s lender will have the house appraised by a professional appraiser to determine its current market value. This ensures the lender that it is lending the appropriate amount of money for the home.


Boulders –  One of the 6 neighborhoods in the Mountainside at Northstar community. Phase I included the 5 initial residences with two different floor plan options, all with expansive outdoor living space and spectacular views. Phase II (complete 2020) will include another 5 luxury residences right on Northstar California Resort’s runs and are comprised of both 3 and 4 bedroom options. 

Buyer’s agent – This is the agent who represents the buyer in the home-buying process. On the other side is the listing agent, who represents the seller.


Chris Fajkos Luxury Real Estate – One of Tahoe-Truckee’s premier luxury real estate agents with over 15 years of professional experience, ranging from high-end real estate sales to commercial real estate management and economic development planning. Chris currently holds several records for highest price per sqft sold in Gray’s Crossing, largest single family home sale in Gray’s Crossing, and largest home site sale (post 2008 recession) in Gray’s Crossing. 

Clear Creek Tahoe – A 2,136-acre development just outside of Carson City, Nevada. 391 total homesites, featuring lots to large estates ranging from .56 acres to 5 acre parcels. This new development broke ground in 2019 with homes and homesites ranging from $360k to $2.9M. Includes a mandatory membership and optional golf club membership. 

Closing costs – An umbrella term for the fees paid at closing. These include lender charges, the down payment and others.

Closing disclosure – A five-page document detailing the exact terms of a mortgage, provided by the lender, by law. The borrower is entitled to receive this form no later than three days before closing. It includes, among other items, the fees required to close (closing costs).

CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) – A CMA is the determination of the home’s value by a real estate agent and is used to determine a fair asking price. It is similar to the appraisal but does not take the place of it.

Comps – Short for comparables, it describes homes that have sold within the last six months, typically within one mile of a subject property. Real estate agents and appraisers study comps to determine a home’s current market value.

Contingency – When certain conditions must be met before the buyer is locked into the contract the buyer’s agent will insert these conditions into the contract. Common contingencies include those for the sale of the buyer’s home, the successful procurement of financing at certain terms and inspections.

Contingency Release — When the contingency requirements are met, both parties to the transaction will be asked to sign a contingency release form to acknowledge that fact.

Counteroffer – If you are not in agreement with the price or terms of the buyer’s offer we’ll file a form known as a counteroffer, eliminating or changing the parts of the offer to which you don’t agree.


Debt-to-income ratio – You may hear this referred to as your “DTI.” It is a ratio of a borrower’s debts to his or her gross income.

Deed – A document used for the transfer of real property.

Disclosures – Full disclosure is the seller’s most important duty. Not only is it required by law, but it protects you as well as the seller.

Down payment – A percentage of the purchase price paid to the lender, typically at closing.


EMD – Short for earnest money deposit, also know as the initial deposit. This is the funds that go with the offer that show’s the seller that you’re serious and that you’re willing to put “skin in the game.” In our market the minimum is 3% of the offer price, anything above that strengthens the deal. 

Escrow – Escrow is a process that ensures the purchase funds are distributed and the transfer of the house is completed. It is overseen by an escrow company, which is a neutral third party.

Escrow Impounds – Escrow impounds include prepaid taxes and insurance. The impounded funds provide insurance to the lender that taxes and insurance payments will be made. The lender can request no more than two months payments.


Fair Market Value – The highest price that a buyer, willing but not compelled to buy, would pay, and the lowest a seller, willing but not compelled to sell, would accept.

Fixed-rate mortgage – There are two types of conventional loans: the fixed-rate and the adjustable-rate mortgage. In a fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate stays the same throughout the life of the loan

Fixture – Personal property that becomes real property when attached in a permanent manner to real estate.

Foreclosure – The legal process by which a borrower in default under a mortgage is deprived of his or her interest in the mortgaged property. This usually involves a forced sale of the property at public auction with the proceeds of the sale being applied to the mortgage debt.


Gray’s Crossing – One of Truckee’s luxury communities that stretches 750 acres and is comprised of 377 home sites (.32-.92 acres per site), 17 townhomes, and is surrounded by over 500 acres of pristine mountain open space. Gray’s is composed of 5 neighborhoods, each with it’s own distinct characteristics; from the Bluffs with it’s higher elevation and sweeping view of the mountains, to the Woods which rests up against 370 acres of forested open space.


Home Run – One of the 6 neighborhoods in the Mountainside at Northstar community is comprised of 16 townhomes are as large as 3,200 sq feet, 2 large car garages and are a skiers paradise for ski-in/ski-out ease.

Home warranty – This warranty protects from future problems to things such as plumbing, heating and various appliances, which can be extremely expensive to fix. This is traditionally paid for by the seller.


InspectionHome and pest inspections occur once a potential buyer makes an offer. Typically, they cost a $500 each for the average size 3 bed house. The purpose is to check that the house’s plumbing, foundation, appliances, and other features are up to code. Issues that may turn up during an inspection may factor into the negotiation on a final price. Failing to do an inspection may result in surprise costly repairs down the road for the home buyer.


Jumbo loan – Conforming loan limits cap the dollar value that can be backed by government-sponsored programs. A jumbo mortgage exceeds these conforming loan limits, which are tied to local median home values. Qualifications for these loans are more stringent and the loans themselves are manually underwritten to mitigate risk to the lender.


Lahontan – One of Truckee’s luxury communities, Lahontan was the first of the private, gated luxury communities, providing a wide spectrum of luxury homes, from classic Tahoe timber and granite to cutting edge mountain contemporary designs. Lahontan is firm competition for any private golf community, offering not one but two beautiful courses.  There is an 18-hole championship golf course and a 9-hole par-3 course, both designed by legendary golf pro, Tom Weiskopf who also designed San Francisco’s Olympic Club course.  These courses were recently ranked #23 by GolfWeek, are meticulously maintained and uniquely crafted to be fun for all ability levels. 

Listing agent – This is the agent who represents the seller in the home-buying process. On the other side is the buyer’s agent, who represents the buyer.

Loan estimate – The loan estimate is a document that the lender is required to send you within three days of applying for a mortgage. It details the terms of the loan, estimated closing costs and an estimate of the monthly payment. Consumers use this 3-page document to compare lenders when shopping among them. Learn more about it ConsumerFinance.gov.

Loan-to-value ratio – A mortgage formula that help lenders assess risk in lending to borrowers. It is realized by dividing the value of the home by the price. Some real estate agents are under the impression that the “price of the home” is the figure used, but it is not. The higher the DTI, the riskier the borrower. Borrowers with LTVs below 80 percent typically get more favorable loan terms.


M25 – One of the 6 neighborhoods in the Mountainside at Northstar community is comprised of 25 large custom homes in a gated enclave with sweeping views of the mountains and valley alike and optional features like ski huts and outdoor dining areas.

Martis Camp – Truckee’s premier luxury community with a private high-speed quad lift to Northstar California’s slopes, 7,751-yard Tom Fazio designed golf course and a members only beach ‘shack’ right on the shores of Lake Tahoe. This family-centered private community has hosted The Beach Boys as well as the USGA Junior Amateur Golf Tournament, and is routinely named the best four season community in the world. A large swimming pool, bowling alley, movie theater and hands-down the best restaurants in Truckee also sit on the 2,177-acre property among the 600+ large homesites.

MIP – Short for “mortgage insurance premium,” it’s FHA’s version of PMI (see below). Unlike PMI, MIP is payable for the life of the loan, in most cases.

MLS – Short for Multiple Listing Service, the database of properties for sale, sold, pending sale, withdrawn from the market and expired listings.

Mello Roos – Also know as Community Facilities Districts (CFDs), are special districts established by local governments in California as a means of obtaining additional public funding. Counties, cities, special districts, joint powers authority, and schools districts in California use these financing districts to pay for public works and some public services.

Mortgage broker – The broker is an individual or company that is responsible for taking care of all aspects of the deal between borrowers and lenders, whether that be originating the loan or placing it with a funding source such as a bank.

Mountainside – In all of Tahoe, you can’t get any closer to the ski runs (and bike/hike trails in the Summer) than at Mountainside at Northstar. Nestled in the woods high above Northstar California and The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is Tahoe’s only true slope side community, Mountainside which is broken up into 6 distinct neighborhoods: M25, Trailside, Home Run, Stellar Townhomes, Stellar Residences, and The Boulders. 


NHD – Short for natural hazard disclosures, this is a document that real estate sellers and brokers are legally required to disclose if the property being sold lies within one or more state or locally mapped hazard areas, such as very high fire and special flood hazard areas.

Northstar Community – The surrounding community of Northstar California Resort includes real estate options from homesites that offer you ideal locations to build your dream home or condominium residences offering ease of ownership with turn-key solutions. Home to Moutainside at Northstar and Village Walk Skyline, Tahoe’s premier ski-in/ski-out and brand new luxury homes. Just like the diverse options around Lake Tahoe, the mix of Northstar homes for sale is highly varied to meet any lifestyle.


Old Greenwood – Or “OG” as we affectionately refer to it, is one of Truckee’s luxury communities that stretches over 600 acres and provides panoramic views of the Carson Range to the East and Northstar California to the South. Home sites range from .26 to 1.5 acres with lots starting at $130K. Old Greenwood is home to a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, which includes a prestigious golf academy as well as the best swimming pool in all of Truckee.


Palisades at Squaw – The Palisades at Squaw is nestled between Squaw Creek and the Truckee River and are comprised of small enclave of well-designed plug and play homes.

Pending – Once all contingencies have been released the property then goes pending. This is the final stage before closing. 

PITI – Short for principal, interest, taxes and insurance, the four parts of your mortgage payment.

PMI – Short for “private mortgage insurance,” it describes the fee charged to homebuyers who pay less than 20 percent down on the home. The fee is a percentage of the annual loan amount, and it varies.

Pre-approval letter – Before buying a home, a buyer can obtain a pre-approval letter from a bank, which provides an estimate on how much the bank will lend that person. This letter will help determine what the buyer can afford.

PTF – Short for private transfer fee, this fee is associated with certain properties and the funds go towards various entities that provide environmental and community benefits. 


Real estate owned – Real estate owned (REO) refers to property owned by a bank, government agency, or other lender. Homes typically become real estate owned after an unsuccessful foreclosure auction or short sale.

Refinance – Refinancing replaces an existing loan with a new one. Debt is not eliminated when a borrower refinances. Instead, it typically offers better terms, including a lower interest rate, lower monthly mortgage payments, or a faster loan term.

Right of first refusal – If a third party buyer offers to buy or lease a property owner’s asset, the right of first refusal ensures the property holder is allowed a chance to buy or lease the asset under the same terms offered by the third party before the property owner accepts the third-party offer.


Schaffer’s Mill – One of Truckee’s luxury communities that is notorious for having very low inventory.  Schaffer’s Mill is the smallest of the luxury golf course oriented communities [others include Gray’s Crossing, Old Greenwood and Lahontan], at a modest 475 acres with 218 single-family homes and 188 Mountain Lodges (Schaffer’s townhomes). Homesites range from .25 to .75 acre, and Mountain Lodges range in size from 2,000 to 3,100 square feet (3 and 4 bedrooms).

Sigature Home Collection – Upon its completion, the Signature Home Collection, also known as the “Sutter’s Trail Cabins”, will encompass sixteen single-family mountain residences located along the 10th fairway of Old Greenwood’s Jack Nicklaus Golf Course.

Stellar Townhomes & Residences – Two of the 6 neighborhoods in the Mountainside at Northstar community is comprised of just 17 opportunities to be a Stellar owner (11 townhomes and 6 residences) offering energy-efficient slope side living and bringing the best of the outdoors right into your living room. 

STR – Short Term Rental. There are different rules and regulations within each of Truckee’s luxury communities for renting properties on a short-term (30 days or less) basis. 


Tahoe Mountain Club – Tahoe Mountain Club is a terrific value for anyone who enjoys being part of Tahoe’s outdoor community. Membership includes access to all of the Club’s private amenities (including amenities at Northstar California Resort), special family programs and 500+ Member events. Additionally, Members receive preferred access and rates at both Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing Golf Courses

Tahoe Mountain Realty – Truckee-Tahoe’s leading brokerage with sales records including #1 Sales in Northstar, #1 Sales over 1M+ for the region, #1 Outside brokerage at Martis Camp and #1 sales in both Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing. 

Title Insurance – An insurance policy that protects against damages due to defects in the chain of title.

Title search – A search of public records to determine who owns the title of a piece of real estate and if there are any encumbrances on it, such as liens. These are known as “defects” or “clouds” on the property’s title and must be cleared before the sale can close.

Trailside – One of the 5 neighborhoods in the Mountainside at Northstar community is comprised of 16 townhomes that sit right below the Northstar Gondola and offer tranquil outdoor living with contemporary interior design.

Transfer taxes – Fees imposed by the federal, state, county or municipal government whenever there is a transfer of title of real property.

TRPA – Short for Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, this is the agency mandated to protect the environment of the Lake Tahoe Basin through land-use regulations and is one of only a few watershed-based regulatory agencies in the United States.

Truckee – Your Base Camp for Big Life. Truckee is located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Truckee is just 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, California; 100 miles east of Sacramento, California; 40 miles west of Reno, Nevada; and 12 miles north of Lake Tahoe, California.


Verification of property – This is the final walk-through that is performed by either the buyer’s agent, the buyer, or both. They have one last chance to view the house to ensure that it is in the same condition as when they agreed to purchase it. The verification of property generally happens during the week leading up to closing.

Village Walk Skyline – Coming to Northstar in 2020 will the newest luxury development just a stones throw from the Village and each of the 8 townhomes will feature 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and over 2,840 square feet to enjoy. These modern townhomes will be complete with a full recreation and media room, extra large 2 car garage, contemporary finishes, and the ability to customize the unit with upgrades.