Jargon buster: buying and selling

Jargon buster: buying and selling

Become more familiar with terms often used in the property market

The process of buying or selling a home can be confusing at the best of times, and that’s without all the terminology that comes along with it. Whether you're speaking with an estate agent, mortgage advisor, surveyor, or someone else – you know someone’s going to use a phrase or term you’re not familiar with.

Fear not, we’re here for you! To help you quell the confusion, we’ve compiled all the terms you’re likely to hear, but might not be familiar with, in our jargon buster.



The document that is issued by a mortgage lender to a potential buyer and confirms the acceptance of a mortgage offer.

Agreement in principle

This is provided by a mortgage lender and confirms that they are prepared to lend the potential buyer the funds to complete a purchase, subject to the approval of the property.


Amenities are features that can increase the value of your property. Often referred to as local amenities, these can be factors such as where it’s located or what shops or transport connections are easily accessible. 

Arrangement fee

A fee charged by some lenders to cover the administrative cost of arranging a mortgage – these are often charged to deals, e.g. special or fixed rate mortgages.

Asking price

The amount of money the seller is hoping to earn from their home. Note that there may be variations in wording. For example, in Scotland a property price tends to be advertised with the words ‘offers over’.


The act of transferring the right or interest in a property from one person to another.


Building inspection or building survey

This is a report on the physical condition of a property and conducted by a chartered surveyor.

Building insurance

This type of insurance helps to cover damage to your property in the event of fires, floods or other incidents.



The connected line of people who need to sell their current home to buy the next one – if, for example, one link (person) in the chain pulls out of their sale, the whole chain can collapse. Property chains occur mostly in England and Wales and are not applicable when buying property in Scotland.


The conclusion of the sale – when the buyer receives the keys.


The legal process of transferring the ownership of a property, e.g. from a seller to a buyer. Looking for more information on conveyancing? Find it here.


When a borrower fails to meet their agreed repayment schedule – this applies to any kind of loan, including a mortgage.


The money you’ll need to pay upfront to secure a mortgage to buy a home – deposits are usually 10% of a home’s value, but this may vary.


These are fees that are paid by the solicitor on behalf of the buyer, e.g. stamp duty or money transfer fees.  



A right that affects a property, such as the right of a neighbour to use a private road.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

A certificate that details how energy efficient a property is. The certificate ranks properties on a scale of A-G (with A being the most efficient). EPCs offer an estimation of energy costs and recommendations as to how the efficiency of a home can be improved.


The difference between the value of a property and the amount of mortgage owed.

Exchange of contracts

The point at which signed contracts between a buyer and seller are exchanged, in which they legally commit to the purchase/sale of the property at the agreed price.

Fixtures and fittings

Fixtures are items that have become part of a building or land and are included in a sale, e.g. a garage. Fittings are not attached to the building or land and are not included in the sale unless agreed, e.g. kitchen appliances.


The freeholder of a property owns it outright, including the land the property is built on. If you own the freehold of a property, you’re responsible for maintaining the property and the land it sits on.



When a sale is agreed at a certain price, but the seller accepts a higher offer from another buyer. Looking for more information on gazumping? Find it here.
This does not apply to the Scottish property market.


Where a buyer reduces their offer at the point of exchanging contracts to try to purchase a property for a lower price.
This does not apply to the Scottish property market.

Ground rent

The annual charge made by the freeholder to the leaseholder for the right to occupy the property.


A guarantor commits to making payments, e.g. on a mortgage, when the borrower fails to keep up with their repayments. Guarantors may be a family member or close friend.

Home report
Only needed in Scotland, a home report is a document created for the sale of a property in Scotland by a RICS qualified Surveyor. Sellers of Scottish residential properties are required to provide a home report upon request. Read more about what a home report is, why you may need one here.


An independent financial adviser. This is an independent person who can help find the best product for you. They may sometimes be referred to as brokers.


When a property owner asks an estate agent to market their property for sale.


Joint tenants

A form of ownership for two parties whereby if one of them dies, their share of the property will automatically transfer to the remaining party, giving them full ownership (regardless of the terms of the deceases owner’s will).


Land Registry fee

A fee charged by the Land Registry to record the change in ownership of a property.


A legal document issued by a freeholder granting tenure to a leaseholder for a given period of time


The ownership and right to occupy a property by way of a lease for a given period – leases usually range from 90 to 999 years.

Listed building

A building officially listed as being of special architectural or historic or cultural interest, which cannot be demolished or altered without local Government consent.

Loan-to-value (LTV)

The amount you are borrowing on your mortgage in relation to how much your property is worth.

Maintenance charge (or service charge)
The cost of repairing and maintaining external or internal communal parts of a building charged to the tenant or leaseholder.
A flat arranged over more than one floor, i.e. a portion of a house.
Towards the end of the buying or selling of a property in Scotland, letters used to negotiate the conditions of the sale are exchanged between solicitors – these are called missives.
An amount of money advanced by a lender such as a bank or building society on the security of a property repayable over a long period.
Negative equity
Where the sale value of a property is less than the amount outstanding on a mortgage.
A sum of money that the buyer offers to pay for a property.
Open market value
The price a property would achieve when there is a willing buyer and a willing seller.
Preliminary enquiries

When a conveyancer, on behalf of the buyer, sends a list of questions about a property to the seller’s conveyancer.

When the mortgage lender takes possession of a property due to non-payment of the mortgage.

A property which is joined to one other house.

Shared ownership

The option to buy a share of a property (between 25-and 75%) from a housing association – you will then pay rent on the share of the property you don’t own.

Stamp duty land tax (or stamp duty)

Tax paid to the government by a buyer after purchasing a property – the rate of tax paid depends on the value of the home bought.

England refers to this tax as ‘stamp duty land tax’, read more about how it all works in our insider’s guide. In Scotland, this falls under Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, read more about this here. For Wales, please refer to the Land Transaction Tax, for which you can find more information here.

Studio flat

A flat consisting of one main room or open-plan living area incorporating cooking and sleeping facilities and a separate bathroom/shower room.

Subject to contract

A provisional agreement that is not yet legally binding as contracts have not been exchanged – at this point either party can still withdraw from the agreement.

Survey (building survey or structural survey)

A report determining whether there are any structural faults in a property. Find out more about surveying here. Again, please note, that in Scotland this is included as part of the Home report.


A professionally qualified expert who carries out a survey.

The temporary possession of a property by a tenant.
Tenancy agreement
A legal agreement designed to protect the rights of both the tenant and the landlord, which sets out all the terms and conditions of the rental arrangements.
A person who has temporary possession of a property.
Terraced house
A property that forms part of a connected row of houses.
Title deeds
The documents that prove ownership of a property.
Transfer deeds
The Land Registry document that transfers legal ownership from seller to buyer. 
Under offer

Where the seller has accepted an offer from a buyer, but the exchanging of contracts has not been completed.

Valuation (sometimes known as a market appraisal)

A term used by estate agents to cover the process of finding a property’s market value. Get your property valued here.

Valuation survey

A survey that is carried out on behalf of the mortgage lender to establish the amount and terms of the loan.


A vendor is a person selling a property.



Rental income from a property calculated as a percentage of its value. 


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