Jargon Buster

Understanding estate agency terms

  • Chain
    All parties involved in a transaction i.e. Mr A buying from Mr B buying from Mr C (there are three parties in this chain).
  • Chain Free
    This is when the owner of the property does not need to sell the property in order to buy another; therefore it is offered as chain free.
  • Completion Date
    The date when the transaction (either the sale or purchase of a property) is completed, i.e. the date you become the owner.
  • Completion Statement
    A statement from the solicitor detailing all financial transactions, including all costs.
  • Conditions of Sale
    The terms by which the buyer and seller agree to sell/buy the property. The Law Society sets standard conditions. The lawyer sets special conditions.
  • Contract
    The legally binding agreement specifying details of the house sale or house purchase. The contract legally commits both the buyer and the seller to the transaction. The house seller's conveyancing lawyer draws up two copies of the same contract and each party signs their own copy. When both parties are ready to legally commit, the two contracts are exchanged.
  • Conveyancer
    The property lawyer who manages all of the matters arising from the sale of a house or the purchase of a house. Can be a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer.
  • Conveyance or Transfer
    The legally binding document that transfers the rights, burdens and the benefit of the land.
  • Council for Licensed Conveyancers
    A regulatory body for conveyancing with whom all conveyancers should be registered.
  • Deeds
    Legal title document which provides historical information about the property.
  • Deposit
    The amount paid to exchange contracts which is only refundable in exceptional circumstances. Contracts provide for 10% of the purchase/sale price but can often be negotiated to a lower level.
  • Disbursements
    Out-of-pocket expenses paid by the solicitor/licensed conveyancer on the buyer's behalf, such as stamp duty, land registry charges and search fees.
  • Easement
    A right given to the house owner over an adjoining property (e.g. right of way).
  • EPC
    Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s) are the Government’s chosen way of complying with the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD). Its purpose is to record how energy efficient a property is. The certificate will provide a rating of the energy efficiency and CO2 emissions of a building from A to G, where A is very efficient and G is very inefficient.
  • Exchange of Contract
    The point that both parties are committed to the transaction.
  • Fixtures & Fittings
    A list of the items at the property, which are either included or excluded from the agreed price.
  • Flexible Mortgage
    Mortgages that are flexible in terms of how you pay the loan back.
  • Freehold
    One of the two current tenures of land recognised by English law. This recognises the whole of the land not just a building.
  • FSA
    The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is an independent body that regulates the financial services industry in the UK.
  • Gazumping
    When the house seller accepts a higher price offer from another house buyer after the initial offer has been accepted.
  • Gazundering
    When the house buyer lowers his offer after the sale has been agreed.
  • Indemnity Insurance
    An insurance taken out by conveyancing firms to cover losses to clients arising from errors or fraud in dealing with their matters.
  • Land Registry Fees
    Fees paid by your conveyancing lawyer on the buyer's behalf to register the ownership of property with the Land Registry.
  • Land Registry
    The official body responsible for recording the ownership of land.
  • Leasehold
    The second current tenure of land recognised by English law. This is over a term of years and not unlimited. There will be a Landlord who will own the freehold. This usually relates to a flat or apartment.
  • Licensed Conveyancer
    A licensed conveyancer is a specialist property lawyer, someone who is trained and qualified in all aspects of the law dealing with property. Licensed conveyancers are sufficient to secure adequate protection for consumers and that the conveyancing services provided by such persons are provided both economically and efficiently.
  • Mortgage Deed
    The legal agreement that gives the lender a legal right to property.
  • Mortgage Fees
    Normally charged by your financial advisor, for acting on behalf of your bank or building society.
  • Redemption Fee
    An Early Repayment Charge which can be charged by your existing mortgage lender if you pay off your mortgage early or you move to a different mortgage.
  • Searches
    A method of checking matters that may affect the value of the property.The only obligatory one before exchange is a Local Authority Search which covers items such as road maintenance and planning applications. The search covers the property not the surrounding area.
  • Stamp Duty
    A government tax payable by every home buyer when purchasing a property over £125,000. Duty is charged at 2% for homes priced between £125,001 and £250,000. The rate is 5% for homes between £250,001 and £925,000. The rate is 10% for homes between £925,001 and £1.5m. For homes over £1.5m the rate is 12%. If the property is being sold for less than £125,000, no stamp duty is payment is required. 
  • Structural Survey
    A survey giving details about the building and its integrity.
  • Subject to Contract
    A provisional agreement between the house buyer and the house seller that is not legally binding.
  • Transfer Document
    The final document that transfers the property from the house seller to the house buyer.
  • Valuation Survey
    A survey to allow a property value to be determined for mortgage purposes. This is not to be confused with a structural survey.
  • White Hot Property
    A property that has been acquired by a developer or financial institution as part of a part-exchange, repossession or probate transaction and is priced to achieve a quick sale.

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