The property world is full of words and expressions that may be unfamiliar to anyone who is not regularly buying, selling, letting or renting a home. This guide will help to shed light on what they all mean.
Building inspection/Structural survey
A report on the physical condition of a property. The surveyor will look at all accessible parts of the property and give a written report on defects or issues affecting it. See also HomeBuyer Report. Not to be confused with a mortgage valuation.
A chain is formed when several property sales and purchases are inter-dependent. A chain can be complicated but a good estate agent will be able to help keep it moving.
The point at which the sale of the property is concluded and the buyer receives the keys.
A document which your solicitor or conveyancer will provide as a record of all the financial transactions and costs.
Conditions of sale
The specific items in a sale contract that govern the rights of the buyer and the duties of the seller.
The legal document detailing the agreement of terms between the seller and buyer. When a sale is agreed, a draft contract is sent to the buyer by the seller’s legal representative and at exchange of contracts both parties are bound to a date on which to complete the sale.
Where two or more purchasers are given a draft contract and the first one to exchange contracts buys the property.
A representative, solicitor or licensed conveyancer, who deals with the legal aspects of buying or selling a property. The buyer and seller will each appoint their own conveyancer.
The legal process of transferring the ownership of a property.
Rules governing the property in its title deeds or lease.
The legal documents that prove the ownership of the property.
Money paid by the buyer at exchange of contracts. Usually 10% of the purchase price.
Items that have been damaged during a tenancy. The tenant is usually responsible for the cost of repair or replacement.
The items in addition to legal fees in conveyancing. These may include Stamp Duty Land Tax, Land Registry fees, search fees, mortgage redemption costs and any other expenses. All conveyancers should be able to estimate the likely level of disbursements before the transaction commences.
The initial version of the contract. This may be amended during the course of the sale but becomes final at the point of exchange of contracts.
A right that affects a property – such as the right of neighbours to pass over an access path or the right of the water company to have their pipes and drains running under the property.
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) shows the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of a property and gives an indication of the fuel bills. It is displayed as two graphs – the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the property. Each is graded from A (the best) to G (the worst).
Your equity in your property is how much of it you own. It is the difference between the value of your home and the mortgage you still owe. Negative equity occurs when you owe more to your lender than the sale price of the property.
Exchange of contracts
The buyer and seller both sign the contract for sale and at a certain time and date the conveyancers action the exchange. At this point, the sale is binding and no terms may be altered.
Fixtures and fittings
It is likely that a seller will include or exclude certain items in the sale. Property fixtures are such things as built-in wardrobes and kitchen units. These are normally included in a sale. Property fittings are items that are easily removed such as carpets, cooker, fridge, plants and so forth. The seller will need to specify any such items that are not being included in the sale.
The broadest form of property tenure guaranteeing that occupation continues for an indeterminate period of time. This contrasts with leasehold, which is always subject to a specified period of occupation.
Where a sale is agreed to a buyer at a certain price and then the seller accepts a higher offer from another buyer. Note that until contracts are exchanged estate agents are bound by law to tell a seller about any offer they receive for a property.
Where a buyer reduces their offer just on the point of exchanging contracts.
The annual charge levied by the freeholder on the leaseholder of a property.
A report designed in a standard and easily read format that tells a buyer about the physical condition of a property. Lists defects and grades their seriousness and need for attention. Not as detailed as a structural survey. Not to be confused with a mortgage valuation (see below).
A list of the contents of a rental property. The inventory will note the condition of items and will form the basis of a dilapidation report at the end of the tenancy. It often includes photographs of specific items and existing damage/defects.
A government office which is responsible for holding records of land ownership and any charges, including mortgages, against the property.
Land Registry fee
A fee charged by the Land Registry to record the change of ownership of a property.
The legal document governing the occupation by the tenant of a premises for a specific length of time. At the end of the period the property reverts to the owner.
The use and occupation of a property by way of a lease agreement for a certain period of time. A lease is frequently applicable to flats but can also apply to houses. The term of a lease varies but is commonly 99, 125 or 999 years.
Buildings of special architectural or historic interest. A listed building may carry certain obligations and restrictions governing its use, repair, and maintenance.
Local authority search
A buyer’s conveyancer makes a formal enquiry to the local authority to find out if there are any matters affecting the property that is being purchased.
Maintenance charge or service charge
Many leasehold properties (especially flats) are subject to such a charge which pays for items such as the insurance and maintenance of the building.
A flat with its own private entrance.
Very commonly and incorrectly referred to as a “mortgage survey”, the mortgage valuation is carried out by a surveyor acting on behalf of a lender to provide them with a professional report stating the value of the property. The purchaser usually pays the fee for this valuation.
Multiple agent instructions
Where more than one estate or letting agency firm is instructed by a seller or landlord to offer a property for sale or to rent.
Where the sale value of a property is less than the amount outstanding on the mortgage.
Open house (or open viewing)
A process, normally managed by an estate agent, where several house hunters are given a time of a few hours when they can all go and view a property for sale instead of separate, private viewings.
Open market value
The likely sale price of a property assuming a willing seller and a willing buyer, with a reasonable period of publicity and marketing and no special factors affecting the property.
A very low sum of rent or ground rent. In the past it was, literally, a peppercorn.
When a sale is agreed, the buyer’s conveyancer will send the seller’s conveyancer a standard list of questions about the property.
A sale conducted at a certain time by an auctioneer, either online or at a physical location, where competing buyers bid openly for a property and the highest bid wins. The purchase is binding on the fall of the hammer.
The person buying a property.
If a mortgage is not paid over a period of time, the lender may ultimately take ownership of the property by the process of repossession.
These are conducted by your lawyer to check if there is anything that might affect the current or future value of the property. It is compulsory to have a local authority search before exchanging contracts.
Share of freehold
This is when the freehold of the property is owned by a limited company and the shareholders are the owners of the property, usually the owners of flats within that building.
Where only one estate or letting agency firm is instructed by a seller or landlord to offer a property for sale or to rent.
Sole selling rights
Where an estate agency or person is granted “sole selling rights” by the seller of a property, they will be able to claim an agreed fee regardless of who actually introduces the buyer.
Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
The tax paid to the government by the purchaser of a property. Rates of SDLT can vary. Changes in December 2014 mean that the tax rates are “banded” progressively in the same way as income tax. Nothing is payable on the first £125,000 of the purchase price. From £125,001 to £250,000 2% is payable and from £250,001 to £925,000 the rate is 5%. £925,001 to £1.5 million is 10% and over £1.5 million it is 12%.
Subject to contract
Where contracts are still not exchanged and nothing is yet legally binding on either seller or buyer.
This is a report prepared by a qualified building surveyor to check the structure for any faults. Home owners can choose from three main types of structural survey, depending on how much information they want.
Possession of a property by a tenant under the terms of a lease.
The legal agreement governing the occupation of a property by a tenant.
The person who has temporary possession of a property under a lease or tenancy agreement.
The mode of holding ownership of a property: for example, leasehold or freehold.
Documents detailing and confirming the legal ownership of a property.
The final legally binding document that transfers the property and all its rights from the seller to the buyer.
A property becomes “under offer” when a seller accepts an offer from a buyer and the legal processes of the transaction begin.
Valuation (or market appraisal)
A term often used by estate agents to cover the process of them giving an opinion of the open market value of a property.
The person selling a property.