Home-Buyers Lexicon


Have you ever been buying or selling a house, had a conversation with your estate agent, mortgage broker, solicitor, and suddenly had to frantically turn to Google to understand some of the terms they’ve used? It’s a common misconception amongst the property industry that as soon as one has graduated from their First Time Buyer status, they suddenly understand all the jargon that comes with buying and selling a house.

At WEST–The Property Consultancy, we understand that you may not have bought or sold a house for a while, that during the time in which you were a First Time Buyer, you may not have (understandably) taken in and absorbed everything that passed you by during the purchasing process. And even if you have bought and sold enough homes to call yourself an expert, sometimes a new term is introduced to the market (cue: “the snug”), something crops up in the conveyancing process you haven’t experienced before, or you just find yourself having a mind blank, here to support you all, from the property novice to the real estate aficionado, is my “Home-Buyers Lexicon”.

(Coming soon, “The Mortgage Lexicon”, where I’ll be working closely with the team at The Money Consultancy, who offer advice covering a comprehensive range of mortgages from across the market and could save you valuable time, effort and money, to help you understand all mortgage related jargon when it comes to buying and selling)

Bridging loan

A temporary, short-term loan enabling buyers to cover or ‘bridge’ the overlap in time between the purchase of a new property and the sale of an old one.

Building Survey

A report undertaken by a surveyor into the physical state of the property. There are several types of survey available:

  • RICS condition report – basic ‘traffic light’ survey and the cheapest. It’s most suitable for new-build and conventional homes in good condition. No advice or valuation is provided in this survey.
  • RICS homebuyer report – suitable for conventional properties in reasonable condition. This is a much more detailed survey, looking thoroughly inside and outside a property. It also includes a valuation. 
  • Building or structural survey - the most comprehensive survey and suitable for all residential properties. It’s particularly good for older homes or homes that might need repairs.


property chain is created when several property sales and purchases are inter-dependant and there are multiple transactions that all need to occur at the same time for each sale and purchase to conclude. A first-time buyer is usually the start of the chain (buying not selling) and those in the chain are typically buying and selling at the same time. A chain can be complicated but a good estate agent (enter: WEST-The Property Consultancy!) will be able to help keep it moving.


The finale of the sale process when the transaction is complete and ownership of the property passes from the seller to the buyer. Completion is triggered when all monies are passed over from the buyer’s solicitor to the seller’s solicitor and thus the buyer has the legal right to the take ownership of the property (i.e. you can collect the keys to your new home!)

Completion statement

The document drawn up by solicitor detailing all costs and monies due to complete the purchase of your property.


The process undertaken by both the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors, by way of transferring the legal ownership of property or land from one person to another. A conveyancer is a solicitor who specialises in the transferring of homeownership. They are required if you are using a mortgage and will cover every legal aspect of the home purchasing process.


A provision or ‘promise’ that has been written into a property’s deed which may affect or limit the use of the property or land. There are two different types of covenant, positive and restrictive. A positive covenant is an obligation which requires some form of action (such as maintain a fence or wall), whereas a restrictive covenant limits or prevents the use of land in a specified way.


The collection of documents which show who has owned the title of a property or land before, and who owns it now, along with any burdens (obligations/responsibilities) on the property e.g. what you can/cannot alter on the property, any access and rights of way on the property.


A non-refundable amount of money which acts as an amount to secure a purchase, and is paid upon exchange of contracts, usually at a low percentage of the full price (typically 10%). Paying this usually means you are legally committed to going through with a purchase and will pay the remainder of the balance upon completion.


The right of one landowner to make use of another nearby piece of land for the benefit of their own land, for example, a private right of way.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) shows the efficiency of a property and gives an indication of how much the energy bills will cost. It is displayed as two graphs – the energy efficiency, and the environmental impact of the property. Each is graded from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).

Exchange of Contracts

When copies of signed contracts of sale/purchase are exchanged between the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors and at which point both parties are legally committed to the sale/purchase. The deposit is also paid over to the seller’s solicitor at the same time. Note that both the buyer and seller can walk away at any point before the contracts have been exchanged.

First Time Buyer

An individual who has never bought or owned a property before. Renting a property does not count as buying or owning. If you are a First Time Buyer, do have a read of my previous article, “Golden Questions for First Time Buyers”

Fixtures and Fittings

The list of non-structural items in the property that the vendor/seller will confirm, via their solicitors, whether said items are part of the sale i.e. washing machine, fridge freezer etc.


A property that you own outright, including the land it sits/is built on.


When a higher offer is made by another party and is accepted by the seller, sometimes even after the offer from the first buyer has been accepted. As both parties are only legally committed to the purchase after the exchange of contracts, the seller is legally entitled to do this, should they choose to.


When a buyer reduces their offer just before the contracts are exchanged in the hope of forcing the seller to accept less for the property.  This can legally happen until the exchange of contracts.

Land Registry

A central government database which registers and holds the details of the new ownership each time a property/area of land is sold.


Where you own the property but not the land it is built on – for example, you may own a flat, but not the building it sits in.

Listed Building

A property which has been registered and protected as being of special interest and/or historic importance and for which you will need to get permission to make any changes to, both internal and external. Listed buildings account for about 2% of English building stock, and there are three types of listed status for buildings in England and Wales:

Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest.

Grade II*: particularly important buildings of more than special interest.

Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them

Searches/ Local Authority Search

Checks made by your conveyancer or solicitor with the local council to see if there are any issues that may affect the property and the value of the property.

Service charges

Payments made by the leaseholder to the freeholder to cover the costs of maintaining and insuring the building.


Where the developer or builder of new build properties touches up paintwork, adjusts appliances and fixes any other faults within the property. A snagging survey is usually completed prior to the buyer moving in, in order to spot minor cosmetic issues and check the quality of workmanship.

Stamp duty

A lump-sum tax that anyone buying a property or land over a certain price in England, Northern Ireland and Wales must pay within 14 days of legal completion.

The current threshold for residential properties is £125,000 and £150,000 for non-residential land and properties, however, the rate you pay will vary depending on the overall purchase price and whether you are a First Time Buyer. For more detailed information regarding Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), please refer to the Government’s page on this, or of course get in touch with any of our Property Consultants at WEST – The Property Consultancy who will also gladly advise or explain Stamp Duty Land Tax in more detail.

Subject to Contract (STC)

Offers are accepted by sellers “subject to contract”, meaning that they are finalised once contracts are signed and exchanged. This term applies to any non-binding, provisional agreement.

Transfer document

A document filled in by your solicitor/conveyancer, which transfers ownership of the property to you as the buyer/purchaser.

Under offer

Where the vendor has accepted an offer from a buyer, but the contracts have not yet been exchanged


The seller of the property.