Estate Agency Jargon Buster

Our handy guide to estate and letting agent terminology


If you’re looking to buy or rent a house for the first time, you’ll probably come across some new words or phrases. Even long-time landlords and tenants will need to get their heads around new terms as legislation changes.


Our A-Z guide will help you to make sense of all the jargon before you leap into the world of property


Agreement in Principle Also known as a Decision in Principle (DIP). A statement from a mortgage lender confirming that they will lend a certain amount to you in advance of you finalising a purchase of a property. This can help you prove to estate agents and sellers that you’re a serious buyer.


Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) The most common form of tenancy agreement between a landlord and tenant. This sets out the legal obligations of both sides and gives the tenant the right to live in the property for a certain period of time.


Arrears When you fall behind with your rent payments to your private landlord or letting agent or mortgage payments to your mortgage lender.


Break clause A provision in an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) which enables either the tenant or landlord (or both) to end the lease early.


Bridging loan A short-term loan used to ‘bridge’ the gap between the sale of a current property and purchase of a new one.


Buy-to-let An investment property that is purchased to be let out to tenants.


Chain If you’re buying a property, it’s likely you’ll be selling a current one. Your buyers may also be purchasing a new property and so on. This is called a chain. If one purchase falls through, others in the chain can be impacted.


Completion This is the point when the sale of a property is finalised, all monies are handed over and you can move in


Conveyancing The legal process of transferring the ownership of a property from one person to another, usually done by a solicitor, lawyer or specialist conveyancer.


Deeds Documents confirming the details of a property’s ownership. Also known as title deeds.


Deposit The money you’ll need to pay upfront when buying or renting a home. If you’re purchasing a property, the remainder is due upon completion. If you’re renting a property, a deposit will usually be payable as security against any damage or unpaid rent. This amount can’t exceed the equivalent of five weeks’ rent. Legally, this money needs to be protected in one of three government-authorised schemes. Read more about TDP here.


Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) This document shows the energy efficiency of a property rated from A-G (best to worst) and gives an indication of running costs.


Exchange of contracts At this point, the buyer and seller sign the contract for sale. After this has taken place, no terms can be changed and the sale of a property is legally binding.


Freeholder The person who owns the property and the land it sits on indefinitely.


Gas Safety Certificate A certificate that confirms all gas appliances within a property are safe. Landlords must make sure a certificate is produced every year by a gas safe registered engineer.


Ground rent A fee which is paid by the leaseholder to the freeholder on an annual basis.


Guarantor A person that promises to pay back a loan (e.g. mortgage) if you cannot pay the money you borrowed back to the lender.


Help to Buy An equity loan scheme from the Government which helps people will smaller deposits get on the housing ladder.


Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) If a home has at least three tenants which form more than one household and the facilities are shared, it’s classed as an HMO. Landlords who let these properties have extra responsibilities.


Land Registry The government department which registers the ownership of land in England and Wales. Conveyancers will check the current ownership of the land as part of their due diligence.


Leaseholder A person who has a lease from the freeholder to own the property for a fixed period of time.


Loan to Value (LTV) The amount a buyer can borrow from a mortgage lender based on the value of the property. For example, if a property is worth £100,000 and the mortgage lender’s maximum LTV is 70%, the maximum amount you can borrow in the form of a mortgage is £70,000.


Market appraisal An estate agent will visit your property in order to estimate its current market value before it goes on the market (for sale or to let).


Mortgage Unless you can buy a property outright, most people will need a mortgage. This is the loan secured against the property. You must keep up with payments or the property can be repossessed.


References If you’re looking at renting a property, a letting agent or landlord will conduct a series of background checks. This may include a reference from an employer or previous landlord.


Searches A conveyancer will make a number of enquires to the Land Registry and Local Authority to make sure there aren’t any issues with the property or surrounding areas.


Service charges Otherwise known as a maintenance charge. These are fees owed by the tenant or leaseholders to a landlord for the upkeep of communal areas, such as hallways or gardens.


Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) The tax owed by a buyer when purchasing a property. Rates vary between 1-3%, but new laws mean you’ll have to pay an additional 3% if you’re purchasing more than one property.


Subject to contract A provisional agreement which comes before the formal exchange. This isn’t legally binding, but a property will usually be taken off the market and listed as ‘sold – subject to contract’.


Surveying A qualified expert (usually by RICS) will assess a property and complete a report outlining its condition.


Valuation A survey conducted by a qualified surveyor to estimate the current market value of a property.


Vendor A synonym a for someone selling a property.


Under offer The status of a property until exchange of contracts has taken place.


Yield The income generated from a rental property as a percentage of the property value.


Are there any property terms we’ve missed?


If you’d like any other words or phrases breaking down, send us a tweet via @Stirling_London

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