Estate Agent Jargon Buster

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.

Here is our guide to all the terms you need to know and what they mean in plain old English!



A vendor is a person selling a property.

Valuation (or market appraisal)

Valuation is a term often used by estate agents to cover the process of them giving an opinion of the open market value of a property.

Under Offer

A property becomes “under offer” when a seller accepts an offer from a buyer and the legal processes of the transaction begin.

Transfer Document

A transfer document is the final legally binding document that transfers the property and all its rights from the seller to the buyer.

Title Deeds

Title deeds are the documents detailing and confirming the legal ownership of a property.


Tenure is the mode of holding ownership of a property: for example, leasehold or freehold.


A tenant is a person who has temporary possession of a property under a lease or tenancy agreement.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)

A Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is an insurance-based scheme run by The Dispute Service Ltd. for the protection of tenancy deposits and the resolution of disputes between landlords, agents and tenants concerning the return of deposits at the end of a tenancy. It is one of three schemes approved for tenancy deposit protection. TDS has recently launched a Code of Recommended Practice. This Code of Practice sets out the recommended requirements which letting agents and landlords should meet as members of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement is the legal agreement governing the occupation of a property by a tenant.


A tenancy is the possession of a property by a tenant under the terms of a lease.


A Survey 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.

Subject To Contract

Subject to contract is where contracts are still not exchanged and nothing is yet legally binding on either seller or buyer.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is 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%.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has abolished stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes worth up to £300,000.

Sole Selling Rights

Sole selling rights are 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.

Sole Agent

Sole agent is where only one estate or letting agency firm is instructed by a seller or landlord to offer a property for sale or to rent.

Share of Freehold

Share of freehold 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.


Searches 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.


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.


The purchaser is the person buying a property.

The Property Ombudsman

The Property Ombudsman offers a free and independent service for resolving disputes between sales and letting agents, which are members of The Property Ombudsman, and buyers/sellers of residential property in the UK.

Property Auctions

Property auctions are 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.

Preliminary Enquiries

Preliminary enquiries are the standard list of questions about a property which the buyer’s conveyancer will send the seller’s conveyancer once a sale is agreed.

Open Market Value

Open market value is 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.

Open Viewing

Open viewing is 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.

Negative Equity

Negative equity is where the sale value of a property is less than the amount outstanding on the mortgage.

Multiple Agent Instructions

Multiple agent instructions are 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.

Mortgage Valuation

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.


A maisonette is a flat with its own private entrance.

Maintenance or Service Charge

A maintenance or service charge is the charge many leasehold properties are subject to pay for items such as the insurance and maintenance of the building.

Local Authority Search

A local authority search is when 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.

Listed Building

A listed building is a building of special architectural or historic interest. A listed building may carry certain obligations and restrictions governing its use, repair, and maintenance.


Leasehold is 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.


The lease is 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.

Land Registry Fee

The land registry fee is the fee charged by the Land Registry to record the change of ownership of a property.

Land Registry

The Land Registry is a government office which is responsible for holding records of land ownership and any charges, including mortgages, against the property.


An inventory is 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.

HomeBuyer Survey or Report

A HomeBuyer Survey or Report is 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).

Ground Rent

The ground rent is the annual charge levied by the freeholder on the leaseholder of a property.


Gazundering is where a buyer reduces their offer on the point of exchanging contracts.


Gazumping is where a sale is agreed to by 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.

Gas Safety Record

A gas safety record is a certificate that states all gas appliances, pipework and flues are safe. It is a legal requirement for all landlords and must be provided every year by a Gas Safe Registered engineer after a safety check.


A freehold is 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.

Fixtures and Fittings

When buying: Fixtures are items that have become part of a building or land and are therefore included in the sale. Fittings are not attached to the building or land and so are not included in the sale unless otherwise agreed. The seller will complete a fixtures and fittings form that will confirm what is included in the sale, what isn’t included, and what is for sale separately.

When renting: Items usually provided in a letting that may include curtains, carpets, blinds, light fittings, kitchen units and appliances. In some cases it may also include furniture. It is advisable to check what is provided and not to assume that items will be provided.

Exchange of Contracts

The exchange of contracts occurs when 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.


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.


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).


Enquiries are questions that are raised by the buyer’s conveyancer, often about survey or property information forms.


An easement is 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.

Draft Contract

The draft contract is 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.


Disbursements are 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.


Dilapidations are items that have been damaged during a tenancy. The tenant is usually responsible for the cost of repair or replacement.

The Deposit Protection Service (DPV)

The Deposit Protection Service (DPV) is the only custodial scheme authorised by the Government; it is free to use and open to all landlords and letting agents. It requires a tenant’s deposit to be paid over to the DPS for the duration of the tenancy. This amount is then paid back at the end of the tenancy when an agreement between both parties has been reached.


When buying: The deposit is the amount of money paid by the buyer on exchange of contracts, usually 10% of the purchase price.

When renting: The deposit is a monetary sum held by the landlord or agent for security against damage to a property or a breach of the tenancy terms. This is usually the equivalent of six weeks’ rent but may vary. If the deposit is for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), then it must be protected by one of the approved tenancy deposit protection schemes.


Deeds are the legal documents that prove the ownership of the property.

Credit Search References

Credit search references are requested for a tenant applying to take up rented accommodation. Many agents and individual landlords use external companies who will contact the applicant’s employer, landlord and check the tenant’s credit history, providing a report on their financial suitability to rent.


Covenants are the rules governing the property in its title deeds or lease.


Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring the ownership of a property.


A conveyancer is 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.

Contract Race

A contract race is where two or more purchasers are given a draft contract and the first one to exchange contracts buys the property.


A contract is a 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.

Completion Statement

A completion statement is the specific items in a sale contract that govern the rights of the buyer and the duties of the seller.


Completion is the point at which the sale of the property is concluded and the buyer receives the keys.


A chain is formed when several property sales and purchases are interdependent. A chain can be complicated but a good estate agent will be able to help keep it moving.


Capital, also known as equity, is an asset that is less liquid than cash. It represents the amount of money you have put into a property, investment or deposit.

Building Inspection or Structural Survey

A building inspection or structural survey is 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 (see below).

Bridging Loan

A bridging loan is a temporary short-term loan enabling someone to purchase a property before selling his or her existing property.

Break Clause

A break clause is sometimes agreed between the landlord and tenant to be inserted in a fixed term agreement, typically if the initial fixed term is for a year or more. A break clause will usually allow either landlord or tenant to give written notice after a particular date or period of the tenancy in order to end the tenancy earlier than the original fixed term.

Base Rate

The base rate is the rate of interest which the Bank of England charges for lending to other banks. These banks then use it as a benchmark for the interest rates they charge when lending money to consumers, often stipulating an interest rate “X% above the base rate”.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)

An assured shorthold tenancy (AST) is a widely used rental agreement where the tenant is an individual and net rent does not exceed £25,000 a year. It covers a fixed period, so both parties know the date the property will be vacated.


To assign is to transfer the right or interest in a property from one person to another.

Agreement Fee

An agreement fee is a payment which is charged to cover the costs of drawing up a tenancy agreement. This is usually shared between the landlord and tenant.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the total cost of a loan, taking into account interest charges, arrangement fees and other costs, shown as a percentage.

Administration Fee

An administration fee is a payment that is charged to cover the costs of processing a property rental application. This is paid by the tenant and will be taken from the initial monies once the tenancy starts.


An acceptance is a document you need to sign when accepting a lender’s mortgage offer.

Absent Landlord

An absent landlord is one who cannot be contacted. If the lessees wish to create a Right To Manage Company but are unable to contact the landlord, they are free to make a legal application to acquire the right to manage.

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