Please see below for our guide to terminology you may come across when buying or selling your house.
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).
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)
Exchange of Contract: The point that both parties are committed to the transaction.
Fixtures and Fittings: A list of the items at the property, which are either included or excluded from the agreed price.
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 government body concerned with consumer protection in the financial market.
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: A penalty 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 £175,000* (*until September 2009). Duty is charged at 1% for homes priced between £175,001 and £250,000. The rate is 3% for homes between £250,001 and £500,000. For homes over £500,000, the rate is 4%. If the property is being sold for less than £175,000, no stamp duty payment is required.
Properties bought in areas designated by the government as ‘disadvantaged’ have historically qualified for Disadvantaged Area Relief. This relief will not apply for property purchases between 3 September 2008 and 2 September 2009 inclusive. Instead the Stamp Duty Land Tax threshold will be the same as for all other property as detailed above. The new threshold is higher than the previous Disadvantage Area Relief threshold of £150,000. Click here for more information.
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.