The house-buyers’ jargon buster

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Buying a new house can be a complex process, and although it is possible for the entire transaction and move to be completely stress-free, certain industry language and jargon can cause a degree of confusion.

In order for you to understand exactly what is happening at every stage, we have broken down some house-buying jargon to shed light on the terms and phrases you may encounter during the process.


This includes all individuals and properties involved in the buying and selling process. This can range from dozens of homeowners buying each other’s property, to just two parties when moving to a new-build home, or even one party when a first-time buyer is purchasing a new-build home.


This is the legal process of buying or selling a property, and is carried out by a conveyancer – the property lawyer or solicitor who manages all aspects of this process.


This covers expenses that are paid by the solicitor or conveyancer on behalf of the buyer, and includes things such as a Local Authority Search, Land Registry fees and Stamp Duty.

Down Payment

Also known as the mortgage deposit, this is the amount, in cash, that the buyer pays upfront for the property, inclusive of the mortgage. Generally this is 10% of the purchase price but it can vary.

Energy Performance Certificate

This evaluates and grades a property according to its fuel efficiency and impact on the environment. It is designed to give an indication of expected fuel bills, and is represented by two graphs. An A rating indicates low fuel costs and environmental impact, while a G rating means the opposite. New-build homes do not need to issue these, however.


This represents the difference between the value of your home and how much you still owe on the property. Negative equity occurs when the amount owed on the mortgage exceeds the value of the home.


Also known as the exchange of contracts, this is the legal process in which solicitors exchange the legally-binding documents that tie the buyer and seller into the transaction and enable a Holding Deposit to be paid.


This gives the owner the right to live in a property and occupy the land it is on forever. This differs from leasehold, which is when a freeholder, or landlord, grants an individual or individuals the right to occupy a property and its land, but only for a set period of time. This can be 99 years but also 40 or less. Leasehold normally requires the resident to pay the landlord ground rent and maintenance fees.

Holding Deposit

This is not always required, but can demonstrate to the seller’s solicitor that the buyer is intent on purchasing the property. Following the Exchange, the buyer pays a nominal amount to the seller’s solicitor that is often a percentage of the purchase price.

Local Authority Search

This is arranged by the solicitor and a legal requirement, which identifies anything that could affect the value of a property, ranging from mining and water to the environment.

Stamp Duty

Payable on any home valued over £125,000, this can range from 1% of the purchase price to 7% for a property worth more than £2 million.


Carried out by a building surveyor, this checks the structure of the property for any faults and can range in stringency according to the buyer’s preference. New-build homes are protected under the 10-year NHBC warranty or Premier Guarantee. In some cases, a valuation report is carried out instead of the survey.

Title deeds

An ownership document including a description of the property and the owner’s rights, as well as any additional conditions associated with it.

Transfer Document

This is the final, legally binding document that fully transfers all the rights of the property and its ownership from the seller to the buyer, effectively completing the process.