UK Estate Agents Jargon Explained

uk property market

The property industry, like any sector, is full of technical jargon that you can only get your head around if you live and breathe it every day. Most people move every 10-15 years so it can seem like a bit of a minefield, I mean what on earth is a Local Authority Search or an HMO?

Romans’ estate agents try to avoid using jargon terms but when it’s unavoidable they’re always happy to explain what they mean.

Estate agency jargon buster

Here is brief A-Z of estate agency jargon to get you started:



If you are the potential buyer of a property, your estate agent or auctioneer may refer to you as an applicant.


This is another term for a property valuation; an estate agent will visit your home and determine the correct price it should be marketed at.


The transfer of the ownership of the property from one person to another.

AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy)

This allows a landlord to a possession order after the agreed period (tends to be six months), which means the tenant can be evicted with no legal reason.


Bacs (Bank Automated Clearing System)

A funds transfer from one bank to another.

Banker’s draft  

This is like asking a bank to write a cheque for you. You give them your money and they give you a cheque for that amount to give to the person you’re paying. This is also known as a banker’s cheque.

Base rate

The Bank of England sets this rate and it is used as the benchmark for lenders to set interest rates by.

Break clause

This is a provision in a lease which enables either the landlord or the tenant, or both, to end the lease early. This is also known as a release clause.


Chain free

If a buyer does not need to sell a property in order to complete the purchase of their next one, they are referred to as being ‘chain free’. This can also apply to the status of a property if the seller is not trying to connect their onward move to the sale of the property.


This is when the ownership of the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. This normally happens on the day of the physical move and when you get the keys.


This is the legal work needed when buying or selling a house.



These are expenses paid by the solicitor/conveyancer on behalf of the buyer


EPC (Energy Performance Certificate)

If you are selling, renting or building a property in the UK you now require one of these certificates; it provides information about how energy efficient the home is.

Exchange of contracts

This is stage where both the buyer and seller are legally bound to the property sale.


Fixtures and fittings

These are items included, or not included, in the sale of the property, such as curtains and carpets.


A freehold is outright ownership of not just the property but also the land it stands on. Most houses in the UK are freehold but flats tend to be leasehold.



This is when a seller accepts an offer from a buyer but then later rejects it in favour of a higher offer.


This is when a buyer, having agreed to pay a certain price, reduces the amount they are prepared to pay for no substantive reason.

Ground rent

If you’re living in a leasehold property ground rent is payable to the freeholder.


HMO (House in Multiple Occupation)

This tends to be for bedsits or a house where tenants each have their own tenancy agreement.



This is when you give the estate agent or auctioneer the right to sell your property.


This is a list of the contents of a property; normally organised by letting agents for all fully managed properties.


Joint agency

This is when you instruct more than one estate agency to sell your property.


Land Registry

This is a Government department that registers the ownership of land and property in England and Wales.


If you buy a leasehold property you will only own that property for as long as the lease lasts (they can be extended though – but make sure you apply for an extension before the 80 year mark!)

Local Authority Search

This is normally carried out by your solicitor/conveyancer and it is specific information about that property in terms of planning history/consents and applications.

LTV (Loan to Value)

This is the ratio of the value of your mortgage to the value of your house. For example, if the house you are buying costs £400,000 and you are taking a mortgage of £300,000, then your LTV is 75%.


Maintenance charge

This is any charge agreed with the landlord and covers the costs of on-going maintenance of the property, such as upkeep in the communal gardens. This is also known as a service charge.


Negative equity

This is when the market value of a property falls below the outstanding amount of mortgage secured on it.



This is when a mortgage is fully repaid.

Right to Buy

This scheme allows council and housing association tenants in England to buy their home with a discount.


Shared Ownership

This is when you buy a proportion of the property and pay rent on the remainder.

Sitting tenant

This is a tenant who has a legal right to occupy a property, even if that property changes ownership. Some properties are sold with sitting tenants.

Stamp Duty

This is a government tax you pay when you purchase a property.

STC (Subject to Contract)

If a property is Sold STC is means the seller has accepted an offer from the buyer but the legal paperwork has not been completed.


Tenancy Agreement

This document is very important and contains all the terms and conditions of a tenancy.

Title deeds

The legal documents associated with a property.


Under offer

Similar to STC, this is when a seller has accepted an offer from the buyer but contracts have not yet been exchanged.



This is the same as a property appraisal, and it is when an estate agent will visit your home and determine the correct price it should be marketed at.


This is the seller of a property.

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