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Jargon Buster For First Time Buyers: A Glossary

Martha Lott

Written by

20th Aug 2020 (Last updated on 14th Jan 2021) 9 minute read

Buying a house is an exciting but daunting process, especially if you're buying your first home. Property professionals often use terms throughout the conveyancing and surveying process that can be confusing if you haven’t done your homework. 

We’ve created this useful jargon buster so you’re familiar with important terms and processes before you start the buying or selling process. From gazumping to disbursements, we have covered everything you need to know so you’re fully clued up on the moving house vocabulary. 

Affordability Assessment 

An affordability assessment is a process carried out by mortgage lenders to assess if you can afford to repay how much they lend you. Lenders will usually look at your income, your outgoings, any future changes that may impact your spending and your credit score.

Agreement in Principle

Commonly referred to as an AIP, an Agreement in Principle or Mortgage in Principle is provided by a bank or building society confirming that they will lend you a certain amount for a mortgage, in principle. If you have an AIP when you’re viewing a house or making an offer on a house, then you will be taken more seriously as a buyer, improving your chances of getting your offer accepted. 

Bridging Loan

Bridging loans are quick loans that will help someone buy a property before selling their house. They are intended to be a short-term loan and come with high-interest rates. People who are looking to buy a house quickly before they have time to get funds from the sale of their own house can benefit from a bridging loan. 

Building Survey

A Building Survey is the most in-depth property survey you can have and is ideal for older properties that aren’t in the best condition. You should hire a RICS chartered surveyor to carry out your building survey once your offer has been accepted on a property. It’s also something you should factor into your total cost of buying a house


Buy-to-let is when someone buys a house specifically to let it out. This is for people looking for an investment as a landlord and not for a place for themselves to live. You will need a buy-to-let mortgage if you’re not a cash buyer and you will need to provide an estimated income that you will earn from the property. 


Capital refers to the amount of mortgage you are borrowing. Typically mentioned when you take out a repayment mortgage, you will pay capital each month towards paying off your mortgage. 

Cash Buyer 

A cash buyer is a buyer who does not need a mortgage or loan to buy a property. Although not common, a cash buyer will be more attractive to a seller than someone with a mortgage as the sale is usually quicker, avoiding any delays. It should be noted that most people will require a mortgage to buy a house, especially first-time buyers. 

Chartered Surveyor

A chartered surveyor will carry out a survey on the property you plan to buy to reveal any problems with the condition or structure. Chartered surveyors are highly trained and qualified in their industry. 


Completion refers to the day when you legally own your home and all funds are transferred to the seller. The seller must move out on completion day and you will be given the keys to your new property. 


A licenced conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor will be responsible for transferring ownership from seller to buyer when buying or selling a house. Your conveyancer will be responsible for gathering all the legal documents for the sale or purchase, exchanging contracts, planning completion day and requesting conveyancing searches if buying. 


Conveyancing is the legal process of buying or selling a house where ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer. 

Conveyancing Searches

Conveyancing searches are a vital part of the conveyancing process for buying a house. Your conveyancer will organise the searches with the local authority and they will be made up of a Local Authority Search, an Environmental Search and a Water and Drainage Search. They will reveal important legal and environmental information regarding the property and area before you legally commit to buying it. 

Credit Score

A credit score is a numerical score that represents your creditworthiness and how trustworthy you are with money. The higher your credit score, the greater your chance of getting accepted for a loan or a mortgage.


Disbursements are the fees that your conveyancer will pay on your behalf for third-party services during the process such as the conveyancing searches and Stamp Duty. It’s important to ask your conveyancer for a full breakdown of your quote as disbursements should be included.  

Early Repayment Charge (ERC)

An early repayment charge (ERC) is a fee charged if you repay your mortgage during your tie-in period, which is typically fixed for 2 years. Your lender will charge you to cover the interest that will lose.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will show how energy-efficient the house you’re buying is. It’s the seller’s responsibility to arrange the EPC. 


The equity that you own in your house will be the difference between the current value of the property and the amount of outstanding mortgage. For example, if you bought a house worth £250,000 and put down a deposit of £25,000, then you will have 10% equity in your house.

Exchange of Contracts 

Exchanging contracts happens towards the end of the conveyancing process and will make the purchase legally binding. This means that the seller is bound to sell, and the buyer is bound to buy the property for the sale price on the completion date agreed in the contract. You cannot pull out of buying the house after exchanging contracts.


Freehold is the absolute ownership of both the property and the land it stands on until you sell it. This means you are responsible for maintaining the property and land around it. Most properties are freehold, but it is important to check before you commit to buying. For more information, read our guide on freehold vs leasehold


Gazumping is when a seller accepts another buyer’s offer after they have already accepted an offer. It’s not illegal to gazump someone but it is considered extremely unfair as the original buyer whose offer was accepted might have already paid for refundable services such as surveying and conveyancing. To avoid being gazumped, you should ensure you have everything in place to avoid any delays in the buying process. 


Gazundering is when a buyer lowers the price of their original offer just before exchanging contracts. This puts the seller in an awkward position as they either accept a lower price for a quick house sale or have to start the process again. 

Help to Buy

Help to Buy is a government scheme that helps first-time buyers purchase their first home. The government initiative offers different schemes that provide financial help in the form of a government loan. Schemes include Help to Buy ISA (closed for applications), Help to Buy: Equity Loan and Shared Ownership. 

Homebuyers Survey

A Homebuyers Survey is the most common property survey and is ideal for properties built less than 80 years ago. The property must be in fairly good condition and built using common building materials. Although it will add to the cost of moving house, a homebuyers survey is vital in finding out important information about the property and shouldn’t be underestimated. 

Interest-only Mortgage

An interest-only mortgage means that each month you only pay the interest on the amount you borrowed. This makes monthly payments much lower than a repayment mortgage and you will pay back your mortgage loan at the end of the term.


Leasehold is when you have ownership of a property for a set period of time. Most leases start at 99 years and can go anywhere up to 999 years. Flats are usually leasehold, meaning the freeholder of the flat will be responsible for maintenance of the communal parts of the building, such as the roof and stairway.


A mortgage is a loan taken out from a bank or building society to help you buy a house. Most people will require a mortgage to buy a house. There are different types of mortgages, but most mortgages will mean you’ll pay back the loan monthly over a period of usually 25 years.

Mortgage Broker

A mortgage broker will help find you the best mortgage from a range of competitive interest rates. They will act as an intermediary between and you and a mortgage lender. Mortgage brokers will have access to more and often better mortgage deals that are being offered on the market.  It’s not essential to have a mortgage broker, but it can save time and stress. Some mortgage brokers will charge a fee to help you find a mortgage, whilst others will be free. 

Negative Equity

Negative equity is when your outstanding mortgage is higher than the value of your property. If you bought a house worth £150,000 with a mortgage of £120,000, and your property is currently valued at just £110,000, you are in negative equity. 

Property Chain 

A property chain is a line of buyers and sellers that are linked because their transactions depend on each other. If you are a first-time buyer or don’t have a property to sell, you won’t be part of a property chain. Those who aren’t in a property chain are more attractive buyers as the process is less likely to encounter delays.

Property Survey

A property survey will highlight any hidden defects or damage in the property you plan to buy. It will be carried out by a chartered surveyor and is a vital part of the house buying process. 

Repayment Mortgage

A repayment mortgage is a type of mortgage that you pay back monthly on top of the interest rates. This is the more common than an interest-only mortgage, as each month you are one step closer to paying off your mortgage.


RICS stands for Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and is the professional body of property professionals. Using a RICS registered surveyor will guarantee your surveying experience to be one of a highly professional standard, performed by trustworthy and highly-qualified members.

Sold Subject to Contract (STC)

Commonly referred to as Sold STC, subject to contract means that the seller has accepted an offer but is waiting to exchange contracts with the buyer. This means that you can still put in an offer on the property, but are at risk of gazumping someone else. 

Tie-in Period

A tie-in period refers to the time that you are “locked-in” to your mortgage. This will usually be a 2-5 year fixed deal where your lender offers a fixed-rate on interest, which is typically lower. If you pay off more than you need to in this period, you will be charged an early repayment fee.

Under Offer 

Not that dissimilar to Sold STC, when a house is under offer it means a buyer has made an offer (typically below the asking price) and the seller is currently considering it. It does not mean the sale has been finalised and so it's possible for other buyers to also present an offer. 

Learn More About Help to Buy

This article is part of our help to buy guide, we hope it will help prepare you for all that jargon. Next we take a look at selling a help to buy property and everything you need to do before you begin the process. To learn more read selling a property with a help to buy loan.


All data, research, facts and figures have been taken from reputable sources and government data that was accurate at the time of writing. Mortgage criteria, interest rates and policies change regularly and vary depending on the lender and type of mortgage you have. You should speak directly to your mortgage lender for clarification. It should be noted that your home may be repossessed if you cannot keep up with your mortgage payments.
Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having written for Huffington Post and Film Criticism Journal, Martha now regularly researches and writes advice articles for everything moving house related.