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Say What? A First-Time Buyer’s Guide to Property Jargon

From ERCs to SSTCs, the language used in the home-buying process can sound like a secret code. Here’s a nifty glossary to get you through.

Faye deGavre

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Jul 07, 2022

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3 min read

Say What? A First-Time Buyer’s Guide to Property Jargon

First-time buyers face a new language as they scroll through listings and negotiate a home sale. If you need a crash course (or to brush up) on the acronyms and terms to know when buying a home, here’s a rundown that will come in handy.

Agreement in principle

An agreement in principle is the document you’ll receive from your mortgage lender to confirm they will lend you a certain amount and the terms under which they approve you for. Typically, this is valid for 30 to 90 days, depending on the lender. It does not guarantee you’ll be approved for a mortgage.

Completion statement

This is a document showing the total amount of money due to the seller of a property in order for the transaction to be completed.

Conveyancing

Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring ownership of land or property from one individual to another, undertaken by the buyer’s solicitor and seller’s solicitor.

Deposit

The amount of money you contribute towards the property upfront. A deposit can be funded by personal savings, a gift from a family member, equity in an existing property or a combination. While the minimum deposit required is 5%, many lenders require between 10% and 20% of the total property’s value.

For example, a 10% deposit for a £200,000 house is £20,000.

Deeds

Deeds are the legal documents which prove ownership of an asset, such as a property or piece of land.

Early repayment charges (ERC)

If your mortgage deal has an ERC, your lender may charge you a fee if you overpay your mortgage or pay off the loan earlier than agreed.

Equity

The overall value of the property, minus the mortgage or debt amount. As you repay more of your mortgage, the equity in the property increase. It can also increase if the market value of the property increases.

Freehold vs leasehold

These terms specify the ownership of the land a property sits upon. If you own the property and the land, you’re a freeholder. If you don’t own the land, you’re a leaseholder, which can be a more complicated purchase, so expect higher conveyancing costs.

Fixed-rate mortgage

Popular with buyers who want a stable figure to pay every month, this loan has a fixed interest rate for its entire term.

Flexible mortgage

This type of mortgage allows overpayments, underpayments and even payment holidays.

Interest-only mortgage

You only have to pay the interest on your mortgage each month, not repay the loan itself. Generally, for first-time buyers, an interest-only mortgage is hard to obtain.

Loan-to-value (LTV)

This is how much your mortgage borrowing is in relation to your property’s worth. For example, if take out a £150,000 loan on a £200,000 property, the LTV is 75%. The lower your LTV, the better the deals open to you.

Mortgage term

This is the length of time you’ll have the loan. Common term lengths are 25 and 30 years.

Shared Ownership

This is one of the government’s affordable homeownership schemes. In this, you buy a share of the property (between 25% and 75%) and pay rent on the remaining share, which is owned by the local housing association.

Sold, subject to contract (SSTC)

When a seller has accepted an offer but it’s not legally binding yet because contracts have not been exchanged.

Stamp duty land tax

This is the tax that buyers need to pay to the government on the purchase of a property. Rates vary depending on whether you’re a first-time buyer and the purchase price. You can use the HMRC’s stamp duty land tax calculator (https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/calculate-stamp-duty-land-tax/#/intro) to figure out how much you’ll have to pay.

Standard variable rate

A standard variable rate mortgage is the default interest rate that you’ll be transferred to after your fixed-term deal comes to an end.

Under offer

This is another phrase that means sold, subject to contract (SSTC).

Variable-rate mortgage

A mortgage in which the interest rate is not fixed, so your monthly payments may go up or down.

Faye deGavre

Content Writer