Conveyancing jargon buster

When you move home you may come across some terminology that you are not familiar with. Here is a list of commonly used property terms to help you with the buying and selling process.



Bankruptcy search
If you are taking out a mortgage it will be necessary for us to check that you have not been made bankrupt at any time.

Bank transfer fee
The fee charged by the bank for the electronic transfer of money required to complete the transaction.

Buyer's searches
Various searches have to be carried out if you are buying a property and include local authority search, environmental search, drainage search, coal mining search, bankruptcy search and Land Registry search.


On many occasions a number of sellers and buyers are linked so that their respective sale and purchases are all dependent on each other.

Coal mining search
Occasionally we will carry out this search if the property is situated in a known coal mining area.

Completion date
This is the date that the balance of the purchase price is paid, the ownership of the property is transferred and the keys are released by the seller to the buyer. If a date is agreed between the seller and buyer at an early stage the respective solicitors should be notified of this date. There may be various reasons why an agreed date will not be attainable such as delays in receiving a mortgage offer or the results of the local authority search. There may also be a breakdown in the chain. You should not therefore make any arrangements for removals or holidays until exchange of contracts. Only then can you be given a completion date which can be relied on.

This is the formal agreement between the buyer and the seller and contains all the essential details of the sale and purchase including the names of the parties, property details and the price. The seller's solicitors prepares the contract in duplicate and once it is approved by the buyer's solicitor, each party signs one copy of the contract.


On exchange of contracts the seller can insist on receiving from the buyer a non-returnable deposit amounting to 10% of the purchase price. If you are a buyer and borrowing more than 90% of the price by way of a mortgage, it is often possible to agree to pay a reduced deposit on exchange of contracts.

If a reduced deposit is agreed and the property transaction does not complete through no fault of the seller, then the buyer will be required to pay the deposit up to the full 10%. In addition the buyer may have to pay compensation for any other losses which the seller suffers as a result of the matter not being completed.

Drainage search
This is often carried out to establish whether the property is on mains drainage and to identify the location of the water and drainage pipes.


Environmental search
It is recommended that this is carried out to find out about any environmental issues which affect the property, such as flooding or contamination, which may affect the value of the property and the level of building insurance premiums.

Exchange of contracts
When both parties are ready to legally commit and a completion date is agreed, the two signed contracts are dated and exchanged. The transaction becomes binding from this moment. Until this time either party can withdraw from the transaction.


Fixtures, fittings and contents form
This is completed by the seller and identifies which items are being left at the property and which are being taken. This is sent to the buyer at an early stage so that any confusion as to what is included in the price can be avoided.

Ownership of both the property and the land it is built on.


Land Registry
A government body that registers the ownership of land and property in England and Wales. Once land or property is entered in the register the Land Registry records any ownership changes, mortgages or leases that affect it.

Land Registry fee
The fee payable to the Land Registry on registration.

Land Registry search
A search carried out just before the completion date to ensure that the title has not altered since exchange of contracts.

The right to occupy a property for a given period of time. You will have to pay an annual ground rent to the owner of the freehold. Ownership of a flat is nearly always on a leasehold basis. You will also have to pay a service charge in respect of the maintenance of any communal areas, such as shared accessways, parking areas, landscaped areas and internal staircases and lifts.

Local authority search
A search carried out at the local authority on behalf of the buyer. It discloses such things as planning applications or tree preservation orders affecting the property, whether the road in which the property is situated is publicly maintained and if there are any proposed major road improvements within the immediate surrounding area. The search does not, however, disclose details of any planning applications made in respect of neighbouring properties and if you have any specific concerns in this regard you should notify us as soon as possible. The fee payable for this search varies between each local authority.


This is a long-term loan taken from a bank, building society or other lender to fund the purchase of the property. The mortgage is secured on the property and is registered on the title deeds. This means that the property cannot be transferred or sold without the mortgage lender's approval or until the mortgage is paid back in full.

Mortgage deed
This is the document which confirms your acceptance of the terms of the mortgage being offered by your lender. It is sent to the Land Registry.

Mortgage offer
You will receive this formal offer once your application for a mortgage has been approved by your mortgage lender. We will also receive a copy and the offer will include a list of questions and conditions that the lender will require us to answer and comply with before they will send the mortgage monies to us. We strongly advise against exchange of contracts until this offer is received and the questions and conditions dealt with as we will not be able to guarantee that the mortgage monies will be available in time for the completion date. This could result in you losing the deposit you have paid and being liable to pay compensation for any other losses which the seller suffers as a result of the matter not being completed on time.


Official copies of the title
An official copy of the title deeds produced by the Land Registry


Property information form
A form completed by the seller which gives practical information about the property such as which domestic utility services are connected to it, ownership of fences and copies of central heating and double glazing guarantees. It also gives details of any alterations or extensions that have been made to the property. A seller is under a duty to disclose to the buyer any matters which affect the property. If you are selling or buying, you should draw our attention to anything relating to the property which is of concern to you


Repayment of your outstanding mortgage if you have one.

Redemption figure
The amount required to pay off your outstanding mortgage including any administration or penalty charges which your mortgage lender may impose as a result of early repayment.

The process of recording the change of ownership of the property or new mortgage at the Land Registry once the transaction has been completed


SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax)
This is a tax charged by the government and has to be paid by the buyer. It is based on the price of the property purchased as detailed on the HMRC website.

It is important that you take all necessary steps to ensure that the property you are purchasing has no physical defects. Although a valuation may have been carried out by your mortgage lender, this only establishes that the price of the property is reasonable. We therefore advise you to have an RICS homebuyer's report prepared by a qualified surveyor. This will highlight any areas of concern and whether further investigations should be carried out by way of a full structural survey. See this page if you would like to read more about surveys.


Title deeds
These are the original documents that prove ownership of the property. If you have a mortgage then the relevant bank or building society will have your title deeds. We will need to obtain these in order to sell or re-mortgage your property.

Transfer deed
The final document that transfers the property from the buyer to the seller. This is sent to the Land Registry for registration after the transaction has been completed.