Conveyancing Glossary of Terms

penman sedgwick solicitors watford river colne

A glossary of terms and phrases that you may encounter while either buying or selling your home.

A -- F

Additional Enquiries

These are further questions raised by the buyer’s solicitors.


The transfer of ownership from one person to another, usually in the context of a leasehold property when the lease is assigned.


In an auction the fall of the hammer is equivalent to exchange of contracts. If you are the successful bidder, you are legally bound to buy the house. Be careful to ensure you know what you are buying!

Bridging loan

An expensive temporary loan designed to bridge the gap in time and money if there is a delay between the purchase of a new property and the sale of an old property.


A series of buyers and sellers selling properties to one another. Be warned of the possibility of the chain “breaking”. When dealing with chains all the individual transactions have to be synchronised by the solicitors prior to exchange of contracts.


The point after exchange of contracts when the property legally passes to the buyer. The completion date will be agreed between the parties and fixed on exchange of contracts.

Completion Statement

A statement sent by your solicitor after exchange of contracts but before completion which sets out costings for the various parts of the transaction and requests any funds required to proceed to completion.


The agreement between the Buyer and Seller that, once exchanged by your legal advisers, binds both parties to the purchase and sale of the property. Each party usually signs a separate copy of the contract.

Contract Race

Where more than one party has made an offer on the same property and all offers have been accepted by the seller. Usually in cases such as this the seller will sell to the first party ready to exchange contracts.


The old fashioned name for either i) the legal process of transferring property from one person to another or ii) the physical document that effects the transfer of the property.


A solicitor or licensed conveyancer who deals with all the legal aspects of buying or selling land/property.


A promise contained in a deed or lease that imposes an obligation either to do or not to do something.

Deed of Variation

A deed which changes the terms of a lease or other document.


The sum paid to the seller on exchange of contracts (usually 10% of the purchase price) and which subsequently forms part of the total purchase price.


Expenses incurred by your solicitor in connection with either the sale or purchase of property.

Drainage Search

See water search.

Environmental Search

A search designed to reveal environmental matters that may affect the property such as the presence of landfill sites, flooding, or whether the land may be contaminated.

Estate Agent

Property agents who link up buyers and sellers. Estate Agents advertise houses & arrange viewings.

Exchange of Contracts

The point at which buyer and seller are legally bound to the sale and purchase of the property.

Failed Valuation Survey

When the lender turns down your mortgage application after reading the surveyor’s valuation report.


The legal word for the ownership of land and usually the property that stands on it, where both belong to the owner indefinitely.

Fittings and Contents Form

A standard form completed by the seller which states what items are to be left or removed from the property being sold.


The person who owns the freehold.

G -- L


Where the seller accepts an offer, but later accepts a higher offer from someone else, before exchange of contracts.


The buyer threatens just before exchange of contracts to pull out of a deal unless the price is reduced.

Ground Rent

An annual charge payable by leaseholders to the freeholder.


A person who promises they will pay a borrower’s debt, usually if the borrower fails to. This practice is becoming increasingly common.

Home-buyer’s survey

A surveyor’s report. Note that this survey is less extensive than a building survey which should be carried out if for instance a property is aged.

Land Registry

The organisation responsible for maintaining records about Registered Land.

Land Registry Fee

A fee paid to the Land Registry usually to register the change in ownership or other dealings with property.


An arrangement by which a landlord lets out premises to a tenant at a rent and for a specified period of time. Sometimes called a tenancy.

Lease Term

The period for which a lease has been granted.


Land that is held under a lease.


The person who holds the leasehold interest. Also known as a tenant.

Legal Charge (or Charge)

The security a bank or building society relies on when lending money on property. Charges almost invariably give the lender the power to sell the property if you fail to make the necessary repayments. Also referred to as a mortgage.

Lender’s Valuation

A valuation of the proposed property carried out by the lender before agreeing to give out a mortgage. This is for valuation purposes only and you should consider having a more detailed survey conducted.


The lessee is the person to whom a lease is granted – the tenant. The lessor is the person who grants the lease – the landlord.

Lessor’s Registration Fee

A fee payable by a new leaseholder to the landlord, to register notice of assignment of a lease.

Local Authority Search

A search carried out by your solicitor via the Local Authority to learn more about the property and the surrounding area, including the property’s planning history and information about roads serving the property.

M -- R


A long term loan which is secured on property – see Legal Charge.

Mortgage Deed

A document used to record the terms of the lender’s charge against the property. Some of the terms may also be in the lender’s general conditions, and both should be considered carefully by the borrower.

Mortgage Offer

Issued by the lender confirming how much the lender is prepared to lend and on what terms, and setting out any special conditions.

Mortgage Term

Period over which mortgage is to be repaid.

Mortgagee / Mortgagor

The mortgagee is the lender who lends money to the buyer, the mortgagor. A solicitor will often act for the lender as well as the buyer.

Negative Equity

When the value of your house falls below the value of your mortgage.

NHBC Guarantee

A 10 year guarantee, provided by the National House Building Council, that a property’s builder will put right serious defects affecting a newly-built property.

Official Copy Entries

An official copy of the registered title and title plan issued by the Land Registry. Usually provided to the buyer’s solicitors at the cost of the seller.

Pre-contract enquiries

Enquiries made by the buyer’s solicitor about the property being sold.


When a mortgage is fully repaid.

Redemption Figure

The amount required to pay off a mortgage in full.

Registered land

Land which is registered at the Land Registry.


The process of changing your mortgage from one lender to another.

Report on Title

A report required by the lender and supplied by the buyer’s solicitor containing information about the property.


The process whereby a lender takes possession of your home because you have failed to make your mortgage repayments.

Reservation Deposit

A sum usually required by a developer to take a property off the market. A reservation deposit usually forms part of the Deposit on exchange of contracts.

S -- Z


Various searches that should be conducted to find out more about the property you are intending to purchase. Your solicitor will provide advice regarding any specific searches that ought to be considered.

Seller’s Property Information Form

A standard form completed by the seller which contains information to assist the buyer’s solicitor to determine whether his client should proceed with the transaction.


See Seller’s Property Information Form.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (Stamp Duty)

Tax on land transactions charged by the Inland Revenue. The fee is based on the value of the property. This must be paid before the change in ownership can be registered at the Land Registry. Your solicitor will arrange this after completion.

Structural Survey

A report that details whether the house is structurally sound and lists the major/minor defects together with any remedial action that may be required.

Subject to contract

The phrase used to indicate that the parties have not yet exchanged contracts.


The legal right to ownership of a property.

Title Deeds

Often known as the documents showing ownership of a property – see Official Copy Entries.


A form that provides details of the transfer of ownership to be recorded at the Land Registry. Used to effect a transfer of ownership on completion.

Unregistered Land

Land which is not registered at the Land Registry.

Unexpired Term

The remaining term on a lease (A lease granted for 99 years, 10 years ago will have an unexpired term of 89 years).


A service provided by an independent expert to determine the value of any property you might want to buy or sell.


The seller of the property.

Water Search

A series of enquiries made of the local water authority to confirm for instance whether the property is connected to mains supply and drainage.