Estate Agent Jargon – What You Need To Know

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Estate agent jargon covers a wide range of expressions and words that many of us will be unfamiliar with when we start looking for a home to rent or buy – but we soon learn what they mean. Or hope we do!

From professional terms to the use of colourful words and phrases, this guide to estate agent buzzwords will be of help.

While estate agents are not the most popular of professionals in the UK, their use of jargon and other terms does little to endear them to buyers, sellers, landlords and renters.

We’ve heard all sorts of things when we’ve bought and sold properties so we’ll use our experiences to help shed some light on what on earth they’re talking about!

You may have come across all or some of the terms being used and knowing what estate agents really mean can help you avoid buying or renting poor quality homes that are completely unsuitable.

The terminology for property estate agents will use

When it comes to the terminology for property that an estate agent will use, the list is very long and this is a glossary of most of them. It’s not exhaustive and this is purely for information purposes. Below we also take a light-hearted look at some of the everyday phrase that agents use.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The loan’s total cost over 12 months, expressed as a percentage which includes interest charges and arrangement fees.


This is to transfer one person’s interest or right in a property to another person.

Memorandum of sale

The memorandum of sale is a crucial document that will confirm the point that a property sale has been agreed by the seller and buyer. The solicitor will usually require this document before they can begin the conveyancing process.

Arrangement fees

Fees charged by the mortgage lender for arranging the loan. Typically they can either be paid outright or added on to the mortgage balance.

Arrangement fees are the fees charged by the mortgage lender for arranging the loan.

Break clause

In a fixed term rent agreement a break clause the tenant or landlord to give notice.


The signing of a document to accepting a lender’s offer a mortgage.

Bridging loan

Used to access money to buy a property before the borrower has sold their current home. Typically this is used when buying properties as an investment.

Structural survey

A detailed report on a property’s condition with particular attention on the structural integrity of the property. Often it will be conducted by a qualified chartered surveyor. This is not the same as a mortgage valuation.


A property chain is when several home sales and purchases are dependant on each other for a successful outcome. As chains are prone to collapsing when one party pulls out, buyers and sellers who are chain-free are extremely desirable.


The contractual terms between the buyer and seller for when the sale is agreed. The solicitors involved will need to exchange contracts before the sale completes. Once contracts are exchanged, the transaction becomes legally bound to complete.

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When the property sale is legally concluded and the keys are handed over. This is also the point the property will be registered in the new owners name and is typically the day most people will move in or out of a property.


The property’s equity is how much you own of it – the difference between the outstanding mortgage amount and the property’s value.

Completion statement

The solicitor or conveyancer will deliver a completion statement showing all costs and financial transactions they have incurred. They’ll often deduct the owed amount from any sale proceeds before they transfer the balance to the seller.

Base rate

The Bank of England’s rate for lending to other banks and is used as a benchmark for the interest rates charged by mortgage lenders.


A licensed conveyancer, or solicitor, deals with all of the legal aspects of selling and buying a property.


The act of legally transferring property ownership from the seller/vendor to the buyer. It includes preparing all the legal paperwork and acting in the best interests of the client.


Capital or equity is the ‘profit’ on a property when it comes to investing.

Capital is the profit on a property.

Assured shorthold tenancy (AST)

Most tenancies will be ASTs so the agreement is for a tenant who is not paying rent of more than £25,000 per year. The AST is usually for a fixed period.


When you own the property and the land it is on, this is the freehold. It is the most desirable type of property you can get as it gives you full control over the future of the property without any annual maintenance fees.


An amount paid to secure a property and show commitment to completion. When renting, an amount paid as security for any damage caused during a tenancy.


Gazundering is when a seller faces a lower offer, often at the last minute, from the buyer which they must accept or find another buyer.


Property rights such as neighbours having access to a path on a property.

Conditions of sale

Specific items in a contract that govern what the buyer’s rights are and the seller’s duties.

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The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) illustrates a property’s energy efficiency and carbon emissions to help explain how much fuel bills will be.

Local authority search

A conveyancer acting for the buyer will ask the local authority if there are any issues to be aware of that might affect the future enjoyment of a property.

Exchange of contracts

When buyer and seller sign the sale contract which makes the sale binding. After contracts are exchanged, neither party can pull out without significant financial penalties and potentially legal consequences.

Gas Safety certificate

A record that a property’s gas appliances and the flues and pipework are safe. All rental homes must have a certificate by law.


Sometimes a property will have specific rules in the lease or title deeds known as a covenant. These will usually be checked and queried as part of the Enquiries phase of the conveyancing process.


Should a seller agree to a higher price from another buyer, after agreeing to sell at a lower price, is known as gazumping.

HomeBuyer Report

A standardised survey format so a surveyor’s survey is easy to understand. Any issues will be listed – and their seriousness. Most reports will include a traffic light system to make it easy to see, at a glance, where the issues lie.


Carried out by a buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer to check whether there are potential issues affecting the property’s value. Searches are a vital part of the conveyancing process but not all search reports will be required.

A solicitor or conveyancer will run "Searches" to check if there are any potential issues affecting the property value.

Land Registry

The Government office that holds land ownership records – and any mortgage held against the property. When a property is sold to a new party, the Land Registry records will be updated.

Under offer

When the seller accepts a buyer’s offer the legal process begins and the property is ‘under offer’.

Mortgage valuation

This is when a surveyor acting for the mortgage lender carries out a survey giving the property a value.

Stamp Duty

This is a tax paid by the property buyer. Rates vary depending on the value.

Negative equity

Should a property be sold for less than the outstanding mortgage then there is no equity or profit. negative equity can result in the seller needing to pay money to the mortgage provider upon sale to offset the difference in value.

Credit search references

A credit check by landlords or agents on the creditworthiness of a tenant.

Subject to contract

When contracts have yet to be exchanged so there’s nothing legally binding between seller and buyer. A property at this stage is often marked as SSTC (Sold Subject To Contract).


A report prepared by a building surveyor who will check the property’s structure for faults. There are three types of report available depending on need and budget.

Title deeds

The document that confirms and gives details of a property’s legal ownership.


The property’s legal paperwork that proves ownership.


A term used to describe the property’s seller.

Words an estate agent may use as jargon that are funny

Finally, let us take a closer look at the words that an estate agent may use as jargon that are funny – and there are lots of estate agent catchphrases and estate agent funny quotes that are worth smiling over.

For example, when an estate agent says, “This property is ideal for a first-time buyer or for those wanting a buy to let investment.”

What they probably mean is: “The property we are selling is very small and it is in an unpopular area.”

Then there are other pieces of jargon that are completely see-through, for example, when an estate agent writes: “The property is in need of modernisation”.

To you and and me, that usually means it’s very run-down and will need a lot of hard work and money spending on it!

Property descriptions from estate agents

An Estate Agent might use specific jargon that can actually be funny.

Similar to ‘in need of modernisation’ there are also several other similar terms you’ll often come across in the property descriptions.

When we’ve looked for properties, we’ve often come across properties described as a ‘blank canvas’. Now, sometimes we’ve viewed properties like this that have simply been decorated in neutral colours and are in lovely condition – ready for us to put our own stamp on.

However, we’ve also viewed properties described like this where it actually meant it’s been stripped right back and you’ll need to fully redcorate.

Other well-worn phrases that estate agents will use include: “The property is in need of some updating and is being offered with no onward chain.”

Essentially, the estate agent is trying to say that someone has died in the house recently and in the 50 years they have lived there, they’ve never bothered decorating.

And is anyone really taken in when an estate agent says: “The property is in a rural location.”

What the estate agent means is that the property you are interested in is not only very small, but it’s also a 30 minute drive from the nearest shop.

Of course we say these things tongue in cheek and actually bought a rural property ourselves and absolutely love it! I think from memory ours was described as ‘no near neighbours’ – though that was what really appealed to us!

There’s also the issue of a property that comes with features that are described as ‘characterful’. What they may mean is that ceilings in the property are very low.

Popular terms used by estate agents

Other popular terms used by estate agents will be to describe a property as being conveniently located, which means potential buyers need to be aware that their home is likely to be on a very busy main road and perhaps above a busy takeaway.

There are terms being used that should flag up the property as a potential bargain and these include:

  • The property has become unexpectedly available – this means the previous buyer has probably pulled out at the last moment because their survey highlights that the property is hugely overpriced or that there’s a very big problem the buyer will need to fix.
  • We also like it when an estate agency exclaims ‘New price!’. This means that they were overly-ambitious when creating the price for the property when it was first advertised.
  • This also points us in the direction of a property being reduced, which means the seller is getting desperate.
  • And any use of the word ‘character’ will usually highlight that the potential property is dilapidated.

Estate agent buzzwords

Other estate agent buzzwords to be wary of include:

There are excellent transport links.

Translation: The home has a busy railway line or motorway within yards of it!

Ideal as a first three bedroom home.

Translation: The third bedroom can barely fit a person into it!

The property is set within a purpose-built residential development.

Translation: The home is in the centre of a very large housing estate!

Garden flat.

Translation: A basement flat that’s likely to be dark and damp!

The rear garden is low maintenance.

Translation: The rear garden has been concreted over!

The living space is easy to maintain.

Translation: The home is very, very small!

Local schools are within easy reach.

Translation: Local schoolkids will meet outside your home at lunchtime and leave litter!

So, there we have it, lots of different estate agent words and phrases to learn. We’ve tried to focus not just on the useful ones but also some of the more comical ones with tongue firmly in cheek! We hope you enjoyed them.


  • Steve Lumley

    Steve Lumley has years of experience writing about property. His output has covered everything from property investment, news for landlords and student tenants to articles on how to run a successful portfolio and starting out as a property investor. He has also written several books on the subject.

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  • Paul James

    Paul James, is a marketing expert with a passion for property. As well as being a property investor, Paul has also worked within the marketing departments of some of the UK’s leading estate agents. Paul is the founder of Property Road.

    View all posts
3 Things Your Estate Agent Won't Tell You

3 Things Estate Agents Won't Tell You


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