A first-time buyer’s guide to common legal terms


Borrower/Mortgagor – a person who takes out a mortgage.
Buyer – the person buying the property.
HM Land Registry – Government department responsible for registering land in England and Wales.
Lender/Mortgagee – a bank or building society who lends money for someone to buy property, secured against the property.
Vendor – the person selling the property.

The buying process

Chain – property sales that depend on each other. A buys B’s house, B buys C’s and C buys D’s. If D pulls out of the sale, A, B and C are all affected.

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Completion – the date the conveyancing process ends and property transfers to the buyer.
Deposit – amount the buyer agrees to pay at the exchange of contracts. If the sale does not complete the buyer forfeits the deposit.
Exchange – point where the buyer and seller sign and exchange contracts through their solicitors. If either pulls out after exchange there can be legal repercussions.
Searches – checks on various registers to ensure a buyer is aware of all rights and duties they have for the property. Searches also cover environmental hazards. Searches are best done by a professional conveyancing lawyer, such as those at Sam Conveyancing.
Title – who owns and has rights over a property.
Title deeds – record and prove who owns a property. If the title is registered then the original paper copy of the deeds will not normally be required. However, HM Land Registry says it needs the original deeds when registering land or property for the first time.
Valuation – an assessment of how much a property is worth, not as detailed as a survey.


Advance – the payment of money from the mortgage by the lender.
Base rate – the interest rate set by the Bank of England, on which all other interest rates are based.
Equity – the value of the property, minus the outstanding mortgage.
Mortgage – a loan to purchase property, secured against that property. This means the property can be repossessed if repayments are not made as agreed.
Stamp duty – a payment made to HMRC by the buyer depending on the cost of the property.
Variable rate – an interest rate that changes as set out in the mortgage agreement.

Documents and forms

Contract – the agreement setting out the terms of the sale between seller and buyer.
Mortgage deed – a legally binding agreement, signed by the buyer to show agreement to the conditions of the mortgage. The buyer agrees the property will be security for the loan. This means the property can be repossessed if repayments are not made as agreed.

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Mortgage term – the length of the mortgage, i.e. how long it will take to repay the loan.
Mortgage offer – the terms on which the lender says it will provide the loan.
Occupier consent form – a form an adult occupier signs when they live at a property but will not sign the mortgage. By signing this form, the occupier agrees to leave the property if the lender repossesses the property.
Survey – a report prepared by a surveyor following an inspection of the property. The survey should inform the buyer of any problems in the property and any risks in buying or insuring the property.

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