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R&R Jargon Buster

7th May, 2014

Whether you are selling a property, getting a re-mortgage, looking for your next investment or taking part in any number of other property related transactions, the world of estate agency can be jam packed with baffling jargon and acronyms.

Due to a lot of these frustrating phrases I thought it would be a good idea to put together (quite) a few common and not some not so common words that are used in the minefield of buying or selling property, insurance quotes, conveyancing, surveys and mortages in an attempt to make everything a bit more clear for everyone involved!

If there is anything not listed or anything else you would like to know please do get in touch.

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Administration/Application fee
This is a charge levied by the lender to cover the costs of processing a mortgage application. If an application is not completed, the fee may not be refunded..

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
The total cost of a loan, which includes the costs, interest charges, and arrangement fees.

The person or party wishing to rent or buy a property.

Appraised value
The value of a property, as estimated by a surveyor.

The increase in the value of a property as a result of changes in market conditions.

Arrangement fees
Fees charged to arrange a loan on certain products. Usually applied to loans where a special interest rate applies eg fixed or capped rates.

Any form of property owned by a person, including currency, stocks and enforceable claims against others.

The transfer of ownership of an insurance policy or lease.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
The most common type of Tenancy Agreement in the private rental sector setting out the rights and obligations of the landlord and tenant. It is used where the rent is below £100,000 per annum and the tenant is an individual, or group of individuals, rather than a company. The term must be for longer than six months..

The sale of a property to the highest bidder. Buyers are required to sign a contract and pay a deposit immediately

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Basic Variable Mortgage Rate
The mortgage lender’s standard rate of interest which may be increased or decreased, depending on prevailing economic conditions.

A person for whose benefit property is being held by trustees, executors or administrators.

Break clause
A break clause gives the tenant or landlord the right to terminate a Tenancy Agreement, under specific circumstances, before the date it is officially due to end. Usually requires written notice.

Bridging Loan
A temporary loan, which allows a buyer to complete on the purchase of a property before selling their previous property by covering the overlap.

Building Regulations
Prior to the owner of a property carrying out extension work, alterations or structural changes, building regulations need to be obtained from the local authority giving their approval for the work to commence.

Building survey (formerly full structural survey)
A full inspection of the property, conducted by a chartered surveyor, who will write a detailed report setting out the soundness of a property and any property defects. Suitable for any house, particularly older properties and those that have been poorly maintained as well as properties that have been extensively altered or extended, or any property due to be altered or extended.

Buildings insurance
An insurance policy that pays the cost of repair or rebuilding in the event your property is damaged or destroyed. Most mortgage lenders will require buildings insurance to be taken out as a condition of their loan.

Buy To Let Mortgage
A type of mortgage specifically for investors buying a property with the intention of then letting it out.

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The amount of money either put into buying a property or the deposit placed on a property. Also known as equity.

Capital Gains Tax
A tax upon any profit realised on the disposal of an asset. Owner occupied properties are generally exempt from Capital Gains Tax.

Capped Mortgage
Is provided by lenders with a fixed maximum interest rate, normally agreed for a set period of time.

County Court Judgement, any person who has defaulted on payments or has bad debts could have a CCJ taken out against them by the courts, which could prevent that person from obtaining a mortgage offer.

The situation that occurs when a buyer is reliant upon completion of the sale of their existing property in order to complete on the purchase of the new property.

A payment received from conducting business.

Common areas
Areas of land or buildings, such as gardens, hallways, recreational facilities and parking areas, where more than one resident shares access.

Company Tenancy
This form of Tenancy Agreement is used where a company is the tenant. There is no additional statutory protection; both landlord and tenant are bound only by the terms of the written agreement.

Comparative search
A search that looks at the actual sale values of similar properties in the same area as your property. This search is normally carried out by a surveyor and should give an indicative sale price for a property.

Completion Date
The date of payment of the balance of the purchase money, at which point the buyer is then entitled to take possession of the property.

Conditions Of Sale
The details that determine the rights and duties of the buyer and seller.

Contents insurance
Insurance that covers the contents of a property, including electrical goods, carpets, furniture and curtains.

A legally binding written document of agreement between two parties approved by both sides solicitors, and setting out the agreed terms by which both sides are committed to proceed to completion.

Contract Race
This occurs when two parties have made an offer on the same house, usually at the same price. The vendor will sell to whichever party exchanges contracts first.

Contractual Tenancy
This form of Tenancy Agreement is used where the rent exceeds £25,000 per annum and the tenant is an individual or group of individuals. The tenant is not given any additional statutory protection and both parties are bound only by the terms of the written agreement.

Converted flat
A flat or apartment that has been created by the subdivision of a larger property.

Is either taken to mean the act of transferring ownership of a property, or alternatively the legal document which effects the transfer.

A qualified individual such as a solicitor or licensed conveyancer who deals with the legal aspects of buying or selling a property.

The legal process surrounding the transfer of ownership of a property from buyer to seller.

Conveyancing fee
The charge made by a solicitor or conveyancer for undertaking the legal process necessary for the transfer of ownership of a property.

Corporate relocation
The process by which a company relocates an employee as part of the employer’s normal course of business.

Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML)
The Council of Mortgage Lenders devised the Mortgage Code to ensure lenders treat customers fairly.

A binding promise in a deed with regard to a property. i.e. maintenance of a fence, or restrictions to trading from a premises.

Credit check
The procedure by which a check is made on the credit history of an applicant, usually conducted by one of the large dedicated credit check agencies. The check will reveal history of credit card repayments, outstanding debts, arrears and County Court Judgments.

Credit history
A record of an individual’s or company’s past borrowing, including information about late payments and bankruptcy.

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Legal documents proving ownership, generally held by the mortgage lender.

Deeds release or discharge fee
The fee charged by lenders at the end of a mortgage term to cover the administrative costs of transferring the property ownership documents to the borrower.

Defective Lease
A badly drafted lease. If this is serious, the vendor may have to obtain a ‘deed of variation’ getting the freeholder’s permission to change the original terms of the lease.

A situation in which prices are falling (the opposite to inflation).

This is a sum of money required from the buyer when he enters into an enforceable greement. This is usually on the signing of the contract, and can be between 5 and 10 per cent of the purchase price if buying or 4-6 weeks rent for tenants.

The decline or reduction in the value of a property caused by changes in market conditions (the opposite of appreciation).

A term used to describe a property that stands alone, separate from all others.

A newly built residence or an older property that has been refurbished and modernised.

These refer to disrepair or damage done to a rented property.

These are fees paid by the buyer’s solicitor on the buyer’s behalf, such as stamp duty, land registry fees, and search fees.

Paying off a mortgage.

Discount mortgage
Mortgages charged at a rate discounted from the published bank standard variable rate for a set period of time. The rates are variable and are subject to go up or down in line with any changes to the Bank of England base rate.

Down valuation
When the lender restricts the amount you can borrow after the surveyor’s valuation report indicates the property is not worth the sum sought.

Draft Contract
This is a preliminary unconfirmed version of the contract, prepared by the vendor’s solicitor.

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Early Repayment Charge (ERC)
A charge levied by the lender as a penalty if a mortgage is paid off within a specified period.

A term given to a right which someone may enjoy over another property. These can be rights of way, drainage rights, or more likely access to a neighbour’s land in order to carry out repairs to their own property.

Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
Regulations that require all electrical installation and appliances within the property are maintained in good order and regularly checked for safety by an appropriate registered engineer.

A liability imposed on the owner of a property, which is then binding on subsequent owners.

Endowment Mortgage
These are not as popular as they were, and involve both building society and an insurance company. Repayments to the building society are in respect of interest only. The capital sum outstanding remains constant throughout the term, and is repaid by means of an endowment policy taken out with the insurance company when the policy matures or in the event of death of the policy holders.

Endowment mortgage
Interest-only repayments combined with monthly premiums into an endowment policy designed to pay off the loan at the end of the term.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
An EPC measures the energy efficiency of a property using a scale of A-G. It is a legal requirement to have a valid EPC for their property.

Deeds are usually drawn up in draft form for approval by each party’s solicitors. When the deeds are approved, sometimes after amendments, the final drafts are then engrossed for all parties to sign.

The difference between the value of a property and the amount of mortgage owed.

The initial sum paid on an insurance claim.

Exchange of contracts
The point at which signed contracts are physically exchanged, legally committing the buyer and seller to the purchase and sale of a property at the agreed price. The time at which a deposit (generally 10%) is paid.

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Financial Services Authority (FSA)
An independent body that regulates the financial services industry in the UK.

Fixed rate mortgage
A mortgage in which the interest rate is set for an agreed period of time.

Fixtures & fittings
All non-structural items included in the purchase of a property.

Flexible mortgage
An arrangement whereby you can increase or decrease your mortgage.

Flying Freehold
This can occur when first floor accommodation forming part of one freehold is located over ground floor accommodation forming part of another freehold. The first floor freeholder does not own the land beneath the property, and is then said to own a ’flying freehold’.

Forced Sale Value
A price one would expect to obtain for a property on the open market without delay, assuming that a normal or reasonable amount of time is not available in which to market that property.

Where the owner of the property also owns the land on which it is built.

Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 & (Amendment) 1993
Regulations that require all domestic upholstered furniture, furnishings and other products containing upholstery in a property to be certified as compliant.

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Gas Safety Regulations 1998
Regulations that require that any gas appliances in a property to be inspected by a gas engineer, who is certified by the Gas Safe Register, before tenants move into a property and annually thereafter.

In the event of two people wishing to purchase the same property, one buyer may offer more than the other to tempt the seller into proceeding with him. This is despite the fact that the seller may have already accepted the other buyer’s offer, subject to contract. There is no legal obligation to the first buyer, only a moral one.

This is similar to gazumping, except on this occasion it is the purchaser reducing his offer prior to exchange of contracts. It probably goes without saying that gazumping is prevalent in an active market, and gazundering in a slow market.

Ground Rent
When a freeholder lets land to a leaseholder and then subsequently builds on it, the rent paid is in respect of the land only and is therefore known as ground rent.

A mortgage lender may require a borrower to appoint a guarantor. This is someone who promises to pay the borrower’s debt if the borrower defaults.

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Higher lending charge
An up-front, one-off fee paid to the lender to protect them against the borrower defaulting on the loan. Usually charged on mortgages over 75% of the house value.

Home Buyers Survey And Valuation Report
This is a survey report which is not as detailed as a full structural survey and is carried out by a chartered surveyor.

Household insurance
An insurance policy that protects against loss or damage to the property caused by fire, some natural causes and acts of vandalism. Also see Buildings insurance and Contents insurance.

Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO)
A building of three floors or more which is to be occupied by three or more people and where these people live as more than one household and share facilities such as bathrooms, toilets or cooking facilities.

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Independent Financial Advisor.

Building societies operate in accordance with the Building Societies Act. This provides that the maximum advance they can make on a property without additional security is 75% of the purchase price or surveyor’s valuation for pre 1919 properties, and 80% for post 1919 properties. When a society lends in excess of this percentage, the excess is guaranteed by an indemnity policy. A single premium is payable by the purchaser when the mortgage is taken out.

Informal Tender (sealed bids)
Requires competing buyers to submit their best bids by a specific time and date. It is not a legally binding contract.

Interest Only Mortgage
An interest only mortgage stays the same throughout the mortgage term. When choosing an interest only mortgage, the purchaser is responsible for ensuring that they have sufficient funds available to repay the mortgage at the end of the term.

A list describing the condition of furnishings and the contents of a leased property at the start and end of a tenancy, in order that any dilapidations during the tenancy can then be identified.

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Joint Agency
The appointment of two estate agents to act jointly in the sale of a property. Normally the commission is shared between both agents irrespective of who introduced the buyer, although generally a slightly higher percentage is awarded to the introducing agent. In a multiple agency, where several agents are involved, the commission is payable solely to the agent who introduces the buyer.

Joint income
The total gross income of the two borrowers in a joint mortgage.

Joint tenants
A form of ownership for two parties whereby if one of them dies, their share of the property will automatically transfer to the remaining party, giving them full ownership (regardless of the terms of the deceased owner’s will).

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Land registration
The process of registering the legal title of an area of land with the land registry, typically handled by a solicitor.

Land Registry Fee
Payable to the Land Registry to register ownership of a property.

The owner of property that is rented.

Landlord’s reference
A reference given by a previous landlord, which confirms an applicant’s history of payment of rent and previous conduct as a tenant.

A legal document by which the freehold or leasehold owner of a property lets the premises to another party for a specific length of time, after which point it may revert to the freeholder or superior leaseholder.

Lease agreement
The formal legal document entered into between a landlord and a tenant that reflects the terms of the negotiations between them. It constitutes the entire agreement between the parties and sets out their basic legal rights.

A type of ownership in which a person owns a property, but not the land on which it is built. The owner of the Freehold will grant a lease on the property for a specified length of time.

Legal charge
A mortgage on the property.

The party, typically a bank, building society or mortgage company, offering the loan.

Lender’s arrangement fees
Charge passed on to the buyer by the lender for arranging a loan.

A lessee is a person who holds a lease (i.e. the tenant).

A person who grants the lease (i.e. the landlord).

Listed Building
A building which is listed as being of special historical or architectural interest, which cannot then be demolished or altered without local government consent.

Loan to value (LTV)
The proportion of the value of the property on which the lender is prepared to loan. This can be up to 100%.

Local Authority Search
A search made at the local council office by a buyer’s solicitor to check whether or not the property is affected by such matters as any outstanding enforcement or future development issues which might affect the property, or the immediate surrounding area.

Long let
A long let is a property that is typically let for a period of six months and more.

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Maintenance Charge (or Service Charge)
The cost of repairing and maintaining external and/or internal communal parts of a building, which are then charged to the tenant or leaseholder.

Technically a maisonette is an apartment which is on two levels, with its own separate access. Although generally properties on two levels, with or without separate access, are referred to as maisonettes.

An amount of money advanced by a lender such as a bank or building society on the security of a property and repayable over a long period.

Mortgage broker
A company which advises lenders on the types of loans available and which helps to process any subsequent application.

Mortgage deed
The legal document that confers ownership or title to a property.

Mortgage Indemnity Guarantee
An insurance policy that a mortgage lender may require the purchaser to pay if their loan is above a specified amount of the purchase price.

Mortgage Payment Protection (MPP)
This is an insurance designed to pay your monthly mortgage for a limited period, usually a year if you are unable to work through illness, disability or redundancy.

Mortgage rate
The standard variable interest rate quoted by all mortgage lenders which normally varies in line with the Bank of England base rate. All discounted rates are based on this mortgage rate.

Mortgage term
The period of time over which a mortgage loan must be repaid.

Mortgage type
This may be a fixed, variable, capped, discount, tracker or another type of mortgage.

The lender of a mortgage i.e. a bank or building society.

The recipient of the mortgage.

Multiple Agency
See joint agency.

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National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS)
The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) is an accreditation scheme for lettings and management agents, offering landlords and tenants peace of mind that they are dealing with a firm that agrees to meet defined standards of customer service.

Negative Equity
Occurs when the value of a property falls to less than the outstanding mortgage, so that despite having sold the property the owner will have a continuing debt.

NHBC (National Housebuilding Council)
A non-profit making, independent body approved by the Department of the Environment, which lays down standards for housebuilders who are registered with them. The council issues 10 year certificates, which allow for the remedying of any serious defects developing during that time, on new-build properties. It is unlikely that a mortgage lender will grant a mortgage on a new property which does not have either an NHBC guarantee or an architect’s certificate.

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A sum of money that the tenant offers to pay to rent a property.

Offer of a loan
A formal document approving the mortgage you have requested and detailing the Terms and Conditions that will apply.

Office Copy Entries
If the property has a registered title, the vendor’s solicitor will need to apply for office copy entries from the Land Registry before a draft contract can be prepared.

Office copy entry
An official document from the land registry confirming ownership of and borrowings against a property.

Open Market Value
The price a property should achieve when there is a willing buyer and a willing seller.

Outline Planning Permission
This is planning consent which is subject to certain reserved matters, such as design, appearance and siting of proposed buildings.

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Party Wall
A wall which separates the properties of two adjoining owners, each of whom have certain rights over the wall.

Payment break/holiday
An option on flexible mortgages that allows you to stop making mortgage payments for up to six months.

A specified charge that is levied by the lender under certain circumstances, usually for full or part repayment within a specific period linked to a discount, tracker, fixed or other product type.

Peppercorn ground rent
A nominal periodic rent usually paid annually.

Peppercorn Rent
A nominal rent where the landlord does not receive an annual payment in cash. When the owner of land or property wishes to grant a lease, he must charge a rent as an acknowledgement of the existence of the lease. Where the owner does not want to charge any rent but simply wishes to establish the lease exists, he can ask for a peppercorn each year as a token payment. In practise, this is not generally handed over!

Pied A Terre
A property kept for temporary, secondary, or occasional occupation.

Portable Appliance Test (PAT)
A test carried out by a registered engineer to ensure that all electrical installations and appliances within a property are safe in conjunction with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. Keatons are able to arrange this on your behalf.

Power Of Attorney
A document granting power to some person to act in the name of another. Normally left with a solicitor to enable a purchase to proceed in the absence of either the vendor or purchaser.

Preliminary Or Pre-contract Enquiries
These are enquiries made by the purchaser’s solicitors, requesting information on a property prior to exchange. It is at this stage that fixtures and fittings to be left or taken are agreed.

The monthly amount payable for an insurance policy.

Premium Lease
A lump sum paid up front as rental payment for a property. Most normally used by City firms for corporate lets.

The amount of debt outstanding (excluding interest).

A document which is issued by a court to an executor, to show that the will of a deceased has been proved and that the executor can distribute the assets.

Property Management
The management of a property on behalf of the owner.

Property Misdescriptions Act 1991
Brought in to ensure agents’ descriptions of properties, either written or oral, and room measurements were accurate, and to ensure that agents carry out due diligence at all times.

Public Liability Insurance
Insurance which covers injury to, or death of anyone on or around a property.

A person who is buying a property.

Purpose Built Flats
These are properties which have specifically been designed and built as individual flats, as opposed to flats which are created by conversion of an existing building, such as a large Victorian house.

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Refinancing a property by either switching a mortgage from one lender to another or by taking out a second mortgage to take advantage of any equity gained by a rise in value.

When a mortgage is fully repaid.

Renewal of contracts
Opportunity to renew a contract which has or will shortly expire.

Repayment mortgage
A mortgage in which monthly charges are used to repay the interest and reduce the outstanding capital.

When the mortgage lender takes possession of a property due to non-payment of the mortgage.

Restricted Covenant
An obligation restricting the use of land which is binding on subsequent owners, for example not allowed to keep animals on the premises, or a house builder may put a covenant on a property forbidding extension without his approval.

The holding back of part of the mortgage until repairs or specified works to the property are satisfactorily completed.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

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A request or enquiry for information concerning the property held by a local authority or by the Land Registry.

A property that is joined to one other house.

Service charge
See maintenance charge.

Share of freehold
Where the freehold on which the property stands is owned by a limited company and the shareholders of that limited company are the owners of the property.

Short let
A short let is a property which is typically let for a period of less than six months (subject to local authority restrictions). When renting a property on a short let basis, all utility bills are included in the rent (excluding telecommunications services).

Sitting Tenant
A person occupying a property who is legally protected against being removed.

Short Message Service. Commonly known as text messages.

Sole agent
When a seller chooses only one estate agent to sell their property.

Sole occupancy
A property that is occupied (lived in) only by the mortgage applicant(s) and their direct family.

Legal expert handling all documentation for the sale or purchase of a property.

Stamp Duty
A government levy payable by the purchaser of a property based on the purchase price. Currently (November 2007), there is no stamp duty payable up to £125,000 between £125,001 and £250,000 > 1%, between £250,001 and £500,000 > 3%, and over £500,001 > 4%.

Standard variable rate
Mortgage lender’s standard rate of interest, which may be increased or decreased periodically by the lender depending on prevailing economic conditions.

Structural survey
This is based on a detailed inspection of the property and reports on the general structural condition.

Studio flat
A flat consisting of one main room or open-plan living area, incorporating cooking and sleeping facilities usually with a separate bathroom/shower room.

Subject To Contract
When an offer is made to purchase a property subject to contract, it means that all dealings are subject to the actual exchange of the contract itself. Nothing is binding on either seller or buyer until the contracts are exchanged.

Subject to contract
Words which confirm that an agreement is not yet legally binding.

A professional person qualified to estimate the value of land and property.

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The temporary occupation of a property by a tenant.

Tenancy agreement
A legal agreement designed to protect the rights of the tenant and landlord setting out all Terms and Conditions of the rental arrangements.

Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme (TDPS)
All deposits being paid by a tenant for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must be registered with a recognised deposit protection scheme within 14 days. Where appropriate, Keatons will register the deposit on a landlords behalf. Also known as

An individual, group of individuals (up to four) or company who holds or possesses property for a time, in return for the payment of rent.

Tenants in common
A form of ownership by two or more people in which if one of them dies, their share of the property forms part of their estate and does not automatically pass to the other(s).

This is an arrangement whereby prospective purchasers are invited to submit sealed bids by a previously stated date and time. The moment the offer is accepted by the seller, the arrangement becomes a legally binding contract.

A collective term which relates to the nature of the owners title to a property i.e. is it freehold or leasehold.


Terraced house
A property that forms part of a connected row of houses.

The Ombudsmen For Estate Agents
This is an independent professional body that investigates complaints on behalf of customers, and is answerable to the Trading Standards Department. If using an estate agent to sell your property, it is always worth ensuring that they are members of the Ombudsmen Scheme so you do have some form of redress, should things not go according to plan.

The Property Ombudsman (TPO)
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) is a free, fair and independent arbitration service that ensures that landlords, tenants, sellers and buyers will receive the highest level of customer service.

Title Deeds
Documents showing the legal ownership of a property, which are normally held by a vendor’s mortgage lender.

Title insurance
An insurance policy which a buyer can take out to allow a sale to complete where there is a potential problem with the documentation in proving legal ownership of some part of the land he is buying.

Title search
An investigation, carried out by a conveyancer or solicitor, into the history of ownership of a property. The search will check for liens, unpaid claims, restrictions or any other problems that may affect ownership.

Tracker mortgage
A type of mortgage whereby any changes in the rate of interest charged follow exactly (track) another, specified, interest rate or index. Typically a tracker mortgage will track the Bank of England base rate.

Transfer Of Deeds
A Land Registry document that transfers the ownership of a property on completion in registered land transactions.

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Under Offer
Status of a property indicating that an offer has been made and accepted for a property, subject to contract.

When existing foundations to a building are inadequate, additional strengthening will be added below the existing foundations.

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A basic survey of a property to estimate its value for letting purposes.

The price of a property under normal conditions, ie when the buyer is not forced to buy and the seller not forced to sell.

Variable Base Rate
A basic rate of interest charged on a mortgage. This may change in relation to market conditions – in other words, monthly payments could either go up or down.

Referring to the seller or person who sells property or land.

Void period
Period of time where the property is empty/unoccupied by the tenant.

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Rights of way granted to enable obligations and duties to be fulfilled by the electricity board, telephone company etc to allow them to maintain pipelines and cables.

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Income from a property calculated as a percentage of its value.