What Exactly Does ‘Estate Agent Lingo’ Mean in the Real World?

Hands up, who has ever heard jargon used by estate agents and quietly, so as to avoid embarrassment, thought ‘erm..come again?’

You’re not alone, and whilst agents use this lingo because it’s industry standard and does have genuine meaning, if you haven’t sold before it can be a little overwhelming. Don’t worry though, we’ve created a handy cheat sheet for you.

1) Property Chain


A chain is a line of people buying and selling properties: a chain could start with a first time buyer purchasing a small flat; the owners of the small flat are then looking for a new house; the owners of that new house are then looking to buy a bigger house and so the chain goes on …

However, if one person in the chain drops out, then all the sellers are unable to continue with their moves as the chain collapses!

2) Cash Buyer

A pile of pound coins

This is probably one of the most overused and misleading terms. It is not someone with a large suitcase stuffed with bank notes (although rarely it might be, and in those situations, you might be best to keep looking).

A cash buyer is someone who can purchase property with funds that aren’t borrowed, so they are, on paper, a more attractive buyer than someone taking the mortgage route. It isn’t someone who has no property to sell, but still requires a mortgage.

3) Chain Free

We’ve discussed a chain, but you may also hear that someone is ‘chain free’. This means that their purchase of your property isn’t dependent on them selling their own home. They may be a first time buyer, or be buying a second home – or just be very, very rich.

Chain free buyers can be a good thing because it is one less thing to go wrong but, keep in mind that first time buyers can find it difficult to get a mortgage so the words ‘chain free’ don’t always mean ‘easy ride’.

4) Gazumping

It’s a fun sounding word for something that really isn’t enjoyable (for a buyer) but can be great for a seller.

Essentially, once a buyer has had an offer accepted on a property, another buyer can swoop in and offer more, and so ‘gazumping’ the first buyer. For a seller, it means more money – for the first buyer, it means a stressful hunt for additional funds.

5) Commission

Collection of percentages

Put simply, this is the fee that you pay your estate agent, this can be an upfront payment or, traditionally, a fee you pay when your property sale completes.

It’s called ‘commission’ because, before the birth of online agents (we’ll get to that) you would pay an agent a percentage of the price your house sells for. Whilst this still happens, the growth of online agents (keep reading) has brought ‘fixed fees’ to the market.

A fixed fee is exactly that, rather than paying a percentage of the property price, you pay a fixed fee which you agree upfront, but generally pay once your house has sold.

Different agents work in different ways, and there’s no right or wrong.

Luckily, there is a place (netanagent.com) where you can compare local agents, analyse fees and decide for yourself which route to go down.

6) Vendor

A small word that causes quite a lot of confusion. Very simply, if you’re selling your house, you’ll be called a vendor. Equally, the person you are buying a house from will be called a vendor.

Anyone selling a property in your chain will be classed as a vendor.

7) Online, high street and hybrid agents

One of the biggest changes in buying and selling property has come from the rise of online only estate agents.

Online estate agents offer low fee house sales, with the low cost underpinned by their lack of physical high street branches and reduced overheads. High street agents will generally charge a higher fee than online only agents, but they offer local expertise.

Hybrid agencies are, as you might imagine, a mix between the traditional and the new. Their fees will be slightly higher than an ‘online only’ agent, but they will have a local sales manager/expert/guru (you’ll see a lot of different names), who will help with valuations and provide a service similar to, but not necessarily as all-encompassing as, that of a high-street agent.

There’s no right answer as to which is best – our advice, compare both routes and look at what is important for you, don’t dismiss one because a fee is low and equally don’t dismiss one because a fee is a little higher. There are fantastic online agents, and fantastic high street agents.

8) EPC

EPC stands for Energy Performance Certificate – this rates the energy efficiency of a property from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years.

You’ll have seen them on TVs and white goods – an EPC is a property wide view of efficiency, and also gives tips and estimated costs as to how to improve.

An EPC is valid for ten years – if you’re selling a property that has an EPC that is still valid, you don’t need to do anything. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to have at least booked an assessment before you put your house on the market.

If you don’t already have one, comparison sites exist to help you source a provider – try reallymoving.com.

9) Instruction

This is when you give an estate agent authority to sell your property; essentially the seller is agreeing that the estate agent can sell their house. Equally, the word also crops up when dealing with conveyancing (see point 10) – it means exactly the same thing. See ‘instruct’, think ‘appoint’.

10) Conveyancing

This is the legal work involved in buying and selling properties. As a seller, you would appoint a solicitor and your buyer would do the same thing. These solicitors will manage the contract between yourself and your buyer, formalising all documentation, undertaking legally required searches and helping ensure that the process is as transparent as possible.

11) Exchanging Contracts and Completing

At some point in your selling process, you will need to ask your solicitors when you will exchange contracts, and complete on your sale. But what does it actually mean?

Exchanging Contracts -

Man signing contracts on a desk

This is the point at which the sale becomes legally binding.

Before you exchange, the deal can break down with no penalties.

Between exchanging and completing, the deal can still break down but it is highly likely steep penalties would be incurred by whichever party breaks the contract.

Completing – The big day, when you can finally celebrate – money and keys will change hands.

So there you have it, a few keywords to get you going when selling or letting your house with an agent. Think this list could be expanded? Let us know and we’ll update it.

Selling or letting? Use netanagent.com to find the best agent to suit your needs

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