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Jargon Busting: Understanding Homebuying Terms

Our last article on the most common terms used by professionals involved in the homebuying and selling process was hugely popular, so we’ve added some more of the most frequently used terms to ensure you don’t feel left out in the cold when buying or selling your home. Stephen Ward, Director for Strategy and External Relations at the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, explains.

What Are You Buying?

  • Boundaries: The physical limits of your property, often defined by hedges, fences and walls. The exact boundary between properties is not laid down anywhere, but there are various presumptions in law as to where it is and who is responsible for it should a dispute between neighbours arise. For example, the cost of putting up or repairing fences should normally be shared between both sides, but if it is supported by upright posts on one side, there is a presumption that it belongs to the owner on that side.
  • Conservation area: This is an area of special architectural or historic interest where the local authority imposes extra planning controls to ensure that the look and character is preserved. So, for example, you may need planning consent to change the windows. There are over 10,000 conservation areas in England.
  • Contaminated land: This is land that has been contaminated by hazardous material from its past use as, for example, a factory or petrol station. This will show up on the environmental search that your conveyancer will carry out on the property. The question then is the extent to which the contamination has been dealt with, something your conveyancer will advise you on as well as steps on how to proceed.
  • Defect in title: A problem with the legal ownership of the property which means a third party may have some kind of claim on it and complicates its sale. You can insure against this risk.
  • Easement: A right that one person has over another person’s piece of land, such as a right of way. A right of way is a legal right to use a particular route to pass across that land.
  • Encumbrance: This means there is a burden on a property – such as an easement – that does not stop it being sold but may reduce its value.
  • Private road: Most roads are maintained by local authorities and everyone can use them. Private roads (also called unadopted roads) are maintained by the property owners along that road at their expense, through a management company or a residents’ association, giving them control over what happens with the road. Public access can be limited too.
  • Vacant possession: This means that the buyer is buying an empty property with no other people having any right to stay there, or any possessions left behind that could interfere with the new owner’s use of the property.

What do you need?

  • Building insurance: Once contracts have been exchanged, meaning both sides have made a legal commitment to the deal, the buyer needs to take out insurance cover for the property. Your mortgage lender will most likely want to see proof of this.
  • Stamp Duty: You must pay Stamp Duty Land Tax if you buy a property or land over a certain price in England and Northern Ireland. The standard current threshold is £250,000 for residential properties but if all purchasers are first time buyers then the threshold becomes £425,000 on homes worth £625,000 or less. The rate of Stamp Duty is paid at different levels depending on the agreed sale price of the property. There is a different tax in Scotland (Land and Buildings Transaction Tax) and Wales (Land Transaction Tax).
  • Priority searches: These are searches carried out shortly before completion to ensure that nothing has changed since the initial searches were done.

Everything Else!

  • CHAPS transfer: On the day of completion, the outstanding money to buy the property is transferred electronically between the bank accounts of the buyer’s conveyancer and the seller’s conveyancer. The system used by the banks is called CHAPS: Clearing Houses Automated Payment System and there is usually a fee that is charged to use this service.
  • Planning control: Planning control is the process of managing the development of land and buildings. The purpose of this process is to save what is best of our heritage and improve the infrastructure upon which we depend. Your local planning authority is responsible for deciding whether a development, anything from an extension on a house to a new shopping centre, should go ahead. The Government has a plain English guide giving an overview of how the planning system works in England.

Remember! The important thing in any property transaction is to make sure you understand what you are signing for or being told. If you don’t understand, be sure to ask your conveyancer to explain it for you, it is their job to help you through the purchase of your property.

Explore more in our free magazine: Read Now

First Time Buyer is an exciting bi-monthly glossy which takes a stylish and comprehensive look at all the options available, setting them out in an entertaining and informative way, and helping potential customers navigate their way through what is often a daunting and complex process. We dispel the myths, reinforce the facts and arm the reader with the tools necessary to make their homeownership dreams a reality.

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