Jargon Buster

At a loss to understand arrears, affidavits or air bricks? Bamboozled by balloon payments and back-to-back escrow? Confused by conveyancing, cash-flow and closing costs?

If so, our Jargon Buster will be just what you need.It's a glossary of terms packed full of property phrases, estate agent slang, financial words and other terms you may come across in your real estate or personal finance activities.

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Jargon Buster: S

Our glossary results: 74 matches!


The money you receive from your employment. Commission, overtime, and bonuses are not normally considered as part of your gross income by the lender, unless you receive them at a guaranteed level. Any supplementary payment that is not guaranteed but which can be shown to remain above a certain level over a period of time can sometimes be taken into account, though many lenders will only incorporate a portion of this money into the calculation.

Scheme switch

The transfer of your debt from one mortgage product to another one offered by the same provider. A fee is usually charged by your original lender for this.


The final, smooth finish to a solid floor usually consisting of cement or concrete.

Sealed blind bids

Applies in Scotland if there is more than one party who notes interest in a property. When there is competition for a property, you will probably only get the chance to make one offer. You do the groundwork and your research into the value (provided by your opinion, the valuation, and the consultation of your solicitor) and you put in your sealed bid without knowing what the other interested parties have tabled. The seller usually gets an offer over the asking price and accepts it. However, they are under no obligation to accept any of the offers that are made to them, and they can reject them all and open up the competition again, although this is rare.


Broad name for stocks, shares and bonds issued by companies to investors.


A piece of property designated as collateral.

Self storage

These are simply secure warehouses in which you rent a bare room. You can store almost anything you like for as long as you like, though you may be subject to a minimum 'stay' of one month. You should be able to arrange for your removals company to put everything into this type of storage if you prefer.

Self-build mortgage

Mortgage for those who wish to build their own home, renovate, or convert their existing home. Funds are normally released in stages as work progresses following a satisfactory progress report from an architect.

Self-certification mortgage

Mainly for people whose income is difficult to assess using the standard method adopted by most conventional mortgage lenders. Bonuses, commission, and seasonal work can cause income to vary over time or be difficult to guarantee and this may not be considered acceptable in order to get a loan. The main groups of people that opt for self-certification mortgages are: Self-employed and unsalaried company directors, Contract workers (increasingly common in technology-based industries), Commission-based workers (often in sales, recruitment etc.), People with seasonal earnings. The interest rate you are charged will be higher to compensate the lender for the increased risk.


A person who operates as a sole trader or as part of a partnership.

Sellers leasehold information form

A form filled in by the current property owners, often used by some solicitors and conveyancers to check out the term and conditions of the leasehold agreement.

Sellers pack

The government is planning the introduction of a seller's pack which should hopefully speed up the homebuying process and thereby reduce the length of time in which gazumping is possible. This information dossier will become a mandatory requirement of anyone putting his or her home on the market. It will include a basic surveyor's report and the results of local authority searches - both of which are currently the buyer's responsibility.

Sellers position

Circumstances that can enhance or weaken your negotiating position including market conditions, length of time property on the market and a need to sell quickly.

Sellers property information form

This is a form filled in by the current property owners which is used by some solicitors and conveyancers to asses’ things like boundaries.


A property which is attached to another one-on-one side only.

Septic tank

A tank in which sewage is decomposed by bacteriological.

Serpula Lacrymans

Another name for droit, this is a fungus which attacks structural and joinery timbers and flourishes in moist, unventilated conditions. Can cause serious problems.

Service charge

This pays for maintenance and insurance of communal areas and is usually only applicable to flats.

Service specification

Sets out exactly what a tradesmen, contractor or removals firm will do and not do for you. One that you sign with your removals company will clearly state what they will be doing on your behalf and what you agree to do yourself. Anything you pack yourself will not usually be covered by the insurance they provide.


Also referred to as 'closing' and occurs when all financial dealings and contractual arrangements are completed by both buyer and seller. All debts are paid, and money disbursed, and the deed is transferred into the new owner's name.


Movement in the structure of a building often showing as a distortion in walls.


Naturally occurring cracks in timber. Do not necessarily affect strength.

Shared ownership scheme

This is like a Homebuyer scheme, where a Registered Social Landlord will provide you with some of the funds to purchase your home, with you providing the rest by way of a mortgage. There are various criteria that you must fulfil in order to qualify for a shared ownership scheme.

Shared-appreciation mortgage

A loan that allows a lender or other party to share in the borrower's profits when the home is sold.

Shared-equity transaction

A transaction in which two buyers purchase a property, one as a resident co-owner and the other as an investor co-owner.

Shareholders' funds

The level of the shareholders' capital invested in a business. It is made up of the original capital raised at the issued value of the company's shares plus the total of reserves generated since incorporation. This can take the form of either trading surpluses or asset realisations and re-valuations.


Rectangular slabs of wood used in place of slate.

Short creditors

This is all current liabilities payable on demand or within one year of a company's Balance Sheet date.

Show home

A home constructed on the site of a new development and used to sell properties yet to be built. These can often have different specifications to the other homes to be built so always be aware of what you are buying.


Screens for doors and windows often featuring horizontal slats that may be decorated and which allow control over air and light into a room.

Single item limit

This is the most a contents insurer will pay-out for a single item in the event of loss, damage, theft etc. Make sure that this is high enough to cover your most expensive items or you could end up losing out.

Sitting tenant

Someone who has a legal right of occupation to a property, even if the property is sold to someone else, and can apply to the local authority to set a fair rent.


Pebble, shingles, and gravel laid beneath ground to allow the drainage of water.


Laid under flashing at the juncture between a roof and a chimney stack.

Social infrastructure

Applies to any public works such as a new motorway, waterworks, or alterations to road systems, as well as anything else that is has had permission to take place immediately adjacent to the property.


The under-face of eaves, balconies etc.

Sold subject to contract

Very important phrase meaning you have agreed to buy or sell a property, but the contracts have not yet been exchanged.

Sole agent

This means an agreement to sell your property through one estate agent only.


Legal professional who is instructed to act on behalf of the buyer in the purchase of a home. They check the legal position of the house, carry out a local authority search, land registry searches and oversee the smooth exchange of contracts between concerned parties.

Solicitor's fee

Your solicitor will usually charge you a basic fee to cover taking your instructions, advising you throughout the course of the sale, acting and investigating on your behalf, explaining the contract for purchase, and completing the matter on your behalf. Though this is rarely charged as a percentage of the property value, it can be stepped, so that buyers of more expensive properties pay higher fee. If you hunt around, you should be able to find a solicitor with a basic charge of as little as £300+ VAT but remember that cheap is not always best.

Solicitor's letter Fee

This is charged when your account falls in arrear and the lenders instruct solicitors to act on their behalf. Costs £20 - £30

Solicitors' Property Centres

Centres is Scotland where property from all the solicitors in the area is displayed.

Solicitor's regional directory

This directory lists the law firms in your area, along with the type of work they specialise in. You can find one at any library and most citizens advice bureaux.


The space beneath a staircase.

Specialist conveyancer

Licensed conveyancers offer skills in residential property, including the purchase of freehold and leasehold property, excellent working knowledge of leases, and the transfer of interests in domestic property. You may find that larger law firms have a specialist conveyancing arm that deals specifically with business of this nature.

Specialist survey

Aside from the main types of survey, you may be advised to get specialist surveys on certain things, often as a result of one of the other types of survey. If there are any trees that look like they may start interfering with the foundations of the property, or timber that looks like it may have seen better days, then you may be advised to get a specialist in to have a separate look at them. This will rarely be included in the cost of your full survey.


The difference between the market makers offer price (at which it will buy shares) and the bid price (at which it will sell shares).

Staggered payment

This is where you commit to paying further instalments to cover work that the builders will carry out at a later date. This could be anything from building a conservatory to landscaping a communal area. There have been incidents where payment is made, and work is never carried out. As a rule of thumb, only pay for what you are sure you are getting. If the developers are going to make further enhancements, get your solicitor to make sure they are fully covered in the contract.

Stamp duty

Stamp duty is a government tax for the privilege of buying a house. Currently the tax is 1% of the property's value for those valued at between £60,000 and £249,000, 3% for properties valued between £250k - £500k and 5% over £500k.

Standalone assistance

A number of insurance providers now offer a separate policy to cover minor repair work that would normally not be worth claiming for, due to the excess on your buildings insurance policy. For a premium of between £30 and £100 per year you are covered for a set amount of work that is usually specified in hours (anything from one to five hours work is normal). This covers eventualities such as leaking boilers, overflowing drains and smashed windows.

Standard payment calculation

A calculation that is used to determine the monthly payment necessary to repay the balance of a home loan in equal instalments

Standard PMI

Offer a slightly narrower range of in-patient, outpatient, and at-home treatments than comprehensive PMI. You should still get the private ambulance, accommodation for parents, use of alternative medicine and cash incentives for using the NHS, but there is often a yearly cash limit on the value of some types of treatment.

Standard Variable Rate

The Standard Variable Rate is the rate which many mortgages revert to after the introductory offer, fixed rate or discount period is over. They are the simplest and most traditional mortgage product with no upper or lower limit on the rate charged, and the bank can raise or lower the rate at their discretion (though usually this is done broadly in line with the base rate).

Standing mortgage

An interest only mortgage where no arrangements are made at the outset for the repayment of the loan. If a specific investment vehicle has not been arranged to provide funds for this purpose, the borrower will have to repay the loan by some other means. If the capital is not repaid, the lender can repossess the property and sell it to recover as much of the debt as possible.

Standing order

A regular payment for a fixed amount that you can ask us to make from your account to another specified account.

Statutory sick pay

This is the income that your employer is bound by law to pay you if you are absent from work through illness.

Stepped discount mortgages

Where the discount is, for example, fixed at one level for one year and then a slightly lesser level for two further years. Remember it is the percentage discount that is stepped and not the monetary amount, so your repayment can still vary.

Stepped fixed rate Mortgage

Where the interest is, for example, fixed at one level for one year and then a slightly higher level for two further years. This is not as common as finding stepped discounted mortgages.


The total value of raw materials, all work in progress or under construction, and finished goods held but unsold.

Structural guarantee

Also known as the Buildmark, this is a guarantee from the National Home Builders Council that covers around 85% of new homes. It covers you against the developer going bust. It also means that builders are responsible for remedying any defects the building may have for the first two years after completion (known as the initial guarantee period). It also means that the developers are responsible for any major damage caused by structural defects for the entire life of the warranty


Lightweight wall construction made of timber covered with plaster or plasterboard.

Subject to contract

Very important phrase meaning you have agreed to buy or sell a property, but the contracts have not yet been exchanged.

Subject to survey

You have agreed to buy a property subject to a survey being carried out and bringing up nothing unusual.


Is when the land on your property or under your home is sinking. This can affect your ability to get a mortgage or can means real structural problems for the building.


Soil lying immediately below the topsoil, upon which foundations are usually laid.

Sulphate attack

Chemical reaction between water, tricalcium aluminate and soluble sulphate which can cause damage to brick and concrete.

Sum assured

The is the maximum an insurance policy will pay out. It may relate to a single item on your contents insurance or the cost of re-building your home if it is destroyed.


An official request to appear before the courts.


The process of cashing in an unwanted endowment policy with the insurer who sold it to you. Doing this often produces a poor return for the money invested to date in the policy's early years.

Surrender value

The amount received when converting an investment, such as an endowment, into cash.


A survey will tell you exactly what work needs to be done to the building and whether there are any problems with the property you did not know about. This can help avoid unpleasant and costly surprises after you have moved in. As the buyer, it is your responsibility to find out what you are committing yourself to. The seller has no liability whatsoever once the purchase is complete.


This is a professional who can act on your behalf to assess the condition of a property. Any surveyor should belong to a professional body such as either the RICS or ISVA (due to be merging).

Surveyors arbitration scheme

If there are any complaints that cannot be settled by other means, members of either The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors or The Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers are obliged to use the appropriate arbitration scheme and accept its findings. Where the body is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the arbitration works very much like a court case, though it is administered by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and not by the criminal or civil courts. The RICS pays the full cost of the proceedings. Each side also pays a £200 registration fee. For any successful claims, the surveyor must pay the customer's registration fee. For unsuccessful claims, the customer will only have to pay the £200 registration fee of the surveyor if the claim is for more than £3000.


The Standard Variable Rate is the rate which many mortgages revert to after the introductory offer, fixed rate or discount period is over. They are the simplest and most traditional mortgage product with no upper or lower limit on the rate charged, and the bank can raise or lower the rate at their discretion (though usually this is done broadly in line with the base rate).
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