English vocabulary: buying a house

English people often talk about their homes: their mortgages, the interest rates, and rising property prices. Here’s a guide to some of the English words and phrases you might come across.

Your dream home

It’s a good idea in the UK to arrange a mortgage with a bank before you start looking. This is when the bank tells you how much money they will lend you so you have a good idea of how much you can afford.

The next step is to go to an estate agent (= a company which represents buyers and sellers of properties) to see what sort of properties they have available in your budget range and in your area. If you see something you like, the estate agent will arrange for you to view the property, so that you can see the house or flat for yourself.

If you see something that takes your eye, you put in an offer. The vendor (seller) can accept or decline this offer, and if the vendor accepts it, you can move forward with the sale. However, as you don’t pay any money at this point, the offer isn’t legally binding, and in theory, you can pull out of the offer at any time that you like.

Your next step will probably be to get a structural survey done. A qualified surveyor will inspect the house and write a report that illustrates any structural problems, like damp or drainage problems.

If you still want to go ahead with the sale, you need to appoint a solicitor (a lawyer) to do the conveyancing (= the legal paperwork.) If you already own a house, you might also be busy trying to sell it. Many house owners prefer to sell to first time buyers (those people who don’t already own a home), as they are not in a chain (=waiting for other people to buy their house before they can buy their next house).

Finally, once the contracts are signed and exchanged, you complete on your house. You get the keys and you can move in whenever you want. Then you might want to throw a house-warming party. Congratulations!

(See also our page on House idioms in English for some common idioms about houses and homes.)