Mortgage jargon buster for first-time buyers

If you’re new to the property ladder, chances are you’re new to mortgage jargon too. And let’s face it, it can all be a bit confusing; making it harder for you to work out what you can get and what it’s going to cost you.

To help simplify things a bit, we’ve compiled a list of the most common terminology you’re likely to encounter and summed up what it actually means.

Agreement in principle

Sometimes known as a decision in principle or a mortgage in principle, this is a certificate or statement from a lender to say that – following a satisfactory credit check – ‘in principle’ they would lend a certain amount to you.

Some people will demand that you have an agreement in principle in place before they accept your offer on their house and it can also give you some peace of mind that you are able to get a mortgage as long as the decision isn’t overturned due to problems along the way.

APRC

This stands for annual percentage rate of charge, which is basically the same as APR but for mortgages. APRC covers the interest you’ll pay on what you borrow over a year, any fees and the follow-on rate (the standard variable rate a mortgage lender offers once the term of your initial rate ends).

Arrangement fee

An arrangement fee is a sum mortgage lenders may ask for to set up your mortgage. It can be added to the amount you pay back on your mortgage, so you don’t have to pay it up-front. However, if you do this you will have to pay interest on it.

Arrears

This is a term used for missed payments. If you miss a mortgage payment, this can negatively affect your credit score and you could find yourself falling into debt.

Base rate

The Bank of England set a rate of interest known as a base rate. This is what tracker mortgages and standard variable rate mortgages usually follow.

Buildings insurance

This is pretty self-explanatory – insurance that covers you for structural damage to your home – but you might not know that lenders require you to have this before you take out a mortgage.

Capital

How much you borrow to buy a property.

Capped rate

Some mortgages have a top rate of interest that the lender will never exceed, no matter what happens with the base rate. So, essentially, your interest is ‘capped’.

Cashback mortgage

This is a type of mortgage that will see your lender give you cash once you’ve either finished paying it off or upfront when the mortgage completes. However, you need to think carefully about whether you’re getting a good rate on the mortgage for its entire term, rather than being seduced by the promise of a cash back, as restrictions normally apply.

Collar

This is the opposite of a capped rate. A collar is a rate of interest on your mortgage that a lender will not go below. Be wary of collars, because it means that if the base rate goes low, you won’t reap the benefits on your mortgage.

Conveyancing

The name used for the legal part of buying a house, such as contracts.

Deposit

The amount of money you put down towards your property outside of your mortgage. Learn about how much deposit you need here.

Early repayment charges

If you want to pay all or part of your mortgage off early, you may be charged by the lender. You should pay particular attention to this when choosing a mortgage, because you could find that you’re charged an early repayment charge if you want to move to a different lender or product to get a better rate.

Equity

This refers to the amount of your property that you own outright.

Exit fee

An administration fee paid by you when you repay your mortgage. Some lenders require this administration fee, so it worth checking to see if you have one as part of your mortgage agreement to avoid a nasty surprise at the end.

Extended tie in period

Your lender may demand that you stay with them for a certain amount of time, before you are able to move your mortgage elsewhere to get a better deal. This is known as an extended tie in period. However, you may still be able to move your mortgage during this time, but you will be charged a fee to do so.

Family offset mortgage

If you’re a first-time buyer, this may be an option for you, as it allows your parents or another family member to use their savings to reduce the overall  mortgage balance. You then pay interest on the remaining balance, thereby lowering your monthly repayments. However, you still have to pay back the full mortgage balance – your family’s savings won’t pay it off for you if you use a family offset mortgage. These types of mortgages normally have higher interest charges.

Fee saver

A fee saver mortgage means you’ll have no arrangement fee or completion fee.

Fixed-rate mortgage

This is when you take out a mortgage that has a fixed rate of interest for a set period. During this period, your interest rate won’t go up or down.

Flexible mortgage

With a flexible mortgage you can overpay or underpay without any early repayment charges. You might also be able to take a ‘payment holiday’ – when you don’t make your monthly repayments for a period of time, subject to the lenders terms and conditions. A flexible mortgage is ideal if you want to pay off your mortgage early but be prepared to pay more for this type of mortgage than others.

Freehold

If you buy a freehold property, you will own the building and the land it stands on.

Gazumping

When you make an offer on a property and it is accepted, you could still lose it if someone else comes in with a higher offer and it’s accepted before you sign contracts. This is called gazumping.

Guarantor

If you have a low credit score or you’re a first-time buyer, you may be asked to provide a guarantor, which is a person who agrees to make your mortgage repayments if you aren’t able to for any reason. It essentially provides lenders with an extra level of security in case you default.

Help to Buy

This is the umbrella name for a series of initiatives launched by the government to help people get on the property ladder. This includes the Help to Buy ISA. To learn more, click here.

Higher lending charge

If you’re borrowing more than 75% of a property’s value you may face a charge. This is to give the lender more security.

Interest only mortgage

You pay the interest on your mortgage each month and pay the capital off in a lump sum at the end of the term. However, if you’re doing this, you need to have a plan to get the money together to pay off the capital when it’s due, perhaps by investing in stocks and shares or selling another property. This type of mortgage is not suitable for those who want to guarantee that their mortgage is paid off at the end of the mortgage term.

Joint mortgage

When a mortgage is taken out by two or more people. If you take a mortgage out with your partner, for example, this is classed as a joint mortgage.

Leasehold

Leasehold is when you only own the property for a fixed term and you do not own the land. This is common if you’re buying a flat.

Loan to value

This is the term used to describe the value of your mortgage as a percentage of your property’s value. So, if you put down 10% of your home’s value as a deposit, your loan to value ratio will be 90%.

Lump sum payment

When you make a one-off payment to reduce your outstanding mortgage balance.

Mortgage broker

This is a person who can help you understand the mortgage process and will look for mortgages for you.

Mortgage deed

This is the contract between you and your lender. It lets you know your rights and obligations, so make sure you read it properly.

Mortgage term

The length of time you choose to repay your mortgage over.

Negative equity

You might hear this term banded about when people talk about the housing market crash. Negative equity is when the value of your home is less than what you owe on it.

Offset mortgage

Often referred to as a current account mortgage, this is often a more expensive type of mortgage. It allows your credit balances to offset your mortgage amount , so you only have to pay interest on the difference.

Portability

The ability to move your mortgage from one property to another with the same lender without having to pay penalties.

Rebuild costs

You might encounter this when getting your home insurance ahead of your mortgage. It refers to the cost of rebuilding your home if, for some reason, it is destroyed.

Repayment mortgage

This is a common type of mortgage and it’s when you pay off the capital of your mortgage and the interest each month.  If you keep up your repayments your mortgage will be repaid at the end of the term.

Shared ownership

If you choose a shared ownership property, you pay part of the value of the property and pay rent on the rest, often to a local housing association.

Stamp duty

This is a land tax that you’ll pay once the purchase of your house has gone through. Learn more and see what you might have to pay here.

Standard valuation report

Once you’ve had an offer accepted, this will be done to help the lender to check the current market value of the home and, therefore, how much they are happy to ultimately lend you.

Standard variable rate

If you’ve taken out a fixed term mortgage, the standard variable rate is the rate of interest you’ll pay once the initial term is over.

Starter home initiative

This is another government scheme to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder. Thousands of new home have been created and will be sold at a minimum discount of 20%. Learn more here.

Sub-prime/non-conforming mortgage

If you have a low credit score and cannot improve it quickly enough, you may want to apply for a sub-prime mortgage, as these are designed for people who don’t have a great credit history.

Tracker rate mortgage

If you have a tracker mortgage, the interest rate you pay will depend on the Bank of England base rate. A lender will commit to keeping their interest rate at a fixed percentage either above or below the base rate and this is what you’ll pay.

Variable-rate mortgage

This is a mortgage where the interest rate you pay depends on what the lender’s variable rate is. As a result, it can go up or down whenever, making it slightly less predictable for you.