Real estate vocabulary

At this moment, there are over 100,000 properties in London listed as either on sale or for rental. Are you about to join the thousands of people looking for a home in the capital? Here is the essential vocabulary and expressions you will need for this exciting journey

1. The local area and the type of property

  • penthouse is a flat on the top floor of a tall building, typically one that is luxuriously decorated. 
  • development is a residential area where the properties have all been planned and built at the same time. 
  • To describe a property, you hear the terms: flat, terraced house, town house, detached house, semi-detached house. 
  • The neighbourhood is the immediate area round the property and all it offers: schools, transport links, library, local leisure centre. 
  • borough is a local authority district, governed by a borough council. There are 32 boroughs in London. 
  • Amenities are public facilities which make an area pleasant to live in, such as restaurants, parks, community centres, swimming pools, golf courses, and tube stations.

2. Inside the property

  • The floorplan is a showing how the space in the property is arranged – the rooms, windows, and dimensions.  
  • Open-plan means one continuous space rather than broken up by walls.  
  • Spacious is an adjective derived from the word ‘space’. It means, ‘with a lot of space’ and estate agents love this word! 
  • staircase enables you to move between different floor levels. Each staircase is made up of individual stairs
  • Overlooking means ‘looking over’ – seen from a high position. Riverside apartments, for example, may have lovely views overlooking the River Thames. 
  • Storage space is very important. It means space where you can keep things so that your home doesn’t get too messy. 
  • fitted wardrobe means the wardrobe is built into the wall permanently; it is not a separate piece of furniture.  
  • To renovate a property is the process of making improvements to an unfashionable or damaged home.  
  • Walk-in literally means you can walk in, for example, a walk-in shower. 
  • Reception room refers to a room used as a living room or a dining room. 
  • A basement is the floor of a building which is partly or entirely below ground level.  
  • A cellar is a room below ground level in a house used for storage rather than living space, for example, a wine cellar. 
  • In a house, a loft is a room or space directly under the roof. Lofts were originally used for storing things, but nowadays, many people do a loft conversion to make an extra bedroom or even an entire new flat! 


3. Key questions to ask your estate agent

  • If the house has been on the market for three months or more, then you need to ask why. Is there a problem with it that you haven’t discovered yet? It’s better to find out before you make a decision. 
  • Have the sellers already found a new home? If they have, they may want to sell quickly. Otherwise, there are risks connected with a property chain.  
  • What are the schools like? How good are transport links? Where is the nearest station? What are the local parking restrictions? Make sure you do some independent research about the area your property is located in.  
  • Are the curtains included? Or the cooker? What about other fixtures and fittings? Exactly where does the boundary lie? Make sure you know what you’re getting for your money. 
  • The rating on the Energy Performance Certificate, says how energy efficient the property is and how easily heat stays inside the property. This is very important in the British climate! 

4. Other useful words and expressions

  • Gas safety regulations. Landlords must have annual gas safety checks carried out, and a copy of the report must be given to the tenant. 
  • The letting agent is the name we give to the company which helps you find a suitable property. 
  • Administration fees: Fees charged by letting agents for processing your references, preparing the rental agreement and making an inventory. 
  • Inventory: This lists the contents, condition, and condition of a property, inside. Make sure they do this, with a copy for you, as the tenant, and for the landlord. It prevents any misunderstandings later. 
  • Service charge: If you are in a serviced apartment or flat, there is an annual fee you pay as your contribution to the cost of looking after communal areas. For example, the reception, gardens or even a concierge (a person who receives deliveries, supervises the building, collects the post and so on) 
  • Repairs and maintenance. Your landlord is responsible for keeping things in good working condition: the walls, roof, windows and external doors, wash basins, plumbing pipework, water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, heating system. These responsibilities will be in the tenancy agreement.

Finally, make sure you read all the paperwork carefully! 


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