Understanding Mortgage Terms: A Homebuyer’s Guide

young couple on the sofa with laptops and their dog understanding mortgage terms

Navigating the world of mortgages can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. Understanding the various mortgage terms is crucial to making informed decisions and securing the best deal for your financial situation.

This guide aims to demystify common mortgage terms for UK homebuyers, providing clarity and confidence as you embark on your homeownership journey.



A mortgage is a loan specifically used to purchase property. In the UK, most people rely on mortgages to buy homes because property prices are typically too high for most to afford outright. A mortgage is secured against the value of the home until it is paid off. If you fail to make payments, the lender can repossess the property.



The deposit is the upfront amount you pay towards the cost of the property. Typically, lenders require a minimum deposit of 5% to 20% of the property’s value. The size of your deposit can influence the mortgage deal you get—the larger the deposit, the lower the risk for the lender, which can result in better interest rates.


Interest Rate

The interest rate is the cost of borrowing money from the lender, expressed as a percentage of the loan.

There are two main types of interest rates:

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that remains the same for a set period, usually between 2 to 10 years. This provides stability, as your monthly payments won’t change during the fixed period.

Variable-Rate Mortgage

A variable-rate mortgage has an interest rate that can fluctuate over time. Types of variable-rate mortgages include tracker mortgages, which follow the Bank of England base rate, and standard variable rate (SVR) mortgages, which are set by the lender and can change at any time.


Repayment Types:

Repayment Mortgage

With a repayment mortgage, you pay off both the interest and the capital (the loan amount) over the mortgage term. By the end of the term, assuming all payments are made, you’ll have repaid the entire mortgage and own your home outright.

Interest-Only Mortgage

With an interest-only mortgage, you only pay the interest each month, not the capital. At the end of the mortgage term, the original loan amount remains outstanding, which you will need to repay through other means, such as savings or selling the property.


Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio

The LTV ratio represents the percentage of the property’s value that you are borrowing. For example, if you put down a 10% deposit, your LTV is 90%. A lower LTV typically means you’ll get a better interest rate because the lender’s risk is reduced.


Mortgage Term

The mortgage term is the length of time over which you agree to repay the loan. In the UK, the standard mortgage term is 25 years, but terms can range from 5 to 40 years. A longer term reduces your monthly payments but increases the total amount of interest paid over the life of the loan.


Arrangement Fee

Also known as a product fee or booking fee, this is a charge by the lender for setting up the mortgage. It can range from a few hundred to a couple of thousand pounds. Some lenders allow you to add this fee to the mortgage, but doing so will increase the total amount you repay.


Early Repayment Charge (ERC)

An ERC is a fee you might have to pay if you repay your mortgage, either in part or in full, before the end of the agreed term of the mortgage deal. ERCs are common with fixed-rate mortgages and some tracker mortgages. They are usually calculated as a percentage of the outstanding loan or as a set number of months’ interest.



Remortgaging involves switching your current mortgage to a new deal, either with your existing lender or a different one. This can be done to secure a better interest rate, release equity in your home, or switch to a different type of mortgage. It’s worth reviewing your mortgage regularly to ensure you’re on the best deal.



Equity is the difference between the market value of your property and the outstanding amount of your mortgage. If your home’s value increases or you pay down your mortgage, your equity grows. Equity can be used as security for other loans or to fund major expenses through remortgaging.


Stamp Duty

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a tax you pay when you buy a property over a certain price in the UK. The amount varies based on the property’s value and whether it’s your first home or a subsequent purchase. First-time buyers benefit from reduced rates on properties up to £500,000.


Solicitor’s Fee

These are the legal fees paid to a solicitor or conveyancer for handling the legal aspects of buying a property, such as conducting searches, drawing up contracts, and transferring the funds. Costs can vary, so it’s worth shopping around for competitive rates.


Mortgage Offer

A mortgage offer is a formal document from a lender confirming that they agree to lend you the money needed to buy your property. It details the terms and conditions of the loan. Receiving a mortgage offer typically follows a successful application and valuation process.


Agreement in Principle (AIP)

An AIP, also known as a Decision in Principle (DIP), is an indication from a lender of how much they might be willing to lend you based on your financial situation. It’s not a guarantee but can be useful when house hunting to show sellers you’re serious and can afford the property.


Credit Score

Your credit score is a numerical representation of your creditworthiness based on your credit history. Lenders use this to assess the risk of lending to you. A higher credit score can improve your chances of being approved for a mortgage and securing a better interest rate.



Porting allows you to transfer your existing mortgage to a new property if you move home. This can be beneficial if you have a favourable interest rate and don’t want to lose it by switching to a new mortgage.


Offset Mortgage

An offset mortgage links your savings and current account to your mortgage. Instead of earning interest on your savings, the amount is offset against your mortgage balance, reducing the amount of interest you pay. This can be a tax-efficient way to manage your finances.



Understanding these key mortgage terms can help demystify the mortgage process and empower you to make informed decisions. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to remortgage, having a clear grasp of these concepts will aid you in navigating the complexities of securing a mortgage.


At HLC Mortgages, we are committed to guiding you through every step of the mortgage process. Our team of experts is here to provide personalised advice tailored to your unique circumstances, ensuring you find the best mortgage deal for your needs. Contact us today to start your journey towards homeownership with confidence.

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