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The terms estate agents use to market properties

Kieran Witt, 23 August 2023

Estate agents
Property portals

What’s this article about?

A quick summary of the terms used by Estate Agents to market properties as defined by National Trading Standards.

Everywhere you look in the home-buying process you’ll find terms and phrases that are confusing and unclear. One of the places you’ll find this is on property listing on platforms like Rightmove and Zoopla, but thankfully, National Trading Standards, the people responsible for making sure Estate Agents stick to the rules, have put together a handy set of definitions.

General terms

New on the market

A property that hasn’t been advertised since the last time the property was sold.

New instruction

A property where an agent has recently been instructed to market (and which may have been offered for sale by another agent without being sold).

New and exclusive

A property that is either a new instruction or new on the market which is exclusive to that agent or portal (depending on the context). The description ‘new’ should only be used for a short period of time, although the term ‘exclusive’ can be used for as long as it is applicable

New method of sale

A property that is now being advertised for sale or let using an alternative mechanism to the original advert (e.g., it’s now being sold by auction or sealed bid).


A property that has been recently reduced in price.

Terms used during the sales process

Under offer

A property where an offer has been received which is being considered by the seller. The property is normally still on the market, i.e., further offers may be made dependent upon the sellers written instructions. This description should only be used until the offer is accepted or declined.

Sale agreed

A property where an offer has been accepted by the seller, but (for example) contracts may not have been prepared or the buyer may not be in a final position to proceed. The property may or may not still be on the market, i.e., further offers may be made dependent upon the seller’s written instructions. The seller’s decision on future marketing is material information in this context and should be clearly stated on property listings to avoid any confusion amongst potential buyers. This description is allowed to be used until the property is sold or the sale falls through, as the case may be.

Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC)

A property where an offer has been accepted by the seller, subject to contracts being exchanged. The seller should be asked by the agent to confirm whether the property should continue to be marketed for sale, and this decision should be clearly stated on property listings. This description is allowed to be used until the sales process is complete or the sale falls through.

Sold subject to conclusion of missives (in Scotland)

A property where an offer has been accepted but the sale has not yet concluded, pending the exchange and agreement of the missives. The property should no longer be actively marketed for sale. In rare cases the sale may still fall through, hence the use of this description.


A property where the sale has finished and the buyer becoming the legal owner of the property.

A final note on offers

Along with the guidance on the terms used on property listings the National Trading Standards also provided information on how buyers offers should be handled. Here’s what they said:

Vendors are what estate agents call sellers

“Any offer received on a property at any stage in the sales process must be communicated to the vendor in writing without delay. The only exception to this is where a vendor instructs the agent in writing that offers of a certain type do not need to be passed on, or where agents are under a statutory duty to delay passing on such offers (e.g., where a suspicious activity report is being made). Agents must therefore establish at every significant stage of the sales process whether, or not, a vendor wishes to continue receiving offers. Without written instructions to the contrary, the agent is obliged by law to continue passing on offers until contracts have been exchanged or missives concluded. Where instructions have been received that no further offers are to be accepted, this is material information and should be declared in the property listing and any other advertisement.”