The purchase and selling of real estate involves complex legal transactions. From time to time you may come across real estate terminology in contracts and legal paperwork that you’re not familiar with. Below is our glossary of common Real Estate terminology.
Glossary of Real Estate Terminology:
When a seller accepts a buyer’s offer according to its terms – which usually leads to a binding agreement or contract.
A person given permission to act on behalf of a client in the sale, purchase, letting or management of real estate. Agents must be licensed from the relevant state agency.
An area of land that is subdivided into smaller pieces.
Is a feature of a neighbourhood. For example, a public swimming, school or park can be considered as amenities.
The length of time it would take to pay off a mortgage in full.
An estimation of the value of your property done by a real estate agent.
The increase in the value of property over time.
A moulding surrounding a door or window opening.
The amount that a seller wants a buyer to pay to purchase the property.
A public sale in which property is offered for sale through a competitive bidding process.
A horizontal, load-bearing piece of timber or metal that has structural properties.
A sub-floor timber or steel beam that supports floor joists.
A body of owners in a block of units. The council of the body corporate – elected by property owners in the block – meets at regular intervals to discuss various matters of administration, including repairs, maintenance and security.
For rental properties, a bond acts as a security deposit. Usually four times your weekly rent (or your monthly calendar rent), bonds give landlords a little financial security in an event where you leave without paying rent or damage their property.
A line separating adjoining properties.
Breach of contract
Breaking the conditions of a contract.
Finance that is obtained for a short period of time as a “bridge” to long-term finance. This funding may be required if a home purchase completes before the owner’s sale.
Rules which are designed to maintain public safety, health and minimum acceptable standards of construction.
A real estate professional who represents the buyer and helps secure them the right property at the lowest price. This includes negotiating with the vendor or their agent.
Market conditions where the supply of properties exceed the demand, giving buyers an advantage.
Capital gains and capital gains tax (CGT)
Capital gains are the profits made on the sale of a capital asset, such as a house. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is the tax you pay on profits from selling assets, such as property.
The increase in property value over time.
Warns a person buying real estate that a third party has some right or interest in the property.
‘Caveat emptor’ means ‘buyer beware’ in Latin and alerts the buyer that the risk in a property transaction lies with them. This principle of law requires that the buyer is satisfied with the property they wish to buy before completing the transaction. The buyer purchases the property on an “as is” basis.
Certificate of title
A document that confirms the ownership of land. It shows who owns it and whether there are any outstanding mortgages or loans against it.
Property other than real estate that is included in a sale, including items of furniture.
A title that isn’t encumbered with outstanding mortgages or loans.
Detached group of houses that have a common open space.
A shared area that is available for use by more than one person, which might include the stairwell of an apartment block.
Common law title
Sometimes referred to as “old system title”, a common law title consists of a series of title documents referred to as “a chain of title”.
A fee or payment (usually calculated as a percentage or a flat fee) made to a real estate agent on completion of the sale of a property.
Compulsory acquisition (resumption)
The power of central or state governments to purchase property without the owner agreeing to sell. A compulsory acquisition order could be used for the building of new transport links.
Contract of sale
A document that lists the terms and conditions of a property sale between the vendor and the purchaser.
The legal process of transferring the ownership of property from the seller’s name to the purchaser’s name.
Cooling off period
A period of time after the signing of a sale contract where the buyer can cancel the agreement. It begins from the date you sign the contract, not from the date the seller signs it. Cooling off periods do not apply at auctions.
During negotiation, this is the ‘new’ offer you make after your previous offer has been rejected.
A requirement noted on the title of a property that forces the property’s owner to adhere to named terms, conditions and restrictions regarding the property.
A document issued by an insurance company to temporarily prove that a property has current insurance.
A legal document that is a record of an agreement, obligation or conveyance of property.
The sum of money normally paid by the buyer at the time of exchanging contracts. It is typically between 5 and 10 percent of the final purchase price.
The reduction in value of an asset over time.
An area of land or an existing dwelling that is zoned in such a way that allows the owner to construct a building that has two separate living arrangements.
A residential property with 2 apartments – both of which have separate entrances.
Expressions of Interest (EOI)
This is when an agent asks buyers to register their interest on a home before a certain time.
The value accrued on an asset over and above the debt owing.
The removal of a tenant from a rental property.
Exchange of contracts
The legally binding part of the sale process, where two contracts are drawn up and signed by each party, and then exchanged so the buyer has the contract with the vendor’s signature and vice versa. A deposit is usually paid at this time.
Goods or articles such as paintings and curtains that can be removed from a property without causing damage or an obvious reduction in its value.
Items such as baths, toilets and walk-in wardrobes that form part of the property and cannot be removed without causing damage.
A property that stands independently of others.
The withdrawal from a verbally agreed sale by the vendor in favour of a quicker or more profitable sale. This practice is perfectly legal before contracts are exchanged and real estate agents usually act in the vendor’s best interest and take the higher offer. Any deposits are refundable but no compensation is owed.
A person who guarantees to pay a borrower’s debt in the event that the borrower defaults on loan obligations.
A residential property grouped with others, having shared common areas and owned under a group title system. An apartment within a block of apartments may be referred to as a home unit.
Interest only loans
The principal amount borrowed is not repaid until the end of the loan. Only interest is payable in the interim, but the owner will be expected to save through endowment or other property savings schemes.
A list of items included with a property, including furniture and furnishings.
The purchase of an asset (like real estate) in order to produce capital gain.
Joint tenancy is the holding of property in equal shares by two or more persons.
A State government tax payable by owners of property based on the unimproved capital value of the property.
A lease is a legally binding contract or rental agreement between lessor (owner) and lessee (renter) where the lessee can occupy the lessor’s property for a set time in exchange for payment under certain terms. Also known as a tenancy agreement.
Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI)
Lender’s Mortgage Insurance or LMI is a non-refundable, one-off fee added to your home loan in an instance where you’re wanting to borrow more than 80 percent of your home’s value. It protects the lender against higher risk borrowers.
A contract between a property owner and a real estate agent that sets out the terms, conditions and commission associated with the sale of a specific property.
Loan-to-value ratio (LVR)
Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) is your loan amount relative to the value of your home. For example, a $500,000 home loan secured against a property that is worth $1,000,000 = 50 percent LVR. The higher the LVR, the higher the risk for the lender (which is why when LVR is 80 percent or more, you’ll be charged Lender’s Mortgage Insurance).
The middle point of all the properties sold in a given time.
A legal document that gives a lender an interest over a property to secure the repayment of a loan.
Mortgage protection insurance
Insurance paid by the borrower to protect the lender in a situation where they may not be able to meet their repayments.
An entity that lends money on the security of a mortgage.
An entity that borrows money offering the security of a mortgage.
Where the rental return on an investment property is less than your interest repayments and outgoings.
Property sold without public advertising.
Off the plan
To buy off the plan is signing a sale contract for a property that has not been built yet.
A transaction account linked to your home loan. When you hold money in an offset account over a period of time, you can reduce the amount of interest charged on your home loan. You can also make deposits or withdraw from it as you would with a regular transaction account.
On the market
A term used during an auction when the vendor’s reserve price has been reached and the property is now officially for sale to the highest bidder.
Option to buy
A legal document giving a person a right to buy according to an option price and predetermined terms and conditions.
When the vendor’s reserve price is not reached during auction, the property will ‘pass in’ and negotiations will continue privately. The previous highest bidder has the first opportunity to negotiate.
Where the rental return on an investment property is more than the interest repayments and outgoings.
Also known as conditional approval, this is when a lender has agreed to loan you a particular amount in principle, but nothing has proceeded to final approval. Pre-approval allows you to know how much you have to bid or offer on a home.
Principal and interest loan
A loan whereby the lender repays a combination of interest and the principal borrowed throughout the term of the loan.
Private treaty sale
Sale of property through a real estate agent on the open market. Cooling off periods are part of private treaty sales, unless the buyer removes this condition to secure the property.
Funds paid by a loan provider in instalments to a builder – as the building work meets predetermined targets.
The management of a property on behalf of the owner.
The amount charged by the local council or water authority to provide services to a property.
Land with or without improvements on it.
This is the minimum price a seller has specified that they will accept to sell their property at auction.
Market conditions where the supply of property is low, giving sellers the advantage.
Two houses joined together by a common wall.
When the sale of a property is legally finalised.
A government tax administered by individual states. It is calculated according to the sale value on the contract of sale. For mortgages, however, it is calculated on the amount to be advanced.
A system of title that allows the owner of an apartment to have separate title for that specific unit of the building.
Subject to council approval (STCA)
Subject to council approval (STCA), meaning the owner will need council approval before demolishing, renovating or building.
Shows the dimensions and boundaries of land and the exact location of buildings.
The right to occupy land or buildings as provided by the terms of a lease or other agreement.
Tenants in common
The holding of property by two or more owners.
One of a row of houses joined together with common walls.
A property title holds a bundle of legal information about a piece of property, including details about the land and who owns it or has a mortgage on it.
The name of the government system of recording ownership of land.
Two-storey attached dwellings usually registered under a strata title.
A document registered at the Land Title Office recording the change of ownership to a property.
A separate bank account managed by a real estate agent where funds (such as deposits and rental income) are held on behalf of another party.
An offer for property not subject to any other conditions (things like building and pest inspections or organising finance). The buyer accepts the property unconditionally. All auction sales are unconditional.
When both parties have agreed on the purchase price and applicable terms and conditions, but the contract hasn’t yet been finalised, a property is ‘under offer’. Once the conditions have been met, the property is unconditional and then sold. Normally when a property is under offer no further offers can be made or accepted.
Usually describes a property free of secured loans and mortgages.
The bank’s estimation of the property value. This is usually used to determine how much you can borrow.
A legal property owner who offers the property for sale.
A bid that is set by the auctioneer on behalf of the vendor during an auction, to establish a fair starting price.
Single-storey dwelling usually registered under strata or community title.
The return that a property investor is likely to get on a property through rent. It is expressed as a percentage.
Description of the allowable uses of land, as set out by local councils or planning authorities.
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Last Updated: 18 October 2023