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Common conveyancing terms

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Buying a property can be a serious undertaking, and it pays to make sure you go into it fully informed. Conveyancing is an integral part of the purchase or selling process, so consider familiarising yourself with these important introductory conveyancing terms.


Agent: Acts on behalf of sellers to arrange the sale of property including houses, buildings, factories, shops, farms, land and businesses.


Boundary: Based on a plan of survey, or alternatively a plan or sketch compiled from a survey, which defines the boundaries of the property as at the date it was prepared.


Certificate of title: A certificate of title provides proof of ownership, and may also include historical information about encumbrances on the property in question, for example, easements, making it an important part of the documentation when preparing a property for sale

Common property: The areas of a registered strata plan that are for shared use and access by all owners (e.g. hallways, green spaces and driveways in unit blocks).

Conveyancer: A conveyancer is a professional who can assist you with the conveyancing process. Depending on which state or territory you are in, you may find that the duties and responsibilities of a conveyancer are quite different. Some conveyancers can provide holistic property advice, while others will work purely with documentation and legal matters. In some states, conveyancing can be performed by a conveyancer, or by a solicitor.

Conveyancing: Conveyancing, in simple terms, is the legal process through which a title for a property is transferred from one party to another. Depending on the type of property and the state in which it takes place, this can involve a variety of different processes. 

Cooling-off period: Depending on the method and conditions placed upon the sale of a property, you may find that there is a cooling-off period allowed for the buyer. This is a set number of days during which the buyer can back out of the purchase process. The length of this period will depend on the state or territory you are in. In New South Wales, for example, there is a five day cooling-off period for residential property (unless it is waived through negotiation between the parties). There is often a penalty for doing so, however, and some sale types (such as an auction) may not have such a period.

Contract of sale: This is a legally binding agreement between the buyer and the seller for the sale of real property and provides for all of the agreed aspects, property details, rights and obligations between the two parties. These can be technical legal documents and it is highly recommended that both parties seek professional advice from their legal representatives.


Disbursements: These are additional costs that may be charged by your conveyancing professional that are incurred as part of the conveyancing process. They can include title search, certificate fees, registering the title transfer, registering the mortgage or even something as simple as photocopying. Non-legal fees may include survey reports, building inspections, valuation fees and so on.


Easement: An easement is a covenant that burdens or benefits a parcel land. Easements can affect what you can or cannot do with the land. An example of an easement is a right of way over someone else’s land.

Exchange of contracts: When purchasing a property, the contract for sale becomes active once you exchange contracts with the seller. Exchange involves swapping your signed version of the contract with the seller’s signed identical version and indicates the commencement of the agreement to buy/sell the property (which ends at completion or settlement of the agreement). The deposit is required to be paid before exchange of contracts can take place.


Fittings: Items such as backyard ornaments, lighting or wardrobes which can be removed without damaging the property.

Fixtures: Items such as basins, toilets, baths, built-in wardrobes and kitchen stoves that are attached to the property and cannot be removed without causing damage.


Joint tenants: Joint tenants means that each tenant (for example a husband and wife) own the whole of the property together or jointly. This involves a right of survivorship, that is, the interest of a deceased joint tenant passes to the surviving joint tenant, so that in the example of the husband and wife, the surviving spouse then owns the whole of the property on their own.


Owners corporation: The owners corporation is the body made up of all the owners in the strata scheme.


Requisitions on title: A set of questions about a property the buyer asks the seller after the contract has been signed, usually with the help of a solicitor.


Settlement: Settlement occurs near the conclusion of the conveyancing process, when the remaining balance of the purchase price is paid to the seller and the documents required to legally transfer of ownership are registered or sent for registration. This can be performed physically, or electronically in some cases.

Stamp duty: Transfer of land, business or stamp duty is a State-based tax that is paid on certain land or business transactions in applicable States in Australia. The costs vary depending on value of the transfer and state that the property is located in, and is paid by the buyer of the land.

Strata title: Each unit in a block or multi-unit complex is individually owned by the resident.


Tenants in common: A form of joint ownership of a property when each person owns a share of the property, equally or unequally. It is different to joint tenants as each tenant owns are particular portion of the property (eg. 40%, 50%, 60% etc) and may be able to transfer their portion only or give to a particular person through their Will. The right of survivorship does not apply to tenants in common as it does for joint tenants.

Torrens title: A system of title by registration adopted by each state/territory in Australia.


Valuation: An estimate of the value of a property by a registered valuer.

Vendor: The person selling the property. Also referred to as a Seller.


Zoning: The permissible uses of an area of land as stipulated by the Local Council

Learn how to understand the legal process when buying a home

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