Glossary of conveyancing terms

We help make buying and selling property a little easier.

When dealing with contracts you’ll come across numerous legal terms. This handy glossary will ensure you understand the most common ones.

A Planning Certificate is a certificate obtained from the local council by us and must be included in a Contract for Sale of Land for it to be considered a legal contract. 

The planning certificate is also known as a zoning certificate.  Planning certificates give information on the zoning of a parcel of land together with the development potential of a parcel of land including the planning restrictions that apply to the land on the date the certificate is issued.

A 66w certificate is a document, signed by your conveyancer or solicitor, waiving your rights to a cooling-off period. It basically means you are committed to buying the property. 

The document can only be signed by the conveyancer or solicitor and not a real estate agent.

The adjustment date is the date on which the outgoings of a property (such as water usage, council rates or strata levies) are adjusted for payment at settlement.

It is usually the date of settlement but can sometimes vary, depending on the agreement between the solicitors/conveyancers.

A bank cheque is issued by a bank, building society or credit union (financial institution) which is guaranteed by the financial institution and is as secure as cash, which is why it required at settlement, unless it is an online settlement. A personal cheque will not be accepted.

A building certificate is a certificate issued by council after they have inspected the property that certifies they are happy with the property and will not issue an upgrading or demolition order on the property within the next 7 years. A building certificate is sometimes obtained if there has been illegal building work carried out. This is not the same as having council approval on the structure.

A breach of contract occurs when one of the parties breaks one or more conditions of the contract. We will advise you on the actions that will be taken if this occurs.

If someone else has an interest in the property, such as an ex-spouse or children, they can register a caveat on the title of the property. A property cannot be sold until the caveat is removed.  If agreed to by both buyer and seller, a caveat can be removed at settlement.

Means “let the buyer beware”.  This part of the law means it is up to the buyer to be satisfied with the property before buying. Therefore, it is essential the buyer undertakes pre-purchase enquiries such as pest and building reports.  We also recommend title insurance for all buyers (see Title Insurance).

A certificate of title or title deed is a document issued by the NSW Department of Land (Land and Property Information). The certificate shows:

  • Who is the legal owner of the property
  • A legal description of the property, and
  • If any other people, companies or government authorities have an interest in the property.  

For example, if there is a mortgage on the property, it will be listed on the certificate of title.

If you are buying or selling a strata unit or villa there will be parts of the strata plan that note “common property”.

Common property relates to areas within a strata plan which are not part of any one lot. It is considered to be owned by the owners corporation (all the owners collectively). For example, a driveway may be considered as common property or stairwells in larger complexes are also common property.

Completion (sometimes called settlement) is the date on which the transaction is completed, that is, money is handed over in exchange for the keys.

A title to land within a community plan.

If you purchase a property which has community title, as an owner, you will be a member of the community title association. This means you will be paying levies to help pay for common areas, such as parks, private roads, swimming pools, tennis courts etc.

Contract is an abbreviation for Contract for Sale.

A Contract For Sale is probably the most important part of buying or selling a property.  The contract for sale, or contract as it is often referred to, is required in order to sell your property.

It is a document that explains to both the buyer and seller the terms and conditions of the sale, and contains details of the description of the property, the price, inclusions and completion date.

A conveyancer is a person licensed by the Department of Fair Trading to practice conveyancing in NSW.

Whether you use a conveyancer or solicitor, the process they go through is known as conveyancing.

Conveyancing is the legal process when transferring the ownership of real estate from one person or party to another.

The current legislation provides a period of 5 business days from the date of exchange of contracts in which (only) the purchaser may cancel the contract for the purchase of residential property. A conveyancer or solicitor can sometimes waive the cooling-off period using a Section 66W Certificate. A purchaser who cancels a contract during a cooling off period will forfeit the sum of 0.25% of the purchase price.

The vendor’s conveyancer or solicitor prepares two identical copies of the contract; the purchaser’s copy is called the counterpart.

A notation on a title deed which imposes an obligation to terms, conditions or restrictions regarding the property.

An agreed amount (usually 10%) of the purchase price, which is paid by the purchaser at exchange of contracts and usually held by the estate agent until completion. A vendor and purchaser may agree to exchange contracts on an amount of 0.25% of the purchase price with the remainder of the deposit to be paid by the expiration of the cooling off period.

This is a guarantee issued by an insurance company that the purchaser will pay the full deposit by the due date. There is a fee for these bonds and they are regularly used instead of money as a deposit. Conditions apply.

A defined piece of land within a community plan that is neither common property nor a community lot. Not all community plans include development lots. Development lots are subsequently converted into one or more community lots plus (in most cases) additional common property.

Miscellaneous fees and charges incurred during the conveyancing process, including search fees and charges paid to Government authorities. For example, 149 certificate, sewer diagram, 603 and land tax.

A document signed by the lender and given to the borrower when a mortgage loan has been repaid in full.  On settlement, the discharge of mortgage is handed to the purchaser so the mortgage showing on the title deed can be removed.

An easement provides the right to a person, company or government authority to use or have access over part of the land. The most common easement of land is storm water easement. You cannot build over an easement without written consent.

The time at which the Contract for Sale becomes binding on both parties, the agreed deposit is paid and the cooling period (if any) commences.

Items which are specifically excluded from the sale.

A electronic signature is a signature completed with the use of a computer, tablet or mobile phone. The most common software used for electronic signatures is Docusign. You may be given the opportunity to sign your documents and contracts using an electronic signature.

Goods or articles that can be removed from the property without causing damage to it.

Items such as built in cupboards, stoves, etc which are fixed to the property and cannot be removed without causing damage. There is still argument about what constitutes a fixture so these should be detailed in depth in the contract.

An inspection of the property by the purchaser, prior to settlement, to determine that the property is in the same state and condition that it was at the date of exchange of contracts.

If you have a property in a flood zone, you may require a flood certificate. The certificate issued by council that outlines the minimum height above water level which would need to be measured by a surveyor. Some lenders require a copy of a flood certificate before a loan is approved.

Gazumping is when a purchaser’s offer has been accepted and the purchaser begins pre-contract enquiries, only to find that the seller has accepted a higher offer from someone else.

Items which are specifically included in the sale.

A list of items included with a property, usually furniture, furnishings, movable items etc.

Ownership of a property in equal shares, where if one owner dies his/her share passes to the surviving owner/s.

The term to describe land whether built upon on not. By law, land defined by a certificate of title includes all buildings, fixtures and improvements on the land.

A tax levied by the state government against some owners of property and is based on the value of the property.

State government office that records and registers all property ownership in NSW. It is currently known as the LPI.

An exclusive right to occupy land (whether for residential or other purposes) for a fixed period (see also “License”).

A non-exclusive right to occupy land (see also “Lease”).

State government tax on mortgages which has been abolished for residential loans.

Any charge on land (other than a caveat) created merely for securing the payment of a debt.

A person or organisation offering to organise or broker loans from a group of lenders.

The person who lends the money (bank or other financial institution) to another where the loan is secured by taking a mortgage over the borrower’s property.

The owner of land that is pledged as security for the payment of a debt in favour of the mortgagee.

The Office of State Revenue is the government department that collects the stamp duty payable when a property is purchased.  Also known as OSR.

The title system which pre-dated the Torrens system and still exists in some properties today. Old system title to a property was proved by demonstrating an unbroken chain in title.

A legal document giving a person a right to buy. In the document the price and period are specified. A fee is paid and if the person proceeds to buy the property the amount of the fee comes off the purchase price. If the person does not proceed to buy the property the fee is forfeited to the seller.

An authority given to the real estate agent by the purchaser after settlement authorising the agent to release the deposit to the vendor.

See Office of State Revenue.

The owners of lots in a strata title scheme.

A person who buys a property (buyer).

PEXA stands for Property Exchange Australia.  It is a way for lawyers, conveyancers and financial institutions to do settlements online, rather than meeting with all parties involved face to face.

A cross between old system title and modern Torrens Title. Mainly found when a property is being converted from Old System title to Torrens title. There is a title deed showing the owner, but still need to prove good title by showing a chain of ownership of at least 30 years.

The person whose name appears on the certificate of title as the owner of the land.

Documents are sent to the LPI for registration. For example, title documents are sent for registration after settlement. On registration a new certificate of title is produced showing the new owners of the property.

A second example, is a Plan of Subdivision where the land is legally created upon registration of the Plan.

Where a party cancels a contract because they are entitled to. For example, subject to a finance clause or during a cooling off period; or by mutual agreement.

A series of questions, inquiries and requests addressed by a Purchaser of an estate of land to a Vendor regarding the Vendor’s title.

See Easement.

A Certificate applied for through the local Council of your proposed purchase which outlines any outstanding accounts for rates and/or water. These are used to calculate the amount of money each party (vendor and purchaser) is liable for respective of the time each party is in ownership of the property.

The settlement (or completion) of the sale whereby the purchaser pays the balance of the purchase money, the vendor gives the purchaser possession of the property and gives the title deed and the Transfer to the purchaser.

A document produced by the purchaser’s solicitor outlining the total amount required to complete the purchase. The settlement adjustment sheet includes any adjustments such as local council rates adjustments.

For the purchaser, a settlement statement will show all of the funds required to settle including stamp duty, legal fees and other additional costs.

For the vendor, a settlement statement will outline the breakup of the distribution of the funds on settlement e.g. payment of rates, legal fees, mortgages etc.

A solicitor is a member of the legal profession qualified to deal with conveyancing, the drawing up of wills, and other legal matters. A solicitor may also instruct barristers and represent clients in some courts.

Extra clauses included in the contract.

This is a tax charged by the State Government for which the purchaser will be liable, unless entitled to an exemption or reduction.

The subdivision of a property into lots and common property. The lots are the units or other areas owned by the owners and the common property is everything that does not form part of a lot and is owned by the owners corporation (all the owners collectively).

A plan that shows the boundaries of a block of land and the positioning of any building/s on that land.

Joint ownership of property and may be in equal or unequal shares. Each owner may dispose of their share in the property independently and unlike Joint Tenancy, the shares do not automatically pass to the other owners in the event of death but form part of that person’s estate.

Document disclosing the legal description and ownership of a property.  See certificate of title.

Title protection is a specialised type of insurance that provides homebuyers with protection against certain unknown and hidden risks which may exist at the time of purchase. We recommend every client consider title insurance when buying a property.  To find out more about title protection for your specific purchase here:

A term used to describe the system of title (or land) registration expressed in NSW in the Real Property Act. This type of title is guaranteed by the State Government, except in some cases of fraud.

A document registered with the LPI that enables the change of ownership as noted on the Title.

When you have met all the criteria of your lender and you have written confirmation that the loan is unconditional. Finance may be conditional upon a valuation. This does not constitute unconditional finance approval.

A report detailing a professional opinion of a property’s value.

A person who offers property for sale (seller).

To give up a legal right. A purchaser of land may waive the right to cool off in certain circumstances (see “Cooling Off”). A person may waive the right to be able to rely on a term (including a special condition) of a contract of sale.

A qualification on the allowable use of the property, imposed by council.

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