Learning the Lingo...
Let's Talk Titles
When is a ‘freehold title’ not a ‘freehold title’?

When it's a Torrens title!

Okay, we're really getting into the realms of bad Property Development jokes here (which seem to be closely related to dad jokes, interestingly enough...), but there's no doubt it's important to understand the different types of titles that exist in Australia.

And even more importantly, the way different states take great delight in having different names for the very same thing!

The good news is that, just in the way a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, titles may have different names, but they achieve the same thing - they document ownership of a property.
Freehold Title

This type of title is the one most of us are familiar with. It's the classic Aussie Dream - a house standing by itself on a block of land. You own the land and building exclusively, and there are no shared areas or common driveways. Even better, no body corporates or owners' corporations to deal with!

Freehold title is important to Property Developers in two ways. First up, people like to have full control of their property, so if you can design a multi-res development in such a way that each new dwelling has a freehold title, people will often pay more for the privilege. That's why corner blocks are so popular with Developers - the opportunity to split the block so that there's an entrance on each street means no common property, and results in freehold titles.

Another opportunity to look out for is where there's more than one dwelling on a freehold title, which can then be carved up into multiple titles. But more on that later!
Torrens Title

What the croweaters in South Australia call freehold title.

There's a whole backstory here about how Sir Robert Torrens, who basically started the title system in Australia, was based in South Australia, and so they continue to use the term Torrens Title in his honour.

There you go, you learn something new every day.

Strata Title

Time to get a little funky...

With strata title, there are individual owners of "Exclusive Use Areas" on the property, typically in the form of a dwelling and/or private space. All the owners have joint responsibility for "Common Areas", which comprises things like driveways, stairways, lobbies, landscaping, gardens, elevators and so on.

An easy way to spot these on a government planning website is where you have a number of obvious dwelling segments (mostly kind of rectangular) then you have a weird knobbly looking bit which essentially takes in all the common areas that remain, such as driveways.
Community Title

Here's where it starts to get REALLY confusing.

Community title, in a lot of ways, appears to be the same as strata title. And if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then of course it's a chicken. Right?

Of course not - you'd think it was a duck.

But they are very alike - community title also involves individual owners owning their dwelling and land exclusively, with joint responsibility for the remaining common areas.

"So are strata and community title basically the same thing, and it's just another annoying example of regional differences in lingo?" I hear you ask.

Not quite. There's a difference in how the boundaries of lots are defined.

Strata Title: boundaries are defined by the boundaries of the building rather than the land
Community Title: boundaries are defined by the lot boundaries and surveyed measurements
Company Title

A relic of the past, but some do still exist.

In this case, a company owns the whole property, and you buy shares in the company, which then give you the right to occupy your unit. Very much a case of it seemed like a good idea at the time, but given how Aussies generally don't like the idea of other people telling them what to do, and fears about losing the right to your unit if the Board of Directors didn't like you, Company Title rapidly disappeared once Strata Title was introduced. Banks basically hate them, which makes it hard to finance your purchase.

So there you have it - you've now learnt the lingo of titles in Australia. 

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