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Buying a house?….Understand the Legal Jargon!

At Brazel Moore Lawyers we understand that sometimes Legal Jardon can be a little hard to understand and when you are buying a property, you want to know exactly what we are talking about.  So we have produced the list below to help you understand some of the commonly used terms in conveyancing –

Certificate of Title

The legal document that shows the owner of the property.


Refers to “completion of the contract” when the change of ownership of a property has occurred (ie once the conveyance is completed).  Sometimes also called “Settlement”.


A Contract for the Sale of Land is the legal document that sets out the terms and conditions of the sale.  It is prepared by the vendor’s or seller’s solicitor, but is able to be altered by agreement prior to the contracts being exchanged.


The act of transferring property title from one person (the Vendor) to another (the Purchaser).

Cooling-off Period

A Certain period of time which commences immediately after entry into certain Contracts during which the purchaser may rescind the contract, usually subject to a small monetary payment to the other party (0.25% of the purchase price).

The cooling off period only applies to residential properties and can be waived.  Cooling off periods are more common where the real estate agent conducts the exchange of contracts and is routinely waived when solicitors or conveyancers effect an exchange of contracts for their clients.

Counterpart Contract

The vendor’s solicitor prepares two identical copies of the contract; the purchaser’s copy is called the counterpart and has copies of the original documents contained in the vendor’s copy of the contract.


The purchaser pays a deposit on or before the exchange of contracts equivalent to 10% of the purchase price.

Discharge of Mortgage

If the seller has a mortgage on the property, their solicitor needs to arrange for this mortgage to be removed from the title.  This is done by organising the Mortgage Lender to provide a “Discharge of Mortgage” document on settlement.


A right in relation to a property held by a person other than the owner.  There are many types of easements (eg. for rights of way, for drainage, for service) and most are recorded on the Certificate of Title.

Exchange of Contracts

When each party receiveds the other party’s signed contract and the contracts are dated, this is referred to as ‘exchanging contracts’.  At this point in time, legal obligations are formed with the vendor bound to sell and the purchaser bound to buy the property.  Until exchange of contracts occurs, either party can pull out of the transaction.

First Home Buyer

In NSW there are two government schemes to assist first home buyers. Once gives an exemption or reduction in the stamp duty payable and the other scheme provides a cash grant.


This occurs when the seller accepts an offer (which is usually higher) from another buyer prior to exchange of contracts.  This means the initial buyer misses out on the property.

Joint Tenants

When a property is owned jointly by two or ore people.  The multiple owners own the whole of the property together and do not own separate and divisible shares of the property.  This means that if one of the joint tenants dies, then their share of the property automatically passes on to the surviving joint tenant and the interest of the deceased joint tenant does ot form part of their estate and will not be dealt with in accordance with their Will. (Compare with “Tenants in Common”).


When a property owner borrows money from a bank or finance provider there is ually an agreement giving the finance provider certain rights in the property.  These rights are recorded on the title to the property by a document called a mortgage.  These rights include the right to sell the property if there is money outstanding on the loan.

Office of State Revenue

Is a State Government Office that receives stamp duty payable on documents including “Contracts or Sale of Land”.


The person buying a property.

Real Estate Agent’s Commission

The fee charged to the vendor by the Real Estate Agent.


Once settlement has occured, the “Transfer” handed over by the Vendor, the Title Deed and if applicable, the Discharge of the vendor’s mortgage and the mortgage to the Purchaser’s Mortgage Lender are all sent to the Land Titles Office to be registered so that title to the property can be transferred to the new owners.  On registration, a new Certificate of Title is issued in the name of the new owner of the property.


These are questions asked of the vendor’s solicitor by the purchaser’s solicitor concerning the property.  The questions are asked after the exchange of contracts.  Any incorrect answers may give the purchaser certain rights against the vendor.

Settlement Date

This is the agreed date when the change of ownership occurs. The purchaser pays the balance of the purchase price in relation for which the vendor hands over the Title Deed to the property and a signed Transfer to transfer title into the name of the purchaser.

Settlement Statement

This is a document produced by the purchaser’s solicitor outlining the balance of the purchaser price and any adjustments for rates, taxes or strata levies, required to be paid on settlement to complete the purchase.

Special Conditions

These are extra terms and conditions, usually drafted by the vendor’s solicitor, included in the contract.

Stamp Duty

The State Government tax payable on the Contract for Sale of Land.  It is paid by the purchaser.

Strata Title

The type of “Torrens Title” that applies to units or flats.


An “Identification Survey” is a document prepared by a surveyor showing the exact location of the boundaries of a property, any easements on the property and any house, garage etc that lies on that property.  It also confirms if the buildings and structures on the land comply with Council requirements as to minimum set backs from boundaries and if there are any encroachments onto the property or onto adjoining blocks.

Tenants in Common

Where a property is owned jointly by two or more people.  The owners own separate and divisible shares in the property (eg. 50/50, 60/40, 70/30).  When one of the owners dies, their share will form part of the estate and will pass according to the terms of their Will.  (Compare with “Joint tenants”).

Torrens Title

A modern system of land ownership that shows registered ownership of real estate in NSW.  A Certificate of Title is issued by the Land Titles Office and the person named on the Certificate of Title is the owner of the property to the exclusion of all other competing interests in the land.


A document produced by the purchaser’s solicitor after exchange of contracts, which both parties sign showing the legal description of the property, the name of the vendor and purchaser and the sale price.  When this document is registered at the Land Titles Office, the transfer of ownership to the purchaser takes place.


Another name for the seller of a property.


At Brazel Moore Lawyers we have more than 35 years experience in buying and selling properties for people of the Central Coast.  Call Geoff Brazel on 43247699 to book your first appointment.

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