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Glossary

Agent:   A person authorised to act on behalf of another person in the sale, purchase, letting or management of a property.

Amentiy:   Characteristics or features of a neighbourhood.

Appreciation:   The increase in value of a property caused by economic factors such as inflation, supply and demand, etc.

Architect:   A person who is registered and qualified to practice architecture, including the design of buildings and administration of building contracts.
 
Backfill:  Replacing excavated earth into a trench around a foundation wall.
 
BCA:  The Building Code of Australia, which provides a uniform set of technical provisions for the design and construction of buildings and other structures in Australia.   

Boundary:   A line separating adjoining properties.

Breach of contract:   Breaking the conditions of a contract.

Bridging finance:   Finance obtained over a short period as a prelude to long-term funding.
 
Builder's warranty (or builder’s indemnity insurance):  Compulsory insurance for builders to protect homeowners from faulty work should the builder cease to operate or become insolvent.
 
Building contract:   A legal document between the buyer and the builder which consists of the building contract (including Schedule of Particulars, Addenda or Appendix), drawings and specifications.
 
Building inspections:  An inspection to ensure building work undertaken meets building regulations and codes of practice.  Work is inspected against design documentation and on-site inspections are made during building to ensure proper methods and materials are being used. 
 
Building period:  The time allowed for your home to reach practical completion.
 
Building permit:  Written approval from a registered building surveyor to certify that home plans comply with building regulations.

Building regulations:   Rules of a legal or statutory nature by which local councils control the manner and quality of the building. They are designed to ensure public safety, health and minimum acceptable standards of construction.

Caveat:   If a caveat is lodged upon a title to land, it indicates that a third person has some right or interest in the property.

Caveat emptor:   'Let the buyer beware'. This principle of law puts the onus onto the buyer to be satisfied with the item before buying.
 
Certificate of Compliance:  Required for the aspects of building design relating to structural, sewerage, water, drainage, mechanical, electrical and fire safety.
 
Certificate of Title:  An official record of land ownership that includes the land description (including a plan diagram), information about registered owners, and details of any covenants and/or encumbrances.  

Compulsory acquisition (resumption):   The power of a government authority to purchase property from an owner who does not wish to sell.
 
Conditional offer:  An offer which stipulates specific conditions on which the sale relies, such as securing finance or the sale of an existing home. 
 
Contract of sale:  The written agreement outlining the terms and conditions of a property sale, including the price offered, the settlement period and any special terms or conditions.
 
Contract price:  The agreed amount payable to your builder for their work.
 
Conveyancer:  A professional who assists in the legal transfer of property.
 
Conveyancing:  The legal process whereby a property is passed from one person to another.  

Cooling-off period:   In some states and territories there is a cooling off period allowed after the signing of a contract. Buyers should check with their state/territory government as to whether this applies.
 
Covenant:  Guidelines that require structures in a particular development or area to conform to specific standards.
 
Custom-designed home:  Homes that are architecturally designed, with a home builder or contractors employed to construct the home.
 
Defect liability period:  The period of time stated in the building contract by which the builder is required to rectify any defects.
 
Defects:  Work that is faulty or not to the level specified in the contract.
 
Deposit:  A percentage of the purchase price paid to show an intention to buy a property.  The deposit paid is non-refundable once a contract becomes unconditional.   
 
Easement:  An area of land reserved by law for a specific purpose.  This includes land that is located above or around essential services infrastructure, such as drainage or water pipes or access to an area of land.
 
Elevation:   A view or perspective of the external fa├žade of a building.
 
Encumbrance:  A right or claim to use a property (or portion of a property) by someone other than the owner.  An encumbrance can lessen the value of a property or restrict the owner’s ability to transfer title.
 
Energy efficient housing:  A home that incorporates sound environmental design principles to minimise heating and cooling requirements and conserve water use.   Energy efficiency can be improved through insulation, northern orientation, glazing, landscaping, good ventilation and draught-proofing, and other design and construction techniques.
 
Excavation:  The removal of site matter (sand, rock, etc) to pre-determined levels, usually to prepare below-ground services or structural supports for a building.  
 
Exchange of contract:  The signing of a contract of sale between a buyer and seller once the purchase price and conditions of sale are agreed.  
 
Fittings:  Items that can be removed from a property without damage, for example, ovens, hot water systems and alarm systems.  
 
Fixed-price contract:   The price as agreed between the builder and customer as specified in the contract does not change.  
 
Fixed-rate loan:  A loan where the rate of interest does not change for a fixed period of time, regardless of market changes.
 
Fixtures:  Items that are permanently attached to a house and regarded as part of the property, for example, cupboards and built-in wardrobes.
 
Front-loaded block:  A block that offers vehicle access or accommodation from the front.
 
GreenSmart:  A Housing Industry Association program that provides recognition for environmentally-responsible residential building and land development.  The program was established in 1999 to promote practical, affordable and durable environmental solutions for residential design and construction.  
 
Grey water:  Wastewater generated from domestic water use, for example laundry, dishwashing and bathing, which can be recycled for use in irrigation or other similar uses around the home.
 
Interest-only loans:  A repayment option in which, during a specified term, only the interest accrued on the loan is paid.

Mortgage:   A legal document which expresses the terms and conditions applying to the lending of money secured over real estate.

Mortgagee:   The person(s) who lends the money.

Mortgagor:   The person(s) who borrows the money.
 
Orientation:   The position of your block and the placement of your home against east-west or north-south alignments, and in relation to the angle of the sun and the direction of prevailing winds.
 
Overlooking:  When a habitable room window or raised open space of a building provides a direct line of sight into a habitable room window or private open space of an existing dwelling on an adjoining lot.
 
Overshadowing:  When a building reduces the sunlight to a recreational private open space of an existing dwelling on an adjoining lot.
 
Plans:  Technical drawings completed by an architect or draftsperson and used in the construction of a house.
 
Practical completion:  Completion of building works to the standard of the contract which allows the home to be reasonably suitable for habitation.
 
Principal and interest loan:  A loan repayment option where both the principal and interest accrued on that amount are repaid over an agreed term.
 
Principal:  The total loan amount (or amount of money that has been borrowed) to purchase a property.  
 
Progress payments:  Staged payments to a builder at pre-determined stages during a building process.
 
Project home:  A home selected from a building company’s range of pre-prepared home designs, that are chosen “as-is” or varied slightly depending on the needs of the purchaser.
 
Rear-loaded block:  A block that offers vehicle access or accommodation from the rear.
 
Restrictive covenant:  An agreement between the seller and purchaser of land that restricts what the land can be used for.  

Resumption:   See compulsory acquisition.
 
Retaining wall:  A wall built to hold back a mass of earth or other solid matter behind it.

Right of way:   A right which gives a person access across certain land.
 
Setback:  The horizontal distance from a boundary to a building.
 
Settlement:  Completion of a property sale when the balance of the contract price is paid to the seller and the purchaser becomes legally entitled to take possession of the property.
 
Settlement agent:  A professional that assists in the settlement process.
 
Site coverage:  The percentage of the total lot which is covered by buildings.  
 
Six Star Energy Rating:  A certain level of energy efficiency and water-saving features in new homes that must be achieved in some states.  
 
Soil type:  The nature of the soil on a property, for example, sand, clay, peat or other.  Soil type is determined by a testing procedure undertaken as part of the planning and approvals process and can have a significant impact on structural aspects of building.  
 
Specifications:   A detailed description of building work to be undertaken, including details of materials to be used.
 
Stamp duty:  A state government tax paid on the purchase of properties.  The rate of tax is based on the purchase price of the property and varies between states and territories.  First homebuyers may be exempt from stamp duty.
 
Surveyor:  A qualified person who carries out surveys of property elevations and boundaries.
 
Unconditional offer:  An offer made on a property that is subject to no conditions of sale, often made when the purchaser has cash readily available.

Unencumbered:   Describes a property free of mortgages, covenants, restrictions, etc.
 
Variable rate loan:  A loan where the rate of interest may rise or fall in line with variations to market rates.  
 
Variation:  An omission, addition or change to the building works or how they will be carried out, as detailed in the contract.   
 
Vendor:  A person who offers a property for sale.
 
Warranty:  A guarantee that the materials and workmanship is defect-free and will remain so for a specified period of time.
 
Works:  The work to be carried out, completed and handed over in accordance with what is set out in the contract documents, including variations.
 
Zoning:  The rules regarding the use of a property, based on preferred land uses for the area.  For example, residential, commercial or industrial.