Purchasing in the ACT

Land in the ACT is granted under a crown lease – so when you purchase a property you are leasing the land from the government for a fixed term. Most residential crown leases are issued for a period of 99 years. When you purchase an existing parcel of land (which includes any improvements to the land such as a house, garage, or swimming pool), you take on the remaining term of the lease. As it is a Lease, there is consideration paid under the lease and terms that you must comply with, similar to how many local councils in other parts of Australia regulate the permitted use on the land and the need for approvals for development on the land. Provided the Government does not wish to use the land for other purposes, it is understood that the lease holder can apply for a new lease towards the end of the initial 99-year lease term.

Types of property ownership

Torrens Title: is the name given to the Government system of recording ownership of land. Once registered on the property title, you are recognised as the owner of the property.

Strata Title: is the common method of unit/apartment ownership. The relevant Government legislation makes possible the sub-division of the airspace above the surface of the land, and the subsequent issue of a Certificate of Title to parts or parts of a building constructed on that land. This enables a purchaser to buy the actual space enclosed by a unit/apartment and then sell, lease or otherwise deal with the unit/apartment as any other owner of a property.

Individual owners within a block of Strata Title units/apartments are compelled by law to form an owners’ corporation, which controls the general administration and required funding of common property within the complex. All unit/apartment owners are required to pay a ‘levy’ to contribute towards the costs associated with running and maintaining the common property areas within the complex.

Common Law Title: Also, known as Old System Title, represents a series of title documents called ‘a chain of title’. Following a sale, Common Law Title is converted to a qualified Torrens Title. Subsequent action may be taken at a later date to convert this to a full Torrens Title

Community Title: is a form of sub-division which allows common property areas to be incorporated into a sub-division of a parcel of land. On registration of a community ‘plan’, an association is established similar to an owners’ corporation under the strata schemes legislation. Parties who purchase into a community title scheme receive title for the lot they purchase and membership of the association. They also share ownership of the common facilities of the complex.

Company Title: is where unit/apartment owners are shareholders in a private company. Shareholders vote to decide company rules and other matters, including the sale and/or transfer of shares.

Property Ownership

In property law there is generally two types of ownership:

Joint tenants: This is where two or more people own title to the land together. If one person dies, the title is automatically passed to the surviving party or parties. The parties identified on the title to the property own 100% of the property together - so all parties have to be in agreement to sell or transfer the property.  

Tenants in common: This is where two or more people own a property in separate portions - for example a 50/50 or 25/25/50 split . Each party to the property title can dispose of their share of the property as they please (although this is not often a simple process due to the realities of trying to sell part of a property). If one party dies, the title to the deceased parties portion of the property does not automatically pass to the other owner(s). An example being, if domestic partners co-own a property as tenants in common in equal shares of 50/50 and one of them passes away, their half of the title is passed as per their will, not automatically to the surviving partner/owner.

When you purchase a property, the ‘ownership’ of the property transfers from the seller(s) of the property to you as the purchaser – this is known as a conveyance or conveyancing. To do the conveyancing, most people will engage a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer to act on their behalf, however, a purchaser can act for themselves if they have the appropriate skills and knowledge. When engaging a solicitor or conveyancer, it is best to choose one who will act solely in your best interest and not also act for the seller.

Tips when buying a property

Buying a property will usually be one of the biggest financial decisions most people will make and is often life-changing. Owning a home brings with it a sense of stability and the opportunity to increase your wealth through price increases in property over time. It also entails greater responsibility and financial risk, so make sure that you conduct as much research as you can to prepare yourself for what the future holds.

Some things to consider when purchasing a property:

  • Decide if you are ready to buy a property – is it the right time and are you ready for the commitment.
  • Evaluate your finances and determine your budget – consult your bank or a mortgage broker and work out what you can realistically afford. Lodge your finance application and seek a pre-approval for your loan.
  • Determine the type of property and the area you want – make a list of all the essential features you want in a property, as well as a list of non-essential characteristics to factor into your decision making when you find a property you like within your budget.
  • Research the market – try to gain an understanding of property values for the type of property and the area you are looking in. Attend open homes and auctions.
  • Take your time – don’t rush or make a rash decision. Make sure you are committing to the right property for you. Consult trusted family and friends for advice.

As a prospective purchaser of a property, you can inspect the marketing contract which is prepared in order for the property to be offered for sale. The contract will detail any specific conditions that the seller(s) of the property wish to apply to the sale. It will also include details about the Crown Lease, the title of the property and any mortgage or encumbrances applicable to the property, zoning information, an asbestos assessment report/asbestos advice, an Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) Report, a building inspection report, a pest inspection report, and a compliance report. In the case of purchasing a unit or an apartment, a building report, pest inspection report and compliance report are not usually required to be provided by the seller(s), however, they are required to include certain information within the contract regarding the Units Plan and the financial situation of the owners’ corporation.

Overall, the best advice when deciding to purchase a property is to prepare thoroughly, undertake extensive research and obtain sound advice prior to committing to any property. 

Please contact our expert sales team for further information. You deserve the Luxe experience!


Information contained within and/or provided by this site is purely general real estate information in nature and is not intended to be – nor should be taken to be – legal advice or accounting/financial advice of any kind. You should always seek appropriate legal and accounting/financial advice from a qualified practitioner. Any reliance on the information provided by this site is solely at your own risk.