Q. I’m looking to buy my next property and occasionally see references to Torrens Title – usually when I’m looking at townhouses – but I don’t understand what it is. Can you explain it to me?
A. There’s lots of different lingo when it comes to buying property. You might be surprised though that you already know what Torrens Title is but maybe just hadn’t heard its formal name before.
Torrens Title is a type of land ownership system where the purchaser owns both the property and the land it sits on. If you think it sounds familiar then you’d be right. Torrens Title is the most common method of property ownership in Australia and was introduced back in the mid-1800s.
Torrens Title was invented by Sir Robert Richard Torrens for the South Australian land title registry to replace the old English land law ‘deed’ system. Its purpose was to provide certainty around land ownership by simplifying the way it’s recorded and registered. Each state and territory has a central register of all land and its owners. Once your name’s on the register, you get the Certificate of Title and own the property above all others.
This is different to Strata Title, which is when the buyer is given ownership of the inside of the property and co-ownership of common areas with joint responsibility to maintain them – typically managed through an Owners Corporation.
Strata Title is used when there are common areas of a property, like units, townhouses and villas, which is why you might be seeing references to Torrens Title specifically when these properties are advertised. This is because the real estate agent wants you to know that despite the property being a townhouse, it’s Torrens Title and you will be purchasing the land as well as the property.
Another type of title is Company Title, but this has become less common since the introduction of strata in the 1960s. Company title doesn’t give the buyer any kind of certificate of title to the real estate. Instead it works like a company with shares, and the buyer receives shares in the company that owns the building.
Torrens title properties will generally be more expensive than strata or company title properties because you have outright ownership of the land. It also means you won’t have additional fees like strata levies to pay, and will be less restricted by any strata by-laws that might dictate whether you can make changes to your property, have pets, etc.
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