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Buying a property not only gives you ownership over the physical entity, but also the intangible rights that you should be well aware of to take full advantage of your investment.
Let’s first distinguish the difference between “real estate” and “real property”:
Real Estate – A physical entity that is immobile and tangible, such as land or a building.
Real Property – The rights attached to real estate which are intangible and which we cannot see or touch.
To understand what you are in fact purchasing when you buy your home, it is important to learn about every aspect of real property, as it can potentially help you avoid costly problems down the road. It is the intangible bundle of rights which truly makes real estate an incredible investment, and when leveraged, can open up a world of possibility. The greatest bundle of rights that you as an owner can hold is referred to as the fee simple estate. “Fee” means the estate can be inherited, and “simple” means that there is no qualification on who can inherit it. The only other entity that has rights over the land is the government, or “Crown”, regarding expropriation, tax sales, land use and building regulations, and other individual common law rights.
Let’s distinguish the difference between “freeholds” and “leaseholds”:
Freeholds - Estates lasting for indeterminable periods
Leaseholds – Estates lasting for certain periods
In Canada, we have what is called a Land Titles system. When you own your home, you have guaranteed title to the property, and all documents dealing with interests in land are filed at a central registry (Land Titles Office). Your owned piece of land is called a “parcel” and each parcel has a number (Parcel Identifier or PID) which is a set of 9 digits (XXX-XXX-XXX). This is very useful information when it comes to accessing any assessment related data.
Buying a home normally involves more than one person, therefore there are simultaneous rights to possession of a property. The two types of co-ownership are ‘tenancy in common‘ and ‘joint tenancies‘, where none of the co-owners have an exclusive right over any portion of the property, and are all entitled to simultaneous enjoyment of the whole interest.
Tenancy in Common – When two or more persons are simultaneously entitled to possession of property (by virtue of interests they own), they are known as tenants in common. Each owner’s proportionate interest in the common property is set out in a table called the Schedule of Unit Entitlement.
Joint Tenancy – Distinguished by two characteristics: the right of survivorship and the presence of four “unities” which must exist to create and continue a joint tenancy. The four unities are:
• Unity of Possession: Each interest is an undivided interest in the whole of the property. No owner holds any part separately to the exclusion of the others.
• Unity of Time: All joint tenants must have received their interests in the property at the same time.
• Unity of Title: All joint tenants must have received their interests from the same document (deed or will).
• Unity of Interest: All joint tenants must have the same kind of interest in the land, in other words the extent, nature, and duration of their interests must be identical. Their shares must also be equal.
If any of these unities are absent from the creation of a co-ownership, the ownership will be a tenancy in common. If any of these unities ceases to exist, the joint tenancy will automatically become a tenancy in common.