Skip to main

    Decoding Real Estate Jargon: Essential Terms Every Homebuyer Should Master

    Understanding the language is crucial in unlocking the doors to your dream property

    Written By Robert Van Rhijn

    Entering real estate can often feel like stepping into a foreign land where you don’t understand the language. From complex terminology to industry-specific acronyms, all of it can be hard to navigate.

    But learning this language is crucial in making smart decisions. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or seasoned investor, understanding the following terms is key to unlocking the doors to your dream property.


    Definition: A professional assessment of a property's value

    Before diving into the intricate world of purchasing real estate, familiarize yourself with the concept of appraisal. It's crucial to know the appraised value, as it determines the maximum amount a lender will loan for the property.


    Definition: The increase in a property’s value over time.

    Understanding this concept is important for long-term investment decisions. It serves as a key indicator of the property's growth in worth, directly impacting the potential return on investment. For long-term real estate investors, a property's appreciation can signify increased equity, capital gains, and the overall profitability of their investment over the years. This understanding can help you choose properties with better potential for growth, and strategize their financial plans to maximize returns in the future.

    As Is, Where is

    Definition: Signifies the sale of a property in its present condition, absolving the seller from any obligation to make repairs or modifications, and transferring all responsibility for the property's condition to the buyer.

    This term is commonly used in real estate transactions to describe a property's condition at the time of sale. It implies that the seller is offering the property in its current state, with zero intention to make repairs or alterations. Essentially, the buyer accepts any present faults or issues. They also assume all risks associated with the property's condition.

    Buyer's Market/Seller's Market

    Definition: Describes the balance of power between buyers and sellers in the current housing economy

    In a buyer's market, the conditions favour buyers over sellers. This situation typically happens when there is a surplus of available properties, compared to the number of active buyers. In this scenario, buyers have more negotiating power as there are many options available to them. Prices will often come down, and sellers may be more willing to compromise on terms, such as closing date.

    On the flip side, a seller's market happens when there's a shortage of properties available for sale. In this situation, sellers have the upper hand. There are fewer homes on the market, thus high demand will often drive prices up. Sellers may receive multiple offers, leading to bidding wars and less willingness to negotiate on terms or pricing.


    Definition: The final phase of mortgage loan processing, in which the property title passes from the seller to the buyer.

    The closing process in a real estate transaction involves many critical steps that must be completed before the property officially changes ownership. The various procedures include finalizing the sale agreement, completing inspections, securing financing, and transferring funds. Clearly understanding the steps involved will ensure a smooth and successful closing.

    Closing Costs

    Definition: The fees and expenses associated with the purchase or sale of a property.

    The financial side of real estate deals can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to closing costs. These encompass a range of expenses, such as legal fees, title insurance, land transfer tax and various administrative charges. Being aware of these costs will help in financial planning and prevent any last-minute surprises. Be prepared to budget between 3% and 4% of the purchase price of a home.

    Condo Fees

    Definition: Also known as maintenance fees, they represent the recurring charges paid by condominium owners to cover building repairs, operational costs, and shared amenities.

    Condo fees can significantly impact a buyer's monthly expenses and overall affordability. So budgeting for this is crucial. Higher condo fees may be associated with a higher-end building that has luxurious amenities. Or it could signify inept management or upcoming major repairs.

    Strata agents always recommended a review of the condo's financial statements and reserve fund to ensure the building is well-maintained and financially stable. Also, comparing condo fees across different buildings and understanding how they align with the services offered is key to making an informed decision.


    Definition: Conditions that must be met for a real estate transaction to proceed, such as passing inspections or securing financing.

    Buyers can include contingencies in their offer. And if these conditions aren’t fulfilled, the buyer is allowed to exit the deal without penalty. Some contingencies include financing (securing a mortgage), home inspection, or sale of the buyer's existing home.

    Down Payment

    Definition: The initial payment made by the buyer when purchasing a property, typically a percentage of the total purchase price.

    When it comes to buying a property, the down payment plays a significant role. Typically, the minimum down payment required depends on the property's purchase price. For instance, in Canada, properties below $500,000 require the minimum down payment of 5%. For properties between $500,000 and $999,999, the first $500,000 requires a 5% down payment. And any amount above that requires a 10% down payment. Properties priced at $1 million and above demand a 20% down payment.

    In Toronto's competitive market, where property prices often exceed national averages, the down payment can be a significant hurdle for many potential buyers. But it’s worth noting that if you’re a first-time homebuyer in Ontario — you may be eligible for various incentives, such as the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, Land Transfer Tax Rebate, or the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP) that allows you to use RRSP savings for a down payment.


    Definition: The difference between the property's market value and the outstanding mortgage balance.

    Understanding equity in the context of real estate is essential for both buyers and sellers. Equity represents the ownership value that an individual has in a property. As the mortgage balance decreases or the property value appreciates, the equity in the property increases, making it a valuable asset for the owner.

    Equity also plays a vital role in the financial well-being of homeowners. It serves as a form of savings that can be accessed through means like home equity loans or lines of credit. Additionally, it can be a source of financial stability or even a fund for future investments.


    Definition: Legal ownership of a property.

    The legal concept of title signifies ownership of a property. It involves examining public records to confirm the property's ownership history and ensure there are no outstanding liens or legal issues that could impact the transfer of from seller to buyer. Title insurance is always purchased to protect against any undiscovered issues that might arise after the sale, such as unknown liens or legal claims against the home.

    Heritage Designation

    Definition: Refers to the legal recognition and protection of a property or area due to its historical, cultural, or architectural significance.

    A heritage designation typically places restrictions or guidelines on any changes to the property. This ensures the preservation of the home’s unique and valuable characteristics for future generations.

    When buying a house with a heritage designation, there are a few critical points to consider. For example, you want to be aware of the regulations governing renovations to preserve the property's historical integrity. You can also expect longer approval processes for any modifications, which could delay your reno plans.

    The above terms are the foundation to ensuring a smoother and more successful home-buying journey. But if you ever need a hand understanding real estate jargon, a Strata realtor is always here to help.

    Starting your search for a new home? Click on any of these links to access active listings, sold listings or contact a Strata agent.

    For any questions about this article or media inquires, please email