Property Ownership Part 1: Freehold, Leasehold, and Strata Title

May 29, 2020 | Buying, Property Title, Strata, Vancouver

Ownership of property in B.C., and any stipulations over that ownership, are set out in the property title. This document dictates your rights over that property, and in Vancouver, most properties fall under freehold, leasehold or strata-titled property. Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling property in Vancouver, the title of a property can greatly affect its value, resale, and your on-going expenses.

What Is a Property Title?

In B.C., the ownership of land or property is referred to as title to land. It is registered with the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia.

In Vancouver, there are a number of types of property, and a number of types of Title (ownership)- but the title document will always stipulate:

  • The type of ownership- sole ownership, tenant, tenant in common etc…

  • The legal description of the property, including number identifiers, descriptors, and the legal property address (this may vary from the postal address).

  • Any legal charges, interests, liens, easements, or caveats surrounding or to do with your property. These must also be registered against the title and disclosed in any contracts of sale or ownership.

Once the property title is issued, it is evidence of your interest (ownership) of the property. The type of title, however, dictates what that ownership actually means, and what it entitles you to do. In Vancouver, you tend to fall into one of three categories.

Freehold Property Title

The first type of property title and perhaps the easiest to explain is the freehold titled property. Occasionally referred to as ‘fee simple,’ a freehold title grants the owner full use of, and control over, the land and/or buildings they have purchased. Whilst this use is still somewhat controlled by local by-laws and some other stipulations, a freehold title generally grants you the most freedoms, and therefore can come at a higher cost to purchase. Typically these are freestanding homes.

Leasehold Property Title

Leasehold properties get a bit more complicated. They essentially grant you the right to use your property for a long period of time. However, whilst you may own the building/condo, if it’s leasehold it usually means either the government or First Nations owns the land.

Purchasing a leasehold property gives you the right to possess the property until the end of the lease, or you sell it to someone else. For example, in the West End, there are a number of 70’s and 80’s rental and leasehold buildings. Most of them have pre-paid leases that come due in 2073. So whilst purchasing now, with 50+ years remaining on the lease may suit your needs, it also limits your options if you’re looking for a long term home, or to pass down your property.

Similarly, it also makes financing more difficult, as the property can be revoked, or the prices dramatically decreased at the end of the lease.

Strata Property Title

This is the most common type of property title in Vancouver. Owning a strata-titled property gives you exclusive use of the property itself, which is generally a:

  • Condo

  • Townhome

  • Duplex

  • Detached home (also known as bare land strata)

The key point of difference is whilst you have access to, and use over, your condo, there are also common areas and shared spaces, such as gardens, elevators, garages etc… In order to maintain these spaces and any other building restorations, homeowners are required to contribute financially.

Whilst some of these upgrades or maintenance works may not be your choice, all owners in a strata-titled property are required to contribute. However, generally speaking, a strata-titled property will cost less in maintenance than a freehold property, as the financial burden is shared amongst many residents.

This is usually a monthly maintenance fee, however, can be dramatically affected by unforeseen events, such as:

  • Building damage

  • Flooding

  • Fires

  • Damage caused by a Tennant

  • Upgrades to the systems of the building (fire, water, plumbing, heating etc…)

  • New rain screening, paint, stucco or other building requirements.

  • Insurance premiums 

Property title’s vary depending on the property itself, it’s location, the building/home type, and it’s history.

Property title’s vary depending on the property itself, it’s location, the building/home type, and it’s history.

The title of a property in Vancouver can greatly affect its price, value, appreciation and resale. Depending on your needs a freehold or strata title may suit you best, or if you are only planning on living in the property for a short amount of time a leasehold may be more appropriate.

As always, at the West Haven Group, we’re here to make sure you find the home of your dreams, within your budget. With an active and on-the-ground team, we can help to guide you towards the buildings, neighbourhoods and property titles in Vancouver that suit your needs.

For more information about the Vancouver property market or any other information, reach out and connect!

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