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

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

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!

10 Property Insights to Find Your Perfect Home in Vancouver’s West End

10 Property Insights to Find Your Perfect Home in Vancouver’s West End

One of the quieter neighbourhoods in Vancouver, the West End has recently become more popular thanks to its location and access to the city’s natural features. However, without a deeper understanding of the marketplace and the finer details of the buildings in the area, finding your dream home in Vancouver’s West End can be a challenge. We’re breaking down some of the key property insights so that you can call the West End home!

Neighbourhood Features: The West End

Known as the gateway to Stanley Park, the West End combines big city life with the great outdoors. The area encompasses the stunning English Bay Beach, the sea wall, Stanley Park, and other outdoor spaces, whilst bordering on some of the primary nightlife and shopping districts in the city.

Typically, residential property in the West End comprises 70’s and 80’s rental and leasehold buildings, and 80’s timber-framed strata buildings. The majority of listings are apartments, and with the city’s current sensitivity to losing affordable housing options, it is unlikely that these will be redeveloped in the near future. As such, condo owners and strata bodies have been contributing to renovations and facelifts, building new life into buildings that sit on (arguably) some of the best land in Vancouver.

Whilst these properties are unlikely to change significantly, infill projects and other luxury towers are becoming more prevalent. This is creating more options for dining, retail and other amenities, and modernising the area, whilst allowing it to maintain its existing character and laid back demeanour.

With a wide variety of building types, finding your dream home isn’t a matter of where it’s a matter of when. And whilst property is generally more affordable in the West End compared to Yaletown or Coal Harbour, there are a number of considerations that can help you to find the perfect home.

Inside the West End- Past, Present and Future

To give you some insight into the properties of Vancouver’s West End, we’re looking at the current properties available, as well as future plans for the neighbourhood.

The Buildings in Vancouver’s West End

1. A lot of the buildings in the West End are leasehold properties. Leasehold means you own the house/condo/townhouse but not the land that it sits on. Generally, this land has been leased to a developer, who builds on it and leases the property for a stipulated sum of money and amount of years.

Whilst these leases are long term, it can make it more difficult to obtain financing if purchasing a leasehold property. This is because you are purchasing the right to possess the property until the end of the lease, or you sell it to someone else. In the West End, most of the concrete towers are either rental buildings or leasehold, and most of the leasehold buildings have pre-paid leases that come due in 2073.

2. Because of the access to finance (among other things) strata titled properties are much more sought after, and market data indicates that for 2020, properties only spend between 10-15 days on the market before they’re sold. This is important to know, as hesitating on a property you like could mean missing out.

3. If you’re looking to move into one of the Strata wood-frame builds, try to find the buildings that have had renovations or updates already performed. Things like new rain-screens, pipes, windows etc… when this maintenance has been done, it indicates a more sought-after building in better condition.

4. Most of the 1970’s buildings in the West End have shared laundry facilities. Whilst this may not bother some, most residents prefer to have their own internal laundry. The slightly newer buildings (1980s and onward) will typically have in-suite laundries, and may be better suited to your property search. Similarly, buildings that have been re-plumbed since their construction may also allow for a ventless laundry to be installed after purchase.

Where in the West End Should I Live?

When it comes to where in the West End you want to live, there are a few things to note:

5. West of Denman has become its own micro-bubble, know for it’s quiet and laidback community, and one of the most convenient access points to Stanley Park. Denman itself, however, has been going through a facelift, with newer and more modern retail options entering the area.

6. Most people aim to be as close to the water as possible, but really anywhere in the West End makes it a short walk.

7. The City has been supportive of new rental towers within the West End in zones where new strata towers would not be allowed. The benefit is that these towers so far are turning out to be quite well done, and are modernising these zones. One complex in particular has resulting in a brand new Safeway grocery store, and other commercial developments could lead to increased amenities in the area. Being aware of new developments in the area may help you choose where in the West End you would like to live.

The Future of The West End

8. New, luxury and ultra-luxury towers are already being built along Davie, Thurlow, Burrard and Alberni. These areas have been designated for high rise, so expect other residential and commercial developments along these streets in the years to come.

9. Various infill projects are resulting in brand new boutique strata developments that are offering some unique new homes. However, parking can be difficult to come by with some of these homes given that they are sometimes too small or too constrained in some way to build an underground parkade. As infill projects, they also tend to add congestion to an area, and this may be a consideration for your property hunt.

10. Alberni will become Vancouver’s most architecturally interesting street – with stunning ultra-luxury towers underway. Prices within these towers are among the city’s most expensive at over $2,000/sqft. For more information about these developments, and the possibility of a pre-sale, please get in touch with us.

At the West Haven group, our dedicated team is on the ground to help you find your dream property. If you would like to see what’s available in your favourite area, or need help selling your property, we’re here to help.

Just reach out and connect!