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Defining the terms homebuyers should know

Like any industry, real estate development uses its fair share of lingo. For homebuyers, especially first-time buyers, these terms can be confusing. So we’ve assembled and defined commonly-used words in this new home buying glossary. If you’re still stumped by a term you don’t see here, feel free to comment on this post, or ask an Empire sales representative, your real estate agent or your real estate lawyer for help.


Amenities are shared spaces (like gyms, pools and rooftop decks) and shared services (like a concierge, security and maintenance), often included in condo buildings (and sometimes in townhomes or housing communities) that owners pay for via condo fees or maintenance fees. Low-rise homes often have surrounding amenities that may have been built new as part of the community, such as parks, schools, sports facilities or walking trails. These features are public and open to anyone, and there are no additional maintenance fees associated.

Architectural Controls:

In most Ontario municipalities, local governments use zoning laws and architectural controls to ensure that real estate development happens efficiently and that communities are attractive places to live. Architectural controls typically define things like the size, look and feel of homes and how many of the same home can be build on each street.


“Closing” a home is the last step in taking ownership of a condo or house. The closing date is usually negotiated when an offer is accepted. It is the day when you handle paperwork and pay taxes, fees and other closing costs. It’s also the day you get your keys!


Condominiums are communities of apartments, townhomes and (more rarely) single family homes that are owned jointly. While individual purchasers are responsible for their homes, all of the owners (the “condo corporation” in Ontario) are jointly responsible for common areas (like lobbies and amenity rooms), services and maintenance. Owners typically pay for these areas, services and maintenance through monthly fees.


Traditionally done through drawings called renderings, elevations are visualizations of a home, building or community created by an artist based on architectural blueprints, finishing options (like brick colour) and landscape plans. They’re created to give everyone—from the construction team to a homebuyer—a feel for the finished product.

Features and Finishes:

Usually grouped together, features are objects that are literally fixed (or attached) in the home, like flooring, lights, toilets, etc. and finishing is typically how the home is decorated/painted. Developers will list appliances in a “features and finishes” document to help homebuyers understand what’s included in their new home.


Floorplans are layouts of rooms, floors and other environments created to show the size of spaces, like bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, as well as the location of doors, windows, staircases, balconies, etc. Sometimes developers will show floorplans with furniture to help homebuyers visualize how they might best use the space.


A freehold property is one that you purchase and own outright and the owner is singularly responsible for the maintenance (including the taxes) of the land and the structure(s) on it. In Ontario, most single family homes are freehold, while most new apartments and many townhomes for sale are jointly owned by a condo corporation.


High-rise is a word used by the industry to describe tall condo or apartment buildings (seven storeys or more) requiring elevators and usually constructed from steel and concrete.


Also known as interim closing, your interim occupancy period begins the day you occupy your suite and ends the day you take ownership. During interim occupancy the building is typically still under construction and most of the common elements and amenity spaces are left partially unfinished. The reason for this is to focus on completing the sold suites. All common elements and amenity spaces will be completed by final closing. During this time, occupied residents must pay a monthly fee to the developer; please note that these fees are not credited to the final purchase.


Sometimes called “move-in ready” or “spec” by new home builders, inventory homes are condo suites and houses that have already been constructed and are ready to sell and generally have quicker closing periods. Often, inventory homes become available because it’s more efficient and practical to build a home during a specific phase of construction.


A lot is a piece of land on which a building is constructed. When you purchase a new house, you’re buying both the lot and the house that will be constructed on it. Lot sizes and locations vary depending on availability and the scale of construction.


In the new home market, developers use the word low-rise to describe single family homes, semi-detached (or side-by-side) homes or townhomes/houses. In Ontario, low-rise homes are typically constructed from wood and finished with brick, stone or siding.


A masterplan is a developer’s comprehensive design vision for a complete community that integrates everything from the style and construction of homes, to things like streets, paths, green space, parks, commercial areas, etc. A master plan offers homebuyers the “big picture”—a chance to see how the community will evolve.


In the new home market, developers use the word mid-rise to describe buildings typically between four and ten stories tall, often made up of condo apartments for sale. In Ontario, mid-rise buildings are typically constructed from concrete and steel.


In Ontario, mixed-use is a term used to describe a real estate development that combines residential, commercial, industrial and/or institutional areas. A community that offers condos for sale, a retail storefront for lease and business offices is a typical example of mixed-use development.


Home models are a type or brand of house or condo unit that a developer offers. For example, while the exteriors may differ, two houses of the same model will often share the same square feet and floorplans. A model home or suite, on the other hand, is a home a developer will complete and furnish for sales/presentation purposes.


Often, developers will plan, sell and execute the construction of residential communities in phases. In communities where a large number of homes will ultimately become available, phasing allows developers to get homebuyers into their new homes in a realistic timeframe.

Pre-delivery Inspection (PDI):

Before you take possession of your new home, your builder will guide you through a comprehensive inspection and teach you how to operate the home’s ventilation, plumbing, and heating systems. This is also an opportunity for the homeowner to look for deficiencies that need to be fixed before they take possession. This process is one of the many ways Tarion protects homeowners who buy new builds.


Pre-construction is a term used to describe homes that have been designed (sometimes as part of a masterplan), but not yet built. Homebuyers who “buy from plan” usually get the best prices because they beat the rest of the market to the product.


Registration refers to the point in time when the developer (Empire) has met all the requirements to transfer ownership of the suites to the homeowners and the condo corporation that will maintain the building thereafter.