A step-by-step guide to changing property ownership

changing property ownerA property ownership structure describes the way a property is owned. These details matter, especially when selling.

Is your property owned by one person, a group of people or jointly by husband and wife? If it’s a shared property, you could put the property in the highest income earner’s name to maximise gearing benefits. Or you could share ownership between high and low income earners to spread the capital gain and income tax liabilities.

Knowing the different types of owner structure is important. You may have a relationship breakdown, you might start a property business or you may just want the benefit of tax savings. This guide to changing property ownership will help you determine which property ownership structure best suits you.

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Types of ownership structure

  • Outright ownership. In this structure you are the sole owner. Your name alone is on the deed and are responsible for the property.
  • Joint ownership. Here you own the property equally with someone else. This shouldn’t be confused with “owners/tenants in common” where owners can have a different size share in the property.
  • Trust ownership. This is where the property is owned and managed by a trust or another figure. A trust is an entity which holds assets in trust on behalf of its beneficiaries. There are a number of trust types around, although the most commonly seen are family trusts. These are useful for when property is being left to younger family members.
  • Company ownership. You can also own property through a company. This isn’t the best setup for the small investor, because profits are taken up by business taxes and income tax should you wish to take a wage from the investment. On the other hand, it could be beneficial if the owner’s tax rate is over 30% because the company will pay less tax. This all assumes it is an investment property and not the owner’s principle place of residency, in which case the owner would not pay any capital gains tax on a sale.

Adding your partner's name to your house

Why change the property ownership?

There are many reasons people may want to change the ownership details of the property they range from a change in circumstance or situation all the way to gifting to a family member or inheritance. Below is a list of the most common reasons people have for changing property ownership:

  • Divorce. When you purchase a property as part of a relationship and that relationship breaks down you will want to make changes to the details of ownership.
  • Change ownership structure. You may have originally chosen an ownership structure that no longer is relevant for you and anyone you may own the property with.
  • Family reasons. The owner of the property may have become quite ill or unable to properly look after their own affairs in order, they have decided to pass the property onto a family member or the owner may have died. All these situations would require that the family make changes to the ownership.
  • Change in circumstance. A property may have been purchased with the assistance of a friend or family member or as a joint purchase and now there has been a change in financial circumstance that allows one owner to buy the other out.

Costs of changing ownership

  • Stamp duty. Changing property ownership will incur stamp duty, which will be calculated based on the valuation of the land. Usually it is between 3 - 5.5 per cent. In some states like Victoria, stamp duty can be waived. Find out more here.
  • Capital gains tax (CGT). Selling or transferring ownership may incur a CGT. If the sale involves an investment property, then the seller will need to pay CGT. As a general rule, it is 25% of the capital gain. Read more about Capital Gains Tax
  • Fees. When you sell or transfer the title of a property, you change the conditions of the mortgage, which may incur break fees. If you require a lawyer, there may also be legal fees and valuation fees.

Steps involved in changing property ownership

There are a few steps involved in changing the ownership details of a property and these vary depending on the type of property ownership, how you are changing it and whether it is under a mortgage. Below are some of the key steps involved.

1. Check the mortgage. If the property still has a home loan attached to it you will need to have the details of this on hand as they may also need to be adjusted depending on your reason for making a change to the property ownership.

2. Get a copy of the property title. You can contact your local state office that looks after land titles for a copy of the properties title as a reference for changing the details.

3. Fill out a property title transfer form. This can be gotten from your government agency that looks after land titles for the form/s required to change the property ownership. You can also ask them for instructions on how to properly fill this out, alternatively if you are in NSW read our guide here.

4. Submit the title transfer form. Once you have completed the form with all relevant details you will need to submit it to your local state government land office that looks after property titles.

5. Pay the relevant fee. Any change of title or adjustment to property ownership will incur a fee to be paid to the relevant state government office.

6. Wait for the processing of the form. The relevant agency will then process the form and if all is well will make the relevant adjustments to the ownership details held by the state.

If you have a mortgage still attached to the property you will need to notify your bank of the change to property ownership and they may ask you to alter your loan documents to match the property title details.

Beware of tax legislation

There are anti-tax avoidance rules that state you must have a valid reason for transferring the title of a property apart from tax benefits. Be sure you know your reason and be certain to document it.

Property Investor? Learn how to maximise your tax return

For more on changing ownership, check out this guide by finance expert Stuart Wemyss

Marc Terrano

Marc Terrano is a Lead Publisher at finder. He's been writing and publishing personal finance content for over five years and loves to help Australians get a better deal.

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108 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    RosettaMay 6, 2018

    l bought a land through my husband’s relatives. My problem is they wrote Mr and Mrs instead of my name so I want to know if it is possible to change the name to my name as the owner of the land? Thanks

    • finder Customer Care
      JeniMay 6, 2018Staff

      Hi Rosetta,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Each state and territory has a central register of all land in the state which shows the owner of the land. The land title is the official record. It can also include information about mortgages, covenants, caveats and easements.

      Please go to this link for further info on housing property and land titles.

      I also suggest that you speak to an expert who can help you on changing the name of the title deeds.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

  2. Default Gravatar
    AdamApril 13, 2018

    My father is ill and my step mom (not legally married) is looking after him. The house is paided off. My dad has asked to change the house title to my name. Are there any responsibilities I need to know about or weekly/monthly fees. I want to know what I’m getting into before signing, thank you.

    Adam

    • finder Customer Care
      NikkiApril 13, 2018Staff

      Hi Adam!

      Hi there, this is Nikki. Welcome to finder – the leading comparison website & general information service built to give you advice in your buying decision needs. How are you doing today?

      Please note that we’re a product comparison website and we hold no affiliation with any company we feature on our site. We provide general information on products to assist you in your buying decision process hence we cannot recommend product / service that is rightfully fit for you.

      You may have to call a mortgage broker to check how much weekly/monthly fees you’d take in before you sign into the contract. You may inquire about the following such as type of property onwnership, property taxes, maintenance & upkeep & security, and insurance.

      Hope this helps! Feel free to message us anytime should you have further questions.

      Cheers,
      Nikki

  3. Default Gravatar
    NiteshFebruary 6, 2018

    Hi Team
    My wife and myself owns a property as joint Owners with varied percentage of ownership. NoReply w I want to change that ownership percentage due to change in earnings. We ave bought this property 2yrs ago in Victoria. It is on mortgage
    Would I have to pay any charges to do that.

    Thanks
    Nitesh

    • finder Customer Care
      MayMarch 1, 2018Staff

      Hi Nitesh,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Basically, any change in the property ownership has associated costs like stamp duty and this varies from state to state. I would suggest that you get in touch with your state revenue office in Victoria and confirm if you’ll be exempted to pay for stamp duty/other fees as the change will only be between you and your wife (i.e. if no third party will benefit from the transfer/change).

      Cheers,
      May

  4. Default Gravatar
    EveOctober 25, 2017

    A couple are separating and have an investment property bought as a house land investment package however they now need to change this to one persons name.
    What costs are involved and what do they need to do. ( My relatives and they don’t have a solicitor)

    • finder Customer Care
      JoanneOctober 25, 2017Staff

      Hi Eve,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      Generally, the cost of changing ownership would include Stamp duty, capital gains tax and fees. The details and steps involved can be found on this guide. On the same page you may also enter your details should you wish to speak with an expert to get professional help in transferring property ownership.

      In addition, the cost of changing the details of a property title also differ depending on the state or territory the property is located in so you may need to contact them directly to get the full list of fees and charges.

      Cheers,
      Joanne

  5. Default Gravatar
    donnaOctober 24, 2017

    I have brought a property now my partner would like to be on the contract, is their any way of doing this without all the charges.

    • Default Gravatar
      MariaOctober 25, 2017

      Hi Donna,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      When you include your partner on your title, they will have a share of property and will be involved in your mortgage. Because of that, you may need to seek legal and professional advice through the process.

      Transferring a share or renegotiating any mortgage may require you to contact your lender in order for them to process the documents and there’s usually a fee for this.

      You may refer to this page on Adding Your Partner’s Name To Your House Title.

      Best,
      Maria

  6. Default Gravatar
    JoanOctober 18, 2017

    How can I go about getting my name off the title of a house I own with 2 other siblings? I don’t want to sell my third with them; I just want out!

    • finder Customer Care
      JudithOctober 18, 2017Staff

      Hi Joan,

      Thanks for contacting finder, a comparison website and general information service.

      I understand your concern. You may check this page for a guide on how to remove a name from a property title.

      I hope this helps.

      Best regards,
      Judith

  7. Default Gravatar
    RebeccaSeptember 11, 2017

    If I have a property in my name ( not living in but family are living in it) and I have a mortgage on the property I currently live in now…what would be involved to transfer my name off the property family live in to them? and costs involved etc

    • finder Customer Care
      JoanneSeptember 11, 2017Staff

      Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks for reaching out.
      The process of removing someone’s name from the property title depends on which state or territory your property is located. But generally, to start with, you’ll need to fill out a relevant transfer form that can be obtained from your state government department’s website.
      You’d also be best to utilise the services of a conveyancer so you’ll be guided properly with the process and the fees involved.

      The cost of changing the details of a property title differ depending on the state or territory the property is located in so please contact them directly to get the full list of fees and charges.
      You may also want to visit this link to get additional information.

      Cheers,
      Joanne

  8. Default Gravatar
    FayJune 28, 2017

    I have 2 parcels of land adjoining each other. As I have 2 separate deeds for the properties can I sell one parcel and not the other?

    • Default Gravatar
      JonathanJune 29, 2017

      Hi Fay!

      Thanks for the inquiry!

      If you have two established parcels of land and were conveyed as two deeds, then yes it can be sold separately, provided there are no local restrictions in place.

      An attorney or title company can help you with the sale.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  9. Default Gravatar
    janetteJune 7, 2017

    We sold block land five years ago and just found that we still own the land. Because they didn’t do there transfer is legal for them to do there transfer now after fives

    • finder Customer Care
      MayJune 8, 2017Staff

      Hi Janette,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes, if the selling of the land before was settled legally, without a problem and the documents as proof of the sale are intact. The buyer of your property would just need to fill out a relevant transfer form that can be obtained from the state government department’s website where the property is located. Please see the list if states in the blue box on this page, from there click the name of the state to be redirected to the local state’s main website.

      It would also be best for them to utilise the services of a conveyancer to be guided properly with the process and be familiarised with the fees involved.

      Cheers,
      May

  10. Default Gravatar
    SteveJune 4, 2017

    A husband and wife jointly own a house in NSW. Husband wants to either transfer some or all of the property to his wife so she is either the majority or sole owner. The house was a primary residence, had been rented and couple lived abroad. But the property has not yet been rented for the past six years. Is there any stamp duty or CGT to be paid by his wife?

    • Default Gravatar
      JonathanJune 4, 2017

      Hi Steve!

      Thanks for the comment.

      Stamp duty is often payable once there’s a transfer of property that took place. However, some state policies may give exemptions. You may find more information about it here. As for Capital Gains Tax, if they moved out of their home and has chosen to rent it out, even if there were no renters, under the law it may be still be considered as their primary residence for period of up to 6 years, which may qualify for exemption. You may want to read our CGT review on this page.

      Alternatively, you can seek professional advice on this matter, as some circumstances, local policies and other details may affect exemptions.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

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