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Real Estate Encyclopedia | Property Law Dictionary | Real Estate Terms | Meanings & Definitions |      Jun 25, 2024
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BOOK NOTES/RECENSIONS Volume 46, issue 4, August 2001

Damien Abbott, Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms, 2d ed. Washington, DC.: Delta Alpha, 2000 Pp. xxxviii, 1431

This tome is worth more than 8000 terms (from 'a fortiori' to 'zoning variance' and 350 acronyms (from 'AAA rating', one deserved by this publication and which needs no explanation, to 'ZUP', or 'zone à urbaniser par priorité). It provides a comprehensive treatment of real estate terms, common ('abutting owner', 'estate', 'fee simple', 'mortgage'), obscure (advowson', 'chase', 'feodum'), and unusual ('alligator', 'birddog', 'decoy duck', 'ham'), and even the letter X.

This second edition, published some fourteen years after the first, contains material compiled over twenty-five years by the author, a specialist in real estate. Its primary focus is on terminology drawn from real estate practice in common law jurisdictions (chiefly America and England with some reference to (British) Commonwealth countries); however, it also contains a useful selection of civil law terms derived from Scots and French law.

The publication has three aims: '(i) to provide a clear and precise explanation of the meaning of particular words or phrase …; (ii) to help the use find an answer to many of the questions that occur in real estate today (if not directly then by ready reference to other sources); and (iii) to point out where a problem might occur upon which, when required, further advice should be sought (at vii)'. These aims are largely attained.

It may surprise some, however, that this work contains many terms that appear to have no direct bearing on real estate, terms more commonly associated with personal property, tort, finance, insurance, and other fields of law. Nonetheless a moment's reflection suggests that such terms are not misplaced; they are all terms that may be, and often are, encountered in real estate transactions by those who have a practical or academic interest in the field. Of particular interest to this reviewer is the historical content of this publication. Many terms are not only defined; readers are provided with an account of the origins (often feudal) of many terms, giving the reader an appreciation of both the historical context in which these terms developed and of the antiquity of much every day real estate terminology.

The book is user friendly. Following the expected preface and acknowledgements is a 'User's Guide' (at xv) (containing an apologia for the book's conformity with the historic practice of using the masculine form of pronouns), that provides clear and simple instructions to assist readers in their use of the work. This guide, couple with the cross-referencing system utilized by the author, ensures that the information contained in the work is easily accessible. Also included is a comprehensive list of abbreviations (at xxi) to facilitate an understanding of the myriad of source materials from which the definitions, historic notes, and explanations have been derived. At the end of the work are a number of appendices, including a useful bibliography for those who wish to pursue a matter in greater depth (at 1294); a selection of major American and English statutory enactments (at 1359); a list of professional associations (at 1383); a table of measurements (at 1411); financial formulae (at 1415); and as noted above, a list of acronyms (at 1421).

This is a reference work that would make a worthwhile addition to the library of anyone with amore than passing interest in real estate transactions, in particular, and property law in general.

William F. Foster [Sir William C. Macdonald Professor of Law]