Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms: Based on American & English Practice

By Roulac, Stephen E. | Journal of Real Estate Literature, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms: Based on American & English Practice


Roulac, Stephen E., Journal of Real Estate Literature


Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms: Based on American & English Practice, Damien Abbott, 2000, Second edition, Hardcover, 1,472 pages, Delta Alpha Publishing.

Reviewed by: Stephen E. Roulac, Roulac Group, Inc., San Rafael; and University of Ulster, Belfast.

The work of those who professionally serve the people, companies and communities with their property involvements is profoundly important, inevitably challenging and extraordinarily rewarding in manifold ways. Few individuals who work in professional law and business schools are beyond the purview of what is relevant knowledge for the property professional. The amount of knowledge available to us is ever-increasing as recent forces of globalization and technology advances introduce even more complexity, breadth and depth to the subject matter. But where does the property professional access the requisite knowledge for effective global property involvements?

According to Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms: Based on American & English Practice, the scope of real estate is far-reaching:

"Real estate is not just about law. It is about land and buildings, the buying and selling, debt and equity (in the monetary sense), development and planning, as well as surveying and measuring. It is concerned with state powers and private rights; rural and urban land use; mortgages and liens; that which is above, as well as below, the surface of the earth; the safety and well being of those who enter and use land (and everything that is a part thereof); the value of land (and the miscellany of ways at arriving at such value); the return on the investment in land; the financing of land and its improvements; the insurance of property; securitization of real estate; as well as taxation and other forms of state intervention that impinge on the use of real estate."

Abbott provides one reference for this daunting field of endeavor. The author's aspirations are not immodest, for he proposes his book to be "A comprehensive reference book on real estate-a dictionary, a thesaurus and an encyclopedia, rolled into one." This massive, 1,472 page book-8,000-terms, extensive source material and 11,000+ references-is an interesting, albeit rather unbalanced and incomplete, reference work.

It is important to consider the author's perspective and sources. Abbott starts with the feudal origins of land law and then extends his coverage well beyond the "system of law that is evolved for nearly 1,000 years."

This book makes an important contribution to the increasing global orientation of society and the property discipline. In the preface, Abbott tells the reader that his

"second edition is weighted toward North America; but this is balanced by European material, especially where the historical aspects are of paramount importance to realizing how real estate is understood and practiced today." Thus, in some respects it brings together terminology that has partially (but by no means totally) diverged over the years. In this regard, the author confronts the challenge of reconciling the meaning of a diverse portfolio of professional words used in both England and the United States. The U.S. and England are countries divided by a common language that can be, in application, more uncommon than common. The author is not explicit about whether his objective is to contribute a North American reference informed by a European perspective, or a general reference that bridges the cultural influences and norms of diverse countries in their real estate practice.

For instance, the author informs his readers that "Much of the terminology used in real estate today comes down through a chain of Roman, Norman, civil, ecclesiastical, common, equitable, and administrative law, well laced with major statutory reforms (such as the English Law of Property Acts of 1922-1925), or the influence of the 'Restatements of the Law' as adopted and promulgated by the American Law Institute, which have sought to simplify and clarify the feudal vestiges of real property law. …

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