Real Estate Glossary Terms Beginning With – Z

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Terms Beginning With - z

Property Development & Investment Glossary, Terms & Definitions


The point immediately overhead to an observer for any place on Earth.

Zero lot line

Structures placed so that one of their sides touches the lot line directly are referred to as "fronting" on the lot. However, setback ordinances in many areas generally prohibit such construction unless it's part of a special space-conserving project.

Zone condemnation

Demolition and clearance of entire areas in order to make way for new construction, particularly in slum clearance projects.


Land use guidelines are often developed by local government entities.

the process by which local governments or planning bodies regulate the use of land.

Local governments classify and regulate land based on use classifications (zones), which frequently include density designations.

Property structures and uses are regulated within designated districts or zones. Zoning laws are enacted in the exercise of police power and are enforced for as long as they reasonably protect an area's public health, safety, morals, and general welfare. Due to the lack of national zoning standards, counties and/or municipalities generally enact their own zoning ordinances in accordance with a state enabling act. Zoning laws are typically enforced through building permits, which must be obtained prior to constructing on a parcel of land. A permit will not be issued unless the proposed structure complies with the permitted zoning, as well as other requirements such as the implementation of a master plan. Where there is a conflict between zoning and private restrictions, the more restrictive must be followed.

Zoning governs and influences land use, lot sizes, structure types permitted, building heights, setbacks, and density (the ratio of land area to improvement area). Residential zoning includes single-family homes, townhouses, multifamily apartments, and condominiums; commercial zoning includes retail shopping centres and high rise office buildings; industrial zoning includes warehouses, loft buildings, and industrial parks; and special-purpose zoning includes hotels, motels, schools, and mobile home parks.

Because rezoning usually requires the passage of a special ordinance, requests for rezoning may have to be directed to a special zoning appeals board or other administrative body.

Property buyers must be aware of the zoning requirements; that is, zoning regulations do not render the title unmarketable where they differ from what the buyer expected. As a result, the broker is responsible for determining whether the proposed use of the property complies with existing zoning. However, zoning violations render the title unmarketable. When the zoning only allows for single-family dwellings and the seller owns a duplex, the title becomes unmarketable unless the buyer agrees to accept the title under those conditions. Additionally, if either the seller or the broker misrepresents the actual permitted zoning use, the buyer has the right to cancel the transaction.

Where zoning changes (for example, from urban to conservation) lower property values, the state is not obligated to compensate property owners fairly (as it is when property is condemned under the power of eminent domain). The following are some examples of special zoning:

  • Bulk zoning: Regulates setback, building height, and percentage of open area to control density and avoid overcrowding 

  • Aesthetic zoning: Requires that new buildings conform to specific types of architecture 

  • Cumulative zoning: Allows higher uses (e.g., residential) to exist on land zoned for lower uses (industrial), but lower uses cannot occupy higher-zoned land 

A governing authority's act that regulates the purposes for which property in a certain region may be utilized or developed.

Zoning estoppel

A rule prohibiting the government from enforcing a new downzoning ordinance against a landowner who had incurred significant costs in reliance on the government's assurances that the landowner had met all zoning requirements prior to the new downzoning.

Zoning ordinance

The government's designation of geographic regions in which specific types of structures and companies may be built.

Glossary Index 

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