Real Estate Information Center

Real estate transactions are governed by numerous federal statutes and varying state statutes and common laws that address a wide variety of legal issues related to acquiring, financing, developing, managing, constructing, leasing and selling commercial and residential real property. Buying and selling real estate is generally more complicated than buying or selling expensive goods, such as a car or a boat. With real estate, many different people can have an interest in the same property, tax consequences are more complicated, and possession is not necessarily indicative of ownership. An experienced real estate attorney can help you sort through all of the difficult decisions and negotiations involved in real estate transactions.

Real Estate – An Overview

Real estate law includes both federal and state issues, with the state-level rules varying widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. These state and federal laws encompass everything from ownership of land and buildings to related issues such as financing, leasing, construction, taxes, environmental rules, and a multitude of others. A competent and experienced real estate attorney can protect a party’s interests in both routine and complex transactions and disputes.

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Real Estate Development

Development of property cannot be done without adherence to local, state, and possibly federal regulations. There are a variety of governmental regulations that control how property is to be developed, altered or even if it can be used for its intended purpose. If you are faced with commercial real estate issues consult an attorney. Real estate lawyers are an excellent resource for this information.

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Glossary of Real Estate Topics

Real estate law includes lots of jargon and “legalese” that can be intimidating or at least confusing, especially to first-time homebuyers. An attorney with experience in real estate law can help a buyer or seller understand the terms and concepts pervasive in real estate. Read on to learn more about the terminology of this specialized area.

Appraisals: An appraisal is the estimate of value of real property made by a third party not involved in the transaction, usually comparing the sales price to the value of similar properties in the area. Mortgage lenders usually require an appraisal before they will make a loan.

Assessments: An assessment is a charge for improvements completed by the local government that are beneficial to adjoining property (such as sidewalks or road work). The assessment is each benefited property owner’s proportional share of the cost of the improvement.

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Usually deceptively short, a deed is an unassuming piece of paper that has a big legal impact. A deed documents the transfer of ownership of real estate, and no real property transaction is finished until the deed is delivered to the buyer. A finished deed includes the names of the buyer and seller and the property’s legal description. The deed is signed by the person transferring the property, and may make that person responsible to the buyer for other claims against or conditions on the property. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can review the deed to ensure that it is accurate and properly executed.

Deed Requirements

A deed for property must always be in writing, and it must follow state laws for property transactions. Different states may require different deed language or forms or even paper sizes, so it’s important to make sure the rules are followed. While not strictly required, it is a good idea to record a deed to make the ownership change a public record.

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Home Inspections

Buying a home can be stressful and time-consuming. Obtaining a home inspection can take some of the worry out of the process. An independent home inspector will give a buyer a complete picture of the condition of the property he or she is considering buying. Most houses are not perfect, and the inspector’s detailed report gives the buyer an unbiased evaluation letting him or her know what needs work now and what will probably need work in the near future. Obtaining a home inspection and reviewing the results with an experienced real estate attorney can put a home buyer in the best position to negotiate his or her purchase.

The Inspection

The type of inspection that a buyer needs depends on many factors. Of course, every buyer should make his or her own basic inspection. A buyer should also obtain a professional whole-house inspection by a reputable person in order to uncover defects that may not be readily apparent. If the buyer is using an FHA or VA loan, a third, somewhat less thorough, inspection occurs at the time of the appraisal. The appraisal required by the lender is not as thorough and focuses on the value, not the condition, of the property. It does not substitute for an inspection.

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What to Expect at Closing

A closing, or settlement, is the meeting during which ownership of the property is officially transferred from the seller to the buyer. The buyer and the seller, their attorneys, both real estate sales professionals, a representative of the lender, and the closing agent typically attend the closing. The closing involves settling any open issues, balancing and verifying an often-complex closing statement, and signing all documents necessary to complete the transaction. An attorney with experience in closing real estate transactions will advise you at closing to ensure that your rights are protected.

Closing Costs

Closing costs are one of the least-understood aspects of the home purchase procedure. Although a good closer will take time to walk a buyer through the numbers, an experienced attorney will provide additional insight and verify that the costs are being appropriately allocated between the buyer and the seller.

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