Whether buying or selling a piece of property, a real estate attorney can help ensure that the title is clear and that all legal steps have been taken. This can avoid costly litigation or the loss of a significant down payment.
Real estate attorneys perform due diligence by ensuring that all legal terms are included in the contract and that the transaction meets state and federal laws. They also write title insurance policies that protect the buyer from third-party claims on the property.
Unknown liens or encumbrances
When selling a property, something hidden in the title may hinder the transfer of ownership. For example, an unpaid mortgage in the past may be a lien on the property, preventing a buyer from purchasing it.
A real estate lawyer specializing in property title searches can spot these issues and find a suitable resolution. They also have the experience to recognize when someone is trying to pull a fast one on them, such as hiding information in disclosures or home inspection reports.
In addition to liens, encumbrances can prevent a sale by preventing ownership transfer, such as when an ex-spouse has a claim on the property or bankruptcy in the past transferred partial ownership to a lender. A lawyer can also identify and resolve legal disputes arising during a title search, including surveys, boundaries, and associated wills or mortgages. This can save a seller from a surprise at closing.
Bylaws or boundary disputes
Property boundary disputes can become a huge legal issue. They occur when neighboring property owners disagree about the exact location of their respective boundaries. The problem can arise from construction projects, landscaping or other types of work that may cross over the property line. Landowners may also need access to neighboring properties for ingress and egress or use facilities like parking lots.
Encroachment and other issues with property lines can occur due to natural or artificial changes in the landscape, conflicting or confusing language in deeds, mistakes or misunderstandings in official survey plats or human error. A full title search and a property survey can settle these issues.
You can get various benefits if you hire a good real estate attorney. Real estate attorneys can help a homeowner or prospective buyer petition to change how a property is zoned, defend an owner against attempts to rezone a property or file a quiet title action for disputed ownership. An attorney specializing in real estate can help you file a claim to obtain prescriptive easements.
Most properties contain easements which give the government, businesses and other parties access to a part of the land for specific purposes. Finding an easement can be a big inconvenience to a new owner and significantly impact their home use.
It can be problematic for both buyer and seller if the issue still needs to be addressed. An attorney specializing in real estate can help resolve the problem through a quiet-title action or lawsuit.
A thorough property title search requires reviewing public records at the county clerk, registry of deeds or recorder’s office, and examining the property survey. It’s common to find errors or omissions in the records, particularly when multiple people have been involved in the title chain. This may result from a faulty survey, an error in recording or mental incompetence. A lawyer can quickly spot and rectify these mistakes before they halt a purchase or sale.
Unknown legal issues
Real estate title searches can uncover several issues that could jeopardize ownership or property sales. Hiring an attorney or title company to search thoroughly is crucial.
For example, a title search can reveal unknown liens on the property or encumbrances like unpaid taxes, mortgages and easements. It can also unearth zoning problems, boundary line disputes and other legal issues that would prevent the transaction.
A comprehensive property title search can save you from a lot of stress and money down the road. It can also prevent you from unforeseen issues that may arise once you take ownership of the property. This could include an angry mortgage lender or a lien from a previous owner. It is far better to find these issues before you buy or sell your home.