Real Estate and Property Law
Many facets of the law come into play within CVDL‘s real estate and property law practice.
We work with businesses, homeowners and developers to start their projects off in the right direction with detailed contracts, covenants, title searches and other due diligence. We help negotiate financing arrangements and guarantees. We conduct or monitor the entire closing process to make sure all parties receive what they bargained for.
Local zoning and land use issues require a thorough knowledge of city codes and internal procedures. Environmental liability is a risk that can be mitigated significantly with proper investigation and documentation.
Unfortunately, real estate practice also deals with correcting errors in earlier transactions conducted by less experienced professionals or other issues that arise over time.
We are prepared if necessary to pursue title insurance claims, and we have significant experience litigating boundary issues, easements, and adverse possession claims, which can be critical to maintain the value of the subject real estate.
We also have an active foreclosure practice. Foreclosures in Missouri (under “power of sale”) are relatively straightforward, but there are very precise notice and publication provisions that must be honored. We handle numerous foreclosures for lenders every year as part of our banking practice.
Whether a client is buying or selling a home, business, or property, developing a condominium or leasing a commercial site, our firm is equipped to assist at every step of the process.
We have also used our knowledge of Missouri property law to protect landowner rights. After local farmers and property owners learned that commercial use was being made of their private property without permission, we pursued trespass claims on behalf of thousands of Missouri landowners against utilities and their technology subsidiaries for unauthorized commercial use of electric utility easements on private property. The cases involved complex legal issues of first impression, including liability and damages. CVDL was honored to play a key role in a small class action team that obtained a measure of justice for the landowners.
Our Firm's Real Estate and Property Law Attorneys
Published on: April 23, 2021:4:55 pm
A Few Things to Think About – by John Landwehr:
- Licensed real estate brokers are handling my purchase. Am I OKAY?
Licensed brokers handle 90% of residential real estate contracts, and most of them are very qualified. (It helps that 95% of real estate closings are handled by title companies since they are so technical and document-heavy.) The broker’s job is essentially to market the property, get a solid contract in place, and guide the clients toward the closing.
That said, here are couple of things you might watch for:
- If you’re confused about anything, pay a few dollars for a real estate lawyer to take a look. The fee will be minimal when compared with the risk.
- Mark your calendar! Especially for buyers, there are critical “drop-dead” dates in most contracts, e.g., inspection notices, loan approvals, etc. Do NOT assume these are just guidelines. Make sure the appropriate notices are sent on time and in the proper manner.
- Brokers are authorized by law to fill in blanks in forms approved by an attorney. There is usually a section at the end of the standard form for “Special Agreements.” Sometimes these matters are very simple, but sometimes they are complicated enough to require a well-drafted provision, and brokers seldom have the expertise required. Make sure you’re comfortable with the wording.
- Read the title commitment and ask for the documents. (90% of buyers don’t bother!) A title commitment is the buyer’s guarantee that he will get good title at closing. Buried in the commitment are references to all recorded documents affecting the property. Examine all these entries and if you have questions check with your broker or have an attorney take a quick look. Here are some examples of critical matters that are often overlooked:
- Easements – you may be sharing a driveway and not know it.
- Covenants and Restrictions – sorry, no fences or outbuildings, or boats.
- If you don’t require survey coverage, there may be encroachments you don’t know about.
- How are real estate taxes for the current year handled at closing?
Typically, they are “pro-rated.” The buyer will get the tax statement in December and will pay it all. Therefore, the buyer will get a credit at closing for the seller’s share. For example, if the real estate taxes for the current year are $2400 and the closing occurs on April 1, the buyer will get a credit of $600.00 (1/4 of the year times the total).
- If a buyer backs out, he just forfeits his earnest money, right?
Not necessarily. Most contracts give the seller the option of accepting the earnest money OR seeking specific performance (an injunction forcing the closing) or money damages (if he has to sell to another buyer for less money). This is an important part of the contract that you should read carefully.
Deeds: Different types for different situations.
Perhaps the most misunderstood document in the legal world is the humble quitclaim deed – referred to by many as “quick claim” deeds. Here’s a quick tutorial to avoid embarrassment the next time you attend a real estate closing.
Let’s start with the most potent deed — the General Warranty Deed. These are what we use in most real estate transactions. The grantor (seller) warrants good title going all the way back to 1820 or whenever the land came out of the government’s hands with a “patent.” That warranty is not as scary as it might sound due to title insurance and multiple past transactions involving that parcel where title was scrutinized and blessed. But, the seller is on the hook if there is a title defect discovered later.
A Quitclaim Deed is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It warrants nothing! As the law professors say, “I’ll give you a Quitclaim Deed to the Grand Canyon.” That’s because the grantor makes no guarantees whatsoever. So . . . . why have these deeds at all? Actually, quitclaim deeds play a vital role in the real estate world. They’re used in “clean up” situations, to confirm that the grantor has no further interest in the parcel. For example, a bank can release a mortgage with a Quitclaim Deed. In a divorce, when one spouse is awarded the home, the other spouse may be required to relinquish his or her interest in the home – typically with a Quitclaim Deed. I can release an easement or cancel a recorded sale contract with a Quitclaim Deed. I’m just saying “Whatever interest I have, if any, is yours, but I make no guarantees that I have any interest at all.”
Now if you really want to impress your real estate agent or someone at a cocktail party, casually mention a Special Warranty Deed. These deeds only warrant that the grantor (seller) did not do anything to mess up the title while he was the owner. The grantor is not on the hook for any title defects arising prior to his ownership. Big companies like to convey with Special Warranty Deeds so the potential liability for old unknown defects are not carried on their books forever. Buyers do not have to worry about accepting a Special Warranty Deed (instead of a General Warranty Deed) as long as he’s getting title insurance.