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Real Estate

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Our firm understands that purchasing real estate can be one of the biggest financial investments a person or business can make.  Let our firm assist you in the following real estate areas:

Selling Real Estate

During the process of selling real estate, a lawyer protects the seller from unexpected developments in the sale process and can:

  • draft listing contracts and offers;
  • advise on issues related to sale;
  • help satisfy conditions to the offer and resolve problems that arise;
  • draft deeds, transfer returns, and other transaction documents, and;
  • review financial arrangements and assure parties’ obligations are met at closing.
Buying Real Estate

The buyer’s attorney can ensure the buyer receives what the contract provides and can:

  • draft or advise on buyer agency agreements and offers, including conditions added for buyer’s protection;
  • examine seller’s title, abstract of title or title insurance commitment, and explain the document affecting that title;
  • answer legal questions about the property and its purchase, including various options for holding title;
  • check the note and mortgage, deed and other documents, and explain buyer’s legal rights and obligations under them at closing; and
  • review title after closing to ensure all legal requirements have been met.
Land Contract and Contract for Deeds

A land contract is used when the seller finances the buyer’s purchase of the property. Rather than paying the entire purchase price at closing, the buyer pays the seller through installments and receives a deed when all payments are made.

Buyer

For the buyer, the land contract may be the only financing available depending upon economic conditions, the type of property, or buyer’s creditworthiness– this may result in a small down payment, fewer closing costs, and a lower interest rate than a mortgage. Often a land contract will be short term and involve a lump sum (balloon) payment of the balance when the buyer’s equity will allow mortgage financing of the property.

Seller

For the seller, the land contract financing may be the only way to put the sale together. It allows a deferral of capital gains over the term of the land contract payments. Enforcement of a land contract is somewhat easier than a mortgage, but the seller assumes the risk that he/she will have to retake the property and resell it. The land contract also means that the seller does not receive all of the sale’s proceeds upon closing.

The land contract is a flexible financing instrument that involves detailed negotiation. The parties need effective legal advice to assure the land contract reflects their agreements and that their interests are protected.

Building a Home

Building a home, or making other improvements to real estate property, involves additional contracts that should be reviewed and negotiated by an attorney. The owner must decide what improvements need to be made and how much he/she can afford; this often require a contractual agreement with architects or engineers.

A construction contract is established, covering what is to be built, any changes to the original plan, performance standards for the builder– including time for construction, delays, and warranties– and any additional costs. While construction can be stressful, if the rights of the parties are clearly established in the contracts and fully understood by all parties, it can be exciting and satisfying.

Commercial Real Estate

A lawyer can protect a seller or a buyer from unexpected developments in a sale process and can:

  • draft listing contracts and offers;
  • advise on issues related to sale;
  • help satisfy conditions to the offer and resolve problems that arise;
  • draft deeds, transfer returns, and other transaction documents;
  • review financial arrangements and assure parties’ obligations are met at closing;
  • draft or advise on agency agreements and offers, including conditions added for a party’s protection;
  • examine title, abstract of title or title insurance commitment, and explain any documents affecting that title;
  • answer legal questions about the property and its purchase including options for holding title;
  • check the note, mortgage, deed, and other documents and explain legal rights and obligations under them at closing; and
  • review title after closing to ensure all legal requirements have been met.
Foreclosure

Foreclosure terms are stated in your mortgage or land contract. Generally any significant breach, such as failing to make payments or damaging the property in a way that reduces its value, can lead to foreclosure.

Under state law, the buyer may have the right to obtain notice of his or her breaches and to correct them. Since different provisions apply in different circumstances, you should see a lawyer if you have been threatened with foreclosure.

Landlord/Tenant

Wisconsin statute and administrative code govern many of the rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants, regardless of the written terms of the lease.  If you are a landlord, our firm has the experience to provide you with the appropriate expertise.

Homeowner Associations

Our firm represents home owners’ association (HOA) managers and boards of directors covering a variety of issues including assessment collection, foreclosure, and enforcement of restrictive covenants and declarations.

Land Use and Zoning

Our firm represents private land owners and government agencies in providing common sense legal advice to solve land use and zoning problems.

Real Estate Tax Appeals

Our firm has experience representing municipalities and individuals in real estate tax appeals from the Board of Review stage through appeal to circuit courts and appellate courts, when necessary.

General Real Estate Information

Will the real estate agent represent me?
Real estate agents cannot provide legal advice and representation. Under Wisconsin law, real estate agents act as intermediaries rather than representing the parties.

 

Can the buyer and seller use the same attorney?
It is not recommended. The buyer and seller have conflicting interests in a real estate transaction, in which case tne attorney cannot fully represent both.

 

How important is the offer to purchase?
The offer to purchase is critical. Parties should seek legal assistance when dealing with the offer to purchase as it becomes a legally binding document when both parties have signed and the contingencies– conditions protecting the parties, such as financing or property inspections– are met and understood.

The offer establishes what property will be sold, what it will cost, when the sale will close, how closing costs will be allocated, and other terms of the transaction. It also determines if the buyer’s earnest money will be forfeited or returned if the sale does not close.

 

What information is available on the property?
An offer to purchase includes information about the property and, often times, a contingency to allow the buyer to have the property inspected.  The buyer also has the right to rescind the offer if major defects are found; professional home inspectors, regulated by the state, are available for this.

For residential properties, the seller must provide a condition report disclosing defects of which the seller is aware. Real estate brokers also have disclosure duties. The amount and quality of information that the parties receive will help assure the fairness of the transaction and prevent later problems. Some property is sold in an “as-is” condition, which makes the buyer’s inspection even more important. Parties should discuss property disclosure issues and questions with their attorneys.

 

Should a buyer ask for title insurance or an abstract and title opinion?
While it may cost less to use an abstract, if one exists, most lenders require title insurance. This may be required regardless of what the offer to purchase states. If the buyer contacts a lender before writing the offer to purchase, the lender’s requirements can be determined and included within the offer.

 

What’s the difference between a warranty deed and a quit claim deed?
A warranty deed “warrants” or guarantees that the title is free of all encumbrances, except those mentioned in the deed. A quit claim deed transfers what title the seller has (if any), without guaranteeing the quality of title.
This information is intended to be viewed as general information. Your individual situation or needs require consultation with the advice of an attorney. We are here to help you today.