Real Estate Law: Before making a down payment, do your homework

Lands and homes have history, obvious or otherwise. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

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We asked the 2017 Top Lawyers in Northern Virginia to go over what individuals who recently purchased a home or some land do not have rights to. Here’s what they had to say:

“When you purchase real property, you purchase a bundle of rights. Sometimes that means you’ve purchased the burden of an easement benefiting someone else. Sometimes that means you’ve purchased the ground below, the sky above or even the particular view from your property. A title search is necessary in nearly every purchase to untangle the web of prior transfers and encumbrances that may be on your potential land purchase. Many folks incorrectly presume that when they purchase a home, they can take whatever actions they want to take on their property. However, many residential properties (and even some commercial properties) have restrictive covenants that govern and restrict the owners from taking certain actions on their land.  Your land may also be subject to an easement.  Easements can be for [access], or for more specific purposes like utilities, roads or even parking. Having a real estate attorney look at your property’s title history can help you understand the bundle of rights you are buying!–Heather R. Steele, Esq., Litigation Partner, Compton & Duling LC

Parties to a real estate transaction (whether sale, purchase or refinance) should follow up post-closing and secure copies of the recorded releases for all title liens that are paid off at settlement. An unreleased mortgage lien on a title can and will delay the next settlement for weeks until the payoff lender is located, research is done and the release is finally recorded.

Real estate transactions are prime targets for cyber scams based upon the amount of money involved. Buyers, sellers and those refinancing their loans should only work with reputable settlement attorneys or settlement companies that exercise vigilance in the handling of settlement funds. Never put your bank account, Social Security number or loan numbers on the open internet—only send it via encrypted email, fax or by USPS mail.–Susan M. Pesner, Principal, Pesner Kawamoto PLC

“When entering into a lease a tenant may intend to stay for the entire term. However to prepare for the unexpected, tenants should negotiate their rights to assign and sublease. These rights are important in the event the company is sold or where the tenant’s needs have changed and they need to vacate the space.” –Anne Kelly Planning, Partner, Spartin Planning

(2017 Top Lawyers, Advice from the 2017 Top Lawyers, December 2017)