Real Estate Law

Buying and selling real estate involves high stakes and many complicated legal issues. Whether the property is residential, commercial or for a farm or ranch, there may be difficult legal issues surrounding the purchase contract, including over the size of the property, the value of the property, what the contract included and did not include, and even whether the person or company selling the property even has a right to do so.

In addition to legal difficulties actually buying the property, there are significant regulations surrounding property. Property owners may have to go before regulatory or governmental bodies to obtain permission to do what they are seeking to do with their property. Additionally, often a different person is using the property, to conduct business or reside in, than the person who owns it, leading to conflicts about who is responsible for what. For these issues, involved parties can seek assistance from a real estate lawyer.


Real Estate Law Information Center


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Types of Real Estate

Occasionally, the legal solution to an issue depends on what the real estate is used for.

  • Residential Real Estate: Residential real estate includes single-family houses, townhomes and, in most jurisdictions, multifamily housing, like apartment complexes and condominiums. Homes are often built in subdivisions, or large tracts of land divided into lots. Sometimes, several houses in subdivisions have the same issues.

    Find a residential real estate lawyer.

  • Commercial Real Estate: Commercial real estate includes any real property where business is conducted. Commercial real estate might be office buildings, stores, shopping centers, malls, industrial facilities, factories, chemical plants, hotels, theme parks, restaurants or hospitals.

    Find a commercial real estate lawyer.

  • Farm and Ranch Real Estate: Real property transactions involving land to be used for farming or ranching purposes must often be very large to fit their purpose. When such wide dimensions and, sometimes, old title records, there can be issues with ownership and actual size.

    Find a farm and ranch real estate lawyer.


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Issues with Real Estate

Legal complications surrounding real estate can often extend beyond transactional problems.

  • Foreclosure Defense: When the owner of a property has the property mortgaged and can no longer make payments, the lender can move to take the property, called "foreclosure." However, foreclosure is usually a complicated legal process, and there are defenses available to the borrower.

    Find a foreclosure defense lawyer.

  • Landlord-Tenant Law: When a person rents an apartment or house, or when a business rents an office space or storefront, they sign a contract with the owner, called a lease, and then have a landlord-tenant relationship. When there is a dispute, special laws apply in addition to normal contract law.

    Find a landlord-tenant lawyer.

  • Land Use and Zoning: Municipal and local governments often have regulations on how a property owner may or may not use his or her property. Typically, these decisions are made within a city or county department or by an appointed council. A lawyer can represent property owners to these bodies.

    Find a landlord-tenant lawyer.


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Certification for Real Estate Lawyers

In seven states, programs exist that certify attorneys as specialists in real estate law. Advertising rules generally prohibit lawyers from calling themselves as real estate specialists unless they have been certified.


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Hiring a Real Estate Lawyer

Real estate law is a civil matter, and any attorney who is licensed may represent clients on real property matters. However, experience and knowledge of real estate law can be important to ensuring the best result for you. If you live in a state that allows certification in real estate, a certified real estate lawyer has won the approval of an independent body or agency. Additionally, lawyers who are members of organizations dedicated to real estate law, like the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, have access to continuing legal education and other tools and resources.