Legal Blog

Raising the Bar: Five Questions to Ask Before Calling a Real Estate Attorney

Talking to a real estate attorney about property is like talking to a chef about food. Real estate is an expansive topic and, when faced with a dispute or property transaction, those of us not versed in the law may not know where to start. Whether you are dealing with purchase agreements, lease disputes, development, land use, eminent domain, taxes, or any other of the myriad matters arising from arguments over property—after all, buildings are a fundamental fact of life—finding the right attorney can seem like a daunting task. How do you know you have the best legal assistance on your side, for your specific issue? Here are a few key questions to ask yourself in order to prepare for your initial consultation:

Are my documents in order?

Diligent record-keeping is a must for anyone on either side of a real estate transaction. What paperwork you should have on hand partially depends on state requirements, but the following list demonstrates which information can be useful for legal purposes:

  • Purchase contract
  • Lease agreement
  • Tax records
  • Certificate of occupancy
  • Permits
  • Title
  • Deed
  • Property Surveys
  • Property information sheet

An experienced real estate attorney can also aid you in drafting any of these or other documents during the sale, financing, lease, development, or transfer of your property.

Have I assessed my environmental risk?

A thorough evaluation of a property’s environmental liability is necessary for regulatory compliance—and your wallet. Hazardous substances found in and around the property, as well as external risk factors such as water contamination are often costly, and sometimes deadly, grounds for litigation. If you are uncertain about the environmental status of a piece of real estate at the center of a dispute or transaction, speak to an attorney to save time and money before pursuing an investigation.

What insurance do I have?

You already have property insurance (and if you don’t, the time to rectify that was yesterday), but are you covered from loss of income? What about liability lawsuits? Landlords, property owners, and property investors must be properly insured to protect themselves in the event of a loss. The problem: Not all insurance plans cover what you think they may cover, and which insurance you need varies from state to state. Offit Kurman’s own Insurance Recovery Group helps businesses choose the appropriate insurance coverage for their needs and recover money owed to them by insurers.

What is my building zoned for?

Even if a building looks perfect for your intended use, its zoning designation may say otherwise. If you are planning on buying or leasing a building, make sure to check where it lies in terms of your city’s zoning. You may have to contact your City or County Planning Commission to get up-to-date information. Certain steps are required before you change your building’s use or construction and get it approved, so you will need to speak to an attorney to discuss your options. Also remember that zoning is not the only restriction on the use of property-you also need to check the title to your property to see whether there are any private restrictive covenants that apply.

Whom should I call?

The real estate attorneys at Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law are well-equipped to handle any manner of real estate subjects, from contracts to zoning assessment. Learn more about our real estate law and transactions services, and get in touch with an attorney at our real estate homepage or contact David Severn at 240-772-5114

ABOUT DAvid Severn

David A. Severn David A. Severn has been practicing law in Frederick MD, since 1980 and focuses his practice on land use, development and real estate. He represents clients in all aspects of the zoning and land use process appearing regularly before planning commissions, boards of appeal and legislative bodies of Frederick County, Washington County and their municipalities. He has served as lead counsel in numerous large and complex development projects including “Carroll Creek Park” a mixed use, public-private partnership re-development project in historic downtown Frederick modeled on River Walk in San Antonio, “Frederick Crossing”, the first large mixed use commercial retail/employment center in Frederick County and the redevelopment of the Frederick Towne Mall. David also works for the public sector in serving as legal counsel to the Town of Walkersville, the City of Brunswick, Frederick County and Washington County Public Schools for real estate and land use matters.


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