Buying or selling a home is exciting. No matter which side of the table you’re on, the act marks the start of something new and different in your life. But for as exciting as it is, the process involves a lot of moving parts: several different parties, a lot of legal documentation, and of course, a large sum of money.
For that reason, transferring property in such a way can become susceptible to stressful disputes. And when these disputes get big enough, having an experienced real estate attorney on your side of the table can help you to see the transaction successfully to its end, one way or another.
The Most Common Real Estate Disputes
While there are several different types of disputes that can arise during any part of the process of selling or buying a home, the most common types that lead to litigation are:
Breach of contract. Real estate sales agreements are legal contracts. When you sign one in order to buy or sell a piece of property, that contract will contain conditions and terms by which both parties signing the contract must comply. It may include details about closing dates, title clearance, financing, and assets included with the property. When either party fails to follow the terms laid out in the contract in any way, the other party may have the right to sue them over it.
Failure to disclose a defect. In the state of Florida, the seller must disclose any known defects of the property that aren’t entirely evident to the potential buyer. If the buyer discovers such a defect after the fact that wasn’t previously disclosed after closing on the property, the buyer may pursue legal actions against the seller. Alternatively, the buyer may need to prove that the defendant did, in fact, know about the defect or should have reasonably known about it.
Breach of duty of negligence. This one pertains specifically to real estate agents, and the fact that they can be sued for negligence of breach of their duties. Real estate agents have a legal duty to act in their clients’ best interests, rather than in their own interests or those of another party. They must also keep any sensitive information related to their clients completely confidential. Finally, they must perform their services to the best of their abilities. If the agent breaches any one of these duties, they may have a lawsuit brought against them.
Boundary disputes. When the parties involved in a real estate transaction don’t establish property lines correctly, litigation may occur. In some cases, these lines may not have been properly registered. In other cases, the property line actually used by the tenants may not be consistent with how the property line is legally registered.
How to Avoid Real Estate Disputes
Real estate transactions and contracts will inevitably vary from property to property and from person to person involved. But no matter if you’re the buyer or the seller, or perhaps even a real estate agent assisting in the process, the best way to avoid real estate disputes is to make sure any related activities carried out are legal, adequate, and moral.
The most important place to start is with the contract itself. If the terms of the contract are clearly spelled out and can be justified by the status of the property, then you are less likely to face any unexpected hiccups in the process, thus avoiding potential legal disputes.
Here are the minimum key elements you always want to make sure appear and are thoroughly addressed in any type of real estate contract:
- Financing terms. Many people are not financially stable enough to make an all-cash offer on a home, meaning they need to take out a mortgage. When that’s the case, the terms of the loan must be clearly spelled out in the contract.
- Seller assist. It is not uncommon for the seller of the property to pay for part or all of the buyer’s closing costs. But if this agreement is not spelled out in the contract clearly, then it may not happen the way the buyer or seller might expect it to, leaving either or both parties confused and/or upset.
- Home inspection. Unless the property is planned to be completely torn down, contracts should always include the details of a home inspection contingency. This clause will allow the seller to walk away from the deal if an inspection reveals significant or expensive repairs or flaws in the condition of the property.
- Fixtures and appliances. The property may have items like a refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, or washer and dryer on its premises. As the buyer, you should never automatically assume the property comes with those appliances. As the seller, you have no obligation to include those items—unless doing so is specifically written into the contract. So make sure the expectations surrounding such items is clearly stated.
- Closing date. Be specific about how much time is needed to complete the transaction of the home from seller to buyer. Common time frames are 30, 45, and 60 days, but these are not set in stone. Because they aren’t, it should be clearly spelled out in the contract exactly when the closing date will be.
How a Lawyer Can Help with Your Real Estate Dispute
Preparedness is always the best first step to take in an effort to avoid real estate disputes altogether. This means it’s wise to have a seasoned real estate lawyer look over any contracts to be signed in relation to the sale or purchase of the property in question. Again, this is true whether you are the seller or the potential buyer of the property.
A real estate lawyer can find any red flags in the terminology or expectations of the contract, advise you on how you may want to alter those areas, and can negotiate with the other party to attempt to resolve the issues before they escalate. While a real estate attorney can always step in to help you hopefully resolve your disputes after they arise, hiring them to vet your contracts before they are signed could potentially save a lot of stress, time, and money in the long run.
Of course, even if a contract seems “perfect” and all parties happily sign it and the transaction goes through, it’s still possible for disputes to arise after the fact. When this happens, it’s again wise to hire a real estate attorney to assist you through that process—even if you don’t believe it will be taken all the way to court. In fact, only a real estate lawyer might be able to prevent things from escalating to that point, again saving you more stress.
The Whisler Law Firm has partnered with the Law Office of Joseph Pustizzi, PA, a fantastic real estate lawyer serving the great state of Florida, to help people with their legal real estate needs. When it comes to real estate disputes, Joseph Pustizzi and his team serve buyers and sellers alike in an effort to:
- Review and prepare your legal real estate documents
- Provide thorough contract review for accuracy
- Explain all your legal obligations so they make sense
- Negotiate on your behalf in an effort to resolve any disputes
- Represent you in legal proceedings at any level
Whether you’re facing a dispute, getting ready to make an offer, or aren’t sure about the people who would like to purchase your home, our team can help. We’ll put you in touch with the legal team who knows what’s best for you and your family, because they truly have your best interests in mind. Call The Whisler Law Firm at 833-529-5677 or fill out our easy online form, and we’ll help set up the free consultation you need to get started.