Pocono Real Estate Law Information
- We Have Represented Clients in Over 1000 Real Estate Transactions
- Buyer and Seller Representation
- Contract and Deed Preparation
Fisher and Fisher Law Offices represent Pocono clients in a full range of real estate matters. Whether you need help with your closing, title insurance, or deed search, we have the know-how. Our Real Estate attorneys can help with Real Estate transactions not just in Stroudsburg and Monroe County but also in Wayne, Pike, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Carbon, and Northampton counties.
Pocono Real Estate Expertise
The attorneys at Fisher and Fisher Law Offices have a combined 30 years experience in real estate transfers and real estate financing. Whether you’re looking for Real Estate attorneys in Milford or Stroudsburg, our lawyers are dedicated to providing personal attention. They will guide you through the maze of documents and help it all make sense to you. No question is too simple or too complicated and all deserve competent answers.
- OVERVIEW OF A REAL ESTATE TRANSACTION
- BUYING OR SELLING RESIDENTIAL and COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE
- MORTGAGE FINANCING
- REAL ESTATE CONTRACTS
- DEED PREPARATION
- HOME INSPECTIONS, APPRAISALS and SURVEYS
- TITLE EXAMINATION and INSURANCE
- HOMEOWNERS’ INSURANCE
- SETTLEMENTS and CLOSINGS
- LEASES and LANDLORD—TENANT DISPUTES
- PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT APPEALS
- BUILDING CODES and PERMITS
- ZONING, SUBDIVISION and LAND DEVELOPMENT ISSUES
- HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
- CONDEMNATION/EMINENT DOMAIN
- REAL PROPERTY LITIGATION
Real estate transactions are governed by federal, state and local laws, encompassing a wide array of areas, such as mortgage financing, sellers’ disclosure requirements, title insurance, home inspections, building codes, taxes, environmental and zoning issues. An experienced and competent real estate attorney can protect your interests in both routine and complex transactions and disputes.
In most real property transactions, the seller employs a real estate broker to solicit potential buyers for his or her property. The seller and the broker sign a written contract called a listing agreement, in which the broker agrees to find a buyer who is ready, willing and able to buy the seller’s property, and in return, the seller agrees to pay a commission to the broker if a sale results. A buyer may also utilize a real estate broker to assist him or her in locating a suitable property.
Real estate sales professionals are generally subject to rigorous state licensing standards. As an agent, a real estate broker or salesperson has certain duties and legal obligations to the person who hires him or her. If the seller enters into an agreement of sale with a potential buyer, that contract is strictly between the seller and the buyer. The broker is not a party to that agreement, and generally makes no promises or assurances about the title or condition of the property.
The agreement of sale between a seller and a buyer is a legally binding contract that outlines all of the details of the transaction, including the purchase price, the terms of the sale, any mortgage or inspection contingencies and deadlines, and the rights and obligations of the parties in the event of a default. The buyer will typically employ an attorney or an abstract company to perform a title search to ensure that title to the property is marketable, and free and clear of all encumbrances, liens or other defects. In conducting this search, the title searcher examines the public records in the county in which a property is located to develop a chain of title of prior deeds for the property. The title searcher will also determine if there are any encumbrances on the property, such as outstanding mortgages, unpaid real estate taxes, liens for municipal improvements, unpaid federal taxes, government claims, judgments, foreclosures, condemnations, covenants and easements. The buyer may also wish to conduct various inspections of the property for radon, wood-destroying pests, water/septic system problems and structural defects.
A closing, or settlement, is the meeting between the seller and the buyer where the financing documents are signed, if any, and ownership of the property is legally transferred from the seller to the buyer. To convey title to the property, the seller must execute and deliver a deed to the buyer with a proper legal description of the property. The closing is usually attended by the buyer and the seller, their respective attorneys, any real estate brokers or agents involved in the sale, a representative of the lender and the closing agent. At the closing, any unresolved issues will be settled, the final closing figures will be verified and all documents necessary to complete the transaction will be signed. A competent real estate lawyer should represent you at closing to ensure that your rights are protected.
The purchase of a home can be intimidating and confusing, especially to first-time homebuyers. An experienced real estate attorney can help a buyer or a seller understand the unfamiliar documents and legal terms used in these transactions, and advise you in making one of the most significant purchases and investments of your life.
For buyers, after you have located a property that you are interested in purchasing, it is essential that you have an experienced real estate attorney to assist you through the process, even if a real estate sales professional is already involved in your transaction.
An agreement of sale is a complex legal document which outlines all of the terms of your transaction, details the parties’ obligations and responsibilities to each other, addresses contingencies such as mortgage financing, title examination and inspections, and establishes time-sensitive deadlines. It is essential for a buyer to have a real estate lawyer either draft this agreement of sale, or review any contracts prepared by your real estate broker or agent, to ensure that your rights and interests are protected.
In addition to drafting and negotiating the agreement of sale, your attorney can also review your mortgage documents, assist you in retaining an abstract or title insurance company, and review the title examination and all inspection reports. Your attorney should also review the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement, a very important document that must be completed by the seller and provided to the buyer, which discloses any material defects in the property prior to settlement. Your real estate lawyer can also explain the Uniform Settlement Statement (commonly referred to as the HUD-1), which is the document that itemizes all of the expenses and closing costs of both the buyer and the seller in the transaction. Lastly, the attorney will represent you and attend the settlement when you close on the property.
For sellers, once you have found a buyer for your property, it is critical that you have an experienced real estate attorney to guide you through the sale. Your attorney can negotiate with the buyer, or his or her representative, until there is a satisfactory agreement of sale, to ensure that this contract protects your interests and addresses all of your concerns.
In addition to preparing or reviewing the agreement of sale, your attorney can assist you with preparing the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement, as well as explaining the Uniform Settlement Statement, reviewing the results of the buyer’s title examination to determine if there are any liens, encumbrances or defects in the title which may affect your ability to convey your property, preparing all of the transfer documents, such as the deed and the seller’s affidavit, and representing you at the settlement when you close on the property.
In commercial real estate transactions, it is even more important for the buyer and the seller to seek the advice and representation of a competent and experienced real estate attorney. Such commercial transactions may involve complex issues such as zoning restrictions, existing leases or tenants on the property, liens and other title defects, and environmental contamination which may prevent a buyer from using the property for its intended purpose. Your attorney can help you address and resolve these concerns before you buy the property.
Our goal is to assist and advise you throughout your real estate transaction, and be your legal advocate, giving you sound advice and peace of mind in this often confusing and stressful process.
The most common method of financing a real estate purchase is through a loan that is secured with a mortgage on the property that you are purchasing. A mortgage involves the transfer of an interest in the property as security for your obligation to repay the loan. A borrower typically repays a mortgage in monthly installments that include both interest and principal payments. If the borrower fails to make these payments, foreclosure can result, with the lender declaring that the entire mortgage debt is due immediately. If you fail to pay this mortgage debt after a default, your property may be sold to satisfy any remaining mortgage debt.
Many different mortgage loan programs exist. The loan structure, terms and source of funding can affect the loan’s interest rate and the amount of your monthly payment. The source of your funding can also affect the amount of the down payment and closing costs.
The most common type of mortgage, called a conventional loan, typically requires a down payment of 10% or more of the principal loan amount. Conventional loans include loans that are secured by government-sponsored entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and also loans that are funded by private lenders for higher loan amounts, which typically carry a higher interest rate.
The federal government and other state, local and private entities have developed programs to provide mortgage loans with a lower down payment. For example, a first-time homebuyer, or a buyer with a low to moderate income level, may be eligible for a mortgage insured by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which insures the loan. Although a qualified borrower may be able to obtain an FHA loan with a lower down payment, the maximum amount of the FHA loan is limited. Also, veterans may qualify for a loan guaranteed by the Veterans’ Administration (VA). VA mortgage loans usually offer low or no down payment options, with many of the same benefits of an FHA loan.
Several different contracts are involved in a typical residential real estate transaction. A listing agreement is the contract between the seller and the listing broker. It outlines the listing terms and conditions, the seller’s preferred sales price and the broker’s commission rate. Many of these terms are negotiable, including the commission. The listing agreement is critical to the seller, and he or she should read it carefully and also have it reviewed by a real estate lawyer. Once a broker produces a buyer who is ready, willing and able to purchase the property, and all other conditions are met, the seller may owe the broker his or her full commission, even if the seller decides not to sell the property.
The agreement of sale between a buyer and a seller must be in writing. The terms of this legally binding contract are usually negotiated through a series of offers and counteroffers. Other possible contracts include those involving property insurance, title insurance, easements and sales of personal property. The provisions of these contracts are generally negotiable, and can significantly affect both the buyer and the seller. An experienced real estate lawyer can protect your rights, and ensure that you achieve the terms that are the best for you.
A deed is a document that transfers an ownership interest in real estate. A deed for property must always be in writing, and must be delivered to the buyer at closing. It must include the names of the buyer and the seller, the purchase price and a legal description of the property. The deed is signed by the seller, who may be held responsible to the buyer for claims against or conditions on the property. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can review the deed to ensure that it is accurate and has been properly drafted and executed.
Your deed should be recorded in the county recorder’s office where the property is located. The purpose of recording the deed is to provide public notice that the buyer now has an ownership interest in the property. Recording also creates a chronological chain of title so that the history of ownership can be researched.
Two of the most common types of deeds are quit claim deeds and warranty deeds. A quit claim deed transfers only those rights that the transferor has to the property, but does not guarantee the extent of the interest conveyed or promise that there are no liens against the property. A warranty deed contains one or more covenants of title. A general warranty deed transfers ownership and explicitly guarantees that the seller has good title to the property, and that there are no liens and encumbrances not disclosed in the deed. The seller also agrees to defend against any defects found in the deed. A warranty deed, therefore, offers the greatest protection for a buyer. A special warranty deed is similar to a general warranty deed, but contains only the covenant and guarantee against claims that may arise during the time that the seller was the legal owner of the property. Each type of deed includes different rights, guarantees and legal protections. Contact an experienced real estate attorney to determine which type of deed is most appropriate for your situation.
- HOME INSPECTIONS
Buying a home can be very stressful. Obtaining a home inspection can take some of the worry out of this process. An independent home inspector will advise the buyer of the condition of the property that he or she is considering purchasing. Most houses are not perfect, and the inspector’s detailed report gives the buyer an unbiased evaluation of any repairs that may be needed now or in the future. Purchasing a home inspection and reviewing the results with an experienced real estate attorney can put a buyer in the best position to negotiate his or her purchase.
The type of inspection that a buyer needs depends on various factors. A buyer should conduct a routine visual inspection of the house. A buyer should also obtain a professional inspection by a reputable inspector to reveal any latent defects or problems that may not be obvious or readily apparent. If the buyer is obtaining FHA or VA financing, the lender may also require an inspection at the time of the appraisal; however, this inspection may focus on the home’s value, and not its overall structural condition, so it should not substitute for a thorough inspection by an independent inspection company of your choice.
Generally, a home inspector will check the safety of the home, focusing on the structure, construction and mechanical systems to determine whether any repairs are necessary. An inspector usually checks the electrical system, plumbing and sewage disposal systems, water heater, insulation, ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems, water supply and quality, and wood-destroying pest infestation or damage, as well as the condition of the foundation, doors, windows, ceilings, walls, floors and roof. A buyer should also consider having the home inspected for the presence of a variety of health-related risks, such as radon gas, asbestos or lead, if these items are not included in the basic home inspection. After the inspection, the inspector will issue a written report detailing any problems or concerns disclosed in his or her inspection.
A buyer should hire a home inspector who is qualified and experienced. In many states, home inspectors must be licensed. A buyer should include an inspection contingency clause in the agreement of sale which gives the buyer the ability to terminate the contract if the inspection reveals serious defects. An inspection clause can also specify that the seller must fix certain problems or make monetary concessions for the defects before the buyer will purchase the property. A real estate attorney can assist you in negotiating the most appropriate terms regarding the inspection, guide you through the inspection process and assist you in interpreting the results of the inspection report and its impact on your property’s safety and resale value.
An appraisal is an estimate of the value of the real property made by a third party not involved in the transaction. Appraisals usually involve a comparison of the sales price to the value of similar properties in the area. Mortgage lenders typically require an appraisal before they will make a loan.
A survey is a mapping of land boundaries, improvements and easements on the property. A lender will sometimes require a survey of the real estate, especially commercial property, and will require the parties to address any irregularities revealed by the survey.
Marketable title is critical in every real estate transaction. We guide our clients through the process of obtaining good, clean and marketable title to their property. Buyers obtain title insurance to ensure that the seller has the right to sell the property, and that there are no liens, judgments, encumbrances or other defects affecting the title to the property. If an examination of the title discloses liens or judgments against the property, then those liens or judgments would become the responsibility of the buyer if the seller did not resolve them before conveying title to the buyer. An abstract or title company researches the title to the property and provides a title commitment report to the buyer. This report includes information about unresolved liens or judgments. Sellers are also encouraged to review the title report.
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A closing, or settlement, is the last stage of a real estate transaction. At the closing, the buyer executes the mortgage financing documents and pays any closing costs for which he or she is responsible, while the seller delivers the deed and the keys to the property. At the closing, ownership of the property is legally transferred from the seller to the buyer. The buyer and the seller, their respective attorneys, any real estate brokers or agents involved in the sale, a representative of the lender and the closing agent typically attend the closing. At the closing, any unresolved issues will be settled, the final closing figures will be verified and all documents necessary to complete the transaction will be signed. A competent attorney with experience in real estate transactions will advise you at closing to ensure that your rights are protected.
Your real estate attorney will explain your closing costs, and will verify that these costs are being properly allocated between the buyer and the seller.
Typical closing costs may include, as applicable:
- Property and school taxes
- Realty transfer taxes
- Real estate broker’s commission
- Loan origination, loan discount points and other lender’s fees
- Appraisal and flood certification fees
- Escrow charges for future real estate taxes and insurance
- Mortgage insurance premium
- Title insurance premium
- Homeowners’ insurance premium
- Recording fees
- Survey fees
- Pest or other inspection fees
- Attorneys’ fees
- Document preparation fees
- Resale Certificate fees
- Association dues, transfer or capital improvement fees
- Charges for courier and notary services
A lease is a binding contract between a landlord and a tenant that outlines all of the terms and conditions of their rental agreement, including a description of the leased premises, the amount of monthly rental payments (including the security deposit and any other charges or late fees due from the tenant), the length of the lease and any renewals, any restrictions on the tenant’s use of the premises, responsibility for repairs to and maintenance of the property, and remedies if either party defaults or breaches the lease.
Pennsylvania law protects the rights of both landlords and tenants in the event that either party violates the terms of the lease agreement. For example, if a tenant fails to pay rent when it is due, or breaches some other term of the written lease, a landlord may have a right to evict the tenant and retain his or her security deposit. Similarly, a tenant may have a right to terminate a lease and move from the rental property if a landlord fails to make necessary repairs or to maintain the property in a habitable condition.
Landlords and tenants both have various legal rights and obligations when they are involved in a real estate rental. If you have questions about a lease transaction in which you are involved, it is in your best interests to contact an experienced real estate lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected and your interests maintained.
When a borrower defaults by failing to make mortgage payments, the bank or financial institution that holds the mortgage note may foreclose on the property. Foreclosure basically transfers legal ownership of the property to the lender to allow the lender to recoup its investment. The foreclosure process involves formal legal proceedings; and, if the lender is successful in proving that you failed to make your payments, will ultimately result in the entry of a judgment and the sale of your property.
Many lenders do attempt to work out a payment plan with the borrower to avoid foreclosure. If a lender is threatening foreclosure, a borrower should immediately contact a competent and experienced real estate attorney to protect his or her interests and pursue all available resolutions.
Facing county agencies and courts to challenge your property assessment can be a daunting and intimidating process. We conduct a detailed analysis of comparable sales that define the actual market value of your property, to determine if the county has assessed a value to your property that exceeds the current fair market value. This analysis utilizes data relating to comparable property values, ratios established by the Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board and the impact of changing market conditions on your property value, in an effort to reduce your property taxes.
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Landowners, builders and developers must often appear before municipal boards for approval of their land use and development plans. Representing several municipalities, we have extensive experience and knowledge of the municipal planning process, including conditional uses, special exceptions, subdivisions, land developments, variances and lot combinations. Throughout the land use and planning process, you need an attorney who is experienced in municipal law, and can provide you with sound guidance and advice to ensure the success of your development project.
We develop a strategy and work closely with our clients’ professional consultants, engineers and surveyors to obtain the necessary approvals from the various land use authorities, including municipalities, townships, planning commissions and zoning hearing boards. The laws regarding land use and development planning can be complex, and require an advocate with experience and a thorough understanding of local ordinances, land use procedures and regional conditions, who can effectively represent your interests before these state and local administrative bodies.
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Government entities and certain utilities have the authority under Pennsylvania law to condemn real property for a number of purposes, including urban redevelopment or the expansion of utility company projects. This development can include the construction, installation or expansion of highways and roadways, utility lines, water treatment facilities and other commercial and residential redevelopment projects.
Although these authorized entities may have the legal right to take your property, they also have the responsibility to pay just compensation for the taking. Pennsylvania law has established procedures for such eminent domain proceedings, including filing notice of the taking, scheduling hearings, and legal proceedings to determine the fair market value or replacement value of the property.
If you are facing government condemnation of your property, you should contact a competent real estate attorney to maximize your recovery and minimize the costs associated with the taking.
Real estate law goes beyond transactions and closings. It also involves matters such as:
- Boundary disputes
- Easements and rights to usage/access
- Landlord—Tenant disputes
- Actions to quiet title
- Breach of contract claims
- Mechanic’s liens
- Construction/contractor disputes
- Tax sale litigation
- Sheriff’s sales
If you are facing a real estate problem, we will aggressively protect your property interests, and seek to resolve your property dispute.
For excellent legal service in real estate, contact the Poconos highly-acclaimed law firm – Fisher & Fisher Law Offices located in Mount Pocono, Stroudsburg, and Gouldsboro & serving all of Monroe County, Pennsylvania.