What is Real Estate Law?

When you think of real estate, you may think of real estate agent who sells property to individuals who are looking to own a home. But did you know that real estate agents are monitored and licensed through real estate laws?

For example, when a home is up for sale, the seller and the real estate agent both sign a contractual document known as a listing agreement, which grants the agent authority to act as the point of contact in the sale of the home. These transactions are then filtered through federal regulations and state ordinances, which are known as real estate law.

Real estate law outlines the rights and interests of property and provides protections for buyers, sellers, land owners, developers, contractors, and real estate agents. There are both local and national laws that ensure real estate transactions are properly performed and recorded. Some issues that fall under real estate law include:

  • The sale and purchase of property
  • Leasing and other transfers of property
  • Titles to property
  • Settlement of claims against property rights
  • Landlord-tenant and owner-community issues
  • Property development, zoning, and land use
  • Agriculture issues and compliance with environmental laws
  • Financing, investments, mortgages and foreclosures

There are two types of real estate to keep in mind, and each type has a different set of laws and provisions that go along with it.

  • Commercial Real Estate: Property for commercial use, such as restaurants, shopping complexes and office buildings. These pieces of real estate may be owned by one person, then leased to another. For example, one person may own a whole office building, but several businesses lease space within the building.
  • Residential Real Estate: Property for living, such as neighborhoods, apartment buildings, or retirement communities. These pieces of real estate may also be owned by one person, then leased to another. For example, one person may own the apartment building, but several tenants lease an apartment to live in.

Not only can real estate law vary by the type of real estate involved, but it can vary but state as well. For example, in my home state of New York, there is a mortgage recording tax when an individual buys a home and takes out a mortgage. But New Jersey, the state next door, does not require buyers to pay a mortgage recording tax. And in states that do have a mortgage recording tax, the rates can vary as well.

Because real estate laws are complex and frequently vary, real estate lawyers can assist individuals through the complicated process of buying and selling property. They can document and review real estate transactions, resolve title insurance and environmental issues, negotiate on your behalf and more.

Tal Rappleyea is a licensed real estate and municipal lawyer based in New York state.