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Grand Rapids Real Estate Lawyers

A real estate transaction can be a time-consuming and difficult undertaking if you do not have proficient legal counsel. Buyers and sellers can benefit from the guidance of an experienced real estate lawyer. At the Van Den Heuvel Law Office, we guide clients through the purchase or sale of residential and commercial property. We are detail-oriented and we closely scrutinize every aspect of your transaction to minimize any liabilities. With us by your side, you can confidently proceed with your transaction.

Commercial Real Estate

Most of the numerous types of commercial real estate transactions are complex and require the assistance of a knowledgeable and skilled attorney. We have handled many commercial real estate transactions, including:

  • Buy-sell agreements. A buy-sell agreement, also known as a business continuation agreement or a buyout agreement, is a contract that provides for the future sale of your business interest or for your purchase of a co-owner’s interest in the joint venture. The agreement is often triggered by events such as death, disability, or retirement of one of the owners.
  • Easements. An easement agreement gives someone the right to use property for a specific purpose without transferring the ownership of the property. Typically, this refers to land. It can be either a public easement or a private easement, depending on who benefits from the easement.
  • Construction liens. A construction lien is a claim made against a property by a contractor or other professional who has supplied labor or materials for work on that property. They are designed to protect professionals from the risk of not being paid for services rendered.
  • Liquor licenses. The Michigan liquor license application process is very rigorous and document-intensive. If an applicant has not properly submitted the documents, then the application is rejected. In addition to verification of finances, throughout the application process, clients have to appear at investigations with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and various municipalities to determine eligibility to become a licensee. It is imperative to retain a business litigation attorney experienced in the liquor license process to assist you.
  • Business sales. A business sale agreement helps you define and agree to the terms of the sale, including the purchase price and the closing details of the transaction. Both parties agree to certain representations and warranties. Having a consumer real estate attorney assist you is essential to protecting your interests.
  • Land contracts. A land contract, also called a contract for deed, is a contractual agreement between a buyer and a seller of real estate. This type of real estate purchase contract is a very popular form of seller financing, in the form of an installment sale.  As part of the contract, the seller agrees to provide a deed to the buyer after all of the terms of the contract (including payment in full) have been met.

Residential Real Estate

At the Van Den Heuvel Law Office, we have extensive experience dealing with residential real estate matters. Some areas of our expertise are:

  • Easements. An easement agreement gives someone the right to use property for a specific purpose without transferring the ownership of the property. The most common example is public utility easements.
  • Deeds. A written deed is the instrument used to convey ownership of real property. The two most common types of deeds are warranty deeds (promises title is valid and clear) and quitclaim deeds (makes no representation that such title is valid).
  • Mortgages. A mortgage is an instrument that is secured by specified real estate property. Mortgages are used by individuals and businesses to make large purchases of real estate without paying the entire value of the purchase upfront. If the borrower fails to make payments under the mortgage loan, the lender typically has the right to foreclose on the property.
  • Landlord-tenant law. Landlords and tenants each have certain rights and duties under the law. This area of practice includes elements of both real property law and contract law.
  • Leases. A lease is a document that provides that the owner of a property allows another party to use the property for a fixed or indefinite period of time in exchange for payment called rent.
  • Title disputes. Title disputes involve disagreements about who owns a piece of property or a portion of property.

Why Pick a Land Contract Over a Traditional Mortgage?

In a market of uncertainty where job security is fading, buyers who want to take advantage of the current market prices may consider land contracts. Land contracts provide a way for buyers with less than ideal credit or who don’t qualify for conventional financing to own a piece of property they otherwise could not afford. Conversely, it also allows the seller a means to cover their property payments and cost of maintenance.

Issues in Land Contracts

Before signing a land contract there are several considerations to keep in mind: (1) Does the purchase price exceed the value of the home? (2) Does the seller know the necessary procedures to regain possession? (3) Will entering into the contract trigger a mortgage default? (4) Has the buyer obtained proper insurance and have the property taxes been paid? (5) Is the seller in arrears on the underlying mortgage or property taxes?

Does the Purchase Price Exceed the Value of the Home?

As a buyer, you should always know the appraised value of a home. Buying a land contract is no exception. As the buyer, you run the risk of becoming upside-down on a home. Then, with a balloon loan, at the due date for the balloon payment, you run the risk of needing to have cash to pay the difference between what the note states and the amount the bank is willing to finance (usually pegged below what the home is worth). And if you cannot make up this difference in cash, the seller can declare default, and even though your payments have been on time, you will lose possession of the property.

Does the Seller Know the Necessary Procedures to Regain Possession?

As a seller, you should be aware that getting your home back following a default is not as simple as just “kicking” the buyer out.  If the buyer misses a payment today, you cannot kick them out of the house tomorrow. To evict a buyer in a land contract dispute, Michigan law requires that you seek court approval. Even though Michigan law allows for a shortened time frame for doing so, the court does not always hear your case quickly. Basically, you may have to wait for three to six months before regaining possession. Therefore, as a seller in a land contract deal, you should always have a fund large enough to cover the mortgage and taxes on a property in case of buyer default.

Will Entering Into the Contract Trigger a Mortgage Default?

While selling a home you can’t afford sounds like a great idea, sometimes it can put you in a worse position. Most mortgages have a “due on sale clause,” which requires the seller to get approval to sell a home on land contract. The seller’s failure to get the mortgage company’s approval may result in default.  This is because the mortgage company considers land contracts as transfers of property and therefore calls the note pursuant to their “due on sale clause.” If the seller cannot pay the amount left on the note, then a default occurs.

Entering into a land contract where the mortgage has not been properly dealt with or the mortgage company does not approve is very risky to the buyer. You should always have an attorney approve and look over a land contract and any mortgage on the property before buying.

Has the Buyer Obtained Proper Insurance and Have the Property Taxes Been Paid?

Buyers usually assume the responsibility for taxes and insurance protection on a home or property in a land contract. The seller generally requires the buyer to pay for taxes and obtain insurance in the land contract. However, often sellers do not confirm that buyers are following through.

The buyer’s failure to obtain insurance or pay taxes on a property may cause foreclosure because of a tax lien or uninsured loss. However, as a seller, you can avoid these issues by including a number of provisions and check-ups in the agreement, which allow inspection and careful monitoring of the buyer.

Is the Seller in Arrears on the Underlying Mortgage or Property Taxes?

As a buyer, you should be aware of the underlying mortgage. Often when a mortgage is foreclosed on despite on-time payments to the seller, it is because the seller is taking the buyer’s monthly payments and pocketing them instead of applying them to the mortgage.

Land contract fraud often arises where the underlying mortgage is an adjustable rate or ARM mortgage. In these cases, the mortgage rate will often exceed the interest rate the seller is charging the buyer. When the seller eventually defaults, banks have the first position and trump the buyer’s possessory interest in the property.

An attorney can help buyers and sellers avoid this situation through title searches. An attorney can also help a buyer or seller with transfer taxes, buyer worthiness checks, down payment structuring, inspection clauses, improvement liens, and many more contractual clauses.

Contact an Experienced Real Estate Attorney for an Appointment

If you have real estate issues in Michigan, contact the Van Den Heuvel Law Office for guidance and advice. Our telephone number is 616-698-0000. You can also contact us via our online contact page. And we are available on Skype by appointment.

Contact a Knowledgeable Grand Rapids Attorney

For An Initial Consultation

To talk with our attorney about your legal concerns, contact the Van Den Heuvel Law Office by calling 616-698-0000. You may also complete our online contact form. After-hours consultations are available by appointment. We are also available on Skype by appointment.

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