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Philadelphia Real Estate Law Blog

We help lift the burden of title defect litigation

As a recent post on this blog discussed, one of the nightmare scenarios a homeowner or, for that matter, the new owner of a piece of Philadelphia property, can face is the realization that another person or business has a lien or some other valid claim to the property and is now threatening to exercise their ownership rights.

This in many cases leads to full-blown courtroom disputes. No one is guaranteed to win a legal fight involving who owns title to a piece of land, and the fact that someone thought he or she had bought the property fair and square often has little impact on the result. Moreover, even if someone does manage to "win" his or her case, a long and expensive legal fight could mean there is, practically speaking, nothing left fighting for by the time the dust settles.

What do I do if I discover a title defect on my home?

Although Philadelphia residents may choose not to think of such a scenario, it is always possible that they could buy a house in either the city or somewhere else in southeastern Pennsylvania, move in and start fixing up the home and not find out until later that someone else has either a lien or some claim of ownership over the property, a scenario that in the legal world is referred to as a "title defect".

Even when there is a thorough title examination, items can get overlooked. Moreover, there are many types of title claims that may never appear in the public records, meaning that it would be hard for a buyer of property to know about them.

Arrival of tech giant in Philly could increase costs for some

When a new business moves into town, it is generally something Philadelphians want to celebrate. After all, especially if the business is offering high-paying jobs, it may mean more people coming in to the city who will have plenty of money to feed in to the city's economy.

What some might not realize, however, is how a big, lucrative company can impact the prices of residential real estate when the company moves into town. Prices tend actually to increase in these sorts of situations, meaning some residents or would-be residents of the city are going to get pushed out of the market.

What constitutes a 'public use' in eminent domain law?

The federal Constitution as well as Pennsylvania's laws, protect the rights of citizens to enjoy their private property by using it in a way they see fit. Of course, there are some exceptions to this general principle, and one of those is the eminent domain exception.

As this blog has discussed previously, Pennsylvania and even local authorities have the right to take private land and put it to public use so long as they pair a just price for the land, which is generally considered to be fair market value.

We help protect our commercial clients' investments

A Philadelphia business entrepreneur will often choose to buy instead of lease land as a home for his or her business. For them, purchasing real estate means more than simply having a nice building for one's needs. The real estate is also a business investment and, as an investment, it has to pay off.

One thing that can cause an investment in business real estate not to yield a good return is a zoning issue that gets discovered after the fact. The city has the legal right to regulate the use of a person's business real estate, even if the person bought it fair and square. What this means is that an aspiring business owner may find out he or she will not be able to use the property he or she bought and will have to sell, likely at a loss.

Condos not performing as well as other Philly real estate

As this blog has previously reported, the Philadelphia residential real estate market has generally speaking been one in which sellers can set whatever price they want and buyers will generally pay it what is being demanded.

There is one exception, however, and that is with respect to condominiums, and specifically those that are built as high-rise towers. Although there are still attractive to older people with a lot of money but who do not want to own a full house, younger adults seem to be looking at either delaying ownership of real estate altogether and continuing to rent. Others who do choose to buy usually opt for a starter house rather than a condo.

What are the penalties for violating the city's zoning laws?

There are many people who live in Philadelphia who probably know that the city has zoning laws. However, there may be a temptation on the part of some, even those who might otherwise know better, to attempt to cut corners in the hope they will not get caught breaking the rules.

Just about any law, however, the zoning code carries with it significant penalties, if one chooses to build anyone without getting the necessary permits, such as a permit for a zoning variance. For instance, if one looks through the city's zoning rules, they will find that the city has the right to enter and inspect the property of its residents to make sure that the zoning rules are followed. This applies even to those who have a zoning permit.

The different types of real estate deeds

Perhaps, the most important document exchanged during Pennsylvania residential property transactions is the deed to the property itself. The deed is what gives the new owner the legal right to do what he or she wishes with the land, as no one can be handed a piece of land like one would give somebody an article of clothing or even a car.

The language of the deed is very important and will usually be taken quite literally should a dispute arise. In addition to reading and understanding the deed, it is also very important to understand what type of deed the person is being given.

How we can help if the state wants to build a road over your land

In some sense, eminent domain proceedings with the state can be frustrating. For example, as a previous post discussed, while the state or a local authority has to go through several procedural steps, they ultimately have the right to take a persons' private land so that they can build or improve a road. In other words, it is usually quite difficult for a landowner to stop the plans from going forward.

However, the state does have to pay a person just compensation for the land the state wishes to build the road over. On a practical level, this means the state has to pay fair market value, that is, a price one would reasonably expect to demand if he or she were to sell the land voluntarily. The problem, of course, is that there are often disagreements as to what constitutes "fair market value."

Seller's market in Philly shows no sign of slowing

Philadelphia's housing inventory, that is, the number of properties available for sale, is notably low right now, and it means that sellers are getting multiple offers on homes even days after they go on the market. Buyers are having to offer above list price and have also been willing to make important concession in their real estate contracts, such as agreeing to be bound by a sale even if an appraisal suggests they are paying too much.

Residential real estate inventories in the Philadelphia area stand at about 3.1 months, meaning it would take that long to sell all of the houses currently on the market assuming there were no new houses going up for sale. While to a layman this may seem like a reasonable length of time, realtors like to see an inventory of between 5 and 7 months. Philadelphia's inventory indicates a housing shortage, meaning that even neighborhoods that are not particularly hot or desirable are hard for families to get in to right now.

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