When construction of a shopping center gets underway, potential customers wonder what stores are coming and how soon will it open. When a high-rise office building is renovated by the new owner, business owners might view the building as a new place to expand their business.
Both the potential customer and the business owner sees an opportunity in the commercial property; one to fulfill a desire to shop, and the other to grow a business. What they may not realize is that they are benefiting from hours of behind-the scene negotiations that brought these projects into reality. Most likely, real estate attorneys were central to these negotiations.
“Real estate law involves some subtle nuances not found in other areas of practice,” advises one NY construction law firm. Because of the complexities of real estate transactions, it is important for property investors, developers, and contractors to hire reputable and experienced real estate lawyers.
What Real Estate Lawyers do
Real estate attorneys have knowledge of laws governing residential and commercial real property transactions. Most importantly, attorneys use their skills in these transactions by:
1. Negotiating terms of a contract on behalf of their clients.
2. Drafting contracts that clearly spell out what is expected from property owners, developers, contractors or other parties.
3. Reviewing terms of the contracts, negotiate changes, and put contingencies in place when terms are not in the best interest of their clients.
4. Assisting their clients in obtaining approval for zoning changes or land use variances.
5. Assisting their clients in obtaining financing for commercial ventures.
In essence, attorneys consistently advocate for their clients throughout the negotiation process. In smaller-scale projects, negotiations occur over a short period of time. However, negotiations in large commercial projects, can go on for years.
A case in point is a high-profile story about Walmart reportedly planning to pull out of a $260 million real estate project in southeast Washington, D.C. The project features creating a town center with residential units and retail stores, with Walmart being the anchor. Since the project started several years ago, attorneys for the residential and commercial developers have been negotiating the purchase of parcels from land owners, searching for investors to finance the project, and working with the city to develop the 315,000 square foot town center.
In July 2013, the project came to a halt when the D.C. city council passed legislation requiring Walmart, and other large retailers, to pay minimum hourly wages of $12.50 with fringe benefits. Walmart and the lead developer have threatened to pull out from the project. Since the project is significant to the city, negotiations are continuing with all the parties and their attorneys.
Understanding Through Hands-on Experience
An attorney who has developed skills in negotiating real estate deals not only has practiced for years in this area, but also has hands-on experience in property matters. These attorneys may have purchased, sold, or rented out actual land or real estate, invested in property or have owned, operated or been involved in a land development company. Having this first-hand experience helps attorneys to better provide legal representation for their clients.
Real estate law is an area with many variables that makes it different than general business law, which is why it is important for buyers and sellers of property to have attorneys with sharp negotiating skills, perseverance, and the willingness to protect their rights until the deals are done and the cases are closed.
Author Molly Pearce often addresses topics pertinent to business, real estate, and law in her work. She shares this post, with online research conducted on Canfield, Madden, & Ruggerio LLP’s site to educate business owners on the complexity of issues surrounding real estate contracts, whether they address buying, selling, or investing in it.