- Attorney Michael Fier and his firm work with all kinds of real estate: from small residential purchases and sales to multi-million dollar hotel deals and other commercially complex transactions.
- Attorney Fier is also a licensed loan officer and part of a title company, which gives him unique insight into the process.
- Those considering buying or selling a property in New York should consult an attorney beforehand. The earlier an attorney gets involved, the more they can help and the better off you will be.
- In many ways, residential and commercial property transactions are similar. There are also many ways in which they are different. One of the main differences between them is that commercial buildings require environmental testing, which can significantly delay closings.
The best answer I could possibly give to the question of what type of real estate our firm generally works with is, “every type.”
We work with a very wide range of different types of real estate deals. Some of our cases are quite basic and small-scale, whether it’s a matter of a simple residential transaction or purchases and sales (i.e., “buys and sells”). Some of our other cases are much more large-scale and complex.
More often than not, these larger-scale or more complex deals are commercial matters. For example, we are currently handling a couple of million-dollar 1031 exchanges for corporate clients involving restaurants. I also have a few clients with hotels, which I help them buy (or help them find financing for) for major hotels to buy and/or sell.
As far as real estate goes, I also have my license as a mortgage loan officer, so I know what must happen for a person to get financing in each particular situation. I am also a part of a title company, and as such I am quite familiar with all the pitfalls that can befall these transactions. I can use this knowledge to help my clients avoid those pitfalls and come out in the best possible standing.
So, to return to the original question: as far as what type of real estate we handle, the answer is once again, all of it. We cover all sorts of cases and deals, from the smallest transaction to $20 million hotels. We do it all!
What Should a Person Discuss with an Experienced Attorney Before Taking any Steps to Buy or Sell in New York?
This question depends on the type of transaction we’re talking about. That is, it depends on what the person is planning on buying or selling.
In most of the smaller transactions that we deal with—usually residential transactions—I’m already late to the ballgame, so to speak. That is, I’m getting to the client at a later point than I would like, which limits the things I can do to help the case.
Sometimes in these cases, I’m getting to the client after they’ve already sold, or are already looking to purchase and have been given a deal by a broker. In the latter of those two cases, I have clients come into my office saying, “Okay, I have the deal. Here’s the sheet I got from a broker. Can you draft a contract?”
Unfortunately, in cases like that, there are things that they should have discussed with me beforehand and never did so. Also unfortunately, I usually don’t have the opportunity to discuss those things with them on the fly when we’re right in the middle of a transaction.
Many people don’t tend to really look at everything they sign beforehand, which is always a bad idea. They just know, for instance, that their neighbor Joe is a great realtor, and that’s that. They’ll usually go with whatever he gives them.
As a real estate attorney, it is my job to try to figure out if the transaction Joe is proposing is actually fair and beneficial to my client, and if Joe can actually make it happen, as he sounded like he could.
As a result of this delay in getting to the client, the things we have to discuss usually come up after I have already taken a look at their case binder.
Usually in those cases, I will ask for a few details about the transaction. For example:
- Is there anything inside the home or on the property that is going with you when you leave? Particularly things that might have been assumed to be staying by the new owner? Are you keeping anything that should be part and the parcel of the sale? In other words, are you taking appliances or fixtures?
In many instances, I find that unfortunately the broker never thinks to ask about that question (i.e., whether the sellers are taking any appliances or fixtures). I’ll ask that question and they say “Oh, we’re taking the new stove. It is beautiful”, or, “I’m taking the ceiling fan in the bedroom,” and the broker won’t know any of that.
In these situations, if the broker doesn’t know something, then the buyer probably know that thing either. It changes the whole transaction.
That’s just an example of one of the things that they have to discuss.
- How firmly do we need to set your closing date? In some cases, people have firm deadlines by which they need to close—both buyers and sellers. While a typical closing date happens within 60-90 days, there are many reasons that a person may need a different, strictly enforced timetable, depending on the case.
For example, Seller X has already lined up a buyer for her former house and is has lined up as a buyer of another house. She may need the closing of the house she is selling to precede the closing of the house she is buying for one of a few potential reasons. For instance, if there’s a gap between the closing on the house she’s selling and the closing on the house she’s buying, she won’t have anywhere to stay in that interim. Or perhaps she needs money from the sale of the old house to open up in order for her to be able to buy the new house.
Of course, this depends on lots of different factors, such as where the real estate is located. The process of a sale or closing takes far longer in New York than it tends to take in most other states, which could affect the timing (for better or for worse) of someone in Seller X’s position.
It is incumbent on me as an attorney to make sure I match things up so that my clients don’t wind up homeless for any period, or don’t go through the expense and pain of having to move and then having to move somewhere else until your new home is ready for you.
So, in summary, those are a few examples of things that people who are buying or selling property in New York should be talking about to their attorney. Ideally, they should do so before they even get to the stage of actual buying or selling, so that everyone is on the same page.
Obviously, if there’s anything peculiar about your particular property—i.e., Does your property run on solar panels? Are you trying to do some sort of a tax relief on your property? —you should also bring those things up with your attorney as soon as possible.
What are the Main Similarities and Differences Between Purchasing Commercial Properties and Purchasing Residential Properties?
In some ways, purchasing residential properties and purchasing commercial properties are similar processes. Both residential and commercial property purchases require you to have a clean title. They both require you to have some of the same things in your contract.
Commercial property purchases do have several unique requirements as well. For example, with commercial properties, you have environmental requirements. These environmental requirements are usually some of the biggest obstacles to closings. They frequently hold closings up or make financing more difficult.
Some of the environmental requirements for purchasing commercial properties involve making sure that the property you’re purchasing will pass environmental studies. These environmental studies can take quite a long time to conduct and complete, not to mention the time it takes to process and analyze the results.
Different studies are required for different types of buildings (sometimes referred to as “ones, twos, and threes”), and each of these studies take different amounts of time on average to complete.
An office building, for example, will have relatively light environmental testing. An “environmental one” will probably suffice for fulfilling the requirements on an office building, depending on the building.
However, if you’re doing a gestational study, for instance, you’re going to do an environmental two or three, depending upon the results of the first level of environmental study you conduct. This can significantly elongate the process.
It is best if you can know as much as you can about the building being sold environmentally. That is, try to consider what is in the property, especially with commercial properties, that would change the environmental requirements.
This knowledge of the specific property being sold/bought is especially important because sometimes buildings that are of a “type” that usually requires less testing will actually need extensive testing because of an additional factor.
For example, let’s say the building in question is an office building. Usually office buildings don’t require extensive environmental testing. But guess what? As it turns out, there’s all kinds of harsh chemicals and things like that that are used in this particular building, so now you have additional environmental study requirements.
So, as a rule, these are things you just have to keep in mind as you go through the commercial buying and selling process.
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