Real Estate & Property Law
Real estate refers to land, as well as anything permanently attached to the land, such as buildings and other structures. Both federal and state laws regulate real estate transactions. For example, the Federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631) protects people involved in real estate transactions from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Supreme Court case of Meyer v. Holley, 537 U.S. 280 (2002), illustrates how a real estate company can be held liable for violating the Federal Fair Housing Act. States also have unique real estate laws which apply only to their jurisdiction.
Contract law governs the sale of real estate. Thus the Statute of Frauds (Uniform Commercial Code § 2-201), a principle of contract law, dictates that real estate transactions be in writing. Furthermore, since real estate transactions involve the sale of land, real property law also influences real estate law. For instance, the seller of property must show that that the title he or she is offering is marketable. Thus, the seller must prove that he or she owns title to the property and that no third party has an undisclosed interest in the property. However, real property is not synonymous with real estate. Real property only refers to land, while real estate also includes structures on the land.
Real Estate Transactions
Oftentimes, a seller will employ a broker to help facilitate a real estate transaction. The seller and the broker then enter into a listing agreement or contract. Real estate brokers must be licensed according to the guidelines set by state laws. Once a prospective buyer is found, the buyer then initiates an investigation in order to determine if the seller's title is marketable. The buyer may choose to utilize the services of an attorney or title insurance company to inquire into the marketability of the real estate. If the title is marketable, then a deed containing a description of the real estate must be completed and delivered. Depending on the applicable state law, the buyer may then be required to record the transfer of title or to give notice to subsequent bona fide purchasers.
A buyer of real estate may choose to utilize a mortgage to finance the purchase of real estate. When a borrower mortgages real estate, the borrower receives a loan from the lender. In return, the lender obtains an interest or lien on the real estate. The borrower must pay back the loan, usually through monthly installment payments. If the borrower fails to pay the lender according to the terms of the mortgage, the lender may foreclose on the real estate. A foreclosure involves the forced sale of the real estate. The proceeds of the sale are then used to pay off the loan originally provided to the lender.
Like other aspects of real estate law, mortgages are also governed by principles of contract law. For instance, the Uniform Commercial Code, the main source of statutory contract law, regulates conflicting interests between mortgages on property and other liens.