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New York Real Estate Law Blog

Dealing with restrictive covenants and easements

When you choose to buy a certain piece of property, especially one in a highly regulated area like New York City, there are probably strict guidelines you must abide by when considering how to use the property and what sort of modifications you may make to it. This is especially true if a structure on the property is particularly close to structures owned by others, or physically attached to other structures, as are most residential properties in the city.

In broad strokes, local governments and regulatory agencies use easements and restrictive covenants to create uniformity within an area and allow for certain uses of a property by parties other than the owner, such as building and maintaining sidewalks. The function and enforcing power granted to the bodies that govern these restrictions vary, but it is always a good idea to make sure you understand how these issues may affect a piece of property you purchase before you sign on the dotted line.

Buying a home: The time it takes

Many people dream of the day they'll buy their first homes. They want to move in as soon as possible, making it possible to enjoy a home of their own without the restrictions of apartments.

It can take quite a while to purchase a house, despite the fact that it is a relatively straightforward process. You need to account for the time it will take to buy the home, move in and move out of your current apartment or home. Here's what you should know about the purchasing process and how long it could take for you.

Who owns a fence on a property line?

If you live in a neighborhood, you're probably familiar with neighbors fencing their yards. They do so to keep in pets, keep out people or animals they don't want in their yards and for decoration. Unfortunately, not all people fence their yards off appropriately, which becomes a problem for those who are affected by the fencing.

Local fence ordinances help by dictating the location, height, materials and appearances allowed when constructing a fence. This has several purposes. One is to make sure fencing doesn't block views. For instance, a neighborhood on a lake may limit the height of fences to four feet to avoid neighbors blocking each others' views.

Co-operatives or condominiums? The differences matter

Before you buy a co-op or a condominium, it's important that you understand the differences between the two. In a city, it's common for people to purchase one of these two types of properties. They are similar, but they're not the same in every way.

Co-ops, for example, are collectively owned and managed, which means you own a portion of the corporation itself when you buy a co-op for a home. You obtain a proprietary lease as a resident, which then gives you the right to use the co-op as long as you follow the regulations and bylaws already in place. Condos, on the other hand, are private residences. They are in multi-unit buildings or communities in most cases, and the owners share common areas.

Red flags could signal a bad real estate deal

When it comes to real estate, there are a few red flags you need to watch out for. Not getting good responses in a fair amount of time from a buyer or seller, being surprised by calls with high emotions or note that the other party is trying to control the transaction, it's time to step back and review what you know.

It's a frustrating thing to deal with high emotions during a sale or purchase of a property. Of course, you have a right to speak out about factors you don't think are good about the property, and you should speak up if there's something unusual in the transaction. However, take the emotion out of it and remember that this is a business transaction. If someone calls you and is too emotional, wait and call back later when he or she has had time to calm down.

Commercial disputes can involve the state or government

Real estate disputes don't only involve small corporations and businesses. Sometimes, real estate built for commercial purposes results in disputes with larger entities, like the government itself.

Take, for example, a case taking place in New York. A March 21 report stated that Cor Development Co. is suing the state for unpaid construction bills. It is believed that the state has delayed making payments because two of the executives of Cor are facing criminal charges. The charges are pending, and the state allegedly owes $500,000.

Homeowners association: When disputes happen

If you live in a community with a homeowners association (HOA), you may find that you notice disputes happen between the HOA and homeowners in the community. You might even have a dispute of your own.

Normally, HOAs are reasonable. If they ask for all homes to maintain neutral colors, then any neutral color should suffice. That isn't always the case, though. For instance, there was a case in 2003 that involved an HOA that made a woman repaint her home because the new paint, which matched her house's color, was not on an approved list. That is arbitrary and not something HOAs should be doing, but it does happen.

What factors should you consider when looking at real estate?

When you look at real estate, there are factors you need to consider. For instance, you need to understand how much a property is worth, not just what the owner wants to sell it for. It's also vital that you know about supply and demand. If demand is high in an area, then the seller may be able to ask for more than if he or she is selling a property when demand is low.

Remember that even if a home sold for more several years ago than it's listed for now, that doesn't mean the home is worth what it used to be worth. Markets change. The economy changes. When that happens, homes may increase or decrease in value.

Knowing your rights as a homeowner gives you leverage

As someone who is aging, you may worry about being able to make your payments on time for your home. If something goes wrong, will you be kicked out of your house? Are any of your rights as a homeowner protected?

New York has homestead protection laws that could help people in that situation. According to the laws, small property owners can protect their equity if they have to go through bankruptcy. Additionally, those facing foreclosure can actually state that part of the property is a homestead and protected against a sale. People can protect between $75,000 and $150,000 worth of personal homestead property. Married couples receive double the amount of protection.

A nuisance: Taking your neighbor to court

Everyone has had one neighbor, at some point, who caused them problems. Maybe the neighbor was too loud, parked in a way that blocked your vision as you left your driveway or insisted on using your property against your wishes.

Whatever the issue is or was, it's important that you know that you have ways to address problems with your neighbors. Neighbors may sue their neighbors over nuisance-causing behaviors. There are two main things to remember.

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