Real estate is often the most valuable asset a person or business owns. Because of the high stakes involved, real estate disputes can be among the most costly and contentious civil disputes in the justice system. That’s why it’s so important to know your rights and act promptly when deadlines are involved.
In this article, we’ll explain what real estate law is and how a knowledgeable real estate attorney can help you resolve your real estate issues.
What is “Real Estate Law”?
While there is no set definition of “real estate law,” people use the term (along with “land use law,” and “property law”) to refer to virtually any legal issue that involves real property.
We have written detailed articles on the following real estate practice sub-areas:
Strictly speaking, “real estate law” also includes landlord-tenant law and construction law. However, we have listed these as separate practice areas in the above “practice areas” menu in an effort to make it easier for our visitors to find what they’re looking for.
What Does a “Real Estate Attorney” Do?
Simply put, a real estate attorney’s job is to help you find a solution to your real estate problem.
But while the job description is fairly straightforward, effectively addressing a client’s real estate problem is usually fairly complicated. This is because real estate problems usually draw upon a wide breadth of expertise.
Part of this expertise is legal. As mentioned above, real estate involves a variety of practice sub-areas, including landlord-tenant law, land use law, and construction law (among others), each of which rely on discreet knowledge-bases. Moreover, a given client’s problem may also involve contractual, municipal, corporate, and/or constitutional law. A good real estate attorney must have a command of each of these topics.
But possessing the requisite legal knowledge is only half the battle. A good real estate attorney also needs to understand the practicalities of construction, how the building industry functions, and how to effectively negotiate. Without this kind of hands-on expertise, a real estate attorney can be more of a liability than an asset to his or her clients.
Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney?
Not every real estate matter requires legal counsel. However, if you have a problem related to property, and there’s a significant amount of money at stake, hiring an attorney can be a very wise decision. It may sound like a sales pitch coming from us, but the truth is that hiring a good attorney can actually save you money and time in the long-run.
Even “small” real estate disputes can involve large sums of money. The way that a piece of land is used can have a significant impact on its economic value and, in the case of residential property, whether the people living on it can fully enjoy it. For example, if you bought a property that’s landlocked from the road or utilities by other properties, you need an easement for ingress, easement, and utilities across a neighbor’s property. Similarly, if you bought a property with the intent of building a multifamily apartment on it, but then the municipality passed a regulation that rendered this use impossible, you may need a variance or conditional use permit. In either case, your property could lose a huge amount of value if you cannot get the access or project approval that you need. These are the kind of real estate disputes that we deal with every day.
That’s why hiring the right attorney is one of the more important decisions you will make in protecting your property. The greater the stakes in your case, the more important it is to hire an attorney who knows what they’re doing. Many property disputes center around specialized local laws, and involve county or city-level officials. Dealing effectively with these disputes requires more than the general legal acumen taught in law school; it requires thorough knowledge of local real estate markets, laws, customs, and staff.
Here are a few of the specific ways that a lawyer may be able to help:
- Determine the strength of your position – Property law and land use regulations are a complicated matter, and many rules and regulations seem counterintuitive. When you retain an attorney, he or she will analyze your dispute and determine whether you are likely to prevail.
- Effectively negotiate a resolution to your dispute – Not every land use dispute ends up in court. In many cases, an attorney familiar with land use law can negotiate a resolution that is amenable to both parties to the dispute and saves everyone involved the cost and uncertainty associated with litigation.
- Represent you in court or before a hearing examiner – In some cases, you may need to appear in court or before a hearing examiner in order to resolve your land use dispute. When you have retained an attorney, he or she will represent your interests in any proceedings that may occur.
- Appeal an adverse decision – If your land use dispute is not resolved in your favor, your lawyer may pursue an appeal in the appropriate venue.
- Know the best people to talk to – Depending on the problem, a good real estate attorney will know the right engineer, surveyor, or contractor for the job. He or she might know municipal employee or elected official to speak to about your problem.
Helping Clients with Real Estate Cases in and around Tacoma
At the Brink Law Firm, we understand that you want to put your property to productive use. You may want to build a house on vacant land, build an accessory dwelling unit above your garage, or obtain approval to develop hundreds of new single-family dwelling homes.
If you own property, you will almost certainly have to deal with a land use or zoning dispute if you want to alter your use of it. This process can be costly, time-consuming, and can disrupt your life and your business. Whether your dispute is with a neighbor or a government agency, it is important to have the assistance and representation of a skilled attorney who understands land use and zoning laws in Washington to help you resolve your dispute in the most efficient way possible.
The Brink Law Firm has long been providing experienced advice to developers and property owners throughout the south sound area, including Pierce County, King County, Thurston County and Kitsap County. We understand the intricacies that each land use, zoning, or permit matter can involve and our goal is to facilitate the successful realization of each client’s property and development vision.
Our Unique Experience in and Around Tacoma
At the Brink Law Firm, real estate is all we do. Every day, we work to make transactions, deals, and projects come together—both for our clients, and for our own projects.
Attorney Terry Brink has over 50 years of boots-on-the-ground experience in the South Sound real estate industry. Over the course of his long career, Terry has gone from heavy equipment operator, to owning his own successful real estate brokerage firm, to (for the past 30 years) practicing real estate law. All the while, Terry has worked to develop, manage, and oversee his own residential and commercial real estate investment properties.
Attorney Clinton Brink has been involved in the family real estate business since childhood and now plays an active role in the family real estate investment business—evicting tenants, collaborating with management, and working on tax strategies. He has recently purchased his own multifamily investment property and is managing it himself.
Resolving Disputes in a Way that Works for You
Many people facing a legal dispute assume they will have to battle it out in court. However, the Brink Law Firm knows that litigation can be a drain on any property owner’s resources and that taking such legal action is not necessary to reach a resolution in every case. Instead, we look for creative ways to resolve your dispute in an efficient manner while still ensuring that you receive the results you deserve.
The following are just a few of the ways that we often help resolve real estate disputes for our clients:
- Negotiation – Often, when a party refuses to compromise in a dispute, the party may be motivated by emotion or stubbornness. In some cases, all it may take is a letter from your attorney to get the obstinate party to rethink its position. An attorney can also sit down and facilitate discussion and negotiation that allows the parties to come to a mutually agreeable conclusion themselves. This is especially common in cases involving neighbors (such as boundary disputes) or in joint ownership disputes. The presence of an attorney can help keep negotiations productive, reasonable, and on track.
- Mediation – If negotiations are unsuccessful, there are other ways of resolving a dispute more formally without immediately turning to the courts. Mediation is often a successful alternative dispute resolution method. It involves both parties (and their attorneys) sitting down with a neutral mediator who will encourage cooperation and negotiation based on the facts of the case. It is important to have legal representation in mediation sessions because an attorney can identify when negotiated solutions are not in your favor and can help you stand up for your best interests.
- Arbitration – Arbitration does not involve the formal court system but does involve presenting your side of the case to an arbitrator or an arbitration panel. The panel will listen to both sides and then decide how the matter should be settled. Arbitration decisions are usually legally binding (at the agreement of the parties), so it is usually critical to have the assistance of an experienced land use attorney who can skillfully present your arguments and work to obtain a decision in your favor.
- Litigation – While negotiation, mediation, and arbitration are all generally faster and more cost-efficient ways of resolving land use disputes, filing a lawsuit is still necessary in some cases. For this reason, you want a law firm that is prepared to represent you in court when needed.
The Brink Law Firm always has our clients’ best interests in mind and will explore every option to resolve you dispute. We have extensive experience in all of the above dispute resolution methods.
Who we Represent in and Around Tacoma
Real estate transactions can involve residential, commercial, or industrial properties and many parties may be involved in a single transaction. We have represented all sides of a real estate deal and our clients include:
- Property Owners
- Title insurance companies
- Title insurance holders
Our Successful Projects
A few examples of past successful projects include:
- Ashton Village-35 dwelling units (City of Bonney Lake)
- Ashton Woods-132 dwelling units (City of Bonney Lake)
- Brink Ranch-146 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Brookfield Farms-273 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Carr Meadows-19 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Crossroads-168 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Daybreak-529 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- East Grove Cottages-61 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Edgewood Heights Townhomes-452 dwelling (City of Edgewood)
- Emberwood-9 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Emerald Hollow-18 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Fairway Village-81 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Falachi Court-29 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Fieldstone-30 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Highland Ridge-88 dwelling units (City of Bonney Lake)
- Lexington Heights-71 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Limerick Park-120 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Lipoma Communities-1,697 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Lipoma Firs North-1,274 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Melrose Station-84 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Nighthawk-11 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Ptarmigan Ridge-67 dwelling units (City of Bonney Lake)
- Rainbow Skies-15 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Rhoades County Estates-8 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Ridgewood Park-12 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Roseview-55 dwelling units (City of Federal Way)
- Royal Firs-62 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Shadowood-24 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Silverwood-71 dwelling units (City of Federal Way)
- South Hill Estates-27 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Timberhawk-27 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Topping-147 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Watchtower Heights-65 dwelling units (City of Tacoma)
- Westwind-18 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Wohlford Addition-20 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Woodbriar-87 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Woodland Meadows-20 dwelling units (Pierce County)
- Bisceglia Dock, Pierce County
- Brink/Harrison Dock, Pierce County
- Cornew Dock, City of Olympia
- Jorgenson Dock, Pierce County
- Parker Dock, Pierce County
- Paul Dock, Pierce County
- Stolle Dock, Kitsap County
- Unger Dock, Pierce County
- Merkle Dock, Pierce County
Find Out How a Qualified Tacoma Real Estate Attorney Can Help
Often, there is too much on the line in a real estate transaction to risk not having the advice and guidance of a highly-qualified real estate lawyer. Too many people realize that they should have had legal assistance only after they have lost significant resources due to an unexpected conflict.
Terry and Clinton Brink are local attorneys who are dedicated to practicing real estate law in Tacoma and the south sound area, including Pierce County, King County, Thurston County and Kitsap County.