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Real Estate Law Blog


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A Strong Contract Lays the Foundation for a Successful Real Estate Transaction

Posted on January 22, 2017 at 3:43 PM
Buyers and sellers involved in a residential or commercial real estate transaction have different issues and goals. The real estate contract or purchase agreement is the single most important document in the transaction. A well drafted contract that accurately reflects your interests and addresses potential problems is critical to a successful real estate transaction.  At the Law Office of Jeanne M. Reardon, we have more than 20 years of experience negotiating, drafting and reviewing contracts.

A strong, well drafted contract provides the protection you need by anticipating and minimizing the risks involved in buying and selling real estate.  Jeanne M. Reardon has the knowledge and experience that it takes to negotiate and draft real estate contracts that aim to protect her clients' interests, their down payment and lessen their overall risks.  

The standard New York real estate contract does not ordinarily include all the nuances of your particular transaction.  Usually the real estate broker will submit the basic terms of the deal such as purchase price, down payment, financing terms and nothing more.  Only an experienced real estate attorney will have the knowledge to anticipate all the issues at hand and ensure that they are properly addressed in the drafting and negotiating of the real estate contract. 

Some issues that an experienced real estate attorney will anticipate and aim to have addressed in a contract include:

  • Additions or renovations to the property with missing certificates of occupancy
  • Willful or negligent loss of the down payment by the seller's attorney
  • Underground oil storage tanks
  • Death of the purchaser prior to the closing

Attorney Jeanne M. Reardon is licensed to practice in New York, and she has extensive experience in handling real estate contracts, including Fannie Mae REO contracts. 

Contact a Skilled Long Island Real Estate Attorney

Whether you are buying or selling your home, please do not enter into a contract before contacting our office because no standard contract can adequately address all the special circumstances of your transaction.

Our services can help to protect your interests, and save you time and money.

We provide a free initial consultation to all of our potential clients. To discuss your real estate issue with an experienced Long Island real estate lawyer call 516-314-8433 or e-mail us.

Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer When You Buy or Sell a House

Posted on May 17, 2016 at 11:06 PM
Whether you are buying or selling a home, your team of expert advisers should include a real estate closing attorney.  Real estate closings  are complicated matters and require a thorough knowledge of the law.  With a decision as serious as buying and selling real estate, it is important that you are guided throughout every step of the closing process by an experienced and knowledgeable real estate lawyer.  The purchase of a home is often the single largest financial transaction you will ever make in your life. Why not ensure that all your bases are covered by retaining a closing lawyer to represent your interests and guide you through the process.

How a Closing Lawyer Can Help

The real estate attorney performs many time consuming tasks preparing for a closing.  A real estate closing involves a series of complex phases: contract drafting and negotiation, document review, examination of the title, completion and explanation of legal documents, and resolution of any possible title difficulties.  An experienced real estate attorney oversees the entire process so that you are not overwhelmed by the paperwork involved, the disclosures that need to be made, inspections, loan documents, title insurance and affidavits, and unforeseen issues that can suddenly turn a sure sale into a disaster.

Drafting and Negotiating the Contract of Sale

Since real estate attorneys have sophisticated experience with many types of real estate transactions, it is prudent for a buyer or seller to ask their real estate lawyer to negotiate the terms and conditions of their real estate deal. Once the negotiations are complete, the real estate attorney drafts the real estate contract, also known as the Contract of Sale, which incorporates all the terms of the transaction as negotiated. There are also other numerous documents associated with a real estate closing. It can be hard to review and understand all of them. Missing even one clause can change an entire legal document so it is important to have a trained real estate attorney aid in the process so that no issue is overlooked and everything is done in your best interest.

Title Issues

A real estate attorney examines the title records for prior conveyances, unpaid mortgages, liens, judgments, easements, and other encumbrances and clouds on title. They verify that the seller has the authority to convey a good title to the property and that no errors exist in the deeds in the chain of title.

Closing Documents

A real estate attorney prepares all relevant information into one set of closing documents.  A closing statement should be prepared prior to the closing indicating the debits and credits to the buyer and seller. An attorney is helpful in explaining the nature, amount, and fairness of closing costs. If the attorney is representing a seller, the attorney would also prepare the deed and state transfer tax documents.  At the closing, the attorney provides detailed explanations of the documents to insure that the parties understand all issues involved in the transaction and the disbursement of the funds.    

Attend the Closing

The actual closing day is the most important phase in the purchase and sale transaction and having a real estate attorney there to represent you is critical. Title passes from seller to buyer, who pays the balance of the purchase price. The deed and mortgage instruments are signed, and your attorney can assure you that these documents correctly reflect all the terms of the transaction and are appropriately executed. There may also be last minute disputes about issues arising during the final walk-through and delivering possession or the adjustment of various costs, such as fuel and water. If you are represented by an experienced real estate attorney you can rest assured that these issues will be properly addressed and your interests protected which might not necessarily be the case if you are not represented by an attorney.

Retain Closing Lawyer Jeanne M. Reardon

Jeanne M. Reardon is a Long Island real estate attorney who has handled thousands of closings during her over 20 years of practice. She has dealt with any possible issue that may arise in a real estate transaction and will advise you regarding your selling or purchasing of a home during each step and phase of a real estate transaction. Call her today if you plan to sell or buy a home in the Long Island or the Greater New York area at (516) 314-8433.

Using a Power of Attorney for a New York Real Estate Closing

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 11:45 PM

If you are unable to attend a real estate closing and sign the necessary documents you can have your attorney prepare a power of attorney for you thereby allowing your agent to act for you at the closing.  A power of attorney is a document in which a person appoints someone to act as their agent and perform certain acts on their behalf. The powers which may be given to your agent can be very broad, or limited depending on the purpose for giving the power of attorney.  For example, your can give your agent very broad powers to manage all your financial affairs, or limited powers to sign documents on your behalf at a real estate closing for a specific property only.

Sellers use a power of attorney for real estate closings more often than do purchasers.  The most likely reason for this is that many purchasers' lenders are reluctant to permit the use of powers of attorney by their borrowers.  If you are a purchaser and need to use a power of attorney, check with your bank and title company in advance to see what their policy is concerning powers of attorneys.  If your lender does not permit the use of a power of attorney, your agent will not be authorized to sign on your behalf.  Additionally, it is prudent to have the document reviewed by the title agency, as their approval is required before they will rely on it for title transfer purposes.

A power of attorney is designed to be effective until death, unless voluntarily revoked, even if you become incompetent or incapacitated. Therefore, it is imperative that you choose an agent that is trustworthy and will carry out your financial instructions properly.

If you need a power of attorney contact an experienced New York attorney to prepare one for you.  After the power is prepared, you and the person that you have designated as your agent need to sign it before a notary public.  The law governing a power of attorney in New York State is General Obligations Law Sec. 5-1501.

Jeanne M. Reardon is an attorney experienced in preparing powers of attorney.  To speak with an experienced real estate attorney about closing with a power of attorney, call us at (516) 314-8433.  

Application Deadline for Making Home Affordable Program (HAMP) Extended

Posted on February 15, 2014 at 11:14 PM
The application deadline for the Making Home Affordable Program which includes HAMP Loan Modifications has been extended through  December 31, 2015.

Read U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Release below:

Obama Administration Extends Application Deadline for the Making Home Affordable Program

  Extension through December 2015 Will Provide Struggling Homeowners Additional Time to
Access Sustainable Mortgage Relief and Align End Dates for Key Assistance Programs 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development today announced an extension of the Obama Administration’s Making Home Affordable Program through December 31, 2015. The new deadline was determined in coordination with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to align with extended deadlines for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and the Streamlined Modification Initiative for homeowners with loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Making Home Affordable Program has been a critical part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive efforts to provide relief to families at risk of foreclosure and help the housing market recover from a historic housing crisis. The program deadline was previously December 31, 2013.

“The housing market is gaining steam, but many homeowners are still struggling,” said Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “Helping responsible homeowners avoid foreclosure is part of our wide-ranging efforts to strengthen the middle class, and Making Home Affordable offers homeowners some of the deepest and most dependable assistance available to prevent foreclosure. Extending the program for two years will benefit many additional families while maintaining clear standards and accountability for an important part of the mortgage industry.”
“The Making Home Affordable Program has provided help and hope to America’s homeowners," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "Families across the country have used its tools to reduce their principal, modify their mortgages, fight off foreclosure and stay in their homes - helping further stimulate our housing market recovery. And with this extension, we ensure that the program keeps supporting communities for years to come.”
Since its launch in March 2009, about 1.6 million actions have been taken through the program to provide relief to homeowners and nearly 1.3 million homeowners have been helped directly by the program. The Making Home Affordable Program includes the Home Affordable Modification Program or HAMP, which modifies the terms of a homeowner’s mortgage to reduce their monthly payment to prevent foreclosure. As of March 2013, more than 1.1 million homeowners have received a permanent modification of their mortgage through HAMP, with a median savings of $546 every month – or 38 percent of their previous payment. Data from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) shows that the median savings for homeowners in HAMP is higher than the median savings for homeowners in private industry modifications, which has helped homeowners in HAMP sustain their mortgage payments at higher rates. As a result, HAMP modifications continue to exhibit lower delinquency and re-default rates than industry modifications.
The Making Home Affordable Program has also put into place important protections for homeowners that have helped inform efforts to create standards for the mortgage servicing industry. This includes requirements for mortgage servicers regarding clear and timely communications with homeowners and protections to ensure that homeowners are evaluated for assistance before being referred to foreclosure. The Administration has issued reports on the program every month since July 2009, which provide the most detailed information available about individual servicer efforts to assist homeowners. As part of this report, Treasury issues a quarterly assessment for each of the largest servicers in the program to highlight their compliance with program requirements.
Homeowners seeking assistance with their mortgage payments should remember that there is never a fee to apply to the Making Home Affordable Program. Homeowners can work with a HUD-approved housing counseling agency free-of-charge to understand their options and apply for help. Homeowners should visit for more information about free resources for assistance or call 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).

Read the U.S.Treasury Press Release on-line here.

The Law Office of Jeanne M. Reardon can be reached at (516) 314-8433 or visit our website at for more information.

Co-op and Condo Property Tax Abatements

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 12:08 PM
News About the Cooperative/Condominium Abatement
Recently, the NY State Legislature passed bill S2320/A3354, which amended the Co-op/Condo Abatement. For more information and a description of changes,  click here.
Owners of cooperative units and condominiums who qualify for the Co-op/Condo Property Tax Abatement can have their property taxes reduced. The amount of the abatement is based on the average assessed value of the residential units in the building.

Abatement percentages are shown in the following table:

                        Average Assessed Value                                   Benefit Amount Per Year  
                                                       2012/2013           2013/2014         2014/2015
                                $50,000 or less                                  25%                    26.5%              28.1%
                                $50,001 - $55,000                              22.5%                  23.8%              25.2%
                                $55,001 - $60,000                               20%                    21.2%              22.5%
                                $60,001 and above                             17.5%                  17.5%              17.5%
Co-op Tax Benefits Letter
Finance will be mailing a Co-op Tax Benefits Letter outlining each unit's tax savings for personal exemptions and the co-op property tax abatement. For more information and the Co-op Tax Benefit Change Form, click here.

Phase Outs for Owners Currently Receiving the Abatement
If you are an owner who is not using the unit as your primary residence and you received the abatement in 2011/2012, your abatement will be phased out. We mailed you a letter explaining that we think you no longer qualify for the abatement. As the deadline to respond to the letter has been extended, responses must be mailed by July 22, 2013 and sent to:

NYC Co-op/Condo Abatement
P.O. Box 1194
Maplewood, NJ 07040

This is how the phase out will work:

           Tax Year         Phase Out Abatement Amount            How You or Your Co-op Board Will
                                                                                                        See This on  Your Bill

          2012/2013          50% of the 2011/2012 abatement                 You or your board will see an
                                  percentage you received before the           Abatement Reversal Charge on your
                                       abatement was amended.                         2013/2014 Property Tax Bills.

          2013/2014          25% of the 2011/2012 abatement            You or your board will see a reduced
                                  percentage you received before the           abatement amount on your 2013/2014
                                       abatement was amended.                   property tax bills starting with your July
                                                                                               2013 bill

          2014/2015                             0%                                    Abatement will no longer appear on
                                                                                               your property tax bill.

How to Apply
Cooperative and condominium developments that are filing for the abatement for the first time should complete the Cooperative and Condominium Property Tax Abatement application. The application must be submitted by the board of directors or managing agent on behalf of the entire development.

Deadline: Applications for new cooperative and condominium developments were due April 1, 2013.


  • The co-op or condo unit must be the owner's primary residence.
  • Co-op or condo owners cannot own more than three residential units in any one development and one of the units must be the owner’s primary residence.
  • Co-op or condo owners cannot be receiving any of the following exemptions or abatements:
    • J-51 Exemption
    • 420c, 421a, 421b, or 421g
    • Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC)
    • Division of Alternative Management Programs (DAMP)
    • Limited Divided Housing Companies, Redevelopment Companies
    • Mitchell-Lama Building
    • Clergy
  • Units held by sponsors or their successors in interest are not eligible.
  • Units owned by a trust are eligible only if the unit is the primary residence of the beneficiary of the trust, trustee, or life estate holder.

For more information on requirements and recent changes to the abatement click here

Note for Property Owners:
You may also be eligible to receive the following personal exemptions: Basic or Enhanced School Tax Relief (STAR), Disabled Homeowner, Senior Citizen Homeowner and Veterans. The application for these exemptions must be postmarked by March 15. If you own a co-op, contact your management company to find out what exemptions you are receiving in the current tax year (July to June). Call before March so that you will still have time to apply for benefits in the next tax year. If you own a condo, you can find your current exemptions on your Property Tax Bill

Changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Short Sales Impact Investors

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 3:08 PM
On January 18, 2013, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced changes to their servicing requirements for short sales. Please see below for some key changes that all parties involved in a short sale should be aware of. These changes apply
to all Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac short sales; with an offer and without an offer.

Title Transfer requirement change:

  • The buyer is prohibited from selling the property for any sales price for a period of 30 days from the date of the

  • After a 30 day period, and until 90 days from the date of the deed the buyer is further prohibited from selling the property for a sales price greater than 120% of the short sale price.

          Note: The above restrictions will run with the land, which means that the restriction is not personal to the seller
          and will pass to the subsequent buyer upon transfer of title. 

Below is an example on how to calculate the 120%

  • Purchase Price is $100,000.00

  • 120% of the purchase price would be $100,000.00 X 1.2 = $120,000.00

Relocation Assistance:

The borrower may be entitled to an incentive payment of $3,000 from Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac to assist with relocation expenses following successful completion of a short sale unless:

     1.  The borrower is required to contribute funds or execute a promissory note.

     2.  The borrower has Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders and receives a Dislocation Allowance (DLA) or other 
          government relocation assistance.

     3.  The servicer has knowledge that the borrower is receiving relocation assistance from another source other than the 

          Note: If the borrower receives relocation assistance from a source other than Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac or the          
          Servicer, the difference in the relocation assistance amount up to the $3,000 incentive maximum may be provided.
          If the borrower will receive relocation assistance from a source other than Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac or the Servicer
          and the amount is equal to or greater than $3,000, no relocation incentive will be provided.

It is vital to have an attorney negotiate and close your short sale transaction.  Call THE LAW OFFICES OF JEANNE M. REARDON to assist you with your short sale.  Free initial consultation.  Call us at (516) 314-8433.

Home Buyers: Beware of Underground Oil Tanks

Posted on August 19, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Whether buying a single-family or multi-family home, the prospective homeowner must carefully review the property and perform the necessary due diligence before buying to ensure there are no buried and leaking underground oil tanks on the property. 

A buried and leaking underground oil tank brings with it immense liability and very often a large cleanup bill for the homeowner. Homeowners are responsible for leaking oil tanks on their property, and the Navigation Law, § 181(1), imposes strict liability (i.e., without regard to fault), against any person "who has discharged petroleum."  The real danger to the homeowner, however, is the cleanup costs which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars and can grow much larger if there is active groundwater contamination. Moreover, these costs are typically not covered by most homeowners’ insurance policies.  The lesson here for prospective homeowners is to be sure to search for evidence of an underground oil tank prior to purchasing the property.

Here are some investigative tips to follow:

Tip 1:  Ask The Seller.  Even if the property is currently heated by gas, or there is an above-ground oil tank in the basement, ask your seller if they ever replaced or abandoned a buried oil tank on the premises. The answer to this question will help in your investigation.  If the seller divulges that there is an abandoned tank, ask for documentation to confirm that it was properly abandoned in compliance with local codes.

Tip 2:  Look For Evidence.  Start near the boiler servicing the house and look to see if there are any old indentations or rust marks or traces of a boiler with a larger footprint.  This could be evidence that an old, large oil boiler was once there.  Also look around the walls of the basement to see if there are any lines (small tubing) that disappear into the walls.  These would be the oil lines to the buried tank outside.  They may be crimped just inside the basement wall.  If you see them, do not panic.  Some oil lines are left in place even after tanks are removed but if you see them it should prompt you to take the next step.  You should also be on the lookout for cemented patches in the basement floor where the floor was notched in order to lay the oil lines from the boiler to the wall.  Also look outside along your foundation for an abandoned oil tank vent pipe which will be coming up from the ground close to the foundation wall.  Often hiring a home inspector can help with this investigative process

Tip 3:  Hire An Experienced Attorney. Consult with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate attorney, who can advise you on the issues and the proper course of action to be taken in regards to buried oil tanks and contamination prior to entering the contract of sale. 

What Borrowers Can Do About Low Home Appraisals

Posted on June 3, 2012 at 3:26 PM
With record-low interest rates potential home buyers are seeking to buy and current homeowners are seeking to refinance.  But low appraisals are making it difficult or even impossible for some borrowers to take advantage of this boon in record-low interest rates.
The problem stems from the fact that home prices have plummeted even further than first anticipated, as wells as laws and rules enacted by legislators and lenders in the wake of the financial crisis which seek to eliminate inflated appraisal valuations and improper pressures on appraisers as seen in the housing boom have now resulted in an “over-correction” or unnecessarily conservative valuations. 
Also, accurate valuation for appraisals may be hard to come by when sales in the real estate market have been so anemic.
There are steps, however, that you can take for a purchase or refinance transaction in order to increase the odds that your mortgage is approved and your deal gets done. 
Some of these steps include the following:
•  Know what the range of value is for your area by looking at comparable sales from the last three to six months;
•  Accompany the appraiser during the inspection, pointing out features and improvements that add to the home's value;

  Although chances are slim, request that the lender review the appraisal findings, especially if you think the appraisal 
    is unusually low, contains factual errors, such as the number of bathrooms and so forth, or you have more recent   
    comparable sales that were not available at the time the appraisal was initially done and submitted; and

•  Start over with a new lender if your original financing falls through.

For more information on this topic, see Wall Street Journal article entitled, Fighting Back Against Lowball Home Appraisals.

Mortgage Refinance - Shortening Loan Terms

Posted on June 2, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Shortening Loan Terms
The New York Times
Published: June 1, 2012
LOW interest rates are making it easier for homeowners to reduce their  mortgage  payoff  times considerably.
Almost a third of those who refinanced in the first quarter cut the duration of their mortgages to 15 or 20 years from 30, according to a recent refinancing report by Freddie Mac. The 31 percent who shortened their terms represented the second-highest level since 2002, when 35 percent took out shorter-term loans, the data showed. In the fourth quarter of 2011, 34 percent had reduced their mortgage terms. The all-time high occurred in 1992, with 42 percent refinancing into shorter mortgages.

“Historically low rates and an average three-quarters of a percentage point difference between 30- and 15-year mortgage fixed-rate mortgages are important drivers for moving to a shorter term,” Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in an e-mail.

The 15-year fixed-rate loan averaged 2.97 percent nationwide, according to Freddie Mac’s latest survey, released on Thursday. That was the lowest rate since the agency started keeping track of that loan in 1991. The 30-year loan also set another record low, at an average 3.75 percent.

The switch to shorter loan terms may also be part of a trend to deleverage and reduce debt levels, which started in the economic downturn. “People are taking control of their own equity — they’re paying it down quickly,” said Michael McHugh, the president of Continental Home Loan and president of the Empire State Mortgage Bankers Association.
Some people decide to refinance into a shorter mortgage after they have been promoted at work, said Kate McCue, an executive vice president of McCue Mortgage, a direct lender in New Britain, Conn. She suggests that borrowers look at their own financial situations, including how long they expect to live in their homes, before deciding on a shorter refinancing.

Shorter loan terms often mean higher monthly payments. But this may be offset in part by the capturing of very low rates. In the first quarter, borrowers with 30-year mortgages lowered their rates by a median 1.5 percentage points, or a savings of about 27 percent of their rate, the largest reduction recorded in Freddie Mac’s 27 years of analyses.
A shorter term may have some tax advantages as well. You restart the mortgage amortization and pay more in interest initially, Mr. McHugh said; this results in a good tax deduction for a few years.

Shorter loan terms of, say, 10 or 15 years also allow borrowers to build equity much more quickly, even when home prices are not appreciating, Mr. McHugh noted.

Borrowers can achieve similar results by paying down the balance when they refinance, by adding in extra cash — 21 percent of borrowers did so in recent months, Freddie Mac found.

If their finances or jobs are tenuous, some homeowners may be more comfortable refinancing into 30-year mortgages, then making bigger payments as often as they can, Ms. McCue said. If they suffer a financial setback, she said, they will then have the flexibility of falling back to the standard monthly payment.

If you’re not sure which term works best for you, begin your research by picking a good mortgage calculator online and crunching the numbers for various loan terms, Ms. McCue said.

Those who decide not to refinance can still pay off their mortgages faster by sending in an extra month’s payment once a year, said Chanda Gaither, a housing counselor at La Casa de Don Pedro, which works on affordable housing and neighborhood development in Newark. She has seen families save up a small amount of money every month and then annually apply it to the principal. “Or take it out of your tax return” when the refund comes in, she said.

If you made an extra month’s payment each year, your 30-year mortgage could be paid off in about 23 years, Mr. McHugh said.

Buyer Beware: 5 Things Every Home Buyer Should Know

Posted on March 10, 2012 at 11:24 PM
1.  Always get a home inspection.  Most Contracts of Sale provide for the house to be sold "as is."  A home
     inspection costs about $450 and will reveal structural defects and needed major repairs.
2.  Know the neighborhood.  It is advisable to visit the neighborhood at different times of day and talk to
     realtors and neighbors.  The more you know about the neighborhood, schools, traffic and nuisances, the better.
3.  Make sure you can afford to buy.  Consider whether you can afford the monthly mortgage payment, real
     estate taxes, homeowner's insurance premium, private mortgage insurance premium, and carrying charges,
     such as energy bills, telephone bills, etc.
4.  Closing delays can cost you money.  Do not lock-in your interest rate too early.  If the closing is delayed
     and your rate lock expires, you will have to pay additional fees to get a rate lock extension.
5.  Estimate your closing costs.  Buyer's closing costs include lender fees, appraisal fees, title insurance fees,
     survey fee, homeowner's insurance and real estate attorney fee. In order to prevent coming up short at closing,
     take into account that on average, buyer's closing costs* amount to about 3-5% of the purchase price.

*For more information on closing costs, see AOL Real Estate article Closing Costs: How Much to Budget.

To speak with an experienced real estate attorney about a closing, call us at (516) 314-8433.  To learn more about our real estate closing services visit us at:


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