Real Estate


1. How should I take title of real property in New York with a loved one?

If you are married, you will take title as tenants by the entirety, which gives the surviving partner on death, an undivided one-half interest in the real property by operation of law. If you are not married, the same result can occur if you take title as joint tenants with right of survivorship. This must be affirmatively stated in the deed (i.e., A & B as joint tenants with right of survivorship). If you are not married or do not affirmatively state the joint tenancy with right of survivorship, A & B would be purchasing the property as tenants in common. Each person will be taking title with an undivided one-half interest in the real property. If one of these people should die, his or her undivided half interest would be transferred to the survivor named in his or her will, or pursuant to the State's intestate statute for individuals who die without a will. The surviving owner would not take the undivided half interest by operation of law.

2. How big a structure can I build on the real property I purchased?

The bulk and height of a structure to be built on real property is governed by the zoning laws of the municipality where the real property is located. The zoning laws impose various restrictions on height and square footage of the structure. These restrictions should be reviewed before purchasing the property.

3. What is a Certificate of Occupancy?

A Certificate of Occupancy is issued by the Building Department of the municipality where the real property is located. It acknowledges that the structure was built in accordance with architectural plans filed with the Building Department and evidences that inspections were made by the Building Department to make sure that the structure was built in compliance with the plans. The issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy (commonly known as the "C.O.") indicates that the building is in compliance with the building code and zoning ordinances.

4. What is a Mortgage Contingency Clause?

If you enter into a contract to purchase real property, the contract may be contingent upon your ability to obtain financing. This contingency is based on specific and mutually negotiated terms (i.e., the amount of the mortgage, the interest rate of the mortgage, the term of the mortgage and the amount of time necessary to obtain the mortgage). If you cannot obtain financing during this period, the contract will be terminated and the purchaser will generally receive back its down payment.

5. In New York, what is an 'on or about' closing date?

It is typical in New York real estate contracts for the closing date to reflect an "on or about" closing date. This is the closing date in the contract, but if the parties should fail to close on that date, it is not a default under the contract. Many attorneys will state to their clients that it is interpreted by the Courts that the Purchaser must close within thirty (30) days of the date of date. That is not correct. If the 'on or about' date should pass, the Seller may send what is commonly referred to as a "Time of the Essence" Letter which must set a date and time certain for a closing within a reasonable period of time from the 'on or about' date. It is commonly interpreted by the Courts that thirty (30) days from the date of the "Time of the Essence" letter is reasonable, but shorter periods have been found to be reasonable as well.