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Get Help with Common Real Estate Disputes: An Interview with Zachary Schorr of Schorr Law, A Professional Corporation

By Zachary Schorr

Tell us a little bit about your experience, your firm's history and the services you offer related to real estate.

Schorr Law is a law firm that I founded in 2005 with the goal of providing highly specialized real estate legal advice, counseling and litigation services for all types of real property matters. Unlike other law firms. we do not claim to be jacks of all trades, or generalists. Instead, by focusing our practice on real estate we provide a level of expertise in real estate that is simply hard to match. Our services range from helping buyers navigate purchase and sale agreements and commercial leases to complicated ownership disputes. We have a proven track record of obtaining remarkable positive results for our clients based on our very specific knowledge base and experience.

What are the most common real estate disputes that you handle regarding the purchase and sale of homes in Southern California?

There are a few categories of disputes that we see quite often. The first is residential purchase and sale disputes. We frequently see disputes where the buyer or seller breaches the terms of the purchase and sale agreement by either refusing to sell the property or refusing to follow through on the purchase. The second type of dispute we see frequently are non-disclosure lawsuits. We also handle many commercial leasing disputes and ownership disputes. The most frequent ownership dispute we see is when one co-owner wants to sell co-owned property and the other owner does not - so one owner tries to force a sale through a partition action.

Can you briefly describe what a nondisclosure case is?

A nondisclosure case typically involves the buyer of real property discovering a negative or less than desirable condition affecting the property that was not disclosed to them during escrow or prior to the sale of the property becoming final. The issue typically then becomes whether the condition was known to the seller, whether it was a material nondisclosure and whether the buyer's actions were reasonable in not discovering the issue on their own. Only after we help make all these determinations do we then examine the damages resulting from the nondisclosure. The measure of damages is the difference between the price paid for the home and the the fair market value of the property at the time of the sale with full disclosure of the condition or conditions at issue.

How does an attorney help home buyers when the seller failed to disclose a defect in the house or property that was sold?

We help by doing an analysis of the nondisclosure. Specifically, we examine the nature of the nondisclosure and then we help determine whether the nondisclosure is worth pursuing. This involves an analysis of the statute of limitations, the actual disclosure documents provided to the buyer, the potential damages, the ability to collect damages from the defendant(s) and the dispute resolution mechanism mandated by the purchase and sale agreement. Because we handle so many of these disputes, we understand the common pitfalls and can help maximize the chances for success through our analysis. We then position the buyers' case for the best possible chance for success.

Are there circumstances when a buyer can back out of the sale of residential property?

Yes, there are many circumstances which allow a buyer to back out of the sale of residential property. Generally, the key factor for determining whether the buyer can back out of the sale of residential property and still retain their initial purchase deposit is whether or not a contingency remains. Nearly all purchase and sale contracts contain purchase contingencies that the buyer must remove before they reach a point of no return on the purchase of residential property. These contingencies are typically a loan contingency, an appraisal contingency, an inspection contingency and any other negotiated contingency. The purpose of these contingencies is to give the buyer additional time to make sure either they want to close escrow or that they are actually able to close escrow. For example, most purchase and sale agreements have a loan contingency. The loan contingency allows the buyer a certain period of time (typically 17 days) to determine whether or not they will get final approval for the loan they need to close escrow and purchase and the home. If, during the contingency period, they discover that they cannot obtain the loan the bank or mortgage lender had prequalified them for, then they can cancel escrow and receive a return of their initial deposit. If however, the buyer removes a particular contingency or all contingencies and then later discovers they cannot obtain a loan then the buyer would likely lose their deposit.

Are there circumstances when a seller can back out of the sale of residential property?

There are fewer circumstances where the seller can back out of the sale of the residential property. The sale contingencies tend to all flow in favor of the buyer. The seller can really only back out of the sale if the buyer fails to timely comply with its obligations under the contract like failing to remove buyer contingencies in a timely manner. When that occurs, the seller must typically give the buyer a notice to perform before it can cancel escrow and back out of the sale. The notice to perform gives the buyer a short time frame to cure their default under the purchase and sale agreement.

What would you recommend that a home buyer should do before hiring a lawyer to help settle a real estate dispute?

A home buyer should do a few things before hiring a lawyer. First, gather all possible documents related to the dispute. If you are having a purchase and sale dispute, gather all of the purchase and sale documents, listing information, and other documents that are a part of nearly all real estate transactions. Second, read all of the documents in detail Third, think about your goal in the dispute and the outcome you desire and whether that outcome seems possible in light of the facts and documents reviewed. Gather all of this information and be ready to present it to the lawyer for review. The lawyer's role is to help you sift through the information and then recompose it in a way that is factually accurate and legally compelling.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your firm?

We are available by telephone 310-954-1877, email at info@schorr-law.com or by filling in a contact us form on our website. We typically provide a free 30-minute consultation for potential clients so that we can help the potential client assess their case.

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