Real Estate Law

The legal definition of real estate or real property is land and the buildings on it. Real estate law governs who may own and use the land.

This simple concept includes a wide range of different legal disciplines. First, real estate may be either residential or commercial. It can be owned by one person but used by another through rental arrangements. Land can be bought or sold, and due to its high value, there are many local laws that ensure real estate transactions are properly performed and recorded. Land may also pass between family members through estate planning, or may be owned by more than one person. Finally, state and local governments have rules concerning the purposes for which land may be used — for example, each plot of land must be used according to local zoning laws, and landowners may not damage the surrounding environment.

Overview:

Terms to Know

  • Title: A legal term describing who officially owns the land.
  • Mortgage: A loan that covers the price of a house. The new homeowner must give the lender partial ownership of the house as collateral.
  • Foreclosure: The process by which the lender takes control of a house if the owner fails to pay back the mortgage.
  • Closing: The meeting in which ownership of real estate is officially transferred.
  • Escrow: Money or property held by a third, disinterested party for safekeeping.
  • Real Estate Agent: A professional licensed to negotiate and conduct real estate transactions.