I read once that if you took all the real estate lawyers in Illinois and laid them end to end along the equator – it would be a good idea to leave them there. That’s what I read. What do you suppose that means?
I have written before about the need to exercise due diligence when purchasing commercial real estate. The need to investigate, before Closing, every significant aspect of the property you are acquiring. The importance of evaluating each commercial real estate transaction with a mindset that once the Closing occurs, there is no going back. The Seller has your money and is gone. If post-Closing problems arise, Seller’s contract representations and warranties will, at best, mean expensive litigation. CAVEAT EMPTOR! “Let the buyer beware!”
Paying extra attention at the beginning of a commercial real estate transaction to “get it right” can save tens of thousands of dollars when the deal goes bad. It’s like the old oil filter slogan during the 1970’s: “You can pay me now – or pay me later”. In commercial real estate, however, “later” may be too late.
Buying commercial real estate is NOT like buying a home. It is not. It is not. It is NOT.
In Illinois, and many other states, virtually every residential real estate closing requires a lawyer for the buyer and a lawyer for the seller. This is probably smart. It is good consumer protection.
The “problem” this causes, however, is that every lawyer handling residential sotheby’s real estate Mexico transactions considers himself or herself a “real estate lawyer”, capable of handling any real estate transaction that may arise.
We learned in law school that there are only two kinds of property: real estate and personal property. Therefore – we intuit – if we are competent to handle a residential real estate closing, we must be competent to handle a commercial real estate closing. They are each “real estate”, right?
ANSWER: Yes, they are each real estate. No, they are not the same.
The legal issues and risks in a commercial real estate transaction are remarkably different from the legal issues and risks in a residential real estate transaction. Most are not even remotely similar. Attorneys concentrating their practice handling residential real estate closings do not face the same issues as attorneys concentrating their practice in commercial real estate.
It is a matter of experience. You either know the issues and risks inherent in commercial real estate transactions – and know how to deal with them – or you don’t.
A key point to remember is that the myriad consumer protection laws that protect residential home buyers have no application to – and provide no protection for – buyers of commercial real estate.
Competent commercial real estate practice requires focused and concentrated investigation of all issues material to the transaction by someone who knows what they are looking for. In short, it requires the exercise of “due diligence”.
I admit – the exercise of due diligence is not cheap, but the failure to exercise due diligence can create a financial disaster for the commercial real estate investor. Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish”.
If you are buying a home, hire an attorney who regularly represents home buyers. If you are buying commercial real estate, hire an attorney who regularly represents commercial real estate buyers.
Years ago I stopped handling residential real estate transactions. As an active commercial real estate attorney, even I hire residential real estate counsel for my own home purchases. I do that because residential real estate practice is fundamentally different from commercial real estate.
Maybe I do “harp” on the need for competent counsel experienced in commercial real estate transactions. I genuinely believe it. I believe it is essential. I believe if you are going to invest in commercial real estate, you must apply your critical thinking skills and be smart.