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Legal issues when buying or selling a teardown property

On behalf of Steven Waldinger

This article looks at some of the legal issues of either buying or selling a teardown property.

New York has some of the oldest housing stock in the country and, with demand in New York real estate remaining high, that means many properties that are on the market are destined to be quickly torn down and rebuilt. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, New York state’s housing stock has a median age of 59 years, which is the oldest in the country. While tearing down an existing house and rebuilding from scratch can be an exciting prospect, it does pose challenges both for buyers and sellers of such properties. Here’s a look at some of the most common legal issues that arise in relation to buying or selling a teardown.

Issues for buyers

Buying a teardown is an exciting opportunity, but it can also be a challenging and often frustrating experience. While dreaming big is fine, it is important that buyers ensure that those dreams do not encounter large legal problems later on. Many buyers are often enticed by the low price tag attached to an “is is” property, while underestimating the true costs of building a home from scratch later on.

For example, zoning issues may crop up for buyers who want to build a bigger home on the same property. Neighbors may also object to a new house going up in an old neighborhood since the new home may make the surrounding homes look dated. Legal permits will also have to be obtained, including possibly for construction, tree removal, hazardous waste removal, and so on. These legal issues are all in addition to the other legal issues that buyers already have to consider when buying a move-in-ready property.

Issues for sellers

As notes, many people who already own a house that is in desperate need of repairs or being rebuilt often looking to selling it “as is” as a quick and easy solution. While selling a house “as is” means that sellers can generally sell a house without worrying about repairing defects beforehand, they are nonetheless still obligated to inform potential buyers about what those known defects are.

Sellers have to be especially careful about ensuring buyers are aware of any hidden hazards that could pose a challenge when tearing down and rebuilding the home. For example, if there is lead paint, sinkholes, or asbestos that the seller knows about then it is essential that he or she disclose the existence of these materials to buyers.

Real estate law

To help prevent disputes from arising, it is always a good idea to consult with a real estate attorney when either buying or selling a property. If one is already involved in a dispute, however, an attorney can also help advance one’s case and provide sound legal advice in order to protect one’s best interests moving forward.