It doesn’t take much for something to go wrong in a real estate transaction.  When it does, the results can be both expensive and time-consuming.  Spend the time to make sure things go right.

Watch the Details

Real estate is no longer a simple proposition.  The paperwork in modern real estate transactions is daunting.  Even the most resourceful buyers or sellers find themselves bleary-eyed at the end of a California real estate transaction.

With all of the complexity involved, it’s easy to make an error. Mistakes can be costly.  Experienced legal counsel can spot problems before they ever arise.  Spend the time that’s necessary to enlist the aid of competent, careful, effective legal counsel.


Most real estate transactions have two (or more) parties. If property is to be sold, a buyer must come up with the money, and the seller has to sign a deed. If either side refuses to perform, the transaction fails and someone is going to be disappointed.

Most litigation is filed because someone is surprised, disappointed or angry. There is a lot of money at stake in a real estate transaction. Sometimes people get cold feet. Other times they find a better opportunity elsewhere. Whatever the reason, non-performance can be a real headache. When non-performance occurs, people pick up the phone and call their lawyer.

Construction Defects

Modern buildings have many complex systems. Soil must be properly graded and drained. Foundations must be properly designed and reinforced. Framing and sheetrock must be properly built. Plumbing, heating, and electrical components must be properly installed. And siding and roofing must be properly constructed. There is considerable room for error in constructing any of these systems, and when errors occur the repairs can be expensive.

Real estate must also be maintained. Roofs need to stay watertight. Fixtures need to be replaced when they leak. Termites and other pests need to be controlled. If Real Estate isn’t properly maintained, then the resulting damage can require expensive repairs.

Use Issues

Two hundred years ago, most people lived on the farm. Today, most people live in cities where we live close to each other. As a result, we depend on each other to use our real estate wisely and respectfully.

If an owner leaves their hose running during their vacation, they could flood a neighbor’s yard. If an owner plants large trees near a property line, then the roots can run under a fence and cause havoc with neighboring concrete or buildings. If an owner (or a tenant) plays loud music outdoors at 2 a.m. every night, then the neighbors may get a bit grumpy. If an owner takes up a backyard hobby that causes bad odors, then a neighbor may complain. All of these things happen, and all of them involve the real estate uses.

Title Issues

Sometimes family members informally share title. Parents may ask a grown son or daughter to “hold title in their name” for some reason, but everybody considers the parents to still be the owner. If that son or daughter gets sued or files bankruptcy then some interesting results may occur. Family members may forget to record deeds. Title gets put into the wrong name.  People go back on their promises. Neighbors might use a property without permission for a long period of time, thereby creating an easement. Questions arise about who actually owns real estate, and sometimes deeds are defective. Many of these questions are best addressed – and resolved – by a skilled real estate lawyer.

Environmental Contamination

A hundred years ago, environmental contamination had hardly been thought of. We would never consciously pollute our lands today by using them as they were used a hundred years ago. But sometimes hazardous materials remain on land from practices used long ago – and then sometimes land is polluted from a deliberate choice to save money on toxics disposal. Such practices can result in expensive cleanup.

Other Real Estate Issues

There are many, many other issues that can arise with real estate. Prudent parties who want to minimize risk and protect themselves will often involve legal counsel in their real estate transactions. When problems arise because of unforeseen conditions, then litigation may become essential, and the use of skilled legal counsel can be critical.

Robert B. Jacobs has authored weekly newspaper columns in the San Francisco Bay Area on real estate topics over the past many years.

Following is a representative summary of real estate matters successfully handled by Robert B. Jacobs:


  • Preparation and negotiation of commercial leases.
  • Preparation of all necessary contract, disclosure and related documentation for the sale or purchase of Bay Area residential homes  
  • Preparation of promissory notes with deeds of trust
  • Extensive counseling on non-judicial foreclosures
  • Representation of a business owners in negotiating, purchasing and selling commercial properties  
  • Negotiation of a sale of a 96 acre agricultural parcel, and preparation of all necessary documentation in connection with its sale
  • Counsel, advisement, negotiation and preparation of documentation concerning the sale of commercial properties in Livermore in connection with a Development Agreement
  • Counseling on Proposition 13 property tax reassessment on real property following a change of ownership of a Limited Liability Company
  • Filing of a tax assessment appeal regarding property taxes assessed against commercial properties in Oakland
  • Represented long-term tenant of commercial property in exercise of a first right of refusal in connection with prospective purchase of the leased property
  • Unlawful detainer action against a tenant of commercial property in San Francisco
  • Advisement and counseling on San Francisco tenant issues
  • Preparation of several recorded easements and related documentation
  • Review and advisement on scope, use and effect of recorded easements
  • Advised property owner concerning landslide on easement held by owner
  • Review and preparation of loan documentation for personal guaranties in connection with loan to a major real estate broker


  • Successfully litigated through trial a partition action concerning a building constructed by two families on a speculative basis
  • Successfully litigated through mediation a partition action concerning a commercial property in West Hollywood, California
  • Successfully prosecuted through mediation two separate actions enjoining residential foreclosures on a loans involving personal guarantee
  • Defended through binding arbitration a church involving a contract for sale of real estate
  • Preparation and filing of two actions for judicial foreclosure
  • Prosecution and defense of multiple actions for nondisclosure of real property defects
  • Preparation and filing of litigation for owner of property subject to subsidence and earth movement
  • Defense of a Real Estate agent through hearing in a BRE disciplinary matter
  • Defense of a Loan Correspondent in a suit filed against him by a nationwide lender due to alleged loan irregularities
  • Preparation and filing of suit for Quiet Title against co-borrower on loan who had no equity in the property but had been the grantee of a deed recorded solely for lending purposes