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Seattle Real Estate Attorneys

Unlocking the Power of Your Property: Skilled Real Estate Lawyers at Your Service

Real estate laws are complex, and most people are in over their heads regarding these legal matters. They don’t realize they need an attorney until things spiral out of control. The challenge is finding an attorney with experience in handling various transactions.

At Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, we have extensive knowledge and experience working on numerous real estate transactions. Our team of attorneys has over 100 years of combined experience working on these cases and a proven track record that speaks for itself.

Our team of attorneys can handle any legal issues involving real estate, including:

  • Drafting, negotiating, and reviewing real estate agreements and contracts
  • Residential transactions
  • Commercial transactions
  • Liens
  • Rights of way and easements
  • Encumbrances and encroachments
  • Eminent domain, land use, and zoning laws
  • Adverse possession
  • Condominiums and cooperatives
  • Quiet title actions
  • Homeowners associations
  • Leases and subleases
  • Loan modifications
  • Short sales
  • Construction and improvements to the property.

Our dedicated professionals review your situation and give you tailored legal advice. We guide you through the transaction to create successful outcomes for you.

Buyers and Sellers

Whether you are selling or buying, timing, speed, and accuracy are critical to completing the deal. Our attorneys have over 100 years of experience working on various residential and commercial transactions of different sizes. Our knowledge and experience make the process of buying or selling much easier. We are well-versed in real estate laws and transactions and will ensure you comply with all regulations. Our advice saves you time, money, and stress by knowing you did everything right the first time.

Landlords and Tenants

Leasing a property can be complex and requires a skilled attorney who knows the law to protect you. Our 100 years of experience includes giving landlords and tenants objective legal advice.

Realtors, lenders, and title companies

Any real estate transaction requires legal opinions, title searches, mortgage originations, and secondary market closings. Our attorneys handle everything to ensure you get the most accurate and timely legal information for your transaction. We use our experience to guide you and ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Contact us today and put our 100 years of combined experience to work for you. We handle the most complex transactions to give you objective legal advice you can use.

Your attorney’s knowledge and experience may make all the difference in your situation.

Practicing law is increasingly specialized. A significant reason is that laws are becoming more complex as time goes on. Statutes usually get longer and more complicated, not shorter and more straightforward, over time. Trial and appellate decisions often turn on new issues that are expanded upon in future rulings. Working as a competent “jack of all trades” attorney, fully representing clients in many areas of law, is not possible for both practical and ethical reasons.

The Differences Between Real Property and Personal Property

The ability to correctly categorize property is essential in real estate law. Property falls into two categories: real property (or real estate or realty) and personal property. Real property is land and improvements to the land. It is also structures on the ground called “improvements.” An improvement is any permanent structure or work that increases the property’s value, like fixtures. Personal property is all property other than real property.

Our Seattle real estate attorney can answer your questions about real property, and you can also learn more details about the differences between real and personal property. When speaking of property, it is essential to distinguish the type of property we are discussing. Generally speaking, the property falls into two categories: real property, which may be referred to as real estate or realty, and personal property.


As distinguished from real property, personal property is broadly defined as all property other than real property. Examples of personal property include books, cars, jewelry, computers, furniture, stamp collections, cell phones, and heirloom doilies. Even currency – money – is considered personal property. Personal property is further divided into the categories of tangible personal property and intangible property. Intangible property includes intellectual property (such as patents and copyrights), corporate stock, and even things as nebulous as reputation or brand identity.

Most of the time, distinguishing between real and personal property is straightforward. However, there is ambiguity between the two where private property gets attached to real property, essentially becoming a permanent part. This type of property is referred to as a fixture. Fixtures include lights, stoves, certain appliances, water faucets, and fireplaces. These items only become part of the real estate once they have been irremovably attached to the property by labor, satisfying a three-part legal test.

By way of example, a brick you bought at Home Depot sitting in the bed of the truck parked in your driveway is personal property. But as soon as the brick is laid in the construction of the fireplace in the living room, the brick becomes a fixture of the real property and loses its identity as a separate item of personal property. The practical implication is that once the personal property becomes part of the real property as a fixture, it may no longer be removed from the real property without causing legal damage to that property.

Discrete legal differences like these can be challenging to understand. Our Seattle real estate attorneys at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess are trained to understand the quirks of real estate law.

While all of this may seem a little complicated, correctly categorizing property is an essential element in most areas of law, particularly within our law firm’s specialties. Thus, even though a real estate lawyer technically has experience in real estate law matters, they should have a strong understanding of the differences in the character and nature of the property. At Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, our Seattle real estate attorneys focus on real estate law and understand the intricacies of unique situations. We also practice in related civil areas of law and have the knowledge to recognize how a range of factors may impact your legal matter.

Details About the Merger Doctrine and Real Estate Law

Conceptually, the merger doctrine paints a real estate transaction’s purchase and sale agreement as a temporary arrangement between the parties, designed to eventually lead to the creation and transfer of a deed from the seller to the buyer. (Like scaffolding erected around a structure, once the construction is complete, the scaffolding is removed, and the underlying structure is left on its own.)

The merger doctrine was developed to help parties in a real estate transaction understand how to treat the initial purchase and sale agreement obligations compared to the eventual terms and obligations contained in the deed (typically a statutory warranty deed). The merger doctrine essentially provides that when the deed is executed, delivered, and accepted, it becomes the final expression of the parties’ contractual relationship and “subsumes all prior agreements.” Barber v. Peringer, 75 Wn. App. 248, 877 P.2d 223 (1994) (attorney’s fee provision was merged into the deed); Files v. Lichten, 109 Wn. App. 550, 37 P.3d 301 (2001) (discussing anti-merger clause).

There are exceptions to the merger doctrine, but they are rare. Specifically, an exception exists only when “collateral contract requirements” are not contained in or performed by the execution and delivery of the deed. These requirements cannot be inconsistent with the deed and essentially are “independent” of the selling party’s obligation of conveying title. In addition, the merger doctrine does not preempt potential collateral legal claims that would stand independently from the contractual relationship (such as fraud).

Talk to our Seattle real estate attorney to learn how and if the merger doctrine may apply to your situation. Legal matters around selling and purchasing real property can be highly complex. This is why it’s crucial to retain the services of a Seattle real estate lawyer at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess who has deep knowledge of the law and experience with a wide range of cases.

Sellers Of Seattle Real Estate Should Understand Legal Obligations

A Seller’s Liability to A Buyer in Real Estate Transactions

Most contractual relationships involve one written contract that comprises the entire agreement. Real estate transactions usually involve several documents. They include an initial “purchase and sale agreement” followed by the transfer of the title (i.e., the deed). The merger doctrine helps parties understand how to treat the obligations of the purchase and sale agreement compared to the eventual terms and obligations contained in the deed. The merger doctrine states that when the deed is executed, delivered, and accepted, it’s the final expression of the parties’ contractual relationship and includes or merges prior agreements.

Seller Disclosure Statements in a Real Estate Transaction

In Washington state, sellers of real estate issue specific disclosures about the condition of the property being sold. Often the buyer discloses the property’s condition in good faith, but the buyer later uncovers an issue. If it’s very costly to repair, the buyer may believe the purchase and sale agreement was breached and demand that the seller pay to fix what’s broken or damaged. However, in these cases, the seller is probably not legally responsible. If the seller did not knowingly mislead or conceal a material issue with the property, it is unlikely that he will be liable. If you are in this situation, our Seattle real estate attorneys can advise you of your legal options.

What A Seller Is Not Responsible For

If you’re the seller in a transaction, count on our Seattle real estate lawyer to explain the responsibilities the seller does not have. Unless stated otherwise, a seller of real property does not implicitly establish warranties regarding the property’s condition. Any such warranties must be unambiguously spelled out to the buyer. Specifically, for a seller to be held responsible for issues with real estate after selling, there must be some other instrument outside the purchase and sale agreement to create that liability.

Furthermore, the statutes currently provide a significant level of protection to the seller of real estate as it relates to “errors or omissions” in the disclosure statement. According to RCW 64.06.050, the seller is liable only if there is actual knowledge of the problem, and the seller isn’t entitled to rely on the “statements of professionals.” Also, the recourses are limited from a buyer’s perspective:

  • The buyer has only “three business days” from receiving the statement to accept the property and complete the sale or rescind the contract.
  • The seller’s disclosure explicitly provides that it is not part of the underlying agreement between the parties (and, by extension, cannot be a basis for a breach of contract claim).
  • The seller disclosure only provides a buyer the “right of rescission” (RCW 64.06.070).

The small intricacies of the law in real estate transactions can have significant implications. Rather than assuming all will go well with your sale or purchase of real property, retain the services of our knowledgeable Seattle real estate lawyer to ensure your interests are protected from the start. We will inform you of your rights and responsibilities at every step in your real estate transaction.

How Our Real Estate Attorney Can Help with Your Loan Modification

Loan modification is the systematic alteration of mortgage loan agreements between the lender and the borrower. Loan modifications can be highly beneficial to a borrower because a loan modification may decrease the interest rate, reduce some of the principal, cut back late fees or other penalties, or even lengthen the mortgage loan term.

While the loan modification process is often confusing and time-intensive, it doesn’t have to be that way. Our real estate attorneys at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess provide professional legal assistance to clients in their individual loan modification matters and have worked extensively with lenders nationwide.

If you are a distressed property owner struggling to make your monthly mortgage payments and afraid of losing your property, don’t fall prey to scams. Learn more about Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess’s loan modification services if you need legal representation.

Are You Facing the Prospect Of A Short Sale?

No one wants to lose a home to foreclosure. A short sale may be the best way to resolve a bad financial situation where you can’t afford to maintain mortgage payments. It involves an agreement between the lender and borrower where the lender agrees to accept sale proceeds and won’t pursue the borrower for debt amounts that aren’t covered. The lender doesn’t get all it is owed but does get some of it while avoiding foreclosure costs. In a short sale, the lender does not have to deal with a homeowner going into bankruptcy.

If you pursue this option, although your credit record would be harmed, you could leave the mortgage obligation and start over.

At Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, our Seattle real estate attorneys have experience in negotiating short-sale agreements that benefit both parties. We can explain your legal options if you believe your situation would benefit from a short sale.

We Leverage Legal Strategy in Every Seattle Real Estate Matter We Handle

Rather than resorting to litigation as a first course of action, we explore other options to resolve Seattle real estate issues. This approach means our client’s needs are often met without the high time, energy, and money costs that litigation requires. There are often creative ways to resolve disagreements.

Resolving disputes without going to trial doesn’t mean giving up. Whether you’re dealing with a government agency or a private party, most Seattle real estate cases involve rational parties. They understand that a long, drawn-out trial is a “nuclear option” that should be avoided if possible. Whether through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, a Seattle real estate lawyer from Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess has experience resolving real estate disputes quickly and to our client’s advantage.

Our real estate lawyers understand the subject matter of the issue, how local government agencies will address it, how judges will likely consider the situation, and how opposing counsel will approach the case.

Understanding the Importance of Water Law and Your Property

Water law is a nuanced and intricate legal field that significantly influences our daily lives. From shaping communities and infrastructure to impacting businesses, recreation, and nature, the laws governing water rights play a crucial role in our society. In Washington state, the Water Code of 1917 stands as the cornerstone of our water laws and regulations, having established a uniform and centralized framework that continues to shape the management of this vital resource. If you need help with applying the water code to a property sale, our experienced Seattle real estate lawyers are here to provide guidance.

Understanding the Water Code of 1917

Enacted over a century ago, the Water Code of 1917 revolutionized water law in Washington state. Before its implementation, the state’s water laws needed to be more cohesive, leading to inconsistencies and conflicts in water rights management. Recognizing the need for a comprehensive legal framework, the Water Code of 1917 brought uniformity, clarity, and efficiency to allocating and regulating water resources.

The Legacy of the Water Code

The Water Code of 1917 remains the foundation of our state’s water laws and regulations even after over a century. Its enduring impact is a testament to the foresight and effectiveness of this pioneering legislation. Through its provisions, the code established mechanisms for establishing and contesting water rights, ensuring fair and equitable distribution while accounting for the needs of various stakeholders.

Navigating Water Law in Property Sales

When engaging in real estate transactions involving water rights, it is essential to understand how the water code applies. The complex interplay between property and water law requires expert guidance to ensure compliance and protect your interests. Our Seattle real estate lawyer possesses in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of water law and can help you navigate the unique challenges that arise in the context of property sales.

Expert Legal Counsel for Water-Related Concerns

Our dedicated Seattle real estate lawyer is well-equipped to provide comprehensive legal counsel if you have concerns or questions regarding water rights and their implications for a property sale. We deeply understand the water code and its practical application, enabling us to offer valuable insights tailored to your specific circumstances. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, we can assist you in negotiating water rights issues, drafting water-related provisions, and ensuring compliance with all relevant legal requirements.

Water law is a vital and often complex area of legislation that significantly impacts various facets of our lives. Understanding the intricacies of the Water Code of 1917 is essential for navigating property sales involving water rights. Our Seattle real estate lawyer, possesses the knowledge and expertise necessary to guide you through the intricacies of water law, ensuring that your interests are protected throughout the process. Feel free to seek our assistance when dealing with water-related concerns in real estate transactions.

Why Choose Us?

Real estate transactions are complex, and you need a skilled attorney with the knowledge and experience to guide you. At Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience working on different real estate transactions. Here are some of our most experienced Seattle real estate attorneys who are dedicated to their clients and getting results.

Robert Dickson: Robert teaches real estate law at Seattle University School of Law. He is a published author with extensive experience in real estate law.

Thomas Dickson: Thomas works on some of the most complex cases and has decades of experience helping clients. He is a published author and a respected professional in real estate law.

Daniel Frohlich: Daniel is a litigator and works on numerous aspects of the most complex real estate cases. He is tough but fair and uses extensive knowledge to look out for your best interests.

Our track record speaks for itself with a team of dedicated professionals working to create favorable outcomes for you.

Our approach is to work with the other parties to reach a satisfactory agreement for everyone. We use litigation as a last resort but are prepared to move forward if we have no other option. Negotiating saves you money and reduces the time needed to close the transaction successfully.

Our attorneys are familiar with state and local laws to ensure you get tailored legal advice relevant to your situation. We handle many different cases using dispute resolution and mediation, including:

Commercial tenancy issues: Commercial leases are different, and disputes could arise from misunderstandings regarding the security deposit, maintenance, and habitability.

Boundary disputes and easements: Most property owners think they know precisely where the property lines are located and feel their rights are secured. You will only understand your property’s boundaries by completing a land survey. These surveys can lead to boundary disputes and easements.

Quiet title actions: Property owners sometimes seek to sell the property using a quit claim deed. These are deeds where the owner will not guarantee that anyone else does not own the property. Disputes arise when the property has changed ownership several times. It is not uncommon to see prior claims from previously unknown parties in these situations. A skilled attorney can help you to avoid these situations and establish a clear title of ownership through a quiet title lawsuit.

Real estate commission issues: Real estate commission disputes are when the agent or broker has trouble collecting their fees. These situations arise because of ambiguous terms during the sale and the need for proper documentation.

Title insurance disputes: Title insurance protects the titles against losses, errors, and undiscovered defects from a dispute over property ownership. Most problems occur from the buyer’s lender’s rejection of the title. Situations such as this require a skilled attorney that moves fast and will help find an agreeable solution.

Our team of skilled attorneys is experienced in the most complex real estate transactions, and we are results driven. We give you custom advice to guide and look out for your best interests throughout the transaction.

How Can We Help?

Success in real estate requires having those professionals on your side who can guide you using their knowledge and experience.

Our Seattle real estate lawyers have over 100 years of combined experience working on various transactions. You work with skilled professionals who give objective advice customized to your situation. Our track record speaks for itself, with some of our attorneys offering their experience as lecturers and published authors.