real estate

Seattle Real Estate Lawyers

If you need help with a real estate issue, you can trust a Dickson Frohlich Seattle real estate lawyer to meet your needs. Our attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience in real estate matters. The results we’ve obtained for our clients are why we have such a strong reputation among the city’s business and legal communities.

Our team of real estate attorneys is led by founding partner Thomas L. Dickson. We represent a broad base of local clients in diverse and challenging real estate matters, including loan modifications and short sales.

No matter the challenges you face, there’s a good chance we’ve helped others with it before. Call us for help today at 206-621-1110.

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Why You Should Choose Dickson Frohlich

Serving Real Estate Clients Is at the Core of Our Law Firm

Our real estate practice group is one of Seattle’s real estate law specialists. If you need high quality, cost-effective service and innovative legal solutions, count on our attorneys. Our approach to handling often complicated and unpredictable real estate law disputes sets Dickson Frohlich apart from others.

Rather than resort to litigation as a first course of action, we explore other options to resolve real estate issues. This approach means our clients’ needs are often met without the high costs in time, energy, and money that litigation requires. As is the case in life, 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 who understand that a long, drawn-out trial is a “nuclear option” that should be avoided if possible. Whether it’s through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, a Seattle real estate lawyer from Dickson Frohlich has a depth of experience in resolving real estate disputes quickly, fairly, and to our client’s advantage.

Our real estate lawyers not only know the subject matter of the issue, but how local government agencies will address it, how judges will likely consider the situation, and how opposing counsel will approach the case.

Disputes Resolved by Our Real Estate Lawyers in Seattle

We Help Clients in All Areas of Real Estate

Our Seattle real estate attorneys assist buyers and sellers of commercial and residential property with conflicts throughout the Seattle area. From developers to mortgage lenders to homeowner associations, our team of lawyers is ready to serve your legal needs. Our real estate dispute and mediation experience includes the following:

  • Commercial Tenancy Matters – There is no single standard commercial lease. Disputes may arise from any number of issues, ranging from the amount of security deposit charged, to common maintenance responsibilities, to the right of habitability.

  • Easements and Boundary Disputes – Property owners often believe they know where their property lines really are or believe that their access rights are secure. Only if you or the owner of a neighboring property performs a land survey can you be 100% sure about your property boundaries. Land surveys may result in easements or boundary disputes.

  • Quiet Title Actions – Filed to establish ownership of real estate property, quiet title actions can be messy affairs. These disputes arise from properties that have changed ownership several times.

  • Real Estate Commission Disputes – Real estate commission disputes may arise from an agent or broker’s inability to collect fees, lack of proper documentation or ambiguous terms during the sale.

  • Title Insurance Disputes – Title insurance protects against title search errors, undiscovered title defects, and losses that arise from disputes over property ownership once the property has been purchased. Most title problems arise through the rejection of the title by the buyer’s lender. When this happens, quick action is needed to find a mutually agreeable solution.

If you face these issues or any other conflicts, get legal representation from a real estate attorney on our team. We’ve handled such a large number of real estate cases that chances are good we’ve handled an issue just like yours.

Call our Seattle real estate lawyers today at 206-621-1110.

The Law Involves Many Complexities Best Left to Dickson Frohlich Real Estate Attorneys

Your Attorney’s Knowledge and Experience May Make All the Difference in Your Matter

Practicing law is increasingly specialized. A major reason is that laws are becoming more complex as time goes on. Statutes usually get longer and more complicated, not shorter and simpler, 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, as a practical and ethical matter.

Our real estate lawyers in Seattle focus on this area of law and are well-versed in many issues. Don’t hire a lawyer who will learn on the job while working for you.

Additional Practice Areas

Attorney Thomas L. Dickson

Thomas L. Dickson

Tom is an experienced litigator and the founding partner of the Dickson Frohlich. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients prevail in their real estate, construction, and business law matters.

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Attorney Robert P. Dickson

Robert P. Dickson

The core of Rob’s legal practice is civil litigation, with an emphasis on construction, real estate, and business law. He represents a wide range of clients, from large construction companies to individual homeowners.

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Attorney Daniel J. Frohlich

Daniel J. Frohlich

Dan’s legal practice focuses on civil litigation, real estate law, business law and probate law. He has more than 10 years of experience as an attorney serving clients throughout Western Washington.

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Attorney Mark S. Johnson

Mark S. Johnson

Mark’s legal practice focuses on civil litigation, real estate law, business law and family law. He works tirelessly to help his clients achieve the outcome they are looking for.

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Attorney Daniel E. Pizarro

Daniel E. Pizarro

As an associate at Dickson Frohlich, Daniel is active in the firm’s civil litigation department. His practice is mainly centered around real estate law, landlord-tenant law, construction law, and probate law.

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Attorney George Knight

George Knight

As an associate at Dickson Frohlich, George is active in the firm’s civil litigation and transactional departments. His practice is mainly centered around business law, real estate law, construction law, employment law, and probate law.

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Attorney Alexander J. Wisbey

Alexander J. Wisbey

Alexander Wisbey comes to the firm with 5 years of experience as a litigator and trial attorney. He has first chaired several jury trials and has extensive experience handling arbitrations, mediations, depositions, and settlements.

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Attorney Jennifer Yoo

Jennifer Yoo

Jennifer is an associate attorney at Dickson Frohlich where her current practice focuses on real estate law, contract and commercial disputes, and business law.

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Attorney Cambria A. Queen

Cambria A. Queen

Cambria is an Associate with Dickson Frohlich PS in the civil litigation department, where she practices primarily real estate and probate law.

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Attorney Katherine E. Baals

Katherine E. Baals

As an associate at Dickson Frohlich, Katherine practices in a range of areas, including real estate, construction, business, and civil litigation.

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The Differences Between Real Property and Personal Property

The ability to properly 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 on a property that increases the property’s value, like fixtures. Personal property is all property other than real property.

Our 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 important to distinguish what type of property we are talking about. Generally speaking, property falls into one of two categories: real property, which may alternatively be referred to as real estate or realty, and personal property.

Our Real Estate Attorney Explains the Definition of Real Property

Real property is what you might expect – land and improvements to the land. In its most broad sense, land encompasses any soil, ground, or earth. This may include fields, pastures, rivers, trees, bushes, marshes, or any other natural feature connected to or part of the ground. Real property is not mere earth alone, however.

Commonly, real properties contain structures on them, called improvements. Improvements are roughly defined as any permanent structure, building, or work on a property that increases the property’s value. These are not natural features of the land; they are created on or brought to the land by labor. Examples of structures or buildings under the legal definition of improvements include homes, detached garages, barns, factories, sheds, chicken coops, grain elevators, churches, strip malls, and radio towers. Work on the property under the definition of improvements may include things such as planted trees or crops, fences, canals, or man-made ponds. Fixtures are also a form of improvement – more on that later.

If you have questions about your property because you are unsure if it falls under the legal description of real property, we can help. Contact our real estate attorney to discuss your situation.

How Personal Property Is Distinguished from Real Property

Personal property, as distinguished from real property, is broadly defined as all property other than real property. Some obvious examples of personal property include books, cars, jewelry, computers, furniture, stamp collections, cell phones, and heirloom doilies. (Even currency –dollars – is considered personal property.) These types of personal property fall within the category of tangible personal property, as distinguished from 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 personal property gets attached to, essentially becoming a permanent part of, real property. This type of property is referred to as a fixture. Fixtures include things like lights, stoves, certain appliances, water faucets, or fireplaces. These items do not become part of the real estate until 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 while it is 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 of this 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 damage, in a legal sense, to that property.

Our Seattle real estate attorneys at Dickson Frohlich are trained to understand the idiosyncrasies of real estate law.

While all of this may seem a little complicated, the ability to properly categorize 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, he or she should have a strong understanding of the various differences in the character and nature of the property as a whole.

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 title (i.e., the deed). The purchase and sale agreement outlines how the parties intend to transfer title to the property. This agreement has a short lifespan, lasting only until the closing of the transaction and associated title transfer.

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 makes disclosures regarding the condition of the property 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, the seller in these cases 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 is going to be liable. If you find yourself in this situation, our Seattle real estate attorneys can advise you of your legal options.

What A Seller Is Not Responsible For

Our real estate lawyer explains the details of what responsibilities the seller does not have in a transaction.

Unless stated otherwise, a seller of real property does not implicitly establish warranties regarding the condition of the property. 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 it is sold, there must be some other instrument outside of the purchase and sale agreement to create that liability.

Furthermore, the statutes at present 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 found liable only if there was actual knowledge of the problem, and the seller wasn’t entitled to rely on the “statements of professionals.” Also, the recourses are limited from a buyer’s perspective: first, the buyer only has “three business days” from the receipt of the statement to accept the property and complete the sale or rescind the contract; second, 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); and third, the seller disclosure essentially only provides a buyer the “right of rescission” (RCW 64.06.070).

The small intricacies of the law in real estate transactions can have large implications. Rather than assume 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 keep you informed of all of your rights and responsibilities at every step in your real estate transaction.

How Easements May Affect Your Real Estate Ownership

You might think that if you own property you can prevent others from going onto it. That’s generally true, but not if there’s an easement on your property. It exists when a third party has a non-possessory right to use your property. They’re usually created through written agreements, but third parties like utility companies, cable companies, and local municipalities can establish an easement. There are some cases in which a particular type of easement could relate to your property. Learn more about easements and how our real estate attorneys can help you with issues related to them, particularly disputes.

Our Real Estate Lawyer Explains Landlord-Tenant Disputes

Residential landlord-tenant law is governed by state statutes. Dickson Frohlich real estate attorneys represent landlords and tenants throughout the Puget Sound area. Duties of a landlord include complying with local and state codes and regulations, structural maintenance, pest control, repairing and maintaining living and common areas. Tenants can respond when a

landlord doesn’t live up to their obligations but they have some of their own obligations, like timely rental payments, unit upkeep, disposing of garbage, proper use of fixtures and appliances supplied, avoiding damage beyond regular wear and tear, not engaging in crime, and avoiding activities that could harm others.

Tenants can be evicted if they breach their obligations, but the process is very technical so landlords must follow the letter of the law to remove a tenant. If you are facing a landlord tenant issue, contact our team. Our real estate attorneys know the intricacies of the law and can guide you in any real estate issue related to landlord tenant disputes.

Details about the Merger Doctrine and Real Estate Law

Conceptually, the merger doctrine paints the purchase and sale agreement of a real estate transaction 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 standing on its own.)

The merger doctrine developed over time to help parties in a real estate transaction understand how to treat the initial purchase and sale agreement obligations compared 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 deed); Failes 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 there are “collateral contract requirements” 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 obligation that the selling party has 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).

To learn how and whether the merger doctrine may apply to your situation, talk to our real estate attorney. Legal matters around the sale and purchase of real property can be highly complex. This is why it’s important to retain the services of a Seattle real estate lawyer at Dickson Frohlich who has deep knowledge of the law and experience with a wide range of cases.

Call us today for help at 206-621-1110.

How Water Laws Apply to Real Estate Transactions

Water law is little understood, but it shapes communities, infrastructure, businesses, recreation, nature, and countless other parts of our lives and culture. Washington passed the Water Code of 1917 which made state law uniform, streamlined, centralized, and gave people better mechanisms for establishing and contesting water rights. The law still is the basis of our water laws and regulations today, more than 100 years later.

If you have concerns about how the water code applies to a sale of property, talk to our Seattle real estate lawyer.

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 extremely 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 term of the mortgage loan.

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 provide professional legal assistance to clients in their individual loan modification matters and have worked extensively with lenders across the nation.

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

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 you can 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 it does get some while avoiding the costs of foreclosure. In a short sale, the lender also does not have to deal with the homeowner’s going into bankruptcy.

If you choose to pursue this option, although your credit record would be harmed, you would be able to walk away from the mortgage obligation and start over.

At Dickson Frohlich, 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.

You Can Trust Our Real Estate Lawyers in Seattle to Protect Your Rights and Interests

Whether you have questions about a real estate matter or need legal representation, call Dickson Frohlich today at 206-621-1110. Our consultation is free and we can talk about your situation, how Washington State law may apply, and your best options for moving forward.

There’s no obligation, and you can decide whether Dickson Frohlich is right for you.