• Illinois State Bar Association
  • Chicago Realtors
  • The Chicago Bar Association

FAQs

REAL ESTATE LAW FAQS

A title examination is a study of the records related to the ownership history of the property and sometimes of other matters related to ownership interests in the property. An abstract of title is a collection of public records relating to the ownership of a parcel of real estate. During the examination a title examiner reviews the applicable title information to determine who owns the lands, whether there are any defects in or claims against the ownership and whether any action is needed to make sure the purchaser obtains good record title to the property at closing.

A survey is a drawing of the property which should show any improvements to the property (such as buildings, driveways and the like), the boundary lines of the property, and any encroachments affecting the property (whether items encroaching on the property by third parties or encroachments by the property against a neighboring property). What details are included in a survey depends entirely on what was required of the surveyor in the contract hiring the surveyor, and what is implied by the certification the surveyor gives on the face of the survey. Surveyors have the ability, if asked, to certify many things, such as: (i) whether the improvements are all located within the boundary lines; (ii) in which flood zone the property is located; (iii) whether the structures are in compliance with applicable setback and height laws; or (iv) whether the property has access to a public right of way. Encroachments on the property may include: (i) utilities (such as water, cable, electricity, and telephone lines) and easements for them; (ii) another party’s right to enter upon your property (such as a common driveway that the property may share with a neighboring property); or (iii) structures not being conveyed with the purchase of the property that are on the property and should not be (such as the fence belonging to a neighboring property owner). Residential lenders usually require that a survey be obtained prior to closing, because a survey is the only document in a closing which confirms that the legal description in the deed matches the piece of property the buyer expects to receive with that deed. In some instances, if the current owner of the property has a recent survey of the property the lender will accept such survey (or perhaps a current recertification of the prior survey so long as there are no new substantial improvements to the property) and new survey costs may be reduced.

Typically, the seller does not guarantee how the area surrounding the property will be used. Some purchase agreements ask the seller to warrant what the seller knows about surrounding property uses that might interfere with the use of the home, but many do not. If a buyer is concerned, he or she should contact the property appraiser or tax collector for the county in which the property is located and determine who owns the surrounding land, or speak to the zoning or planning department of your local municipality prior to purchasing the property to understand how surrounding uses may affect you. The title commitment only discloses information about the property being purchased and does not attempt to inform the buyer about surrounding uses. Sometimes a survey will identify the owners of any immediately adjacent parcels. The purchaser needs to take responsibility for finding out what uses may affect him or her. The buyer can ask the neighboring property owners if they know of plans to develop land surrounding the property. The buyer may also wish to talk with the building or zoning office of the local municipality to confirm the zoning of surrounding property so as to know what kinds of uses might be made in the future, although zoning can be changed.

Financing a property is the standard method by which individuals and businesses can purchase residential and commercial real estate without the need to pay the full price in cash up front from their own accounts at the time of the purchase. Financing for non-residential real estate is generally obtained from a bank, insurance company or other institutional lender to provide funds for the acquisition, development, and operation of a commercial real estate venture. Commercial financing loans are secured primarily by real estate and related assets owned by the debtor. Assets used to collateralize commercial finance loans, aside from the real estate, may include fixtures, equipment, bank and/or trade accounts, receivables, inventory, general intangibles, and supplies. Documents evidencing and securing the loan typically include: loan agreements, promissory notes, mortgages or deeds of trust, assignments of rents and leases, financing statements, environmental indemnity agreements, guaranties, subordination, non-disturbance and attornment agreements, estoppel certificates, and other ancillary documents..