Homeownership has always held an important place in American history. In many ways, it’s part and parcel of the classic “American Dream.” From the days when homesteaders claimed land and territory, to the housing boom spurred on by the G.I. Bill, and all the way to today, there has always been a unique lure to the prospect of owning a home, and all that entails.

Even today, following the Great Recession, homeownership is still front of mind for millions of Americans, including Millennials. In fact, a recent report indicates that 72% of millennials  consider owning a home to  be one of their top priorities in life – above even getting married or traveling the world. Similarly, among people who hope to buy a home, a full 38% say that they intend to get started within the next two years, and another 36% plan on purchasing within three to five years.

And as for the value of homeownership? Beyond building wealth, Americans see owning a home as a way to move forward in life, and achieve important goals. According to data from Bankrate, for instance, Americans from many different backgrounds and walks of life see owning a home as a way to improve their housing conditions, as a broad sign of social status, as a way to become a better citizen, as a way to engage in their community, and as so much more.

What we’re getting at here is that real estate means a lot to people, here in Chicago and around the country. It holds importance and cultural weight that goes beyond the financial. People view owning a home or purchasing land as an investment in their future. To many, owning a home is about finding a place to grow, to raise a family, to develop a community.

So, with all this in mind, it’s important to ask: Given the tangible and intangible value of real estate, what steps can property owners take to protect their investment, should a conflict or a dispute ever arise?

Often, these matters are going to fall under the purview of real estate law.

But “real estate law” – well, that’s a broad term. What does it really mean? And how does it apply to you?

Here’s how legal information site FindLaw describes this important concept:

“The legal definition of real estate or real property is land and the buildings on it. Real estate law governs who may own and use the land… This simple concept includes a wide range of different legal disciplines.

First, real estate may be either residential or commercial. It can be owned by one person but used by another through rental arrangements. Land can be bought or sold, and due to its high value, there are many local laws that ensure real estate transactions are properly performed and recorded. Land may also pass between family members through estate planning, or may be owned by more than one person. Finally, state and local governments have rules concerning the purposes for which land may be used — for example, each plot of land must be used according to local zoning laws, and landowners may not damage the surrounding environment.

Meanwhile, Black’s Law Dictionary defines “real estate” as:

“Real estate includes the land and anything fixed, immovable, or permanently attached to it such as buildings, walls, fixtures, improvements, roads, trees, shrubs, fences, roads, sewers, structures, and utility systems.”

In practical terms, then, real estate law would refer to the legal side of anything having to do with those features – from full homes, to easement rights, to zoning disputes, and more.

The bottom line?

Real estate is complex, multifaceted – and incredibly meaningful. There are a lot of limits and rules around it, including regulations that vary from state to state, or even city to city. Here in Chicagoland, for instance, there are many different real estate laws specific to our area, including lease and rental agreement laws, security deposit laws, commercial development laws, and many more.

Meanwhile? It’s important to remember that, when it comes to many different real estate matters – from buying or building a house, to converting commercial properties to residential, to developing a skyscraper that will forever change the Chicago skyline – putting the paperwork together properly, and ensuring that it gets to the right people, at the right time, can make all the difference when it comes to moving your project forward. In many cases, how your paperwork is put together can significantly impact you in the long-term, including tax liabilities, access to cash when you need it, estate transitions, and so much more.

At the same time, remember that there are many different parties and groups that will be important to your real estate goals – real estate brokers, insurance agents, zoning boards, historical commissions, licensing boards, easement granters… We could go on.

In many cases, having an experienced real estate attorney on your side can help make it easier to get a handle on all of these moving parts, and secure your dreams for the future.

Have any questions? Looking for guidance on a real estate matter, big or small? At the Gunderson Law Firm, our full range of real estate legal services includes:

  • Residential Real Estate
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Purchases and Sales
  • 1031 Tax-Free Exchanges
  • Mortgage Conveyancing & Advice
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Title Insurance
  • Title Examinations & Disputes
  • Asset Protection / Trusts
  • Estate Planning / Wills
  • Reverse Mortgages
  • Property Development
  • Condominium Law
  • Foreclosures

Want to get the conversation started? Want to discuss your personal situation in more depth? The attorneys and staff of the Gunderson Law Firm would be happy to help. Our team possesses significant expertise and insight on all things real estate law, reinforced by years of experience and long-term connections throughout Chicago’s real estate, finance, and insurance industries. Don’t hesitate to get in touch or give us a call today.