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The subject of Real Estate Law can be divided into three general categories:

  1. Real Estate Transactions
  2. Real Property (Land Law)
  3. Landlord Law & Tennant Rights


Real estate transaction laws encompass numerous federal statutes as well as state statutory and common law. Requirements set forth in state law usually will vary from state to state. Real estate brokers are employed as the agent of the seller. The mission of the broker is to secure a buyer for their property at the highest possible selling price. The contract between the broker and seller is known as a listing agreement. The listing agreement may be an open agreement which allows the broker to earn a commission only in the event that the broker actually finds a buyer for the property.

A listing is considered to be exclusive if there is only one assigned broker that is eligible to receive a commission for finding a buyer. Under an exclusive arrangement a realtor or broker may be entitled to commissions even if the the buyer is located without the assistance of the broker. Real estate brokers and agents are required to be licensed, and are regulated by their local state laws. Professional real estate trade organizations also publish specific guidelines to which their members are expected to comply. The trade organizations may often be used mediate in the case of a dispute with a real estate broker or agent.

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The Federal Fair Housing Act strictly prohibits discrimination in real estate transactions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Real estate brokers are specifically prohibited from discriminating by the act.

The agreement to sell between a buyer and seller of real estate is governed by the general principles of contract law. The Statute of Frauds requires that contracts for real property be in writing.

It is typically required in real estate contracts that the title to the property being sold is marketable. This means that the seller has proof of title to the property he is selling, and specifies that third parties do not have undisclosed interests (i.e. a property lien) in the title.

A title insurance company or Real Estate Attorney is usually employed by the buyer to confirm that the title is, in fact, marketable. Title insurance companies will also insure the buyer against losses caused by the title being invalid.

In order to pass title to the property, a deed with a proper description of the land must be executed and delivered. Some states require that the deed be officially recorded to establish ownership of the property and/or provide notice of its transfer to subsequent purchasers.

The most common method of financing real estate transactions is through Mortgage Loans.


Property signifies dominion or right of use, control, and disposition which one may lawfully exercise over things, objects, or land. One of the basic dividing lines between property is that between real property and personal property. Generally, the term real property refers to land. Land, in its general usage, includes not only the face of the earth but everything of a permanent nature over or under it. This includes structures and minerals.

There are further sub-divisions within the real property category. The most significant are freehold estates, nonfreehold estates, and concurrent estates. (Others include future interests, specialty estates, and incorporeal interests). Freehold estates are those in which an individual has ownership for an indefinite period of time. An example of a freehold estate is the "fee simple absolute", which is inheritable and lasts as long as the individual and his heirs wants to keep it. Another example is the "life estate", in which the individual retains possession of the land for the duration of his or her life. Nonfreehold estates are property interests of limited duration. They include tenancy for years, tenancy at will, and tenancy at sufferance. Concurrent estates exist when property is owned or possessed by two or more individuals simultaneously.

Generally, states have exclusive jurisdiction over the land within their borders, and the law concerning the kind of interests that can be held and how they are created is not subject to federal law.

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