The privileges you get as a homeowner are, in a famous legal
metaphor, your bundle of rights. Why the metaphor makers didn’t choose
an enchilada is anyone’s guess. It certainly would have spiced up law school
In any case, what’s in a real estate deed matters. If your
bundle is missing a few sticks, so to speak, you might not get to use your
property as planned. You could need to negotiate or compromise with another
party. You might learn that someone else has a conflicting interest and
possibly always will.
Ideally, the buyer of a home with a clear title receives
complete ownership and the prerogative to use it as desired. In reality, things
get complicated. Here are six of the most significant rights you can have:
What will make land developments competitive in the years
ahead? Several new concepts are taking shape: a shift to electric vehicles, solar
roofs, technology for home-based productivity, and personal amenities that
support an integrated sense of well-being.
Builders are now choosing internet-connected heating and
cooling. Buyers are touring homes with sensors and voice control technologies
to turn the lights and entertainment systems on and off. And, especially since
the pandemic, we’re seeing in-home fitness equipment that keeps track of our
exercise and health data, allows us to take virtual hikes any place in the
world, and even connects us virtually with live coaches.
Some of the most intriguing innovations involve housing —
and entire developments — becoming energy producers. Let’s take a closer look
at some trendsetters at work.
As a traditional rule of law, other people shouldn’t be able
to restrict our enjoyment and use of our property. This is why the rule
against perpetuities prevented people from using deeds to control their properties
after their deaths. According to this traditional rule, future generations
should not have to live with contingencies placed on them by someone else’s
It’s part of a broader principle: the rule against
unreasonable restraints on alienation. After property is conveyed, the new
owner should have full rights to it. A previous owner shouldn’t control how or
to whom the new owner sells or rents it out. So, a court might nullify a deed restriction
that forbids a homeowner from renting the house. Or the court might override a
restriction on a gift house that the recipient can’t sell, alter, or share.
The original rule throughout most states was that no
restraint on alienation would be upheld. Policies have changed. The rule
against perpetuities has been modified by many states and repealed by a few.
And today, the courts of most states typically leave reasonable
restraints on alienation in place. What’s reasonable? That depends upon the facts
and circumstances of a particular case.
Some deed restrictions are relatively minor: no keeping of
exotic animals; certain colors of paint to preserve the character of the
neighborhood; and so forth. No matter how minor or sweeping, a deed restriction
is a binding contract. By signing the closing paperwork, the buyer agrees to
abide by it.
In some contexts, deed restrictions are generally considered
reasonable across the board, and owners must accept them and live with them. Here
are some of the most common examples.
Something strange happened in Philly early in 2014. The late
Norman Johnson signed a deed from the grave, transferring a South Philadelphia
rowhouse for only $15,000 to Amen Brown. Dawn Presbery, the daughter of the deceased
and the home’s real owner, fought for two years to recover the deed.
In some cases like this, the D.A. prosecutes, and the person
named on the deed ultimately has to sign a new deed to restore the title to its
rightful owner. Here, the forgery was pursued in the criminal courts, but the
case against Brown was thrown out.
Brown claims to have parted with the $15,000 at the urging of a scammer on Craigslist. But regardless of Brown’s story, as Max Marin noted for Billy Penn, it’s astonishing that even criminal charges didn’t induce Brown to return the house title to its rightful owner.
The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas finally ordered the forged deed returned to Dawn Presbery. Later, with remarkable chutzpah, Brown won an election to Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, assumed office on December 1, 2020, and set out this year to pass tough-on-crime bills and to defend the rights of homeowners to keep their homes.
July, 2021 — Real
estate has long functioned as a store of equity value that owners can exchange for
money, loans and lines of credit. Yet the typical real estate transaction is associated
with a cumbersome, bureaucratic, and fee-heavy process that every homeowner is
greatly relieved to finish.
There are other ways to invest in real estate that do not
take the same level of personal involvement and work as direct purchases of real
estate do. In other words, investments in buildings and land can be more
liquid. In addition to investing in and financing one’s own property, it’s
possible to invest in real estate exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and real estate
investment trusts (REITs) through stock brokerage accounts, including
individual retirement accounts.
In 2021, FHA home loans are once again attainable for hundreds
of thousands of young beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA). Brought to the country as young children, DACA recipients are called Dreamers
because they received temporary conditional residency, Social Security numbers,
and work permission under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien
Minors (DREAM) Act.
Dreamers have grown up in the United States. They consider
it home. To be DACA-eligible, they’ve studied for a diploma or G.E.D., or
performed military service. Under DACA, they may continue to study and hold
jobs without deportation fears.
Most Dreamers are now in their 20s and 30s — a time in life
when many young adults consider buying houses. And now, many more can.
It’s a sign of the coming times. Hawaii’s Senate Bill 474 has
amended the state’s flood hazard disclosure rules for residential real estate.
Disclosures now must include sea level rise exposure, in alignment with hydraulic
and hydrological data from the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and
Gov. David Ige signed the bill on July 2, 2021. One of the
other bills signed on the same day was House Bill 243, which directs state
agencies to take sea level rise into account in infrastructure plans.
These bills are among the latest steps Hawaii has taken to
meet the goals of its 2050 Sustainability Plan and the capacity of future
generations to thrive.
Thinking of buying a house with your partner? Many unmarried
couples decide to live together, often co-owning their homes. Here are some questions
to consider if you’re thinking of making a similar commitment.
Will One Partner Take Out the Mortgage? Or Will You Be Co-Borrowers?
When unmarried couples apply for a mortgage, the partner
with stronger credit may opt to be the sole buyer. This can lead to the best
possible loan terms and rates.
Alternatively, the couple can apply for a mortgage in both
names and pay it off from a joint bank account. Buying a home together, as co-borrowers,
may seem to strengthen the couple’s borrowing power. Yet it can do the opposite.
A lender will look at the lower of the two credit scores to make approval
Moreover, co-borrowers need to refinance the loan if they
later stop co-owning and put the title into only one of their names. Handling a
home loan jointly can complicate the couple’s future if the relationship