I recently scaled back on my residential real estate closings, so that I can practice real estate law. Confusing? Let me explain.
My real estate practice includes commercial, agricultural, and industrial transactions and disputes, land use/zoning, tax appeals, foreclosure, farming, landlord/tenant, and environmental issues. This is in addition to counseling businesses in formation, contracts, regulatory compliance, and disputes. I also represent both property owners and contractors in construction contracts, compliance, violations, and disputes. This work requires detailed attention to and knowledge of complex matters.
For years I have also enjoyed assisting homeowners with the purchase or sale of their homes. I have developed a trusted network of lenders, realtors, and title companies. I have answered many calls from realtors looking for advice on properties prior to listing, such as issues with open permits, cesspools, distressed properties, easements, title concerns, underground storage tanks, and similar. I enjoy helping homeowners and realtors. I still take these calls and make these referrals.
However, the market for residential transactions (in New Jersey) demands that attorneys bill at flat fees that substantially undervalue the role of the attorney and the time expected from realtors and homeowners. Even with well trained paralegals, my sense of responsibility (and ethics) as an attorney compels me to give these transactions equal attention to my more complex matters. However, this investment of my time and staff in residential closings prevents me from taking more complex transactions for which I am fairly paid.
Every client is important to me. We have staff, systems, and hard work at play to responsibly and effectively route all updates, deliver our services, and appropriately respond. And yet, residential matters are consistently the least forgiving when it comes to matters beyond our control, demand the most attorney involvement in non-legal questions, and have the highest expectations for immediate response, even when a matter is not time sensitive. Occasionally, my clients and/or I have been pressured to ignore details in order to get a deal to closing and protect a realtor’s commissions. This simply does not work for me, and I’ve stepped on some toes doing what I believed to be right for my clients. While I can handle this, it takes my time away from more productive advising. I have also figured out who I trust, and will refer attorneys, realtors, lenders, and related professionals who I believe share my commitment to putting the client’s legal best interests first.
Real estate remains one of my busiest and most rewarding areas of practice. Since I entered law school in 1997, I have focused on real estate, land use, zoning, environmental, municipal, regulatory, and business issues. Even through the real estate crash of the last decade, I remained committed to real estate and successfully grew my practice in New Jersey. My firm is often called to attend to complex issues that have emerged from “simple” residential matters. And, we still handle a limited number of residential closings for existing clients negotiating a fair fee.
There are many attorneys out there handling high volumes of residential closings with a client service model that works and which I respect. For me, limiting residential closings allows me to truly enjoy my real estate practice, give all clients the attention they deserve, better balance work/life, and experience more satisfaction as an attorney.
In the meanwhile, if you are buying or selling a home in New Jersey, here are some articles just for you.
Nicole L. Voigt, New Jersey Attorney at Law, is a founding Partner at Shanahan & Voigt, LLC, and offers both transactional and litigation services, primarily focused on business, real estate, land use & zoning, environmental, foreclosure, farming, construction, landlord tenant, and contract matters. Ms. Voigt services include commercial, agricultural, and industrial real estate transactions and closings, lease negotiation, land use/zoning applications, tax appeals, land preservation, easements and boundary disputes, and environmental issues including regulatory closures, due diligence, and liability for contaminated sites. Ms. Voigt offers counsel in business formation and contracts; asset purchase; regulatory compliance; and business disputes. Ms. Voigt is experienced with private construction matters, representing both property owners and contractors regarding compliance, violations, disputes, and contract negotiation and disputes. Ms. Voigt has appeared in state and municipal courts, as well as administrative hearings at the local and state level, including municipal planning/zoning boards, construction board of appeals, state licensing boards, board of taxation, warranty arbitration, and the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Voigt is a court appointment mediator in the landlord-tenant and special civil part divisions, trained in collaborative law, and is pursuing her certification as an accredited civil mediator.
Ms. Voigt’s firm provides comprehensive services. In addition to Ms. Voigt’s business and real estate practices, the firm offers elder law and Medicaid planning/disputes; estate planning including wills, trusts, powers of attorney and living wills; estate administration and probate; municipal court matters; education law; employment law; general litigation; and arbitrations and mediations.