Looking for real estate lawyer in Southern California

Hi all,

I am looking for referrals for a real estate lawyer to help with the sale of a modest single family home in San Bernardino that my husband inherited. A distant relative has been living there for free for years, there was never any agreement, formal or informal, beyond a "sure you can stay there, just keep the place up" by the previous owner. Given the situation and distance we want to find someone to handle the sale for us and make sure everything is properly done with the least amount of hassle. Thank you for any leads!

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Funny you should post this.  Our family is in the thick of selling our inherited property in Tujunga.

In our case, it is a private sale to a neighbor. And I am a retired, but still licensed, real estate broker, so I don't need much guidance.

From what you have written, it sounds like you are interested in putting your inherited property on the open market, whereby you will get the highest sale price. But you are concerned with the rights of the tenant in possession?  And your rights, as a landlord?

In much of LA, rent control laws are as strict as those in Berkley and Oakland. If the tenant is over 62, disabled, a long-term renter, they are "qualified" to be paid about $35,000 for relocation allowance. In Oakland they are called "a protected tenant". Google the city of Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department + Tenant Relocation Allowance.

Definitely you will get more money for the property if it is delivered vacant. Do you have this kind of money to pay the tenant before the close of escrow?  Or could you negotiate with the tenant to move out and be paid at that time?

If I were in your position and planned to expose the property to the open market, I would list it with a real estate broker rather than engaging an attorney for the purposes of the sale.

The realtor will tell you to ask a lawyer questions that are beyond the scope of real estate practice. The state bar association has a website with a service where  you can ask a lawyer a simple, targeted question or two for a small fee (like $25).

Goggle for an real estate agent who sells property in the specific vicinity of your property AND has earned a Graduate Realty Institute (GRE) designation. This is a training program that few agents bother completing; those who do are almost guaranteed to have their act together.

In our situation, for a private sale, we ended up using attorney Jean Shrem in El Cerrito, with whom we have done business before.

When we tried to find an LA real estate lawyer, we first asked a friend. The recommended attorney did not return phone messages.

Next, I went on Yelp and found five likely candidate attorneys. None worked out in the screening call.

Yelp will message lawyers, probably newer ones, and they email you back.  One guy was straightforward and quoted me his fee promptly, but when he sent the engagement letter he got our name wrong - not a good sign.

So I decided against playing Russian roulette with unknown lawyers.

However, a contract is a contract. My supposition is that using a Bay Area lawyer is not a disadvantage under our circumstances.

Escrow customs are different in SoCaL:  They use storefront escrow offices that have working relationships with mortgage brokers and Realtors.  Here the title companies handle the escrow, and are unlikely to screw up. I don't know anything about the comparative reliability of the two systems. It is rare that there is a cloud on the title - in my ten years in the business I only saw it happen three times. Chicago Title spared us some grief and charged us handsomely for doing so

Good luck with your sale! Even if the person in residence is a relative, most jurisdictions would treat them as a tenant.