Real Estate Attorneys

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  • Looking for real estate attorney to facilitate the sale of our home directly to a buyer. We found a buyer who would like to purchase our home without the typical process of putting it on the market etc. They are willing to purchase as is.

    This is appealing to us since it would save us from the costs of agent fees, fixing up home so its market ready, etc. Estimated total cost to use agent including market prep is about $150k. Would the costs of an attorney be about the same, more, or less?

    Any experiences with selling a home directly to a buyer or attorney recommendation would be appreciated. 

    We bought our house through a private sale in October 2017. We used Brett Weinstein at Realty Advocates. You don't actually need a lawyer -- they charged us a flat fee that we split with the sellers (if I remember correctly, it was $2800 each -- 5 years ago). It was super easy and painless.

    Best of luck and as someone being on the buying side, I admire you for doing a private sale -- it made it possible for us to buy a house in Berkeley!

    Sorry, this is the site for Brett's business facilitating private sales:

    In my experience, it would be substantially less. We went through a very similar process about 1.5 years ago to get our home. 

    We sold our bay area house in 2019 to a friend and used a lawyer, and it cost WAY LESS than going with a realtor. We used Greg Glaser Looks like he's charging $5,000 flat rate right now (we paid less in 2019)... He did 3-way call with the seller (us) and the buyer (our friend) to make sure we're all on the same page, we understand the process, and answered all of our questions. This was pre-covid, and Greg was already 100% remote, we never met him but the whole thing went very smoothly. 

    We used Victoria Smith in Orinda and she was great! The whole thing cost us less than $5,000. 

    We're currently using Jean Shrem to represent us in our conventional (with agent) home purchase. Jean is absolutely great. She is knowledgeable, friendly, and communicative. While we did not use her for a direct sale, her website indicates that that's actually her specialty. I highly recommend you check her out.

    Plus one for Brett Weinstein at!  He was very easy to work with and has it all lined up to be very streamlined.  Around $5k.

    Here's another recommendation for Jean Shrem. We used her for a direct, complicated sale of a Southern California income property, to the next-door neighbor.

    It all went wonderfully.  I am a licensed broker myself, and have a tendency to go down rabbit holes. Jean did not go down rabbit holes with me if she deemed them unnecessary, saving us a lot of money in the process in her billable hours.  Prior to the sale, we had to make some tricky title-transfer decisions, and she steered us in the right direction each time.

  • 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!

    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.

    Original poster here. Thank you Oaktown Celtic Mama for your lengthy and helpful response. Your experience in trying to find a lawyer made me laugh because it is just like ours (we did hire an agent for an open market sale when negotiations broke down with the people in possession). We can't even get a straight answer on whether this is a 30 day notice (tenancy at will 789) or a 60 day notice (1946) situation. We have a real hairball on our hands with this house so I appreciate all the help I can get!

  • Commercial Real Estate Attorney Needed

    (1 reply)

    As if we needed more stress, we are seeking an attorney to advise us in an issue with our landlord (commercial property) - we have been paying rent on time for over 20 years including all through the pandemic, they are elderly and being taken advantage of by a 'handyman' who has proceeded to hassle us and has stirred up all this trouble. We believe we are well within our rights but need an expert on commercial leases to guide us through, and advise us on how to proceed.

    Aaron Jackson is your guy


    I co-own our auto body shop in SF and Aaron worked with us on dealing with a few issues with our landlord. He’s very knowledgeable and is on top of it. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Real estate advisor (?)

    (1 reply)

    Looking for a real estate advisor to help advise on/navigate options with a condo inherited under a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. I say RE advisor because I am not sure if an RE attorney or agent or perhaps an estate planner would be the right person. I think experienced, fair & astute third-party advice on a possible exit strategy or other options for this property is needed. The other two individuals in the JWTOS are siblings and emotions are involved. The condo in itself is not worth a lot by Bay Area standards but it would be good to have authoritative answers to our questions, as well as options and their ramifications for us to consider. Recommendations much appreciated!

    I think real estate attorney is probably the correct professional. Maybe you and the siblings can arrange to consult with one for an hourly fee that you split, so you all get the same information at the same time.


    Someone whose spouse is living through a lot of inherited real estate drama with more to come 

  • I'd like to appeal to the Oakland Planning Commission regarding a development permit issued for a steep upslope Oakland lot that has landslide, drainage and setback issues. I am the downhill neighbor. Looking for an attorney familiar with the Oakland planning code and the commissioners. Any recommendations most appreciated!

    Look up some old agenda packets online to scan for attorneys involved in prior similar decisions.

  • I have a condo in SF that was under contract and buyer wants to break the contract but will not release the funds in escrow. Looking for a real estate attorney with experience with SF contract laws to retain. Any suggestions? Thank you! 

    We worked with Benjamin Holl for our own troubles closing, and I would definitely recommend him. benjamin [at]

  • real estate attorney for TIC agreement

    (3 replies)

    Hi all, 

    My husband and I (+ 13-month-old) are beginning to look for a home along with a close friend who's like family. We're seeking a duplex or single-family home with detached cottage and are planning to set up a TIC. Has anyone worked with an attorney specifically on a TIC agreement? What was that experience like, and would you recommend them? Thanks so much!

    We hired Lyssa Paul at Paul Law Group in San Francisco to update our TIC agreement, which was required by our lender when we sold our unit to another co-owner.  She had actually written our agreement when she worked at another law firm (Andy Sirkin's firm) 10 years before.  We did not meet in person, just talked on the phone, but I found her very efficient and knowledgeable.  She has a lot of experience with TICs, and (even more important) she has a good working relationship with the lender most TICs use and understands the lender's requirements.  The wold of TICs can be really confusing and frustrating, and I definitely recommend doing your research and finding professionals who have a lot of TIC experience.

    Our TIC experience has been miserable, but a good attorney is definitely a good place to start. I recommend Frederick Hertz in Rockridge. He knows TICs and is easy to work with. I think his hourly rate is typical for lawyers around here (which is to say, a lot).

    We used Andy Sirkin for our TIC and condo conversion.  We had an ok experience but had to really stay engaged to make things work.  I've also heard of this start up,, that essentially sounds like they are trying to productize the TIC process for a lower price.  Maybe check them out? 

    I did a TIC with a close friend and financially it is probably the best thing either of us has done.  But it was and is very stressful.  Another good friend did a TIC with three strangers and had a very negative experience.  One thing I'd recommend is that you and your friend go through each other's finances before signing anything because you guys will be tied together.

  • This is a little off-topic, but... We're very unfortunately in a boundary dispute with a neighbor. Unfortunate for both sides. Getting a survey is proving difficult  - no one, not even the surveyors, can tell where the lot lines really are around here. Would anyone know a good real estate attorney who is, in particular, experienced at the courtroom part of real estate litigation? I've been checking around, but they seem to be relatively rare bird. Thank you.

    Boundary disputes are woefully common and expensive. Nolo Press has a book, Neighbor Law. Dispute resolution begins and frequently ends with a lot line survey. Facts are facts. You say no surveyors can help? This is hard to understand since every parcel in California has a metes and bounds description in the deed. Perhaps you have a strange situation. There is a good surveyor Andres Deak, Alameda, who charges about $500 per lot line.

    As a general practitioner and estate planner I see hundreds of property deeds all with metes and bounds descriptions. Save your money, do not hire a real estate attorney to settle a boundary dispute. They can cost upwards of $20K if you go to court. 

    Try Katzoff and Riggs in Emeryville. I know they do Real Estate Law as they helped me when I had a real estate problem. They are extremely knowledgeable courtroom lawyers. I know they work with real estate owners, but I am not sure they work with individual homeowners.

  • Hi there,

    My husband and I are in the process of buying our rental house directly from the owner and are looking for a real estate attorney to create the contract and any other legal advice for this transaction.  Please let me know if anyone has any recommendations.  We have the ARAG legal insurance, so if they are part of that network, that would be great but not necessary.



    Hi Rosi,

    I can highly recommend Attorney Jean Shrem of Shrem Law, she's in El Cerrito.  We used her to do the exact same thing when we bought our home from our landlord.  She is a real estate attorney and real estate broker - which was really fantastic.  She was able to supply all of the necessary forms and walk us through the entire process which went really pretty smoothly.  We did have a hiccup but Jean was incredibly proactive and responsive and helped us navigate it, it's clear she has tons of experience and knowledge.  She was great and I would happily use her again.  I think her website is and her phone number is 510-882-9992.  In my experience she generally responds more quickly to emails than phone calls if you don't catch her when you call but she has a bunch of information on her website as well.  She has both hourly and flat fee rates, depending upon what you're looking for, we went with the full boat because we all wanted guidance and that worked well for us.

    Good luck with your home purchase.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

2010 - 2013 Recommendations

Lawyer for loan modification?

July 2013

We own a TIC with a mortgage through SunTrust. We qualify for the HAMP program. We have been trying since 2010 to modify or reduce interest rates. Suntrust has had us fax, re-fax, call this person, call that person, etc., etc for 3 years. Nightmare, and we're tired. Is it worth hiring a real estate attorney to handle this? Does anyone have info they might be able to offer, or a referral for someone. We've never been late with a payment, we're not in danger of foreclosure, but the house is worth drastically less than when we purchased, and our interest rate is 6.5% No chance of refi, since one member of TIC was laid off and is on unemployment. -- Will try anything!

Hi there, I work for a non-profit organization that deals with lending issues and I know a lot about HAMP and loan modification issues. Sorry for the troubles that you've had. The first think I would recommend is that you contact a HUD-approved housing counselor. They work a lot with people who are trying to get loan modifications and they can cut through some of the logjam. You can find one in your area through this link: There are A LOT of attorneys in this area who are unfortunately scammers who do not do anything to help, but will charge you for it. That's not to say that there are not some attorneys who are helpful in this area, but I would definitely start with a housing counselor. Did I mention they are free? If you are not finding them to be helpful, they may be able to refer you to a legitimate attorney.

Best of luck. loan mod helper

I would not hire an attorney. I have talked to neighbors and co-workers who have paid attorney's $1,700 to $5,000 and the attorney's haven't accomplished anything. (One neighbor lost his house trusting an attorney for a refi.)

We've been tying to get our house refied for two years now. It's incredibly frustrating. Sounds like you are going through the same thing we are. Someone will say you can refinance have you fill out tons of paperwork. You then submit and you hear nothing. You then follow up to find the person isn't there anymore and have to start all over again. (And they won't accept the paperwork already filled out.) A lawyer can't do anything you can't do, but will charge you a enormous hourly fee.

The only way you will get your refi company to listen to you is to bring a file a lawsuit against them. I think that would be too expensive. The other route to take is to file in small claims court for $10,000 for each person on the contract.

Allowing the mortgagee industry to self regulate is why we are in the mess we are in. ANON

I have two great referrals for you: Walter Brown is not a lawyer, but if anyone can get you a loan modification, he would be the one. He has extensive experience and is passionate about advocating for consumers, speaks in Washington on the subject, understands the relevant laws, etc. He helped us. 925-364-4439

The other referral is in fact a lawyer - does real estate and bankruptcy law - so smart, so responsive, understands the in's and out's of things, seems to care about having a good result for you. I would contact him to understand what your options are. I highly recommend him - Andrew Moher amoher [at]

I believe these are 2 great referrals and I feel lucky to have found these professionals - they are head and shoulders over others I had tried working with including: -an ex bank employee who had done loan mods (Sandra Ward) - stopped responding for long periods and so far has not returned my deposit (1 year later). -T Norman a lawyer (before they changed the law) was not a good use of time/ money. -Unity Council is free and I think well meaning but seemed to just advocate for what the bank wanted - it could have my situation but they didn't seem to advocate strongly for us. I wish you the best. veteran loan mod seeker

Real Estate consultant for contract & closing

April 2013

My wife and I are prospective home buyers for residential property in Berkeley. We are looking for a consultant who will work on an hourly basis to assist with the final contract and closing process, starting next week or the week after. I feel that the traditional realtor fees are grossly in excess of the work that is needed at this point in the sale, and would like to structure an arrangement that is more economical for us and aligned with the relatively constrained demands and limited uncertainty of this late stage transaction. If you are or know of a real estate professional interested in this type of assignment, please contact me & provide a brief description of your credentials/expertise. Thank you, Michael

A real estate attorney can finish your contract and closing, and will charge you an hourly fee. I recommend Scott Okamoto,, scott [at] He offers a free half hour consultation so you can get all of your questions answered ahead of time and go from there. Good luck! Amanda

Help seeling a plot of land in San Anselmo

March 2013

Hi, We have a piece of land in San Anselmo we would like to sell and we are looking for a realtor who could help us. The lot may have boundary issues so if they are familiar with the law or perhaps are a real estate lawyer as well, that would be ideal! Thanks for any recommendations you may have.

I think you are unlikely to find a combo real estate attorney-broker. That would be a conflict of interest. But before you sell you would want to clarify the title, whether is issue is easements or just where the boundary is. If the issue is the location of the boundary, it may just take a surveyor, although not cheap. If there are easement issues you may want to consult a real estate in the county first. Check out the California State Bar Search for a Certified Specialist in Real Estate Law. Sort by county or city. Good Luck Lynn

Real Estate Attorney familiar with Berkeley laws

March 2013

We are looking for a very good real estate attorney who is familiar with Berkeley laws in particular. Thank you. anon

I recommend John Gutierrez as a resource for Berkeley clients. 510-647-0600 Jackie

I have used Tom Eastridge with great results. I found him to be extremely professional, approachable/available (He always returned my calls), and bottom line, he won my cases. He is not one to string you along. He will tell you straight out what he can do, and give you 110%. I would use him again in a heartbeat. He can be reached at: 510-530-1700. You can tell him Ms. Beffer referred you. Ms Beffer

Real Estate Attorney for condo purchase

Jan 2013

Looking for a competent and responsive real estate attorney who could help guide me through a cash purchase of a condo, including doing the title check and advising me about the best way to set up the purchase in view of a pending divorce.

Try real estate attorney Jean Shrem ( She's also a real estate broker and knows her stuff. SP in Berkeley

Scott Okamoto, at 415-766-5871 (office) scott [at] He offers a free half-hour consultation, and has handled many of these kind of transactions. Amanda

I highly recommend you contact real estate attorney, Brian Ripley who is an expert when is comes to real estate transactions. I am a family law attorney and mediator, and have referred many of my divorce clients to Brian. He is professional, trustworthy and extremely knowledgeable on the ever-changing laws and trends in real estate. Check out his website: ariel

Looking for Lawyer For Deceptive Real Estate purchase

Dec 2012

I purchased a house and found out that the seller withheld some vital information and lied outright as well. Not sure if there is grounds for a a lawsuit, but would at least like to discuss it with a top flight lawyer who specializes in these issues. Any recommendations greatly appreciated. Thanks!! Duped

I am an attorney who went straight to David Levine with my contractual issue. If you want straightforward, non-nonsense, and firm counsel who is reasonably priced, run, don't walk, to David Levine. I went to David with my own contract issue and he was friendly, understanding and took care of business deftly and quickly. His hourly rate is lower than the big firm real estate lawyers as he operates his own business with one support staff and has a low overhead. He's a real guy, a really smart guy, and he will get it right the first time. His number is (510) 834-5533 Email is dsl [at] Hannah

Dear Duped, You are not the only person who has gone through this. I have worked with Jean Shrem who is both a real estate broker and real estate attorney who can advise you whether or not you have a case. She is an extremely unique position to be able to advise on these sorts of issues, having been an active realtor for some years after becoming a lawyer. I have not found anybody better. Good Luck. Duped Also

Looking for a Reputable Real Estate Attorney

Dec 2011

I bought a condo (new construction) almost 2 years ago and have had a few, potentially big, issues that need to be resolved with the builder. Unfortunately, I feel totally intimidated and overwhelmed by all the paperwork and am not really clear about what my rights or options are. I need someone that can give me some good, yet AFFORDABLE, legal advice and guidance. New Homeowner

Excellent real estate attorneys, husband and wife Deborah & Jeff Leon, Leon & Leon, Oakland, specialize in construction defect ligitation, smart, effective, really good. Phone 208-6600. Pat

I recommend Timothy McCormick in Walnut Creek. He provides sound advice, and can work as both a mediator as well as a litigator. He has over twenty years experience in real estate law in California. Good luck! vt

I've used Thomas Eastridge in Oakland on several occasions. His specially is real estate. I found him down to earth, fair, and very knowledgable. I felt he was really in my corner and have referred to him to several of my friends. I recommend this guy highly. His # is 510-530-1700. Email, [email protected] Dana

Jean Shrem is very ethical and reputable and is also a licensed real estate broker. 510-882-9992. Jean [at] MJ

Aggressive Real Estate Lawyer NEEDED!

July 2011

Sadly, I am in a battle with my brother over my late father's estate - which was mostly real estate. I need an aggressive and fair lawyer that has my best interest in mind. This is ideally what I would like. Any recommendations? Thank you! K

Hello, Sorry you are having to go through this. I can highly recommend Deb Graceffa. She is tenacious and is extremely helpful. I have clients who unfortunately had to use her services and she was amazing. She is aggressive but also very compassionate. Here is a link to her website: Again sorry you are having to deal with such a difficult situation and I hope you are able to get it all worked out. Good Luck! Lisa

I've used Thomas Eastridge in Oakland on several occasions and found him to be professional, fair, and someone who makes me feel like he is actually 'in my corner'. He specializes in real estate litigation. His number is 510-530-1700. Diane

Real Estate Lawyer for easement problem

June 2011

We bought a house in Oakland `one year ago and recently discovered an undisclosed easement relating to sewer laterals. Title company missed the easement and previous owners declared there were none. Because of this, we may be responsible for a large plumbing job. We need legal advice.

Contact Jean Shrem, Shrem Law Group, Jean [at], 510-882-9992. I'm a realtor and have recommended Jean for all lawyerly things real estate. She never fails to deliver. Busy Realtor

I would recommend Timothy McCormick. He has extensive experience in the area of real estate law, and has successfully handled cases involving easement issues, real estate purchases and similar issues over the past 20 years. He works in the East Bay. Highly trustworthy and experienced. Vivian

Buying home on own-- seeking real estate attorney

June 2011

Hi there, We are buying a home in Piedmont direct from the seller. As we don't have an agent representing us, we are seeking someone to review documents related to the home purchase for us. I presume a real estate attorney. If anyone has any recommendations, I welcome them. Thank you, Kim

Hi Kim, I used Jean Shrem of Shrem Law Group (510-882-9992 /Jean [at] / to help me sell my home myself. She is a real estate attorney and a real estate broker. She was fantastic and so much cheaper than using a realtor. FSBO

I would recommend Jean Shrem as a good real estate attorney. I know that she worked with Marvin Gardens Realty for some time, and has considerable knowledge in this field. Although I have not used her for this type of service, she has always been very helpful in advising me on other legal matters, and I would consider her first-rate. Tel. 510-882-9992, jean [at], Ernie

You could hire an attorney or you could also go through Realty Advocates, a local realty firm with a flat-rate $2,200 fee for taking care of all aspects of a sale. We found our own buyers when we sold our house and then asked Brett Weinstein of Realty Advocates to guide us through the process. He managed all the details of putting together the deal, went over the terms, wrote the contract and made sure all the required forms were completed correctly: opened escrow, worked with the buyer's lenders and title companies and basically supervised closing the sale. He's really conscientious and detail- oriented, and it was reassuring knowing that, as a realtor, he has errors and omissions insurance *just in case.* Fan of flat-rate legal fees

Advisor re short sale tax consequences

May 2011

We are in the process of a short sale and need advice about our phantom income tax liability (the deficiency on our 2nd mortgage being reported as income). Not sure whether we need a tax attorney or CPA. Thanks in advance. Underwater

Taxpayers who have cancellation of debt income may be excused from taxation on that income if it results from the abandonment or cancellation of debt from a personal residence when the fair market value of the property is less than the amount of debt cancelled. There is an additonal form to be filed with the 1040. Lynn

Contact Jean Shrem, Shrem Law Group, 510-882-9992, Jean [at], She knows her stuff regarding short sales, foreclosures and other types of strategic default. Anon

Seeking attorney for foreclosure advice

March 2011

Hello - I am looking for an attorney who can advise me about real estate and the ramifications of short sale or foreclosure. I am in El Cerrito, but don't mind traveling pretty much anywhere within the greater bay area for a knowledgeable person. Thanks in advance! anon

I can recommend a really good attorney for real estate tax issues or family law issues. His name is Tim McCormick and he works in the East Bay. He can be reached at 510- 421-1998 and his website is Good luck! berkeley parent

I would recommend Jean Shrem of Shrem Law Group: 510-882-9992 / Jean [at] / She is in El Cerrito and incredibly knowledgeable about these issues. anon

Attorney for loan modification problems

Jan 2011

Im having problems with a loan modification that went wrong on our Mortgage. Can still afford to make payments on the original terms of the loan modification, but cant under the new terms that a major lender decided to reneg on.. need a deligent, cost effective real estate attorney in berkeley or nearby who will truly take on our case from a clients perspective,and be a honest broker on our behalf.. Thanks

Jean Shrem is an attorney who specializes in loan modifications. I've heard her speak on the subject many times and she's really good at what she does. Her phone number is 510-882-9992. She's located in El Cerrito. LL

A very good contact is Howard Neal, if he can't help you he certainly knows who can. His contact info: (510) 339-0233; Steve

Lawyer to Help With Mortgage Motification

Aug 2010

We have a home in Albany with a REALLY bad mortgage. It's worth more than we bought it, and we have great credit and a good income, yet nobody will refinance with us. In 4 years, our payments will increase to the point where we will no longer be able to afford this already-unaffordable house. Yes, I know we got in over our heads, so no lectures, please. We would love to have the names of a few good real estate attorneys who can renegotiate this loan for us. Good credit, good income, bad mortgage

I would recommend that you contact your mortgagor directly before hiring an attorney to see if they will work with you. The loan modification process is not a legal one (although it does tend to be tedious) so it is something you can pursue on your own.

Typically, the first step would be to submit a loan modification application. Some lenders have their own forms while some use the government issued form ( You can check with your lender to see how to get started. In addition to just filling out the application you will likely need to provide them with supporting financial documentation and a hardship affidavit explaining why you need the modification.

An FYI - in my experience - banks are not granting principal reductions, but are modifying loans to a fixed rate. However, they do tend to be more willing to work with clients that have fallen behind rather than ones that are still able to make regular payments.

Finally, if you decide to hire an attorney please note that per Cal. Senate bill 94, attorneys can not accept advance fees for loan modifications. Additionally, I would not accept the services of anyone who guarantees a loan modification because, ultimately, the decision is up to the mortgagor and anyone who promises otherwise probably isn't being honest. SW

If you have good credit, you do NOT need an attorney. Contact BofA or Wells or Chase directly and work with them. You should set aside an entire day to spend on the telephone with these banks. It is a LONG and TEDIOUS process, but these days, that is what it is. As a warning, if your mortgage is well over $1M, it's much harder to find a bank to refi. In that case, you might want to get two loans, a 1st that is conforming, with a good interest rate, and the 2nd, which is non-conforming, at a much higher rate, that you can try and pay off faster.

I must assume you are in a teaser rate variable loan. New laws prevent up front charges for loan modificatins, so no one reputable does them. You are on your own! Work with your current lender A refinance is your best way out. Rates are low, but not as low as you now have. there are some no qual and streamling refinacnes that can get you down to between 4 and 5.5% rates. Henry, mortgage broker

Real Estate attorney to represent buyer in Berk

July 2010

We purchased a house in Berkeley over a year ago. The sellers stated on the sales contract one corner of the basement will become damp during heavy rains and that the rest of the basement will remain dry. It turns out they or the realtor lied. During any rain, including the first rain of the winter the basement floods with a foot or more of water or 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water. The flooding has shorted out the heater, (we had to have it replaced, ($3,000), water heater needs to be replaced from the due to the flooding, $3,500).

To fix the flooding problem we've been given estimates of $40-$50k. We've been in mediation and have an arbitration clause. The seller's realtors are being complete jerks saying the 3,000-5,000 gallons of water falls under the definition of dampness. Only a realtor would the dampness equates to a swimming pool.

I'm looking for an attorney who is familiar with real estate law to possibly represent us in an action against the seller. Any reconditions? After dealing with the seller's realtors would prefer the biggest a--hole attorney. Thanks ANON

For Real Estate issues, I recommend: Robert W. Richardson Richardson & Wilhelmy 1801 N. California Blvd., Suite 103 Walnut Creek CA 94596 925.934.7700 925.934.6090 (fax) rwr [at] Good luck! Scott, Wills, Trusts, Probate & Business Law

Well I've seen this guy in action on two different occasions and both times he worked his butt off for a win for me. He is methodical, professional, and I highly recommend him. His name is Thomas Eastridge, you can reach him at 510-530-1700. Dana

You may try Jean Shrem, who is a real estate attorney who has also worked as a real estate agent,so she knows all the aspects of your type of real estate law case, 882-9992, I think you will find her smart, assertive, and clear. Reba

I am sorry for the situation you are in. I highly recommend you talk to Deb Graceffa. Deb is a real estate attorney in Oakland. She also was a real estate agent and still holds the license. She specializes in breaches of duty by parties and realtors in real estate transactions. She is very sharp. She has a lot of experience with failure to disclose cases. Deb's number is 510 251-2000. Her email is deb [at] Good luck, Lan

Excellent real estate attorney who deals with construction defects is Jeff Leon, Leon & Leon, Oakland, phone 208-6600. Had experience

I highly recommend J.J. Minioza at my firm, Ericksen Arbuthnot. You can reach him at (510) 832-7770. Please let him know that I referred you through BPN! :-) Our firm website is if you are interested in looking into the firm and J.J. Minioza's bio/resume. Karen

Great, experienced real estate attorney in Berkeley: John Gutierrez has more than a decade of experience handling real estate law issues (planning and entitlement matters, transactional issues, property rights issues, landlord/tenant matters). He knows the law intimately, and is also very familiar with the particular interpretations and issues relevant to real estate matters in Berkeley and Oakland. (He's well known in both cities.) I highly recommend him: (510) 647-0600. - a Berkeley realtor who's used his svcs

Lawyer for strategic default

May 2010

my spouse and i are considering a strategic default on our mortgage. we would like to consult with a lawyer who can fully inform us of all the ramifications before we proceed. any recommendations? underwater and tired of holding my breath

John Gutierrez is a great local attorney who handles large and small real estate, land use/planning, and related issues, including strategic defaults. His phone number is 647-0600 and email is John [at] He's knowledgeable, accessible, and highly experienced. Lucy A

Need real estate lawyer for underwater mortgage

Jan 2010

I need a reference for a savvy, tell-you-how-it-is, real estate lawyer. I would like to seek advice on what to do with our house now that it's underwater. Thank you in advance. T

I have a great lawyer based in Walnut Creek and San Francisco. She is a wonderful person. Her name is Angela de la Housaye. Her number is 925-944-3300. Debbie H

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Real estate attorney for home warranty issues

Aug 2009

We would like some recommendations on a real estate attorney preferably in East Bay or San Francisco and is familiar with home warranty issues with homebuilders and residential property transactions. We prefer to work with someone who is experienced, approachable, not pushy, and patient with his clients.

I recommend you talk to Chad Gallagher at Miller Starr Regalia. The firm specializes in real estate and property law (they wrote THE book used by most law schools). Chad is a transactional attorney who takes care of his clients and has a great temperament. Chad A. Gallagher MILLER STARR REGALIA T 925-935-9400 cag [at] Good luck

Alice Akawie is great. Very clear, responsive, not pushy. Her office is in downtown Oakland. 510-874-7200. k

I highly recommend Chris Teng at Guichard, Teng and Portello in Concord. Chris has years of experience and really cares about his clients. He is very cost conscious on behalf of his client and tries to resolve the issue at hand with efficiency but without compromising integrity. He's a nice guy with a great sense of humor as well! He can be reached at 925.459-8440 or email at cteng [at] Website: Marika

Real estate attorney for Vacation Home Partnership

May 2009

We are looking for a Real Estate Attorney that has experience writing Vacation Home Partnerships. We purchased a cabin in Twain Harte with a partner and are now seeking to get everything down in writing. Any recommendations would be most welcome. 50/50 Partners

I recommend attorney, Robert Jacobs @ My partner and I found him to be knowledgeable. He answered all our questions in a manner easy to understand. We were very satisfied with his service. We will return to him whenever legal real estate questions arise in the future. Bertha

For real estate legal questions I have a wonderful lawyer, Kendall Patton. Formerly in SF, he now work at CARR McCLELLAN INGERSOLL THOMPSON & HORN, in Burlingame. He has assisted me in several different areas of real estate law. I have found him consistently well informed, helpful, and timely, as well as just being an all around nice person. I recommend him without reservations. And he does work with vacation home partnerships (I checked with him before writing this). If you are interested, please contact him at: Kendall Patton kpatton [at] (650) 696-2522 Good luck, Caroline

Real estate attorney for tax issues with joint purchase

Sept 2008

Looking for a real estate attorney. We're looking at buying a home in Berkeley with my parents (a gift from them for a down payment or buying the house together, or another plan). We're looking for a real estate attorney that's creative, knows the tax issues with joint purchases and can help us decide the best approach. In the East Bay would be helpful. Thanks.

Thomas Eastridge @287-9651, in Oakland. Hard working, ethical (really), and if he can't help you, he will refer you to someone who can. He has handled several matters for me and I highly recommend him. Isen

I would highly recommend Rick Addicks. (415) 883-0365. He is a lawyer and a real estate broker. He's also a part time fire fighter and a nice guy. He knows real estate law really well. He is also the only lawyer I've ever met who has called me on a weekend to do business! He is thorough and has a great eye for detail. He is based in Marin but I do all of my work with him over the phone. I bought a cheap paper scanner and just email him copies of my documents that I want reviewed. He helped me to sell a property in Marin and buy a property in Berkeley. I didn't use a real estate broker. It cost me about $5000 in legal fees, but I saved over $50,000 in broker fees. For purchasing a house, the strategy he and I used was to bid lower than price I actually wanted pay, but credit that amount (my broker's fee) back to the seller. The net payment to the seller is exactly the same, and the purchase price is also less meaning lower property taxes. You will have to do more work but you can save a lot of money. Steve

For the poster looking for a good real estate attorney, call Brian Ripley! Boy has he ever saved me. Brian Ripley, Esquire ripleyesq [at] 415-725-8947 (the area code isn't east bay but Brian is in Oakland) jessica

Real estate attorney for construction defects

Sept 2007

I was looking to find a good Real Estate Attorney that specializes in construction defects and nondisclosures. Lisa

Lisa- You didn't provide many details about your situation, but I suggest calling the Shannon B. Jones Law Group at 925-835-2315. The firm specializes in real estate litigation, including construction defect and disclosure issues. Here is a link to the website: I also work for the firm and find the attorneys extremely knowledgeable and experienced. Good luck. Hannah

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Need legal help with real estate contract

June 2006

We're planning to subdivide the Oakland property our house is on and essentially sell our backyard to our neighbor. (I know, it's an unusual situation -- we happen to have a large, double lot and we don't use it.) We're looking for an attorney specializing in real estate to help us draft a private contract with our neighbor, who wants to purchase the property. Does anyone have any reference to a professional who does NOT charge exorbitantly and works in the East Bay? We already have a buyer, so I'd like to avoid paying a big commission to a real estate agent if we can anon

I recommend Joanna Kozubal- you can call her to inquire at 415- 350-9967. My husband is a mortgage broker and refers his clients to her. allison ag_g

I know a wonderful real estate attorney in Oakland, Thomas Eastridge. His phone # is 510.287.9651. He looks over all of my real estate contracts and I have found him to be thorough, conscientious, and a hell of a nice guy.

I will recommend Deb Graceffa. She is both a realtor and attorney and she locates in Oakland by Embarcadero. You can contact her at deb[at] or 510-459-7623. She is great. Dianne W

Real estate attorney to help us sell our house ourselves

March 2006

My wife and I are in need of a real estate attorney to help us draw up the proper paperwork for selling our home ourselves. We would like to work with someone who has a proven track record and is in the Richmond/Pinole area. jts

Try Gregory Lewis. He's both an attorney who knows real estate law and he's a licensed real estate broker... so it's a two for one. I have not hired him, but rather my husband knows him professionally and I know him socially. He is really honest, easy going, and smart (UC Berkeley grad, Stanford MBA, and USF Law). He's done ''For-Sale By Owners'' work in the East Bay and San Francisco since 1989.
Gregory Lewis (510) 245-2633 125 University, Berkeley, CA 94710

Commercial Property Attorney

July 2002

Can anyone recommend a good commercial property attorney in Berkeley/Oakland? I need to sell my portion of a family restaurant and need honest, solid guidance. Thanks. Bridget

For issues regarding personal and commercial real estate, I highly recommend Jim Fisher (2340 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606, (510) 834-0396). He has extensive (15+ years) experience in many areas of real estate law. Moreover, he is very honest and thorough in his work. If he isn't the best person for the case, he will provide you with referrals. SJ

In response to the person looking for a commercial real estate attorney and in response to an older listing from someone looking for an attorney for a dispute with a previous homeowner, I highly recommend Charles Bronitsky. His office is in Redwood City and phone number is 650-780-3500. My husband and I purchased a house about 2 years ago and incurred major expenses for something we felt should have been disclosed. We began with one attorney who charged $$$ and merely made a few phone calls. Concerned about escalating expenses, we switched to Charlie. He was up front with us, kept the process moving, and offered sound advice, all the while being conscious of our limited budget for his services. We proceeded toward mediation and when the other side became unreasonable, started to head to arbitration. Charlie managed to negotiate a satisfactory settlement for us before things escalated further. We were able to handle everything by phone and email and did not have to go to Redwood City to meet him or pay for his time for a trip to the East Bay. We will definitely use him again if the need arises. Happy to no longer be in legal limbo

March 2002

Can anyone recommend a good commercial property attorney in Berkeley/Oakland? I need to sell my portion of a family restaurant and need honest, solid guidance. Thanks. Bridget

Call the Tarpoff & Talbert realtors in Oakland (655-3001) and explain your problem. We had a major problem with a deal last year and called them on the off chance they knew someone, since they write such a useful column in the local weekly papers. They gave us the name of an attorney, whom we ended up not using for reasons that had NOTHING to do with him, but I was very impressed with him. He was on vacation in Newfoundland and responded to my voicemail within a few hours and offered to help long distance. Didn't save his name so I can only suggest you start where we did. Good luck.

For commerical real estate issues, contact Andy Cohen at Janin, Morgan & Brenner (415) 981-0670. He is very experienced, honest, and extremely thorough. He and his partner, Peter Wohlfeiler, both have 18+ years in the field and have seen virtually every situation and resolved almost every type of real estate issue. I recommend them without reservation. egc

Attorney for undisclosed problems in recently-purchased house

Jan 2004

We are looking for a real-estate lawyer, preferrably in the Lamorinda area. We recently purchased a home in Lamorinda, but have come to realized that there are some issues that we are faced with, which were never disclosed to us. We would like to know what our rights and options are. Thanks. Anon

I would recommend:
Marshall A. Johnson Law Office of Marshall Johnson D/A Financial Building 3 Altarinda Road, Suite 201 Orinda, California 94563 marshall at
He has worked on issues such as yours, and he is very upfront and honest about possible outcomes, approaches, etc. sj

2003 & Earlier

July 2003

I am searching for a good real estate lawyer in the East Bay to take on a case involving my home (defective construction and lack of disclosure by seller.) I would appreciate it if you could indicate the basis of your recommendation. Jy

My husband and his partner are real estate lawyers who were corporate counsel for Fidelity National Title before going into private practice. They handle everything from boundary disputes to construction defects. Give them a call: Cliff Baker and Jeff Beeby, Baker & Beeby, 510/531-4115. Dashka

I highly recommend Walter K. Pyle, Attorney at Law. He handles real estate/construction litigation. He is a very skilled lawyer with whom I've had experience. He knows how to take a case to trial but is a skilled negotiator. He is very intuned to his clients. He's very honest and thorough and his credentials are quite impressive. I know he's handled many non-disclosure cases with a good success rate. Give him a call. His office is in Downtown Berkeley. (510)849-4424 A professional collegue.

I recommend my husband, Sterling Johnson. He's a great lawyer. He has 25 years experience in construction contract disputes in the Bay Area. He's also been teaching legal aspects of construction contracting, on and off for the past 20 years, at the Building Education Center in Berkeley. In his law practice Sterling does an excellent job of working with his clients to to identify and choose legal strategies that match his client's value systems. He can be reached at 510 632 0225 or sterlingjo [at] Maryann

I highly recommend Walter K. Pyle, Attorney at Law for real estate and construction matters. His office is in downtown Berkeley -- (510)849-4424. He is a really good lawyer with impressive credentials who is thorough, knowledgeable, and really interested in his clients. He is an experienced litigator who is able to take a case to trial if necessary but also can capably negotiate settlements. I've witness his success, and can't say enough good things about him. Satisfied and saying so!

August 2002

I am in need of a Real Estate Lawyer. I recently purchased a home, that now, after only 2 months of residing in is showing major stuctural problems which will cost me a tremendous amount. After having an engineer examine cracking in the foundation and exterior stucco, I have decided to take legal action on the grounds of information undisclosed during the purchase process. My realtor - Coldwell Banker is doing very little to nothing to help. Does anyone have any advice or recommendations for a real estate lawyer? Diana

One of the top real estate attorneys in No. California is Richard Goodman, Esq. (Oakland directory) I have used him for the obstructed sale of a high-end condo (the homeowners' assn. had abandoned their fiduciary resp. in fixing the communal courtyard), reinforcing a surveyed property line, and making a gen. contractor make financial reparation on some damage and incompetence. Besides being an excellent attorney, who will also tell you if you shouldn't pursue legal action because of a baseless claim, opposing counsel tends to ''throw in the towel'' when they see his name--he is that good and reknown. He is very much worth the cost, and often your homeowners will kick in for some of the legal expenses. Tell him Danna sent you. G Danna

March 2002

We are seeking an experienced attorney in the field of real estate. Our problem is that after we bought our home we found that the sellers had failed to disclose some major problems with the property - one of which has cost us 10's of thousands of dollars to rectify. In some cases they told us out right lies. We need someone who has been down this road before and can tell us if we have a case and can pursue it. The previous sellers and their realtor are pretty aggressive people so we need someone who can deal with that type of personality. thanks. Anonymous

We found a great real estate lawyer in Berkeley who helped us through a very difficult situation. His name is John Gutierrez - 510-644-1904. I highly recommend him!

I used Bob Sheldon of Sheldon and Mankin in Walnut Creek to represent me in a similar situation to the one you describe. He can be reached at 925 935-0300 or at rsheldon at The strength of your case will depend on what was disclosed to you by the seller and the seller's agent, what inspections you yourself made to find out about the condition of the property and what you can show the seller had prior knowledge of and did not disclose to you. Mary.

I'm a trial lawyer with experience in real estate litigation matters. One of the cases I am currently handling is a suit by the purchaser of a condominium and a homeowner's association against the seller of the condo for failing to disclose extensive dry rot and for having work performed without a valid permit (in spite of disclosures that assured the potential buyers that all work was done pursuant to valid permits and in compliance with all applicable building codes). I would be happy to talk with you about your case. If it is as you say and there were deliberate misrepresentations (and if we could prove them), you may well have a case worth pursuing. Feel free to give me a call to discuss it. TEL: 510-845-6442

For issues regarding personal and commercial real estate, I highly recommend Jim Fisher (2340 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606, (510) 834-0396). He has extensive (15+ years) experience in many areas of real estate law. Moreover, he is very honest and thorough in his work. If he isn't the best person for the case, he will provide you with referrals. SJ

I recommend Barry Gross in Oakland. He's very experienced, came highly recommended, & was very helpful to me. 834-5020. Tell him I referred you from this Parents Network. Good luck! Vicki

Attorney to draft a private contract among loan cosigners

Feb 2000

Attorney specializing in real estate needed to draft a private contract among loan cosigners/nominal purchasers of a house. Does anyone have any reference to a professional who does not charge exorbitantly and works in the East Bay? Referrals to a good referral service also welcome. Vera

My name is Kari Erickson Levine, and I work with Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather and Geraldson in San Francisco. However, I live Berkeley. I have extensive experience in Real Estate and Construction law. Please give me a call and we can talk about your case. I can be reached at 415.397.2823 during business hours, and at 510.848.1494 during the evenings. I hope to talk to you.