Re-zoning Ordinances = Regulatory Takings?

Starting a business or opening a new office building can be a trying experience.  This is true even before you factor in the possibility of a re-zoning ordinance that will render your business plans fruitless.  When this unsettling scenario comes to fruition, there are some landowners who have fought back, claiming that this action is a regulatory taking requiring just compensation [1] – but can this argument prevail?  With some cases decided and others pending, the picture of re-zoning as a regulatory taking is beginning to take shape, though the view is far from clear.

To illustrate this problem, look at the case of Dianna Reagan who owned a steel services business and decided to build a new office building. [2]  She consequently bought 4.7 aces of land for $134,000 and spent the next two years planning her new facility. [3]  The land that Reagan bought was zoned industrial in

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The Luxury Housing Market: Thriving in a Time of General Decline

In a time where most real estate markets have declined and many experts argue that the bubble has indeed burst as home prices are increasing much less slowly than they were a year ago [1], the trend in luxury home sales is far from declining. [2]   Luxury home sales have been booming, and not just in retirement areas such as Arizona, Florida, and Nevada [3], but in other areas of the country including Manhattan and California.  [4]  This trend has also been recently recognized internationally in Russia, Great Britain, and Canada. [5]  So, why are the luxury markets booming while the housing market in general is tanking?  The answer lies in an exploration of the population, economics, and employment rates. [6]   

According to the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, a group comprised of Realtors and members of the National Association of Home Builders, luxury homes are those considered to

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Leasing to More Than Just Humans? Who’s Liable When Bongo Bites?

It has often been said that a dog is a man’s best friend. Dogs are an ever-popular pet, but people can choose from a wide variety of pets today including exotic birds, large snakes, and even scary spiders. Unfortunately, pet lovers looking to lease a home or apartment need to choose a location carefully because not all landlords allow pets. Some landlords may ban pets because the pets may make noise that disturbs other tenants and other landlords fear that the pets may damage the leased premises. For those landlords that brave the threats of property damage and noise complaints and allow pets, can such landlords be held liable when a tenant’s pet attacks someone? This article will address a landlord’s potential liability for an attack caused by a tenant’s pet in Illinois.

A landlord has a duty to maintain portions of the premises that the landlord controls in a

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Thinking About Refinancing Your Mortgage? Think Again

Recently, more and more homeowners have begun taking advantage of the various mortgage refinancing options available to consumers.  The third quarter of 2006 saw the highest number of "cash-out" mortgage refinances of any quarter since 1990.  [1]  While cash-out refinancing can put money in the homeowner's pocket for things such as home repairs or remodeling, or simply free up money to consolidate and pay off other debts, higher interest rates on a higher amount of money financed as a mortgage may not make good financial sense.  Homeowners should also be wary of the recently highly publicized "interest-only" refinancing option which lowers payments in the short-term but increases them dramatically after only a short period of time. [2]   

Cash-out refinancing is a mortgage refinancing option that allows a homeowner to collect a check at the closing for the amount of cash taken out of the equity built in the home,with

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Real Estate Auctions: Is a Bidder Legally Bound?

Real estate auctions exist in many forms and are becoming increasing popular over the internet. Ebay alone boasts that 55,000 property have already been sold through eBay Real Estate.  [1]  There are significant benefits to using the internet to purchase property, since one can shop for real estate around the globe, pick a suitable property, and bid online from the comfort of one's home.  [2]  Traditional real estate auctions still exist, most commonly as government auction of seized property [3] or as bank auctions of foreclosed property. With the current estimate that one in three properties will be sold by auction by the year 2010, [4] one might wonder which, if any, of these auctions legally bind the bidder to purchase the property.

Traditional real estate auctions for government property or bank foreclosures occur on the steps of the home at a specified time with the potential buyers present at

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Where to Open a Business: Consideration of Living Wage Ordinances

 A company must keep three factors in mind when trying to decide where to open its doors, “location, location, [and] location.” [1]. Closely related to location, a company might consider traffic flow, highway access, and the presence of other businesses in the area. [2].  The applicable minimum wage is an unlikely consideration for a company that is in the process of selecting a location, but that may soon change. Federal law sets a minimum wage floor, but States can pass their own statutes raising the federal minimum wage. [3]. On the rise, however, is the presence of local ordinances that index minimum wage levels to cost of living increases or that target specific companies. [4]. This article will first briefly examine two such ordinances, one from Santa Fe and one from Chicago, and it will then set out options for companies wishing to do business in cities that have some … Read the rest

Has the Bubble Burst? Economic Implications of a Buyer’s Market

For the past several years, residential real estate has been a seller's market.  With low interest rates and not enough houses to go around, sellers could expect to receive top dollar for their homes and could turn their homes around fairly quickly once they put their homes on the market.  In early January, the National Association of Realtors projected that existing home sales would fall this year by 4.4%, but as of early September, that forecast has dramatically decreased, with existing home sales for 2006 projected to fall 7.6% below sales in 2005. [1]  The market looks even worse for new home sales, with a 16% fall expected this year.  [2]  Indeed, it is a buyer's market, and if the bubble really has burst, the economic implications could be far-reaching.   

The market surge, which was initially brought on in the late 1990s by low interest rates and easily obtainable

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McMansions: Super-Sized Homes Cause a Super-Sized Backlash

"McMansions", also known as "garage mahals", "starter castles", and "Hummer houses" are all synonymous for the latest phenomenon in home building that has communities across the country banging down the doors of local City Councils to enjoin builders from destroying the character of their neighborhoods.  The debate concerns interests of property owners who want to be able to use their own land as they see fit versus the interests of community members who want to maintain a uniform neighborhood appearance and not have a huge eyesore on their block, literally casting a shadow onto their humble, and often historic, homes.  There is a wide range of issues at play in these communities, including constitutional rights, zoning issues, and even energy and water concerns.  Though McMansions are causing a stir throughout the U.S., the solution is left to the 40,000 local governments across the country who will ultimately determine whether to

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Is the Internet Replacing Real Estate Agents?

Before the Internet became popular, homebuyers had to spend days touring dozens of homes pre-selected by their real estate agent, and were often forced to settle on a home that was merely satisfactory.  Now individuals can shop online for homes, take virtual tours of homes, and even list their homes for sale online without ever stepping foot inside an agent's office.  The Internet provides what previously could only be provided by an agent:  a direct connection between buyers and sellers, thus eliminating the need for a middleman that charges a pricey commission.  In this age of technology though, some argue that the middleman can never be entirely replaced by the Internet.          

The Internet offers a variety of sources for people searching for homes for sale.  One type of site is the "real estate portal."  [1]  This type of site offers searchable listings, where buyers can choose their

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Purchasing Beachfront Property in Mexico: How Americans Circumvent Mexico’s Constitutional Prohibition

Because of the high-cost of real estate in the most desirable areas of the United States, especially southern California, many Americans are searching for a cheaper, less crowded alternative both for vacation homes and for primary residences.  With thousands of miles of undeveloped coastline, and beachfront property costs at a fraction of those in the United States, Mexico has recently become a hot market for Americans wanting a laid-back atmosphere and an affordable vacation home with warm weather throughout the year.  Though Mexico is the perfect place to build an affordable beachfront home, there is one slight problem for foreigners wishing to re-locate there:  Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution prohibits ownership of beachfront property by foreigners and foreign corporations.  Only persons born in Mexico or corporations established in Mexico can gain title to property within Mexico's "Restricted Zone."  [1] 

How do Americans get around this prohibition?  The answer is

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