1110 South Avenue, Suite 78
Staten Island, NY 10314
(718) 569-5002


Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney to Buy or Sell a Home?
The short answer is no. Although it is a legal requirement to have representation in some states, that is not the case in the state of New York.

The slightly longer answer is this: It may not be a legal requirement in New York real estate transactions, but buying real estate anywhere is a complicated process. You want a Staten Island real estate lawyer to protect your interests. Also, since the other party will most likely retain a real estate lawyer, why not you?

If you’re refinancing, your lender might tell you that having a lawyer is optional or unnecessary. Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need representation on a refinance. Your lender will have a real estate attorney and so should you!


“The law is reason, free from passion.”

~ Aristotle

Is it a Good Time to Buy or Sell My Staten Island Home?
That all depends! Check out recent Staten Island real estate news here.


How Do I Figure Out Fair Market Value of a Staten Island Property?
Whether you are buying a home on Staten Island or selling a home on Staten Island, a lot of factors go into real estate transactions. Even a proper appraisal of fair market value is no simple matter. Well-known websites such as Zillow or Trulia have a terrible error rate historically, usually between 18-32%, when generating home values through their online systems. Recent improvements are decreasing the error rates, but even on Zillow’s own site, the following disclaimer is included: “the Zestimate isn’t intended to replace a real estate professional’s opinion of value.

That is my advice as well. It’s certainly not worth the risk to use the fair market appraisal for residential real estate you find online. And official reports by assessors for tax purposes rely on solid methodology, but the data therein is often dated and therefore limited in usefulness.

The bottom line is that you need an experienced, licensed real estate agent when making a real estate transaction. In Staten Island, fortunately, we have no shortage. A great starting point is the Staten Island Board of Realtors. To learn more about what they can do for you, click here.

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Where is the Best Place to Buy a Home in Staten Island?
Staten Island has a variety of amazing neighborhoods, everything from traditional communities where generations of the same families have lived to up-and-coming hipster places like the Stapleton area. You’ll want to do your homework to explore the neighborhoods best for you.

Check our blog posts outlining some of your options for buying a home in Staten Island here.

What is a Short Sale?
A short sale occurs when a bank agrees to release a lien against a Staten Island property by taking less than is actually owed on the mortgage. Not all banks in Staten Island will accept short sales, especially if it makes more sense (financially) for them to foreclose.


Why Attempt a Short Sale in Staten Island?
A foreclosure will negatively impact a person’s credit score for many years. A short sale, though still a blemish to a person’s credit score, is far better than a foreclosure transaction and a person’s credit will rebound from a short sale much faster than from a foreclosure. Ideally, a person should consult a real estate attorney when making the decision to pursue or not pursue a short sale.


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What Does a Lender Consider When Deciding Whether or Not to Agree to a Short Sale?
There are many factors that banks will consider when making this decision, including how long it will take and how much it will cost to foreclose a home in Staten Island, in addition to the fair market value of the Staten Island property. Usually, the most important issue is how close to market value the bank can net, not how much the deficiency will be (or net loss). Again, this is something that a Staten Island real estate lawyer can assist with.


How Do I Find Out What Taxes Cost on a Staten Island Property?
To determine what the real estate taxes cost, the current tax rate and the current value of a property in Staten Island, visit the NYC Department of Finance. To discover the annual cost of taxes, multiply the tax rate percentage (%) by the assessed value. Since the seller may have an exemption on their taxes (senior citizen, veteran, disabled, STAR) which would lower their taxes, it’s best not to rely on how much they’re paying for taxes when attempting to determine what you will be expected to pay.


Whose Name Should the Property Title Be In?
The name or names on the title of the Staten Island property should carefully identify all parties taking title, as well as how title is to be held. Usually, this will mean sole ownership or joint ownership. Sole ownership means the property title is held by one individual; joint ownership means the property title is held by multiple individuals. Simple enough.

Joint ownership has added complexities. The Right of Survivorship means that if one joint tenant dies, the person’s interest in the property is automatically transferred to the remaining joint tenants. (Think of a married couple.) Ownership shares are presumed unless the deed states a different structure. All in all, though, it’s a fairly straightforward process if you take the time to understand it.

There are other title arrangements, such as joint tenancy, tenants by the entirety, tenants in common, and trustee ownership. If you think one of these more complex options might work for you, then it’s probably time to contact a Staten Island real estate lawyer.


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How Do I Ensure the Property Has a Clear Title?
To guarantee a clear title, you’ll need to contact a title company. For more information about title searches, title insurance, and the like, please read Title Searches 101: A Guide for Staten Island Real Estate.

As a Staten Island real estate attorney, I can help. Contact me today.


What Does Escrow Mean?
In real estate, an escrow is the deposit of money and/or documents pertaining to the purchase of sale, given to a third party (or “escrow agent”) that will hold the deposit until specific conditions are met.

When someone says, “We’re buying a house in Staten Island, it’s currently in escrow,” this means that the agreement is almost complete and the closing is around the corner. The agreed-upon money is held safely in escrow and then released once all conditions are met, meaning the sale is final. With residential real estate, this escrow period often takes about 30 days, although this time frame can certainly vary. This can be an exciting and somewhat stressful waiting period for both the buyer and seller.


What is an Escrow Agent?
An escrow agent is a third party designated to hold an item (usually funds, but sometimes certain documents, such as a deed and/or mortgages) for a certain time or until the occurrence of a condition, at which time the escrow agent is to hand over the item to another party.

Typically the escrow agent will be the title company, and the funds and documents that they are holding include any deposits made under the contract to purchase the property, as well as the deed and the mortgage instruments.

During home purchase contracts and real estate transactions, the initial deposit (or earnest money) will be held by an escrow agent until the closing. At the closing, funds are distributed in the manner required by specific and detailed written escrow instructions.

Our Staten Island law firm acts as an escrow agent for Staten Island residential real estate transactions as well as Staten Island commercial real estate transactions.

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What is a Survey?
A survey is a drawing of the property that represents its current state. A survey outlines the boundary lines of the Staten Island property and provides a footprint of the house. It also indicates the location of improvements on the property (such as new buildings, driveways, etc), as well as any encroachments.


What is an Encroachment?
Encroachments are any items affecting the property, whether items encroaching on the property by third parties or encroaching by the property against a neighboring property. These can include fences, curb walls, hedges, sidewalks, etc.


Do I Need a Survey? Why?
It is in your best interest to do a survey of the Staten Island real estate property that you will purchase. Relying on an old survey means risking making unfavorable discoveries after the closing. For example, an old survey might outline an old fence drawn on your neighbor’s property, but a new survey will show that the fence was replaced and built on your side of the property, resulting in a new property line. As a result, you could lose several feet of your purchased Staten Island real estate property to your neighbor. Always better to be safe than sorry!

Simply put, as a buyer, you want to know exactly how much land you’ll get for the amount of money that you will pay. Often surveyors find defects in the property which could help you renegotiate the price. These are the types of issues that should be addressed before closing.


How Much Does a Survey Cost?
A survey for a typical Staten Island residential real estate property costs between $800 and $1500. Surveys are about identifying the property and boundary lines. Upstate New York, an encroachment of a foot or two may not be a big deal but an inch and a half would be a disaster in say, Manhattan. Investing in on a new survey could save you headaches in the long run. Talk to a real estate lawyer about finding the right surveyor.

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How Long Does it Take to Close a Home in Staten Island?
In New York and in Staten Island, closing the deal on a home can take 60 to 90 days and as you know, some deals are more unique than others so it can vary. For example, if the buyers are motivated enough and the title company completes the title search in less than two weeks, a “cash” transaction can take about a week to close.


What Services Does Chris’s Law Firm Offer?
Since launching his law office in 2007, Chris has primarily concentrated on legal matters involving transactional real estate in Staten Island. His real estate legal services include:

  • Residential Real Estate
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Title Searches
  • Contract Negotiations
  • Lease Negotiations
  • Condo Conversions
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Real Estate Sales
  • Escrow Services

Many clients who had originally come to Chris with real estate issues have now asked that he help them with other matters, including Personal Injury and Estate Planning / Elder Law. Chris has branched out and now specializes in these areas of the law as well. For a full list of services, please click here.


What Neighborhoods Does Chris’s Law Firm Serve?
Our law firm serves the following Staten Island neighborhoods: Annadale / Arden Heights / Arlington / Arrochar / Bay Terrace / Bloomfield / Brighton Heights / Bulls Head / Castleton / Castleton Corners / Charleston / Chelsea / Clifton / Concord / Dongan Hills / Egbertville / Elm Park / Eltingville / Emerson Hill / Fort Wadsworth / Graniteville / Grant City / Grasmere / Great Kills / Greenridge / Grymes Hill / Hamilton Park / Heartland Village / Huguenot / Lighthouse Hill / Livingston / Manor Heights / Mariners Harbor / Meiers Corner / Midland Beach / New Brighton / New Dorp / New Springfield / Oakwood / Ocean Breeze / Old Place / Old Town / Pleasant Plains / Port Richmond / Prince’s Bay / Randall Manor / Richmond Valley / Richmondtown / Rosebank / Rossville / Sandy Ground / Shore Acres / Shady Lake / South Beach / St. George / Stapleton / Stapleton Heights / Sunnyside / Todt Hill / Tompkinsville / Tottenville / Tottenville Beach / Travis / Ward Hill / Westerleigh / West New Brighton / Willowbrook / and Woodrow.


This information, based on New York law, was provided courtesy of The Law Office of Christopher J. Arrigali, P.C. It is intended to inform, not to advise. No one should try to interpret or apply any law without the assistance of legal counsel.