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If there’s one thing veteran real estate attorney Phil Halverson knows from his 35 years of trial experience, it’s this: Litigation should be avoided.

“It’s costly, and it’s stressful,” admits Halverson, “but sometimes it’s your only way out of a failed real estate transaction.”

His best advice: Don’t get there in the first place.

Here are his tips on how to avoid the mistakes that commonly lead to costly litigation:

Get Professional Help

“Always seek professional help,” Halverson advises. “Getting the best support you can will save money in the long run over doing it yourself and spending thousands if the deal sours.”  Experienced real estate professionals – agents, mortgage brokers, accountants, lawyers,won’t let you make the big mistakes. They see the red flags.  “It’s the things you don’t see that get you.”

Get It In Writing

“In some instances, a written contract is required to prove you have deal,” Halverson explains.  These requirements will differ from one state to the next.  Even if a written contract is not required by law, it is still a good idea. “A writing cements the deal,” he continues. “It lays out your remedies, and shows the level of commitment.”

But for a written contract to work, it’s terms have to be CLEAR. “Each contract is different, and states’ requirements differ as well, but focus on the terms – price, contingencies or conditions that must take place have to be spelled out clearly, as well as the options for resolving disputes.”  Make sure everyone understands the contract language, each party’s expectations, and the options if problems arise. Understand your legal and financial commitments before you make them.

Try to Work It Out

Try to resolve your dispute without litigation.  “When deals go bad, emotions flare and people threaten one another,” Halverson warns. “It’s easy to escalate the conflict into a standoff that can only be resolved in court.” By understanding that litigation is costly and time-consuming you can think more rationally, and work at a solution short of appearing in front of a judge.

Encourage mediation.  That’s typically an option even if it’s not a stated remedy in the contract.  Mediators are often retired judges or lawyers who have a solid sense of how the case will turn out if you do litigate.  That helps keep your expectations in check as far as what you can actually get from a litigation.

“Work with an attorney who is trying to help the parties find the middle ground,” Halverson suggests. “Someone with experience will know how to guide you. Team up with an attorney with the willingness to look for creative solutions short of litigation.

Halverson and Associates offers real estate litigation services throughout California.  For a consultation, or to find out more about real estate litigation, click on

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