How to Pick a Real Estate Attorney
Part 2
By Tony Ozelis

Land Use Attorneys

Make no mistake about it; handling land use applications is a specialty. This is not a job for just anyone down the block. You’re going to need an absolute local specialist for this and not someone from out of state!

Permitting is very much a political venture. Those people that sit on most planning and zoning boards are officials that live in the area, so they have a very clear vested interest in what happens in their town, not so to your business.

You’ll want to hire the experienced land use attorney that knows everyone in town hall including the people that work behind the desks (since they’re the ones that really get things done in the town). For an attorney to have good relationships within the township can go a long way into potential success of your venture. And the more successful attorneys are usually fairly-well politically connected there. The fact that you’ll be using a “good ‘ole boy” gives you and your application instant credibility, even if you’re the one from out of town.

We’ve seen countless large corporations make the costly mistake of walking into a meeting with both guns drawn, only to leave a few hours later beaten down with their collective tails between their legs.

Since your garden variety trip to a planning board will most likely include you and your attorney, you should estimate their fees in the soft costs section in your budget.

Of course if you’re going to be building a larger project, say from the ground up, you may also need to bring along the civil engineer that drew the site plan, the architect that designed the building(s) and quite possibly a few other special experts such as traffic specialist, landscape architects, environmental impact experts, etc.

So you can see how this single step among many could set you back some real big money. The people that are most successful during this phase not only plan for these expenses, but assemble the right team well in advance of when they need them and meet with them often during the process to review their plans and progress.  

Tip: Always ask the landowner when negotiating your “Free-Rent Period” or permitting timeframe if they would get the permits for you. Of course you might have to reimburse him for their out of pocket expenses, but they most likely will have experience with the municipality and, since they then control your development timeline, they can’t exactly ask for any pre-term rent either, can they?


Part Three - Finding a Land Use Attorney

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