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Questions Real Estate Attorneys are Frequently Asked with Chike Okpara of Okpara Law Practice

By Chike Okpara

About Chike Okpara and the Okpara Law Practice

Chike Okpara graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 2003, and was licensed by the State Bar of Texas that same year. After working for a few years at a multinational energy company in Houston and a law office in Laredo, Texas, Chike moved to Austin. He joined the law firm of Clark, Thomas & Winters, PC. After several years practicing at Clark, Thomas & Winters, PC, Chike went into practice for himself, founding the Okpara Law Practice. Prior to law school, Chike attended and graduated, magna cum laude, from the University of Houston in 1999.

Chike has several years of practice in real estate, corporate and business transactions, land development and entitlements, and general litigation. He has worked on transactions and projects in a wide range of areas including selling and buying real property, residential and commercial leases, mergers and acquisitions, entity formation, corporate governance, zoning, and land use and entitlements. Chike's clients have included individuals, partnerships, companies, corporations, developers and property owners.

Chike is a member of the Austin Young Lawyers Association, Texas Young Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association. During law school, he was an editor for the Texas Journal of Business Law.

Types of real estate transactions we work on at Okpara Law Practice.

  • Preparation, drafting, review and negotiation of residential and commercial leases
  • Drafting, review and negotiation of real property purchase and sale documents, including real estate purchase agreements, warranty deeds, and real estate lien notes.
  • Review title documents, zoning and permitting of property, subdivision of property, and researching and resolving a variety of land use and development matters.

Advice when searching for a real estate attorney:

The ideal scenario whenever you need a lawyer would be to have or choose someone that you have worked with before. When that is not an available option, you should feel free to call the lawyer you are considering. Many of my clients made the choice to engage my law firm to work for them after they spoke with me. In addition to finding out about legal fees and the lawyer's experience in the transaction or matter you have, you are very likely to figure out various other intangible things of value to you by speaking to the lawyer. For similar reasons, some of my clients chose to meet up with me in person. If you are a real estate investor, in addition to a qualified attorney, you would do well to have a qualified CPA that understands your business.

List of FAQs and responses.

Who should pay for the title insurance policy?

Although it is negotiable, in a transaction for sale of a residential property, the seller typically pays for the owner's policy of title insurance (i.e. the Form T-1 Owner Policy of Title Insurance). The buyer usually pays for a mortgagee's policy of title insurance.

I am in the process of buying a house. So, I do not need an attorney if I am working with an escrow agent, right?

In a real estate purchase transaction, the obligation of the title company and the title agent is to "close the transaction." Although it is common for an escrow agent to be involved in the transaction, the escrow agent functions as a neutral third party and does not act on behalf the buyer or seller. Therefore, you may still want to consider using an attorney in the transaction. A good real estate attorney can be useful to help avert various problems that frequently result from errors in drafting the purchase contract, the deed etc. If you are considering hiring an attorney for a real estate transaction, do not wait until after you have signed an earnest money contract or loan commitment. A lot of the damage could have already been done by then.

What is the difference between a general warranty and a special warranty deed?

A "warranty deed" is a deed that has express and implied warranties. A warranty is a promise made by the seller to the buyer relating to the property. There are various warranties under Texas law. Probably the most significant warranties are that the seller is the lawful owner of the property with the right to convey it and that it is conveying the property to the buyer free and clear from liens and other encumbrances, except for certain encumbrances commonly referred to as "Permitted Exceptions." In a general warranty deed, the seller (i.e. the grantor) warrants the chain of title of the property back to the original sovereign owner, and it binds the grantor to defend against title defects, including any that precede the grantor's ownership of the property. General warranty deeds are typical in residential property sales. On the other hand, in a special warranty deed, the grantor's liability is for title defects is limited to their period of ownership, including the conveyance to the buyer (i.e. the grantee). Commercial properties are usually conveyed by special warranty deed.

The commercial lease agreement with my landlord appears to require that I reimburse the landlord for margin tax. Why is this in my lease agreement?

Most tenants are not in the habit of parsing the language in their lease agreement, so, it is not highly likely for a tenant to ask this question. Nonetheless, with the arrival of the Texas margin tax, tax provisions in leases have become an increasingly important issue. Property taxes are traditionally paid or reimbursed by tenants, while federal income taxes are traditionally paid by landlords, without reimbursement. Due to changes that accompanied the Texas margin tax, many landlords have added provisions for reimbursement of some component of the Texas margin tax. If required to pay or reimburse margin taxes, a tenant should be sure that the taxes relate solely to rental income from the property being leased. This is important if the landlord owns many other properties.

Best way to contact my law firm.

Okpara Law Practice is available via phone at (512) 200-2059 or email at chike@okparalaw.com. Please click on this link () to conveniently access our webpage and find out more about us and the services we provide. Thank you.

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