Commercial Real Estate Blog by Madison

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Boundary Trees, Where to Draw the Line….

By Terence Guerriere, Esq., Executive Vice President, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services

In a world where party walls, air rights and subway easements can sometimes make life in real estate somewhat complicated, I took a moment to breath in some fresh spring air and contemplate the beauty of the world around me. I started to focus on a magnificent oak tree, its large spreading branches and its wide trunk, and let my mind wander… to the law of boundary trees, of course!

It can be an innocent act; even a noble one. A tree is planted. Or, a wayward seed floats to the surface from a branch above, lands and takes root. Regardless, with either of these simple acts, a contentious lawsuit can also take root. It likely will take years, sometimes generations, to come to fruition (pun intended). However, one person’s bucolic shade and privacy can become another’s annoyance and nuisance!

So who has ownership of and responsibility for boundary trees, trees that grow on or near the boundary line between adjacent properties? Who has the legal right and responsibility for the removal or care of such trees? Continue reading

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CAM Negotiations – What You Need to Know before Signing, Part 2

By: Arnon Wiener, Esq., CEO, Real Diligence and LeaseProbe

It is news to no one that CAM charges can be a contentious issue for Landlords and Tenants alike. Generally, Landlords want the CAM clause to be broad and all-encompassing, covering the Landlord’s costs of ownership, management, maintenance, repair, replacement, inspection, improvement, operation, and insurance of the property together with any costs allocated to administration and overhead. The Landlord benefits from a highly expansive CAM definition to avoid the risk that any necessary costs of operation have no corresponding revenue to cover them.

Tenants, on the other hand, generally understand that they need to compensate the Landlord for operating and maintaining the center. But they view the Landlord’s ownership costs as part of the Landlord’s cost of doing business and not a recoverable operation cost. This “maintenance versus ownership” struggle shapes many of the issues relating to inclusion in and exclusion from CAM costs

Here are some questions Landlords should consider. Continue reading

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CAM Negotiations – What You Need to Know before Signing, Part 1

By: Arnon Wiener, Esq., CEO, Real Diligence and LeaseProbe

Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges can be a contentious issue for Landlords and Tenants alike. CAM charges are one of the net charges billed to Tenants in a commercial lease, and may be charged in addition to base rent. On one hand, Landlords may feel that their expenses are high, and this is the chance to be refunded for the outlay. On the other hand, Tenants may feel squeezed by the rent, and are resentful of any additional charges. CAM becomes the rope in a tug-of-war.

When entering CAM negotiations, there are considerations for both Tenants and Lenders. Continue reading

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Inadvertent Mortgage Fraud: A Day Late Means Many Dollars Short

By: Eliezer Shaffren, Esq., Senior Commercial Counsel, Madison Title Agency

There are situations that arise in real estate transactions that can result in inadvertent mortgage fraud. That’s right. Unintentional and without malice, but mortgage fraud just the same. Case in point.

Mr. Jones arrived at the sale of his property fully prepared. At the closing, all title exceptions had been cleared, and payoff letters have been obtained for the remaining open mortgages. The first mortgage, a purchase money mortgage, had a payoff of $500,000, which would be paid off at closing. The second mortgage, a home equity line of credit (HELOC), had a maximum allowable draw of $50,000. Mr. Jones had only drawn $10,000 of the HELOC. He obtained a payoff letter, confirming this amount was also to be paid at closing.

The closing proceeded smoothly and Mr. Jones left the room, confident that all of his bills had been paid and debts satisfied. Newly flush with cash from the sale, Mr. Jones invited a group of friends to his favorite restaurant to celebrate. That’s where things went wrong. Continue reading

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Off-the-Wall Savings – How Businesses with Demountable Walls are Saving on Taxes

By: Eli Loebenberg, CPA, Chief Executive Officer, Madison SPECS

The traditional office workspace has come a long way since the classic mahogany desk in a corner office. Thanks to technological advances, many employees can and do work from anywhere, which makes creating a vibrant and thriving office a new challenge. Today’s leading companies are creating office space that encourages collaboration with an interactive atmosphere. The modern office environment focuses on the employee experience within the company culture.

Many times, this environment is created with moveable office space made from demountable walls. Demountable or moveable walls are partitions that are pre-engineered and manufactured. Demountable walls offer businesses a simple way to build out and customize their work space.

Companies opt for walls that can be configured with customizable panels and different options for desk and storage spaces. These flexible interiors allow organizations to change the aesthetics, functionality and size of various office spaces in order to suit changing needs. Demountable walls also come with technological add-ins, such as plug-and-play power and data, so there is no need to rewire cables every time there is a change.

This trend in demountable walls has spread to corporations, educational institutions, health care and government organizations. While the initial project costs for demountable walls are higher than standard construction, this cost difference can be offset by major tax savings. Continue reading

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The Pervasiveness of Mortgage Fraud – Forged Documents

By Debra Smith, Associate General Counsel, Madison Title Agency

Mortgage fraud is pervasive. This is the first of a series of blogs describing different types of mortgage fraud and the flags that can help anyone involved in the real estate and financial sector identify them.

One fraud seen with increasing frequency is forged mortgage satisfactions. A major example of this type of fraud occurred in 2005 in Greenwich, Connecticut. A respected real estate developer owned a number of commercial properties. It turns out that to generate more cash flow, he was routinely forging mortgage satisfactions of mortgages encumbering properties he owned. Continue reading

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Parking Arrangements in Construction Exchanges and for Other Purposes

By: Lee David Medinets, Esq., Chief Counsel, MCRES, Madison Exchange a/k/a Madison 1031, and affiliates

In the last few posts, we looked at how parking arrangements are handled in reverse exchanges. Construction exchanges are in some ways very similar to reverse exchanges. Both involve a parking arrangement. In a construction exchange, however, the purpose of the parking arrangement is different.

IRC § 1031 allows for the cost of construction on replacement property to be counted as part of the purchase price of that property, but only to the extent that the improvements have been made to the property before the taxpayer acquires it. Once the taxpayer owns the replacement property it is too late. Moreover, payment for bricks and mortar sitting at the construction site does not count for exchange purposes until those bricks and mortar have been attached to the ground. The cost of services performed for construction counts, but not the cost of services that have not yet been performed. In a construction exchange, the parking arrangement allows these improvements to be made while the property is in the hands of a friendly party. Continue reading

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Parking Arrangements in Reverse Exchanges – Part 3

By Lee David Medinets, Esq., Chief Counsel, MCRES, Madison Exchange a/k/a Madison 1031, and affiliates

In my last post, we looked at how a safe harbor reverse exchange works under Rev. Proc. 2000-37. Either the relinquished property or the replacement property is “parked” with an “exchange accommodation titleholder” or “EAT”. We also discussed the restrictions on a safe harbor reverse exchange that must be included in a “qualified exchange accommodation agreement” (a “QEAA”) in order to have the benefit of the safe harbor. In this post we will examine the difference between parking a replacement property versus parking a relinquished property.

There are usually some significant advantages to parking the replacement property instead of the relinquished property. Here are five advantages. Continue reading

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Parking Arrangements in Reverse Exchanges – Part 2

Lee David Medinets, Esq., Chief Counsel, MCRES, Madison Exchange a/k/a Madison 1031, and affiliates

In the last post, we began to examine the problem of what to do when a taxpayer needs to buy an IRC Section 1031 like-kind exchange replacement property before the relinquished property in that exchange can be sold. This is called a “reverse exchange” because it proceeds in the opposite direction from the common forward exchange where the relinquished property is sold first. The reverse exchange process creates a special problem in that the taxpayer cannot simultaneously own both the relinquished property and the replacement property. In a reverse exchange, either the relinquished property or the replacement property must be “parked” with some relatively friendly third-party until the relinquished property is sold.

We also examined why traditional non-safe harbor reverse exchanges are expensive, risky and rare. On the other hand, traditional non-safe harbor exchanges have the substantial advantage that there is no theoretical limit to how long a potential replacement property could be parked. In order to inject some certainty into the reverse exchange process and in order to encourage reasonable time limits on that process, the IRS has offered an alternative by creating a safe harbor in Revenue Procedure 2000-37. Continue reading

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Parking Arrangements in Reverse Exchanges – Part 1

By Lee David Medinets, Esq., Chief Counsel, MCRES and Senior Counsel, Madison Exchange, LLC a/k/a Madison 1031 and their affiliates

IRC §1031 like-kind exchanges are popular, reliable, IRS-approved transactions that allow taxpayers to defer paying taxes on profits when property (usually real estate) that is held for productive use in trade or business or for investment is exchanged for like-kind property (e.g., real estate exchanged for real estate) that will also be held for productive use in trade or business or for investment.

In a typical IRC §1031 exchange, the taxpayer sells relinquished property through a qualified intermediary (a “QI”) and later acquires replacement property through the same QI. If the process is handled in accordance with Treasury Regulations, it is considered as if the taxpayer exchanged the relinquished property for the replacement property. This process is commonly referred to as a “forward” exchange because it proceeds in the normal direction – sell first, buy second. However, sometimes a taxpayer needs to buy the replacement property before the relinquished property can be sold. This is called a “reverse exchange” because it proceeds in the opposite direction from a forward exchange.

A reverse exchange poses a special problem. The taxpayer cannot simultaneously own both the relinquished property and the replacement property. That would make it impossible to exchange one property for the other. Therefore, in a reverse exchange, either the relinquished property or the replacement property must be “parked” with some relatively friendly third-party until the relinquished property is sold. Continue reading

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