Real Estate Tops Legal Issues List

October 1, 2002

When people become involved in a legal issue, there’s a good chance it concerns a real estate matter.

Nearly one out of five people in the country faced a legal issue within the last year. And the issue was most often related to real estate, which beat out personal injury and traffic violations, according to a survey by Findlaw (, a legal resources Web site.

Twenty-one percent of survey respondents involved in a legal matter—both those who used a lawyer and those who didn’t—said it concerned real estate, such as buying or selling a property or a landlord-tenant dispute.

Does that mean real estate is an especially litigious area? Not necessarily, says Kyle Christianson, a Findlaw spokesperson. “The minority of issues involve litigation,” he says. “There are just a lot of legal arrangements, such as transferring title, made around real estate.”

That said, what’s a common legal dispute? Bruce Aydt, senior vice president and general counsel of Prudential Alliance, REALTORS®, in St. Louis, says disputes often center on the return of earnest money after a transaction sours.

Top five legal issues

21% Real estate law (buying and selling, property disputes, landlord-tenant disputes)
17% Family law (includes divorce, child custody)
12% Estate planning (wills, trust, settling of estates)
11% Personal injury
8% Traffic violations

Source: Findlaw survey of 1,000 adults. Margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.

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