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REAL ESTATE

Real issues from many sources

Real property issues that Slovak individuals face come from many sources. Over-worked and under-trained personnel and under-staffed real estate registry offices represent one of the major problems both for buyers of commercial real estate and of houses and apartments. Not only does a lengthy registration process make some transactions very unattractive, but it provides an opportunity for a host of unpleasant things, some natural and some contrived, to spring up between the time of entering into a contract and the time of registry of a title.
Several of these issues have been addressed in our previous columns. At the end of the day, efficient practices protecting titles to real property are a mainstay of a pro-investor environment.


Julian Juhasz

Real property issues that Slovak individuals face come from many sources. Over-worked and under-trained personnel and under-staffed real estate registry offices represent one of the major problems both for buyers of commercial real estate and of houses and apartments. Not only does a lengthy registration process make some transactions very unattractive, but it provides an opportunity for a host of unpleasant things, some natural and some contrived, to spring up between the time of entering into a contract and the time of registry of a title.

Several of these issues have been addressed in our previous columns. At the end of the day, efficient practices protecting titles to real property are a mainstay of a pro-investor environment.

A problem that buyers of houses and apartments sometimes face stems from current tax laws. In order to qualify for tax exemption on income from the sale of a house or an apartment, the taxpayer must have owned the property for at least two years and must have been living at the property being sold for at least two years immediately preceding the sale. These individual, two-year periods need not coincide, though the residency must be in the two years prior to sale.

On the one hand the ownership and residency requirement may prevent unscrupulous land speculators from engaging in sharp selling practices or "churning" by taxing gains made on appreciation for failure to own and reside in the premises for the two-year periods. Certainly, the tax exemption provides an incentive to hold property and to reside there for the given periods. On the other hand, this law encourages questionable practices and leaves buyers less than completely secure in their ownership.

The typical scenario when buying residential property, where the owner has not yet fulfilled the above conditions of ownership and residency, is to enter into a lease agreement and contract on a future contract for the actual purchase at a later time. This permits the owner to maintain ownership and to claim residency at the premises, if in name only, to meet the conditions for tax exemption.

Often, sellers require partial payment up front and will require the difference between their asking price and the appraised value of the property for the "lease." This leaves buyers with a waiting period before the title can be transferred, although much of the full price has been paid and a change in ownership has been more or less fully negotiated. (Whether this money is reported or taxed is another question).


Kevin Connor

In addition, delays at registry offices will add yet more time between the point where money is paid and the title is finally registered. Because ways around the restrictions are generally known and commonly used to the detriment of buyers' interests in registered titles to houses and apartments, it may be time to shift the emphasis on the realities of how the system works and on improving the timeliness and security of ownership interests in residential property.


Julian Juhasz and Kevin Connor are attorneys with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. Their column appears monthly. Send comments or questions to propertyinvestor@ssd.com.

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