A residential real estate transaction is probably the largest investment that most individuals will make in their lifetimes. Commercial real estate transactions are generally even more of a challenge because financing is harder to obtain and issues like zoning and permitting can loom large in determining whether the transaction can fulfill its hoped-for goals. 

In any real estate transaction, residential or commercial, there is always the possibility of a dispute arising during or after the deal. If there is an agent or broker involved, and almost invariably there is, they are working on a commission basis. While this does not make them unethical, it certainly dangles the carrot of closing the deal quickly in front of them, along with the carrot of trying to get the highest price for the property – higher price = bigger paycheck. 

Rushing to close a deal can lead to overlooked issues. Language in the contract may come back to haunt the buyer or the seller, or even both. Having a real estate attorney involved in every phase of a transaction, though not required by law in Minnesota, can certainly catch potential areas of dispute, whether in the contract, the title search, zoning or permitting issues, or even in the physical condition of the property. 

If you as a buyer, seller, contractor, or developer are facing a real estate dispute in or around Minneapolis or St. Paul, Minnesota, reach out to us at the Engel Professional Association. We have more than two decades’ experience in real estate law, and in 2023 were chosen to join The Real Estate Lawyers Guide as a recommended firm for Minnesota. In addition to Minneapolis and St. Paul, we also proudly serve clients across Minnesota including Mankato, Maple Grove, St. Cloud, and Woodbury. 

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Common Real Estate Disputes

Depending on the nature of the real estate transaction — residential, commercial, or real estate development — the kind of disputes that can evolve may vary. Above, we mentioned contract language, and this is one area of potential disputes that cuts across the board.  


When you’re talking about residential real estate contracts, brokers and agents generally rely on standard forms that are created by realtors’ associations, which by their nature are intended to protect the agent or broker, and are not necessarily tailored for the interests of either the buyer or seller. Commercial contracts typically involve more negotiation right from the outset.Even more complex are contracts used in real estate developments between the owner/developer and general contractor.  

In any type of contract, there can be a breach. In a real estate development, the owner/developer may withhold funds because he or she doesn’t like the perceived quality of the craftsmanship, or the timeliness in finishing the project. In a residential or commercial transaction involving an existing structure or piece of land, the seller may renege on promises to make upgrades, or even fail to disclose defects. A breach of contract lawsuit could thus result. 


The issue of fraud can also be the source of a dispute and lawsuit. If a seller purports something that turns out to be untrue to the detriment of the buyer, as in making false promises, that could become a source of litigation as either fraud or negligent misrepresentation. Sellers can also be victims of fraud or misrepresentation if a buyer purports to have the financial resources necessary but fails to deliver on time. 

Title Search

A title search is another area of potential disputes down the road. Generally, the broker or agent will recommend a title insurance company to do the search because they know the company is quick and generally efficient.  

Quick is the keyword because the sooner the title search is completed, the sooner the transaction can close and the commission check cut. It’s advised to carefully research and choose your own title search company if you’re a buyer. An experienced real estate attorney is an even better choice. 

Boundary and Zoning Disputes

Boundary disputes and easement issues can plague buyers either during the transaction or after closing the deal. A residential new owner may suddenly discover that a neighbor is encroaching on their property by building a fence or other structure across their boundary line. A commercial buyer may find that the parking lot he thought belonged to the property he purchased is being encroached upon by a neighboring commercial entity. 

Resolving Disputes

The first step in resolving a real estate dispute generally involves negotiation. You may need even to have an attorney compose a demand letter that you present to the other party, staking out what your issue is and how you wish to see it resolved. If talks ensue, then maybe a solution can be hammered out. If not, you can always propose mediation or arbitration. 

If matters fail to get resolved through these alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, then litigation becomes the remaining alternative. The point, however, is to work with an experienced real estate attorney in addressing the dispute and its resolution. 


Real estate transactions involve substantial financial investment – and risk – and you should be represented throughout any deal by an experienced real estate attorney, who can review every step of the process, especially any legal documents involved. If a dispute erupts, you will need to explore all avenues of resolving the issue, even to the extent of litigation. In the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, rely on the Engel Professional Association for all your real estate questions and concerns, especially if litigation appears to be the next step. We will work hard to help you reach the best possible resolution using the best available options.