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Keys to New Orleans Property

A legal handbook for savvy buyers

Buying property in New Orleans comes with challenges as unique as the city itself. With its eclectic mix of historic neighborhoods and architectural styles, buyers must navigate zoning regulations and historic preservation laws that can significantly impact property ownership — just to list a few considerations.

Though we’re just scratching the surface, we reached out to a few legal experts to get some of their best tips for buying property in the Big Easy.

For starters, the majority of property sales in Louisiana are “AS-IS” and without warranty. This means that you have no legal recourse for defects you find in the property after you purchase it unless you can prove that the seller lied and/or proactively concealed the condition from you during the sale process.

“This is an extremely difficult thing to prove, even when it is true,” said D. Alex Onstott, managing member at Ciolino Onstott. In other words, it is the buyer’s duty to fully inspect the property before purchasing it. It is not your agent’s duty, nor your home inspector’s duty.

“Those professionals are there to inform you, but are not a substitute for your own knowledge and research. It is your job to understand that information and to know what you are getting into,” Onstott said.

Ask as many questions as you can, use the internet to research anything about the home or the inspection that you do not understand, and consult with subject-matter experts. “It does cost a lot of extra time and money to properly inspect a house, but the cost is relatively small compared to the health, safety and comfort of your family, and compared to the purchase price of the property itself, of course,” Onstott said.

For Robert Steeg, managing partner at Steeg Law Firm, it’s all about avoiding and addressing “pitfalls” that could cost you time and money — as well as cause headaches.

“Check out the flood zone of the property and the availability and cost of insurance well in advance, so that you (the buyer) can back out of the purchase based on these factors,” Steeg said. “And make sure that the contract lets you back out of the purchase for ‘any reason’ affecting the ‘suitability’ of the property, so that it’s not just limited to physical condition and would include other matters such as insurance.”

Steeg also pointed out that the buyer picks the lawyer or title company who will handle the closing. So, pick one who has experience with the type of property you’re buying.  For commercial transactions, find a real estate lawyer with commercial properties experience.

Additionally, for commercial transactions, Steeg said it’s important to engage the lawyer to draft and negotiate the purchase agreement well before it is signed.

Steeg said you may want to consider a “hurricane clause” in your purchase agreement, suspending all deadlines once a storm enters the Gulf, and resuming a certain number of days after a storm has passed and commercial services are available. Otherwise, a buyer could be obligated to complete the purchase even though the storm has caused insurance to be unavailable or necessary ancillary services (e.g. the lender’s funding or the closing notary’s services) to be unavailable.

Randy Opotowsky, another partner and real estate attorney at Steeg Law Firm, said that if you’re looking at a large transaction, you really should get an attorney to help you avoid additional pitfalls, especially before finalizing a purchase agreement, or it may be difficult to back out or make changes.

“You will be bound by that agreement, Opotowsky said. He also pointed out that in residential transactions, regardless of the size, everyone uses the LREC forms (Louisiana Real Estate Commission).

Opotowsky also recommended getting owner’s title insurance — a one-time charge — and echoed the importance of making thorough inspections of the property from roof to foundation.

Perspective Law Robertsteeg


Robert M. Steeg

Managing Partner
Steeg Law Firm


“Allow plenty of time for inspection. Either 10 or 14 days for residential, 30 or more for commercial. For commercial, consider negotiating a right of extension of the inspection deadline in case follow-up testing is needed for items like environmental review or mold testing.”

Perspective Law Alexonstott


D. Alex Onstott

Managing Member
Ciolino Onstott


“The one issue I want more people to know about is the risk of mold. Any event that introduces a substantial amount of moisture to a home, such as a flood or a heavy storm, is almost certain to cause a proliferation of harmful molds throughout the structure.”

Did you know? Owner’s title insurance exists to protects homebuyers from claims against their home made before they purchased it.


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