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  • 04/20/2021 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    What Happens to the Loan Shortage in a Short Sale?

    Are you losing sleep trying to keep up with your mortgage payments? Are you considering a short sale in Baltimore? Many of our current and former clients delayed in contacting us for assistance because they were concerned that the deficiency (the difference between the loan amount and sale price) was too large for their lender to approve. In my 10+ years of handling short sales in the Baltimore metro area, the most frequently asked question from new short sale clients during our intake interview is, “will the lender take this big of a loss?” In most cases the answer is yes. Not only will they approve a large loss, they typically waive the right to collect the loan shortage. 

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  • Three Documents Necessary for Maryland FSBO Transactions
    03/17/2021 - heiseheisellp 2 Comments
    Three Documents Necessary for Maryland FSBO Transactions

    Hey there rebel, decided to go it on your own and sell your house without an agent as a for sale by owner (FSBO) transaction in Baltimore, MD? A FSBO sale in Baltimore, MD takes a great deal of preparation at the outset to get in the right position for a successful sale. You have to look at your house with a critical eye to determine what repairs need to be made and what needs to be done to punch up that always important curb appeal. You have to figure out which platforms are best for your marketing, Zillow, Facebook Marketplace . . . maybe a flat fee listing service. And you also have to do research to make sure you have priced your house properly so you do not leave money on the table. 

    After doing all the work to get ready to sell your Baltimore home as a FSBO and getting a potential home buyer who is willing to make an offer, what’s next? The buyer might be prepared to make an offer but there are documents and information you should have ready to hand over to them so they can prepare a complete offer. The following is a list of recommended documents sellers should consider having on-hand before you even have an offer.

    Documents Needed in Maryland FSBO Transactions  

    List of Inclusions/Exclusions

    This form lists all the appliances that you intend to sell along with the property, discloses leased items such as propane tanks or solar panels, and informs a buyer if the property is served by public water and sewer or is on well and septic. This information may lead a buyer to include addendums for the inspection of some of these items to occur prior to settlement. 

    Maryland Residential Property Disclosure and Disclaimer Statement

    This form is required in most residential sales in Maryland and allows a seller to sell a property as is, so long as they reveal latent defects, (disclaimer) or a form revealing defects and other information about the condition of the property (disclosure). This form can be viewed here: . A buyer must receive this form at or prior to the time the contract is entered into or they may have the right to rescind the offer. 

    Condo Resale Package

    This is not one document but a group of documents that will have to be ordered from your condominium association. The package includes: a Declaration, Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, a notice of capital expenditures and other important documents and information. There is a fee for the package and it can take the condominium association anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks to prepare and send it to you. In Maryland you are required to provide these documents to a buyer at least fifteen days before closing and they have seven days from the date of receiving all of this information to rescind the contract and receive a return of deposit.

    UPDATE: Homeowners Association Resale Package

    There is one additional set of documents FSBO sellers need to keep in mind to avoid a potential pitfall. As a FSBO seller you are required to supply the buyer with a homeowners association resale package five calendar days or more before entering into a contract. If you do not supply the resale package to your buyer, s/he can cancel the contract five calendar days after receiving the documents and is entitled to a return of the deposit.

    These is just a representative list of documents and information sellers should have ready for a potential home buyer as part of a for sale by owner transaction in Baltimore, MD. Some forms carry more weight than others and allow a buyer to rescind a contract if they do not receive them. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by this blog rest assured we are here to help!

    Call our Baltimore, MD real estate attorney’s office today at 410-276-1983 for more information. 

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  • 02/18/2021 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    Steps Involved in a Maryland FSBO Settlement

    I handle a fair amount of Maryland for sale by owner (“FSBO”) transactions and clients often ask me to walk them through the settlement process. While each settlement has its own nuances, this piece will provide a broad overview of the process.

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  • 02/18/2021 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    3 Types of Short Sale Companies to Avoid in Maryland

    Not only do I sell real estate in the Baltimore, MD area as an associate broker, but I am also a real estate attorney. In my decade-plus time in the short sale legal space, a significant number of transactions I handled involved short sales. As a real estate agent, when I list a short sale property for a client,  I usually receive 2-3 solicitations from companies, real estate agents or law firms that are looking for short sale business. Here are a few of the biggest drawbacks from these organizations searching for short sales business in Baltimore, MD.

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  • leaky basement in a Baltimore house missed during home inspection
    08/21/2020 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    How to Spot a Leaky Basement During a Baltimore Home Inspection


    I get calls about this all the time from new Baltimore homeowners and the discussions are heartbreaking. A buyer settles on their new Baltimore home and after a few months, or even a few days, the first big rain falls and the basement leaks! Follow these three tips to help avoid basement leaks and water damage in your new home.

    3 Tips for Your Baltimore Home Inspection 

    1. When you are walking through a property for the first time uses your senses. Does the basement smell musty? Do you see any signs of past leaks such as stains on exposed wood, drywall, doors or furniture? Is the furnace or hot water heater up on blocks? These are all signs of past water issues. Now the problem may have been corrected, but it is best to be on guard.

    2. Familiarize yourself with different waterproofing systems and how they work. Recently, a buyer called and informed me that while there is a sump pump in her basement, there is no drain tile system to direct water into the sump pump. The only thing the sump pump was good for was to drain water that was pushed into it. Without a basic understanding of water drainage systems, you may think you are protected when you are one heavy rain away from disaster. 

    3. Attend your Baltimore home inspection and ask a ton of questions, especially a direct question about the inspector’s opinion on whether s/he thinks the basement leaks. If your home inspector expresses even the slightest concern that you may be buying a house with a leaky basement, get a professional waterproofing company into that property to take a look before you settle. 

    A home purchase is a huge investment and you need to protect yourself and your family. Do not let your emotions or a pushy real estate agent rush you into moving forward with a purchase without having all the facts, you may regret it later.

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  • baltimore fsbo to short sale client
    06/18/2020 - heiseheisellp 522 Comments
    From FSBO to Short Sale in Baltimore County

    We recently handled a matter where a landlord passed away and the tenant was interested in purchasing the Baltimore County property from the personal representative of the landlord’s estate. We were engaged to prepare the contract for the tenant as a for sale by owner transaction. After the tenant’s lender received the appraisal it became clear the contract sales price was $30,000.00 higher than the value of the property. The problem here is that the sales price was dictated by the funds that were necessary to satisfy the landlord’s existing mortgage. What do we do here to salvage the transaction and get the buyer in the home?

    Fortunately, the principal real estate attorney at Baltimore-based Heise & Heise, LLP is also an associate real estate broker with Douglas Realty. We were able to list the property for sale as a short sale, market it, and ultimately write a contract for the tenant. Through the firm, we handled the short sale for the landlord’s personal representative, negotiated a sales price that was $30,000.00 less than the original sales price and obtained a $5,400.00 credit for the tenant.

    The landlord’s personal representative was able to benefit from a full waiver of deficiency and release of lien. For added convenience, we also introduced the tenant to a local Baltimore-based title company offering some of the best rates around and has a great deal of experience handling Baltimore short sale transactions. 

    All of the parties appreciated the convenience of such a streamlined process with all services offered through one central office. If you are experiencing a similar situation please call our team of Baltimore real estate attorney’s at (410) 394-9504 us so we can discuss how we can help and the services we provide.

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  • CARES Act short sale home in Maryland
    06/08/2020 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    How the CARES Act Can Help Baltimore Homeowners

    We recently brought on a few short sale clients in the Baltimore, MD area who purchased properties just before the Great Recession of 2007-2009. These clients saw the value of their properties drop drastically once the recession hit and did not seen the values recover. Some owners continued to occupy the properties as their principal residence while others rented out the properties and were left paying any shortgage out of pocket and suffering losses month-after-month. 

    The current housing climate caused by the Covid pandemic presents a unique opportunity for these property owners to divest themselves of a huge liability, while minimizing the consequences to their credit score. How so? The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires the lenders to report to the credit bureaus that the borrowers are current on their loan or account if the homeowners are:

    1. current on their mortgage;
    2. enter into a forebearance or other accomodation with their lender (allowing them to suspend payments)
    3. and are meeting the terms of the agreement

    How would this look? Let’s run out a scenario for context. A property owner has a former principal residence that is underwater by $100,000.00. S/he purchased another home and is renting out the former residence. The rent coming in does not cover the full mortgage payment and the owner is paying $500.00 monthly to cover the shortage. S/he could enter into a forebearance agreement with the lender, negotiate a 4-6 month suspension of payments, list the property as a short sale and have the property sold before the forebearance period expires. The lender would be required to report that the loan is current during the marketing period while no payments are being made. 

    Additionally, where a loan is already in default some lenders are willing to suspend negative credit reporting. How this is handled varies from lender to lender, but the key it to contact the lender and work out an arrangement.

    If you have a client nurturing along a property with negative equity and is current on their mortgage, or is in default, now is the time to reach out and encourage them to enter into a forebearance or other agreement, list the property as a short sale, skip 4-6 months of payments, sell the property and not take a hit to their credit score for the skipped payments.

    Please call the experienced team of Baltimore, MD real estate lawyers at Heise & Heise at (410) 394-9504 for more details on how we might be able to assist you.

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  • Best Real estate lawyers in Baltimore
    01/14/2020 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Heise & Heise, LLP Named Best Rated Baltimore Real Estate Lawyer


    I hope that the New Year is being as good to you as it is to us! We were very excited to be named as one of the top three real estate lawyers in Baltimore, Maryland for 2019. 

    This merit-based award from Three Best Rated, is based on a rigorous 50-point inspection which includes everything from checking reputation, history, complaints, ratings, satisfaction, nearness, trust, cost and general excellence. 

    This is our third consecutive year receiving this award and we are especially honored because we respect Three Best Rated’s ethos. They believe local businesses provide better and more personal services because they are a part of that community. A big thank you to our clients that continue to support us throughout the year . . . we could not do it without you!

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  • BirdEye 2019 Best Lawyer Award for Fernandez Law Group
    12/10/2019 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Heise & Heise, LLP – Baltimore Real Estate Law Firm Recognized

    Our Baltimore Real Estate Firm, Heise & Heise, LLP,  was identified as one of the best law firms in America in the inaugural BirdEye Best Business Awards.  

    BirdEye selected the 10 best lawyers and law firms in 115 major cities across the United States based on publicly available review data on platforms such as Google, Facebook, Avvo, and more. 

    According to BirdEye, receiving this award is an indication of client satisfaction and a strong overall success in online reviews which serve as the foundation for becoming an obvious choice in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. 

    Here at Heise & Heise, LLP, we are committed to providing amazing customer service, quick responses and innovative approaches to your legal needs. Please call us today to let us know how we can help . . . we will keep an ear out for you.

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  • 08/15/2019 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    For Sale by Owner: Roadmap to Sell it Yourself!


    At present, we are seeing a pretty active real estate market in the Greater Baltimore area coupled with low interest rates that should continue for the foreseeable future. If you need or want to sell your home in Maryland, and live in an area where there is low inventory and properties tend to sell quickly, consider trying to sell without the high expense of a real estate broker. 

    Steps for FSBO in Maryland 

    Here’s how it’s quite possible to create marketing plan without a real estate agent being involved at all. There is no harm in hanging a for sale sign on your house for thirty days to see what happens. Oftentimes your neighbors will reach out to their friends and family who may be shopping to let them know that your house is available. Couple that possibility with the rise of do-it-yourself online marketplaces like Zillow, Craigslist and Facebook.

    And if all else fails, the decision to market your house as a for sale by owner in Maryland is not irrevocable, you can change course at any point and involve an agent. 

     Maryland FSBO Tips  

    Price to attract buyers. Take a step back and put your emotional attachments aside, you need to figure out what your house is realistically worth. For a few weeks leading up to your offering pretend you are a buyer shopping for a house in your neighborhood. Go to open houses, search public sale records, research on Zillow and see what kind of value nearby houses have. You may also consider asking an agent for a comparative market analysis to see what their opinion is. Most agents will willingly do this with the thought that you will go back to them if you eventually decide to list the house for sale. 

    Protect agents. Make it clear that if a potential purchaser is working with a buyer’s agent that you will pay out one-half of a typical commission. This will be in the 2% to 3% range and will keep those agents showing your house and interest high.

    Make your Maryland house a grabber. As you travel through open houses in your research phase take note of what those sellers have done to make their house attractive. Is the landscaping tidy and fresh? How is the curb appeal? Does the appearance of the house make it appear well kept and loved? Has the house been decluttered inside? Now take a critical look at your house and decide what you need to do to compete. 

    Marketing your Maryland property. Spend a few extra dollars and get an attractive sign made by a local sign shop. That will show that you are serious about the sale and projects a professional and prepared image. Prepare some quality color flyers with a few photos and detailing the highlights of the home. There are so many resources available online now such as Vistaprint or Fiverr that there is no reason not to bring your best efforts.

    Stay relaxed. When you have a potential buyer and are negotiating the terms of the sale be calm. Try not to be too pushy, or impose unrealistic requirements, or you run the risk of running your potential buyer right into the arms of a buyer’s agent eroding your savings. 

    Give a little. A Buyer coming into a for sale by owner transaction without an agent is going to have to do a fair amount of work on their own. They will have to identify their own lender, home inspector, title company and other third party service providers. They will also likely have to engage an attorney to review or prepare the contract. What is the trade off? Discount your asking price a bit below market or offer a buyer credit so that your buyer can also enjoy some of your savings on real estate commissions. This will entice them to have patience with the process and see the purchase through. 

    Know when to call in the Maryland real estate professionals. While you can handle most home sale activities on your own you want to draw the line when it comes to preparing or reviewing a contract. This is where you want to engage an attorney to paper the transaction and ensure you are protected and entering into a binding agreement. 

    Click here for additional FSBO resources for Maryland homeowners. 

    Still have more questions? Contact our Baltimore real estate law firm today. 




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  • Steps to Take to Register Your New Baltimore City Rental Property
    08/06/2019 - heiseheisellp 2 Comments
    Checklist to Register Your Baltimore City Rental Property

     So, you just purchased your first residential investment property and would like to rent it out, now what? In order to be in compliance with state and local laws there are a series of inspections and registrations you will have to complete before leasing your property. Requirements vary from county to county and this guide will focus on the process required for owners in Baltimore City to be compliant with current state and local laws.


    Four Steps to Register Your New Baltimore City Rental Property

    Step One

    Even before leasing your property, get the property lead paint inspected. This will require a third-party inspector who will evaluate your property to identify any issues that need to be addressed. Any areas with chipping or peeling paint will need to be corrected before the inspector will issue an inspection certificate.

    Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will issue an inspection certificate that will be needed in order to proceed with the next step in the registration process. Unless the property is certified as lead free, you will need to have the lead paint inspection conducted at every tenant turnover with limited exceptions.

    Step Two

    Register your property with the Maryland Department of the Environment ("MDE"). This can be done via an online portal here: and must be completed annually. The online registration will prompt you to enter information that is on your inspection certificate from Step One, such as the lead paint inspection certificate number and date of inspection. The registration fee is $30.00 per unit and the failure to complete this step will result in fines and penalties.

    Step Three

    Register the property with Baltimore City’s Department of Housing and Community Development within ten days of acquiring title (or face a $500.00 fine) and annually thereafter. The registration requirement must be satisfied for every non-owner-occupied dwelling unit, vacant structure and rooming house. The link to register the property, along with some helpful details on the requirements and process, can be found here:

     The registration and licensing information publication prepared by Baltimore City provides a solid overview of  the registration and licensing timelines and requirements.

     You will need the MDE registration number from Step Two to complete this step so keep that handy.

    Step Four

    If your property is a multi-family dwelling, rooming house or non-owner-occupied dwelling unit in a one or two family dwelling that is leased or rented or offered or available for lease or rental in exchange for any form of consideration, it must be licensed. A good rule of thumb here is if you are going to rent the property, get a rental license. To secure your rental license you must have the property inspected by a third-party inspector. The inspector will check for leaks under sinks, ensure that toilets flush, verify that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in place and operable, etc. The checklist that your inspector will use has been prepared by Baltimore City and can be viewed online here:

     It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the checklist so you can make any repairs before your inspection is performed.

    After your inspection is complete your inspector will issue a Baltimore City Rental License Inspection Form that you will be required to upload as part of the registration and licensing process. The initial license term is for a period of two years and the renewal term depends on how quickly any violation notices are addressed in that two-year period.

    The process can seem overwhelming, but if you follow these four steps in the order laid out you will have an inspected, registered and licensed rental in no time along with the peace of mind knowing that you are operating within the law.  

     Stumped by something in the process?

    CLICK HERE TO CONTACT HEISE & HEISE or call (410) 394-9504



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  • 07/25/2019 - heiseheisellp 2 Comments
    Why a Baltimore Real Estate Investor Should Consider an Umbrella Insurance Policy

    If you are an owner of investment real estate in Baltimore, MD you are at an above average chance of being sued. Why? You are likely not living on site, and as a result, certain condition issues may not be brought to your attention promptly. Additionally, you have only so much control over your tenants, who they invite into their home and the activities they engage in.

    Sure, you have insurance and that will cover your liability but only to the extent of the coverage limit of your policy. For example, let’s say that a tenant sues you for an injury he sustains and you only have coverage in the amount of $500,000.00. If the tenant gets a judgment for $750,000.00 your policy will pay out $500,000.00 but the remainder of the judgment, $250,000.00, is yours to deal with alone. If you cannot pay the remainder of the judgment your property, and possibly your personal assets, are at risk.  

    How do you protect against suffering this loss? You may want to consider an umbrella insurance policy. An umbrella policy sits on top of your insurance policy and typically covers the same things as your existing policy. However, the umbrella policy kicks in where the limits of the existing policy are reached. An umbrella policy usually runs $150.00 – $300.00 per year for $1,000,000.00 of coverage oftentimes making it less expensive than increasing your underlying policy limits. 

    Most insurers that issue umbrella policies in Baltimore will only sell you a policy if you place your property and general liability policy with them and maintain certain amounts of liability coverage. This is a good practice because with just one insurer, if the requirements of the umbrella policy change you will be given notice. Also, if the underlying policy limits are exceeded you will be able to keep the same insurance agency attorney on the job throughout your case.  

    Have questions about investing in Baltimore real estate? Give us a call.

    Contact Us

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  • Three Benefits of Titling a Baltimore Rental Property Into an LLC
    01/15/2019 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    Three Reasons Why You Should Title a Baltimore Rental Property Into an LLC


    Three Benefits of Titling a Baltimore Rental Property Into an LLC

    Are you a rental property owner here in the Baltimore area? Perhaps you’ve wondered what the best approach is for titling your rental property? Let’s take a look at the three main benefits of titling your Baltimore rental property into an LLC.

    • Protect Assets – titling a Baltimore property to a limited liability company (LLC)  and treating it as a business (creating separate bank accounts, maintaining insurance in the name of the LLC, etc.) insulates the business operation from your personal assets and provides you with limited liability personally.
    • Pass Through Taxation – normally businesses are taxed on profits and owners are taxed again when they make income from the business operation. With an LLC, the profits pass through to your personal tax return, which minimizes the amount of money taken out of your income for taxes.
    • Track and Deduct Business Expenses – having the income and expenses flow through your LLC makes it easier to track legitimate business expenses and keep them separate from personal expenses.


    Click to Download!

    When to Title a Baltimore Investment Property Into an LLC 

    It is best to title your Baltimore rental or investment property into your LLC when you purchase it. Why? If you take title in your own personal name, your loan, your title insurance policy and your hazard insurance policy will also be in your personal name. A subsequent transfer to an LLC may have certain negative consequences if you are not careful. Three potential negative consequences are detailed covered below.

    First, when you transfer your Baltimore rental property to your LLC after taking out a loan in your own name it may trigger the due on sale clause set out in your loan documents. What does this mean? It means that your lender may accelerate the loan and demand immediate payment in full. If you are unable or unwilling to pay the loan off your lender may file a foreclosure to force you to do so and this may result in you losing the property.

    Second, in regard to your title insurance policy, it may be necessary to have an additional insured endorsement issued so that the protections afforded by the policy are not terminated. In certain circumstances it may be necessary to place a new title insurance policy.

    Finally, the concerns that are raised with title insurance also extend to hazard insurance but are easier to correct. If you fail to change the hazard insurance policy post transfer and someone is injured on your property it is possible that the insurance company will deny coverage and you could be held responsible for a judgment.

    These are just a few details to consider when purchasing and titling a Baltimore rental or investment property. Each situation should be evaluated based on the details of that particular transaction so if you have any questions please contact our Baltimore real estate attorneys at Heise & Heise, LLP for a full review.




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  • 12/27/2018 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Legal Considerations of Owning a Rental Property in Baltimore


    Legal Considerations of Owning a Rental Property in Baltimore

    It has been a year since you and your spouse bought your first rental property in Baltimore, MD, and things are going great! You sat in on real estate seminars specific to the Baltimore market, read all the investment books, joined in on online discussion boards, and now all the hard work is starting to pay off. Each month that rent check comes in like clockwork and you are realizing a profit, a small one, but still, it is a profit. You think "this is easy, why aren’t more people doing this?"

    And then you come home from work one day, grab the mail, and head to the house and there it is . . . a letter from a law firm. Turns out that one of the children living in your rental property has elevated lead levels and you are about to be sued.

    No worries, this is why you have insurance, right? You give your insurance agent a call and find out you have a lead paint exclusion in your policy. The worst-case scenario has surfaced – no coverage. You are on your own. 


    Click to Download!

    Legal Risks of Owning a Baltimore Rental Property

    What does this mean? What happens if the lawyer sues and gets a judgment? Since you and your spouse are both on the title of the Baltimore rental property and also on the title to your primary residence, your home is at risk. It is possible that the lawyer can force a sale of your home to squeeze the equity out to satisfy the judgment. 

    If the sale of your home does not return enough funds to satisfy the judgment, the lawyer can also seek to collect by garnishing your wages or seizing your personal assets. This goes for your spouse, too. 

    A friend suggests that bankruptcy may stop this terrible slide but then it will be years before you fully recover from your filing and you can see that dream of being a real estate mogul slowly slipping away. 

    Take Title of Baltimore Rental Property in LLC

    Interested in how to prevent the likelihood of this scenario becoming a reality? Go back in time and take title to the rental property in a limited liability company ("LLC"). Get in touch with Baltimore’s best real estate attorney at Heise & Heise and we will be happy to explain the structure and how to begin the process to protect your future. 


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  • mortgage pre-approval letter baltimore
    08/09/2018 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Pre-Qualification Letter vs. Pre-Approval Letter in Maryland


    When you are working towards buying a home in Baltimore, your realtor will oftentimes recommend that you meet with a lender to obtain a pre-qualification letter or pre-approval letter. The terms are frequently used interchangeably but there are a few subtle distinctions that we will detail below.

    Pre-Qualification Letter. This document is issued usually seen as the first stage of the mortgage application process. At this stage, a lender will ask you questions about your income, assets, debts and credit score. Based on the information you supply the lender will make a preliminary determination of the amount of the loan that you will qualify for. The lender may ask for documentation prior to issuing a pre-qualification letter but that is typically reserved for the pre-approval letter stage.

    Pre-Approval Letter. Mortgage pre-approval is very similar to pre-qualification but requires that you submit documentation of your financial history. The lender will verify your income, assets, and debts and will oftentimes run a credit check to verify your credit score. This credit check will result in a hard inquiry and may affect your credit score. 

    The upshot here? Most agents and sellers just want to know that you have taken some preliminary steps to secure financing and have the ability to close on the purchase so either document will suffice. 





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  • Three Questions to Ask if You Are a FSBO Seller in MD
    07/12/2018 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Top Three Questions to Ask if You Are a FSBO Seller in MD


    Is the Maryland FSBO buyer qualified?

    So, you listed your Maryland home for sale by owner on one of the many platforms available and received an offer, now what? You want to make sure that the potential buyer is qualified before entering into a contract. How do you do that? Request that a buyer submits a pre-qualification letter or pre-approval letter (stay posted for a future blog on the differences between the two coming soon) along with the offer. This document will help you determine that the buyer has met with a lender and has a good chance of being approved for a mortgage for the amount that is being offered for the home. There is not much sense in investing energy and resources into a contract from a buyer who will not be able to secure a loan for the purchase.  

    Who is paying the realtor?

    In a traditional sale involving real estate agents, the seller’s agent negotiates a fee with the seller, usually anywhere from 4%-7% of the sales price, that is shared with the buyer’s agent. In a for sale by owner transaction that fee may be avoided if there are no agents involved in the transaction. However, it may be the case that a potential purchaser is represented by an agent, what then? A seller in this scenario should determine in advance whether they will agree to pay the buyer’s agent a commission or will require the buyer to pay the buyer’s agent themselves. A seller may be able to refuse to pay any type of commission to a buyer’s agent if their house is a particularly desirable property or is in an area where there are high demand and low supply. In Maryland, there is no requirement that a seller pays an agent a commission unless agreed to in a contract.  

    Is the Maryland FSBO real estate contract valid?

    Even the major service providers in the for sale by owner space advise engaging a real estate attorney when a seller does not have an agent. Why is this? Many states require property disclosures for property condition, radon, lead paint, asbestos, etc. and if the requirements are not fulfilled the buyer may be able to terminate the contract. There is a huge temptation to use a form contract found on the Internet or purchased at a store to save a few dollars but this is a risky proposition. You will already be reducing your expenses by eliminating one or both agents so best to make sure you have taken the steps necessary to ensure that the buyer is obligated to see the purchase through.



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  • 04/26/2018 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Is Cannabis Legal or Not? Part Four: Maryland


    *Photo credit by my friends at

    In the last of this four part series, we turn our focus to Maryland. In 2013, Maryland legalized medical cannabis law. [Maryland Cannabis Legislation]. Four years later, the growers, processors and dispensaries are opening their doors and beginning wholesale and retail product sales. Maryland is an interesting medical use state in that it has one of the broadest range of qualifying conditions in the country and allows for all methods of cannabis consumption (except edibles).  In Maryland, persons 18 and above, may become a registered medical patient if you are diagnosed with  wasting syndrome, anorexia, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms, glaucoma, and/or ptsd. There is also a broad catch all in the law that allows a medical provider to recommend cannabis for any other condition in which they think cannabis would be effective. That catch all could be used for conditions like anxiety, depression, insomnia,  and traumatic brain injury. Patients below the age of 18 may also have access to cannabis, but they must have a caregiver registered with the state and that caregiver is responsible for obtaining the cannabis and transporting that cannabis to them.

    In Maryland, you do not have to be a medical doctor to recommend (the legal term for issuing a cannabis "prescription") the use of cannabis. Any physician, nurse practitioner, dentist, podiatrist or nurse midwife who is registered with the State may certify someone to use cannabis. This is a much more liberal approach than those taken in other states. Maryland is further unique in that there is an allowance for a patient who is not a resident of the state to be treated by a Maryland medical provider and obtain a recommendation for medical cannabis. This is not reciprocity. States that have reciprocity, accept medical recommendations from another state’s program. Out of state patients, must be treated by a Maryland medical provider in order to have access to cannabis within the confines of the state.

    Patients, medical providers and caregivers are all required to be registered with the State. Unlike other states, Maryland’s patient registration process is fairly simple. There is no requirement to be background checked or finger printed, nor does a patient have to carry a medical card, though one can be purchased from the Commission. To register as a patient or a caregiver, go to the Commission’s website.

    Maryland is receiving 200-400 patient registration requests everyday. If you would like to become a patient in Maryland, and need assistance with the process, you may contact a representative from Mission Dispensaries at 1-833-POTHELP for further assistance or visit their website at Mission Dispensaries.

    by Leah M. Heise, Esq.

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  • for sale by owner home baltimore md
    04/12/2018 - heiseheisellp 6 Comments
    5 Biggest For Sale By Owner Mistakes in Maryland


    With real estate commissions on residential property sales running anywhere from 4% to 7% of the sale price of a house, it is only natural that sellers in Maryland try to save those funds by selling their house themselves without an agent. This is called a for sale by owner, or FSBO, sale. Are you among those Maryland homeowners looking to sell your house without an agent? If so, please consider the top five FSBO mistakes we see at our Baltimore real estate law firm.

    Top 5 FSBO Mistakes in Baltimore, MD

    FSBO MISTAKE NO. 1. SIGNING A CONTRACT WITHOUT HAVING IT REVIEWED. It happens all the time, sellers think that they can change the terms after they sign a contract but once they sign they are likely locked into those terms. Sometimes a buyer, especially investors, will tell a seller that they will allow changes later but unless that agreement is in writing it is not enforceable.

    FSBO MISTAKE NO. 2. NOT ATTACHING FORMS REQUIRED BY MARYLAND CODE. Did you know that if a seller does not deliver a Property Disclosure or Disclaimer Statement to a buyer on or before entering into a contract the buyer may rescind the contract and receive an immediate return of the deposit? If you did not know this and you are considering selling your house on your own, you should engage an attorney or realtor as there are many potential pitfalls of this nature. 

    FSBO MISTAKE NO. 3. TRUSTING THE BUYER. I know, I know . . . why so cynical? It is because we have seen some shocking things over the years. A buyer wanting to buy a property will oftentimes do whatever is necessary to get the property under contract. Is your buyer saying he wants the house for a family member? Doubtful. Has your Buyer said his offer is fair based on comparable properties? Do not believe it, do your own research. The upshot is that a fair amount of skepticism will serve you well.  

    FSBO MISTAKE NO. 4. AGREEING TO PAY ALL TRANSFER AND RECORDATION TAXES. Typically, in Maryland transfer and recordation taxes, which can be 3% or more of the sale price of a property, are split equally between the parties. Some buyers will take advantage of a seller who may not know this and shift the responsibility of payment of all these taxes to the seller. If the seller does not pick up on the shift in obligation it can be a pricey mistake. For example, transfer and recordation taxes on a $250,000.00 sale can run roughly $7,500.00 depending on the county. Each party would pay $3,750.00 in this example but if the buyer shifts the payment obligation to the seller that seller just cost themselves $3,750.00 that should have been paid by the buyer.


    FSBO MISTAKE NO. 5. ALLOWING A BUYER THE RIGHT TO ASSIGN THE CONTRACT. What does it mean if a contract is assignable? It means that a contract purchaser will have the right to shop the contract around to see if they can obtain a higher offer on the property and pocket the difference. For example, if a contract is assignable and the seller agrees to sell a property for $100,000.00 the buyer can shop the contract and find a third party willing to pay $135,000.00. What happens to the $35,000.00 difference? It goes right in the original buyer’s pocket for acting as the middleman and this is a tough thing for sellers to experience at the settlement table because they basically lost out on receiving an additional $35,000.00. 

    *BONUS TIP NO. 1 If you are a FSBO seller and the buyer says that they are going to pay cash for the property, request proof of funds. They should be able to send you a bank or IRA statement showing the funds to purchase are available to them. There is no sense wasting valuable marketing time with a buyer that is unable to close. 

    *Bonus TIP NO. 2 The size of the deposit is usually an indicator of how serious a buyer is about settling on the house you are selling. If the deposit is only $100.00 your buyer is getting himself in a position to walk away from your transaction and is minimizing his loss. 


    *There are a number of factors and variables that can change the analysis above, it is important that you engage legal counsel to advise you on your transaction. 

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  • 03/29/2018 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Is Cannabis Legal or Not? – A Four Part Series: Part Three – Medical Use & Limited Medical Use

    There are 20 states in the United States that provide for the use of cannabis strictly for medical purposes. Each of these states has their own complex regulatory frameworks outlining how you can become a registered patient in the state, how much cannabis can be possessed or consumed and where a patient can purchase that product. For the vast majority of these purely medical-use states, of which Maryland is one, licenses have been issued to people to grow, process and sell the medical cannabis. Each state has its own list of conditions that trigger the ability to obtain cannabis and they also differ in the way the product can be sold and consumed. Some states, (NY, NJ and OH, among others) do not allow for the consumption or sale of flower (meaning you can’t smoke it). Other states, (ME, DC) allow you to grow a limited number of plants and produce your own medicine. Some states, like Maryland, have strict testing standards while others have virtually no regulatory oversight at all (AZ).


    * Dark Green indicates adult use (note that Vermont was recently added but not shown on the map); Light Green is Medical Use; Grey is Limited Use; and black are the states with no cannabis laws of any sort. For an interactive version of this map with helpful information, visit NCIA here.

    The distinguishing factor between Medical-Use states and Limited Medical Use states is often whether or not THC is allowed. In Medical Use states, all cannabinoids are allowed regardless of amount. In Limited Medical Use States, CBD (cannabidiol) a non-psychoreactive cannibinoid of the cannabis plant is allowed at high levels, but THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is either disallowed completely or only at very low levels. Fifteen states have limited medical use programs. These states also have very few conditions for which cannabis can be used, often only allowing its usage in severe cases of epilepsy.

    Because we live, and are licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland, we will end our four part series by looking at what is allowed under Maryland Law. Keep your eyes out for the last post in this series.

    by Leah M. Heise, Esq.

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  • 03/08/2018 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    Tax Relief for Short Sales in Baltimore


    Depending on how closely you follow what is going on in Washington, you may or may not be aware that Congress recently passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Even among those of you with your finger on the political pulse, it can be easy to overlook some smaller items rolled up in these types of complex Congressional deals. Among the many provisions included in this bill, the one we want to draw your attention to involves real estate short sales in Baltimore, MD and nationwide.

    If you short sold your principal residence in 2017, and the lender forgave the debt, you will not need to include the forgiven debt in your gross income. Additionally, if you entered into a contract in 2017 to sell your principal residence and it does not end up settling until 2018, you will be able to benefit from this provision. Find additional details on the IRS website:


    This is huge news and will provide tax savings for many hard working people!

    Have questions about how this new short sale tax law might impact you? CONTACT US TODAY FOR A FREE CONSULT.

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  • 02/22/2018 - heiseheisellp 2 Comments
    Is Cannabis Legal or Not? A Four Part Series: Part Two – Adult Use


    *Note: This Map does not include Vermont which in early 2018 was the first state to legalize adult use via legislation and not a public ballot initiative.

    Welcome back to our analysis of whether or not Cannabis is legal. In this post, we will discuss Adult-Use: what it means, who can get it and can you take it home with you if you aren’t a resident of an adult use state. Adult Use is the official term for cannabis that is subject to use for recreational purposes and does not require a person to have a medical recommendation from a physician. In all adult-use states, you must be at least 21 years of age to obtain, use and possess cannabis for recreational purposes. Adult use is currently allowed in nine states and the District of Columbia. Colorado was the first state to approve this type of use and since the passage of Colorado’s law, the industry has created thousands of jobs, caused a sharp rise in property values and generated millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state. Colorado has long been a thought leader in terms of cannabis legalization, first decriminalizing its possession in 1975, permitting medical cannabis usage in 2000, and, finally being the first state to allow for recreational sales in 2012. If you are not a resident of the state of Colorado or another state in which adult use is legal, you may purchase and use cannabis within state borders. Moving any cannabis product across state lines will trigger Federal law and is therefore illegal.


    Although recreational cannabis is permissible currently in the District of Columbia, Vermont, and Massachusetts, you can not purchase any product. Both Vermont and Massachusetts are drafting regulations to provide for the sales of recreational cannabis and that regulation drafting takes time. In the District of Columbia, Federal intervention has prevented the DC Department of Health from expending any monies to create a regulatory scheme that would oversee the sale of recreational cannabis. Instead, there exists a vast grey market where people grow their own cannabis and "gift" it to associates, often along with some "charitable donation" or the purchase of a T-Shirt, Juice, or other items. So again, always ask: "What state am I in?"; "Am I over the age of 21?"; and, "Will I be consuming all of the product within the confines of the State".

    Stay tuned for my next analysis, Medical Use and Limited-Medical Use to further a wrench into the question of the legality of cannabis.

    by Leah M Heise, Esq.

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  • 01/25/2018 - heiseheisellp 4 Comments
    FSBO in Maryland: What You Need to Know


    What is a FSBO?

    We have all heard the term before, FSBO, but what does it mean? FSBO stands "for sale by owner." This is a property sale where a property owner has elected not to engage the services of a realtor to assist in the sale of a property they wish to sell. The buyer may or may not have a realtor involved to assist them with the transaction.   

    Why would someone want to sell a house without realtor being involved?

    There are a variety of reasons that a seller would elect to forego using a realtor in a FSBO transaction. For example, the sale may be a related party transaction where the buyer and seller know or are related to each other. We have also handled transactions where tenants are buying from their landlord and are familiar with the property being purchased. In these settings, the parties have usually come to an agreement on the important terms of the transaction and just need the details to be properly memorialized. 

    Who handles the paperwork in a FSBO? 

    Heise & Heise, LLP maintains a library of contracts and addendums and can handle any paperwork needed to place a valid and binding contract on a property. The library is updated regularly so that as Maryland law changes annually so are our forms unlike those you might find online or in a store. In some scenarios, we have crafted special addendums to cover unique situations that are uncommon in the world of real estate. Our firm has the flexibility to represent either a seller or buyer in a transaction and we are able to offer a fixed price fee schedule.

    What if I need a recommendation for service provider? 

    During the FSBO sale, you may discover a need for a service provider. To aid in that need we have assembled a list of the following service providers that have been carefully selected based on their customer service, reputation in the industry and cost.

    • Home Inspectors
    • Appraisers
    • Lenders
    • Settlement / Title Companies
    • Surveyors


    If you search online the most commonly stated drawbacks to a FSBO are the limited exposure to the marketplace and the possibility of realizing less than the full market value on a sale. We are able to overcome these obstacles by working with you to get your property listed on the multiple listing services for maximum exposure. Additionally, we are able to connect you with a Maryland licensed appraiser so that you can ensure that you are pricing your house properly.

    The most significant advantage of a FSBO is that a seller and buyer may enjoy reduced expenses as a result of the nature of the transaction. Oftentimes a seller may be willing to pass along a portion of what is saved on commission to a buyer in the form of a credit or price reduction. This is a true win-win situation for all parties concerned.


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  • Thank you note from a Baltimore real estate attorney
    01/09/2018 - Todd Heise 2 Comments
    A Big Year End Thank You From A Very Grateful Baltimore Real Estate Attorney

    I go back and forth with my SEO guy, Mike, on this kind of message. I tell him that the "How Great Am I" emails, posts and blogs rub people the wrong way and I am not comfortable posting them. To which he said, "I agree, a shameless and self-celebratory message masquerading as an attempt at gratitude is in bad taste. However, you do owe your clients and partners a simple honest public thank you."

    While I was still hesitant, I think he had this one right. Recognition from Three Best Rated and first-time ‘excellence’ recognition from industry sources like Avvo were pleasant surprises in 2017. But I was truly humbled by the great things our clients had to say about us online – with over 110 taking to review sites like Google to share their experience and also entrusting their friends and family with our services by way of referrals.

    I thank each and every one of you reading this for your referrals and for allowing us to help you with your legal matter, I look forward to hearing from you in the new year! We have some cool things planned for 2018, please take a moment to like us on Facebook so that you do not miss out.

    All the best,


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  • short sales slowing down in baltimore, md
    12/14/2017 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    Are Short Sales Slowing Down in Baltimore?

    Heise & Heise, LLP is a Baltimore-based law firm that has been assisting property owners in Maryland and the District of Columbia with short sales since 2010. Over the past twelve months, we have noticed a slowing in the number of short sale inquiries and short sale clients at our office. The biggest driver of the reduced number of inquiries and engagements is the improving local real estate market and the strong appreciation in home values. These two factors have made a short sale less of a necessity for many people. We can candidly say that we have never been happier to have less business as this means that many people are enjoying a healthier financial condition. 

    However, short sales will continue to have a roll in some peoples’ lives for the foreseeable future for a variety of reasons.

    Reasons for a Short Sale in Baltimore

    • loss of employment
    • job relocation
    • change of marital status
    • death in the family
    • unexpected health issues

    Unfortunately, those individuals experiencing one of the hardships above do not have the luxury of waiting for continued appreciation to erase any prior reduction in value their home. If you are experiencing any of the hardships above and are considering letting your property go in foreclosure or declaring bankruptcy, please call us at (410) 394-9504 or contact our firm before doing so for a free consultation.  


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  • Opendoor Real estate industry study baltimore
    11/09/2017 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    Disruption in the Real Estate Industry?


    We have seen disruption in different industries over the past few years, Uber displacing taxi companies, Airbnb edging into hotel rentals, is it the real estate industry’s time for similar upheaval? Recently Forbes, Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have each covered Opendoor, a new startup entering the real estate space. Opendoor has been gaining market share by simplifying the home selling and buying process.

    On the selling side this innovative company will make an offer to purchase a house within 24 hours of a request made by a seller. The offer is based on details entered by a seller, publicly available sales data and an algorithm developed by Opendoor. If the offer is acceptable to the seller the company can close in as few as three days. The fee charged by Opendoor runs roughly 8.5% which is higher than a typical sales commission. However, selling to Opendoor for that higher premium allows sellers access to a quick sale without marketing the property. Additionally some of the difficulties experienced in a traditional sale, such as a buyer inspecting a property and demanding repairs, issues with buyers securing financing and the like are avoided. Opendoor’s service will be ideal for those who need to relocate quickly and do not have the time to wait for a buyer, such as active duty military members and Federal employees. 

    Benefits on the buying side include the ability to view a property from 6AM to 9PM every day via use of the Opendoor app whether accompanied by an agent or not. Additionally, when Opendoor purchases a house it engages a licensed third party inspector to inspect the property and the inspection results are made available to potential purchasers. Any repairs that are necessary are made by the company prior to it being offered for sale to the public. Offers submitted for properties owned by Opendoor are responded to within 48 hours taking some of the agony of waiting out of the home buying equation. Finally, Opendoor offers a 30 day satisfaction guarantee where they will buy the house back if a purchaser is not satisfied and throws in a one year premium warranty for the houses it sells. 

    In December, 2014 Opendoor launched in just one market, Phoenix, and within 2 years captured 2% of that market. In February, 2016 the company launched in Dallas which is the nation’s fourth largest metropolitan area. Since then it has entered the Las Vegas, Atlanta, Orlando and Raleigh-Durham markets. Opendoor’s intention is to enter 10 markets in 2017 and expand nationwide into 30 markets by 2018. The real estate industry is a large market with $1.4 trillion in annual transaction volume, if Opendoor captures just 1% of the 5 million real estate transactions that occur each year with an average sales price of $250,000.00 they are projecting $1 billion in revenue.

    It will be extremely interesting to see how the Opendoor model develops and how the entrenched real estate brokerages respond to this upstart. 

    *This text of this article has been extensively drawn from the sources cited within, please see those sources for full text. 



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  • 10/19/2017 - heiseheisellp 8 Comments
    Life After A Short Sale in Baltimore


    What happens after a short sale closes? 

    Here at Heise & Heise, LLP, one of the few Baltimore law firms concentrating in short sales, we have been thinking that our current short sale clients might be interested in that very question. We reached out to ten former clients who successfully completed short sales from 2012 through 2015 and asked if they would be willing to take part in a short interview. Those that responded did so because they felt very strongly about helping out those who are just beginning their own short sale journey and wanted to share their experiences. What they shared with us was very interesting and is explored in detail below.

    What happens to my credit after a short sale? 

    Most of our former clients indicated that at the completion of the short sale, their credit scores hit lows in the mid-400s to low-500s which would be considered a bad or poor, credit score by industry standards. All of those interviewed who recently checked their credit scores informed us that their scores are now good or excellent with most falling into the good category of 700-749. The most exciting example was the client whose credit score bottomed out in the low-400s at the completion of the short sale and has since rebounded to the mid-700s in just two years! On average the rehabilitation of credit scores took 12 to 18 months.

    Will I be able to purchase a new home or car after a short sale? 

    Over 70% of those interviewed informed us that they have purchased a new home since they concluded their short sale. The financing placed for these new home purchases has varied from commercial loans to FHA loans with competitive interest rates. The remaining individuals interviewed are considering home purchases but are not quite ready to take that step. An interesting side note is that all of those interviewed have purchased new cars since the conclusion of their short sales. 

    Will I have to pay anything to the lender as part of the short sale? 

    All of the former clients with whom we spoke confirmed that they did not have to contribute to the loss that the lender(s) experienced as part of the short sale. Additionally, most of these individuals were able to benefit from the since expired  Debt Forgiveness and Relief Act and no taxes were owed on the forgiven debt. While this act has not been renewed most clients pursuing a short sale presently may avail themselves of other exemptions provided by the Internal Revenue Code to escape tax liability.

    Were there any other interesting facts to share?

    Our former clients also had a few tips and observations that we feel are worth sharing. One person went through a second short sale using a firm other than Heise & Heise, LLP and indicated that the level of service he received from that firm was subpar by comparison. He emphasized that a person pursuing a short sale should build a strong and reliable team comprised of a lawyer, accountant, and real estate agent to assist in navigating the complexities and pitfalls inherent in a short sale.

    This same person was able to get all negative references associated with the short sale removed from his credit file by continually appealing the references and demanding proof of the debt from the lender. After experiencing the lender’s inefficiencies throughout the short sale process this clever person figured out a way to capitalize on the lender’s dysfunction to his benefit.

    Another former client wondered why anyone would just sit back and let their house be foreclosed upon and have that activity on their credit report rather than engaging in a short sale. One person expressed his opinion that he felt it was much easier to rehabilitate his overall financial situation by engaging in a short sale rather than declaring bankruptcy.  

    One word we kept hearing from our former clients in these interviews was a relief, the relief they felt from the pressure of collection calls, relief from the uncertainty of what would happen to their future, and relief that with our assistance they were able to complete their short sale putting an unfortunate experience behind them.

    If you are looking for a Baltimore real estate attorney or know anyone considering a short sale, contact us today. We look forward to helping our future clients achieve the same relief we provided to our former short sale real estate clients.

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  • 08/25/2017 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    Baltimore City’s First Medical Cannabis Dispensary!

    Congratulations to Chesapeake Integrated Health Institute, LLC ("CIHI") for being the first medical cannabis dispensary to be licensed for business by Baltimore City! Heise & Heise, LLP was engaged by CIHI to assist in navigating the new Zoning Code implemented by Baltimore City this year, meeting with elected officials and securing a Certificate of Occupancy ("C of O") for this never before allowed use. The C of O was finally issued on August 15, 2017 and CIHI will be opening its dispensary in the Hampden community at 3907-3909 Falls Road in the next few months. We are proud and honored to have had a role in this historic event and are eager to see the positive impact that this business will have in our community.  


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  • 07/13/2017 - heiseheisellp 10 Comments
    Leah Heise on Medical Cannabis in Maryland

    ​We are incredibly proud of Heise & Heise, LLP Founder and Partner, Leah M. Heise, Esq., for her efforts in educating those in need about the benefits of medical cannabis. She recently appeared on the 98Rock morning show with Justin, Scott and Spiegel, where she spoke more about the status of Maryland law on the topic of medical cannabis.

    Check out her segment in the video clip below: 


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  • 01/06/2017 - heiseheisellp 212 Comments
    We Just Adopted 6 Rats!


    All of us at Heise & Heise, LLP are humbled by the kind words and encouragement we have received for our work over the past year. Our clients went out of their way to leave incredible reviews for us on G+, Yelp and AVVO and we appreciate it. We are also grateful to have been recognized as one of the Best Real Estate Law Firms in Baltimore for 2016 by Expertise, LLC.

    After receiving this kind of support and recognition, how does a Baltimore Law Firm give back? Easy– with rats! We have adopted the non-profit organization apopo HeroRATs as our Firm charity. This organization trains African Giant Pouched Rats to detect land mines in Africa and Asia.

    Once detected, mines can safely be removed, saving lives and putting dangerous land back into use. To date, these rats have detected over 100,000 land mines and returned in excess of 5,000 acres to productive use! Making this charity even better is the fact that the trainers and caretakers are recruited from the impoverished communities served by the HeroRATs. 

    As a thank you to all of our clients and realtor friends for their support, we are kicking off 2017 by adopting 6 HeroRATs. It is a small first step to building our very own rat army to carry out this important work. 


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  • 12/30/2016 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    An Airstream Trailer Lands in Baltimore City . . . Part Two.


    As you may recall from Part One of this blog post I agreed to help a client obtain the proper authorizations to park a travel trailer in the year yard of one of his properties in Baltimore City. The proposed use had been denied by the Zoning Administrator and I was required to schedule a hearing with the Baltimore City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals ("BMZA"). Prior to scheduling the hearing I was required to submit site plans which I did not have available.

    STEP 1: Drafting a site plan

    The site plan requirements are straightforward and can be prepared by anyone as an engineer or architect’s seal is not required.

    The  image to the left is a copy of a site plan I prepared in about a half hour using available resources.

    STEP 2: Filing a site plan with the City of Baltimore

    Filing the site plans is as easy as handing them to the clerk in the
    offices of the BMZA. The clerk will perform a preliminary review and if the site plans fulfill all requirements a hearing date is assigned. The hearing dates are usually assigned in order of application and it can take anywhere from four to six weeks from filing for the appeal to be heard.

    STEP 3: Posting a hearing sign on the property

    Prior to the scheduled hearing date, a hearing sign must be posted on the property to give notice to the community of the relief that is being sought from the BMZA along with details on the hearing date and location. The wording of the sign is supplied by the BMZA on a form that is used as a template for the sign that must be posted. It is recommended that an appellant (the person filing the appeal) meet with the appropriate community association and/or business association to share the plans for the property with community stakeholders.
    Both of these measures are calculated to inform those concerned of the plans for your property. Reaching out to those affected by your new proposed use will also identify areas of concern that can be addressed before you are standing before the BMZA waiting for their decision. In a best case scenario, the community association or business association will provide you with a letter of support that can be introduced at your hearing and is considered by the BMZA.


    STEP 4: Appearing before the Baltimore City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals (BMZA) for approval

    Having posted my sign and had discussions with the community associations, I appeared before the BMZA on behalf of my client. I was holding out hope that we would be on the consent docket, meaning the BMZA considered the appeal before the hearing and decided that absent and objection from the community or the Baltimore City Department of Planning they would grant the relief sought. Sadly, there was no such luck with the Airstream project and I was asked to formally present the project.

    After presenting the proposed use to the BMZA, members of the board asked questions concerning the dimensions of the Airstream, where it would be situated on the lot and the use to which it would be put. They also explained the conditions that must be followed in order to store the Airtstream in the rear yard of my client’s property. So long as my client agreed to these conditions, which it did, they allowed the use. After securing a Use & Occupancy Permit, my client will be able to store his Airstream in his yard without issue. 

    If you have any questions about this process do not hesitate to contact us!


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  • 11/14/2016 - heiseheisellp 3 Comments
    An Airstream Trailer Lands in Baltimore City . . . Part One

    ​​I have been practicing real estate law in Maryland for over a decade, mostly in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. I was recently contacted by a client with an unusual and fun project. He is interested in storing an Airstream travel trailer in the rear yard of a multi-unit apartment he owns in the Butchers Hill neighborhood in Baltimore City. I agreed to assist with this matter because it is so out of the ordinary and promises to be an interesting challenge. 

    First I visited the site to see if the proposed placement of the trailer might be objectionable to neighbors in the community. The apartment building is three stories tall and sits on a twenty foot by one hundred and thirty foot lot. There are two story buildings on each side of the rear of the lot and so the visual impact on the immediate neighbors is slight. Additionally, my client informed me that he intends to place the trailer close to the apartment building and construct a six foot tall removable fence to further minimize visibility. The site and his proposed plan struck me as being ideal for the intended use even more so since the travel trailer storage will still allow for four off-street parking spaces, always a hot commodity in the city. 

    Baltimore City is a great place to live and do business but getting things done the proper way can be a real struggle. The laws, regulations and practices tend to be byzantine and change quickly. I went to the Baltimore City permit office and applied for a permit to store the trailer in the rear yard, made it through that department and was referred to the Zoning Administrator’s Office where I ran into my first roadblock. I was informed that the use proposed was not allowed and that I would have to file an appeal for a variance with the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals (BMZA). The BMZA is composed of five individuals appointed by the Mayor and is primarily responsible for deciding if variances will be granted and conditional uses allowed. Appeals from decisions of the Zoning Administrator end up at the BMZA.

    I went to the BMZA to file the appeal and obtain a hearing date and ran into roadblock number two: site plans are required in order for a hearing date to be scheduled. Site plans do not need to be very formal but must be drawn to scale, show property dimensions, describe existing improvements, etc. I fully expected to make two trips and trip number one was calculated just to see how far I could get in the process. Please stay posted for Part Two of this project. 


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  • 10/03/2016 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    Heise & Heise Selected as One of the Best Real Estate Law Firms in Baltimore!


    We are proud to announce that Heise & Heise, LLP was recognized by Expertise, LLC as one of the Top 5 Best Real Estate Law Firms in Baltimore. Expertise reviewed one hundred and sixty-six firms and we came in among the twenty top picks and third overall. We are extremely grateful to our clients and staff for making this achievement possible. 

    What we were judged on

    Using their advanced algorithm Expertise curated their list down to one hundred and six law firms and then hand picked the Top 20 Best Real Estate Law Firms in the Baltimore area. When choosing these twenty firms, the following criteria were used:

    1. Reputation

    A key factor was having a long history of outstanding service and commitment to our clients. Heise & Heise has a long standing history of hundreds of satisfied clients over the years. Part of this was our many 5 star reviews across multiple platforms. 

    • 2. Credibility

      Heise & Heise LLP has worked hard to maintain the highest credibility in Real Estate Law in Baltimore, MD. Building customer confidence with licensing, industry accreditations, and awards.

    • 3. Experience

      Todd Heise, the founder of Heise & Heise LLP has been practicing law since 1999 and in business for himself for over 13 years. Over the years, the firm has developed the experience necessary to handle the frequent Baltimore market changes and has developed unique experience in Baltimore short sales

    • 4. Availability

      From the beginning, Todd knew that he wanted his business to be different, one way he accomplished this was by being the most transparent and easily accessible lawyer in Baltimore. With his easy to use "Ask a question" form on the website and active engagement in the legal community, Todd has made himself readily available to his clientele. 

    • 5. Professionalism

      Providing customers a seamless experience both online and off, Heise & Heise LLP has worked hard to have a streamlined website that’s easy to work with, just like they are in person.

    • 6. Engagement

      As an active user on platforms such as Avvo, Heise & Heise actively participates in the community. 

    Who we ranked against. 

    Baltimore has a very strong legal community and as such, we were pleasantly surprised to be ranked among the best of the best. The top 5 competitors include:

    1. Brown Goldstein Levy

    2. Gordon Feinblatt LLC

    3. Heise & Heise LLP

    4. Hillman, Brown & Darrow, PA

    5. Kollman & Saucier, PA


    Want to see the full list? Check it out here (CLICK HERE) and comment below if you agree (or disagree) with their list!


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  • 07/14/2016 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Interested in five simple ways to improve your credit score?

    In many areas of my practice, whether commercial acquisitions or sales, private money placement or short sales; I am often asked about credit issues. This is because a credit score affects whether a lender will extend you credit and the terms and rate that will apply to the borrowed funds. ​​

    Credit bureaus use proprietary models to consider a variety of factors and assign a point value to certain factors to determine your credit score. The types of factors typically considered are bill paying history, account number and type, whether payments are made by the date due, collection matters, outstanding debt obligation and the age of your existing accounts. 

    There following are actions you can take to improve your credit score:​​

    • Pay your bills on time. Payment history can be a huge factor in arriving at your credit score. A history of late payments, referrals to collection agencies or bankruptcies will have a negative effect on your credit score.


    • Make sure your accounts are not charged to their limits. If the amount of debt that you carry is close to the credit limits you have available, you will look less creditworthy to potential creditors.


    • Establish a long credit history. Credit scoring systems track your credit history. An insufficient credit history may have a negative impact on your credit score. However, factors such as timely payments and low balances can offset the lack of credit history. Many credit advisors also recommend that you keep your oldest credit card to establish the long positive history that credit agencies find attractive.


    • Be strategic when applying for new credit. Credit rating agencies will examine the inquiries on your credit report. Where there are too may new account applications there will be an overall lowering of your credit score. Be cautious when presented with store issued credit cards, the ten percent you save at the register may cost you thousands when you try to purchase a home.


    •  Limit the number and type of credit accounts that you maintain. While it is a positive to have established credit accounts, a large number of accounts will act to reduce your score. It is also important to note that in some instances loans from finance companies will have a negative effect on your credit score. 

    It takes time and discipline to improve your credit score but the financial rewards make it worth the effort. All it takes to improve your credit score under most models is to pay your bills on time, pay down outstanding balances and avoid incurring new debt. 

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  • 04/23/2016 - heiseheisellp 4 Comments
    Anatomy of a Commercial Real Estate Transaction

    Why would anyone need a real estate attorney to handle the transfer of commercial real estate and business assets? Real estate attorneys are accustomed to coordinating and managing multiple responsibilities to ensure that a transaction closes in a timely fashion and fulfills the objectives of the parties. I was recently engaged to assist a client with a $3,800,000.00 purchase of a well-established operating business in Ocean City, Maryland, Nick’s Original House of Ribs. The stated goals of the parties were to transfer the commercial real estate and business assets from the seller to the buyer seamlessly with a minimum amount of disruption to the business and existing customers.  

    How is this type of transaction structured? For the initial step I drafted a letter of intent ("LOI") on behalf of the seller. An LOI is a summary of the key terms of an offer. It is where all the preliminary negotiations occurred as to price, financing terms, inspection, details of the due diligence period, and other main points of the transaction. Once the buyer and seller came to terms on the LOI, these terms were integrated into a detailed and comprehensive Contract of Sale ("Contract"). Contracts can range anywhere from five pages in a simple transaction to hundreds of pages in more complicated transactions. Multiple rounds of negotiation occurred in this matter before the parties agreed to a final Contract. The terms of the Contract were broadened to include provisions concerning the sale of furniture, fixtures and equipment, the transfer of a liquor license and non-compete restrictions.  

    Once the Contract was fully signed a series of events were put into motion that culminated in a successful settlement. As the real estate attorney I assumed a central role in identifying, engaging and coordinating the activities of the third parties who were to play a role in the transaction. These parties included: institutional and private lenders; insurance agents; title abstractors; settlement companies; IT professionals; attorneys; accountants, and surveyors. The activities of each of these parties required tight coordination and oversight to ensure that their work product was prepared and delivered in a timely fashion so as to meet all deadlines. If any of these parties missed a deadline the buyer and seller would have experienced delays, an interruption in the operation of the existing business and loss of income.               

    In addition to managing the activities of third parties, a real estate attorney frequently assumes the role of a problem solver. In large transactions such as this one, issues often arise during settlement preparations and the due diligence period that must be identified and remedied. For example, in this transaction the survey that was prepared revealed an unused alley that ran along one side of the property. While no permanent structures were built in the alley, this discovery resulted in the buyer purchasing less property than he had originally intended which led to further Contract negotiations. Additionally, an unreleased deed of trust was discovered in the chain of title and a remedy had to be crafted and negotiated with the institutional lender so that the transfer could occur without delay. These types of issues, while distressing, need not be fatal to a settlement schedule. A diligent real estate attorney can often identify issues early and work with the parties to prepare a solution in order to move the transaction to closure.  

    A real estate attorney will not only keep all these activities moving forward, but they will also prepare the majority of the documents to memorialize the transaction. Some of the documents such as the Bulk Transfer Sales Tax Return and Bill of Sale serve a dual purpose of documenting the sale and giving notice to the State thereby providing a clean exit from the business for the Seller. Where seller financing is being provided, buyer’s counsel may be tasked with preparing the documents to secure the lender such as a deed of trust, promissory note, assignment of rents and leases and other security instruments. Other documents cover actions and activities that go far beyond settlement. For example, a Non-Compete Agreement is a frequent component of this type of transaction as this document prevents a Seller from immediately opening a competing business. Additionally, in this matter, the liquor board’s calendar of hearings did not allow a liquor license transfer to occur prior to settlement, and so an interim management and escrow agreement was prepared. There are a myriad of other documents that may need to be drafted to cover the distinctive terms of a transfer.  

    When all of the parts of a transaction are managed properly, the culmination is a real estate settlement and personal property transfer occurring on the exact date anticipated by the parties. Here, all activities were managed so that there were no delays in the target settlement date. The Seller operated her business on a Monday evening, closed the business and conducted inventory on Tuesday, and settled on Wednesday. By Thursday, the restaurant was open and running under the new owner. By Saturday every table in the dining room of the establishment was full. The entire transaction took 90 days, the business continued operating without interruption throughout the entire process, and a seamless transition was made to the new owner. The end result was a very smooth transition and an exceptionally pleased client.

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  • 03/16/2016 - heiseheisellp 2 Comments
    Overlooked Tax Breaks

    When an election looms, we often hear how much the Federal Government does wrong, but sometimes they get it right, and when they do the benefits can be huge. For example, if you suffer the loss of your spouse, the tax code has certain provisions that provide relief in this difficult time. Some of these benefits are set out below.

    • Selling the Family Home. Single homeowners can take $250,000.00 of profit on the sale of a home tax free. For married homeowners $500,000.00 of profit on the sale of a home may be taken tax free. To qualify for this tax break you must live in the home for two of the last five years. So long as you and your spouse meet the ownership and use tests before his or her death, you may use the full $500,000.00 exclusion if you sell within two years of your spouse’s date of death. The stepped-up basis analysis above may be availed of if you do not wish to sell within the two-year period.
    • Life Insurance. The proceeds received from a life insurance policy of a deceased spouse are income tax free and should not be reported as taxable income.
    • Filing Status. If your spouse died this year you may still file a joint return for the year allowing you to avail yourself of the most favorable tax rates and largest standard deductions (if you don’t itemize).
    • Inherited IRA. If you are named as a beneficiary of an IRA, you can claim that IRA as your own. Where it is a traditional IRA you will not be required to take minimum distributions until you reach age 70 ½. If it is a Roth IRA you may never have to take distributions. Where funds are needed you may elect to treat the IRA as an inherited IRA rather than your own and withdraw funds without paying the 10% penalty for early withdrawal.
    • Stepped-up Basis. The taxable basis of most assets inherited from your spouse is stepped up to the property’s value on the day he or she died (certain exceptions apply to retirement accounts). The basis is the amount from which gain or loss is calculated when you sell an asset meaning that tax on any appreciation prior to the death is forgiven. For example, if your spouse had stock that he or she originally paid $10,000.00 for but the value increased to $50,000.00 at the date of his or her death, your basis would be $50,000.00 and you could sell at that price without incurring a tax liability.
    • Rental Property. Where you inherit rental property from your spouse, the step-up in basis will increase the depreciation deductions you may claim on the property. The stepped-up basis will also serve to reduce capital gains when you sell the rental property.

    This is merely a sample of certain tax benefits you may take advantage of in a difficult time and you should consult with an attorney for a more comprehensive analysis of the benefits you may enjoy.

    Kiplinger, Tax Breaks Soften the Blow of Losing a Spouse, January, 2016, Kevin McCormally

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  • 12/30/2015 - heiseheisellp 0 Comments
    Great News For People Undertaking Short Sales in 2015 and 2016!


    Just before the holidays the House and Senate passed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 ("Act"). President Obama signed the Act into law on December 18, 2015. The Act renews several important extenders for two years covering tax years 2015 and 2016.

    What does this mean for you? It means that if you short sold a principal residence in 2015, or short sell a principal residence in 2016, the cancellation of mortgage debt will not be treated as taxable income and you will likely suffer no tax liabilities. The exclusion applies up to Two Million Dollars of forgiven debt, or One Million Dollars if you are a married taxpayer filing separately, on the sale of a principal residence.

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  • 11/08/2015 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Five Things to Expect and Consider When Submitting an Offer on a Short Sale

    1. Short Sales may take a long time to complete. If you intend to submit an offer on a property being short sold patience is an absolute necessity. If your moving situation requires you to be in a property by a certain date (start of school, job relocation, etc.) this type of transaction may not be right for you.

    2. Short Sale Approvals tend not to be short in nature. Even though lenders may take quite some time in issuing approvals, the time allowed for you to close can be very short. It is best to be somewhat prepared by keeping your financials updated with your lender and providing them with progress reports frequently.

    3.  Pursuing a house subject to a short sale may cause you to miss out on other buying opportunities. Because short sales can potentially take so long other houses in which you may be interested  will come on and off the market. It is best to do some your inspections early to avoid losing other purchasing opportunities.

    4. You should be getting regular updates. You will want to make sure that your offer is being diligently pursued by whoever has been selected to handle the short sale. Our policy is to work on a file 3-5 times a week and send out updates every 5-7 business days. We have found that these timelines give us the opportunity to make progress on a short sale so each update has actual substance.

    5. Short Sale Lenders May Counteroffer Your Offer. Just because your offer has been accepted by the seller does not mean you are home free. Lenders involved in a short sale will secure their own appraisal or broker price opinion, or sometimes, both. Where their value comes in at an amount greater than your offer they will counteroffer. Don’t get angry when this happens, the seller usually has nothing to do with this occurrence and it is something that can be worked through in different ways. 

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  • 08/19/2015 - heiseheisellp 1 Comment
    Thinking about a loan modification….think again.

    For every short sale I handle, I personally interview the potential clients. One of the questions I ask during each interview is whether the borrower has applied for a loan modification. Where approximately 7 out of 10 potential clients do apply for a loan modification, some as many as four times, very few succeed in having their loans modified. Of those that are successful, the modified terms are miserly and rarely provide material relief. I have been told that loan payments have been reduced by as little as $50.00 a month, or that the term of the loan was extended from a 30 year term to a 40 year term, or that there was a very small reduction in interest rate. In the five years I have been handling short sales I have yet to hear of any lender reducing principal or waiving arrearages which would provide true relief.

    I found this anecdotal information mystifying since I frequently come across press releases from lenders trumpeting their success in modifying loans. An article recently published in The New York Times investigated the troubling details behind modifications processed under the federal government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and solves the mystery. This article indicates that the lenders participating in the HAMP program have rejected four million borrowers requests for assistance, or 72 percent of applications. The article goes on to reveal that a Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program has disclosed that while in 2009 it was estimated that HAMP would help up to four million distressed borrowers, six year later just 887,001 borrowers are participating. These are terrible numbers, right? It gets worse.

    The New York Times journalist went on to interview a legal aid lawyer who represents troubled borrowers. It took this lawyer, Jacob Inwald, Esq., just two minutes to send the journalist court documents showing abusive tactics seven borrowers in New York City recently faced. Mr. Inwald stated that a loan modification virtually never gets approved on a first attempt. More alarming than even that is the possibility that lenders are financially motivated to deny modifications. A delay in modification leads to additional interest and fees that can be charged to the borrower and increasing the amount owed on the mortgage. Court documents in a recent case involving a unit of Wells Fargo revealed that a borrower’s loan modification request was denied four times over two years adding $40,000.00 to his loan balance. The Court in that case stated that the bank’s conduct "evinces a disregard for the settlement negotiation process that delayed and prevented any possible resolution of the action among other consequences, substantially increased the balance owed" by the borrower. The Court went on to bar the bank from recovering the $40,000.00 in incurred during the drawn out modification process.

    Would I discourage interested individuals from pursuing a loan modification? No, I would not. I think oftentimes it is important for distressed borrowers to feel like they have exhausted all options before resorting to a short sale. With that said, I feel it is my obligation to share with them what a low chance of success they are facing and to keep their expectations low.

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  • 01/28/2014 - heiseheisellp 2 Comments
    What is a short sale?

    What is a short sale? It is when you want, or need to sell your house, and it is not worth enough to pay off your mortgage in full.

    What type of person enters into a short sale? People that can not handle their finances? People with bad credit? People who bought more house than they afford? My experience is that this is often not the case.

    The people I assist with short sales come from all walks of life. I have helped doctors, warehouse workers, pilots, business owners, store managers and many more. These individuals frequently have good credit and a history of financial responsibility.

    So what causes them to pursue a short sale? A few reasons that cause people to enter into a short sale transaction are marital changes, job transfer, loss of income or health issues. These are problems that any one of us could experience and if you find yourself in one of these situations, and exploring a short sale, it does not mean you are a bad person or fiscally irresponsible. What it means is that you are human and experiencing one of those hurdles that life throws at you.

    What should you be doing if you think a short sale is an option for you? Researching. You should be reading what you can online, you should be talking to a trusted realtor, you should be calling a professional that regularly handles short sales and is familiar with the process.

    Standing by and waiting for your lender to dictate how your problem will be handled is not an option. Foreclosure and bankruptcy can oftentimes be avoided but you have to be a part of the solution by being proactive.

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Baltimore, MD 21224

(410) 394-9504

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— Oscar C., Seller, Baltimore City, MD

"Heise & Heise...a firm you can rely on. Recently, Todd and his staff assisted me in a real estate matter. I cannot thank them enough. Every step of the way I was treated as if I was their only client. I was kept up to date on every aspect of the process. If I had a question or concern, either Todd or one of the staff was there to answer in a way that was easy to understand. I do not know what I would have done if it were not for the top notch representation I got from Todd. If you have a real estate matter that requires legal help, call Heise & Heise...I assure you, you will be thankful you did."

— Joel L., Seller, Ocean City, MD

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