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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Real Estate Law and Business I (Fall 2017)

  • Course Number: LAW-605
  • Class Number: 03232
  • Instructor: George Lefcoe

Course Description

Real Estate Law and Business I is an introduction to buying, brokering, selling, and financing realty. The course is designed for students interested in any aspect of real estate, whether as home owners, would-be “house flippers”, investors in “cash flow” generating projects, real estate attorneys, real estate brokers, or developers.

Many of the class sessions feature guest experts who join the professor in relating the assigned readings to the work that they do. Some of the guest experts are former students, and are among the nation’s leading real estate attorneys and entrepreneurs.  Guests include real estate transactions attorneys and litigators, commercial and residential real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, real estate investors, developers, title insurers, escrow agents and mortgage lenders.

Several times during the semester, prominent real estate owners host site visits to their projects where they discuss their acquisition, financing, business models, legal problems and operations.Our site visit destinations include a major project in the warehouse district in downtown LA, one of the best subsidized housing projects in southern California, and an owner managed and operated hotel.

Past experience in real estate and business is by no means necessary for success in this course, and many students find the guest experts and site visits a particularly refreshing contrast to conventional law school classes focused on case law.

The course includes coverage of the basic constructs that participants in real estate markets rely upon to value assets and explain how legal priorities are established among owners, secured, and unsecured creditors.

In this course students are given a supervised assignment that involves obtaining first-hand knowledge of how public land records work and are accessed.

The course focuses on three main transactions: the purchase and sale agreement, the listing agreement (between broker and seller), and the financing arrangements between lenders and borrowers (the note and deed of trust).

Understanding purchase and sale contracts requires familiarity with deeds, land descriptions, title insurance, escrows and closings. Each of these topics is covered in detail.

The finance sessions feature discussions of the main issues that prospective sellers should negotiate with their real estate brokers before signing listing agreements, and the most important terms in mortgage loans.

Class sessions on financing include: (1) a residential mortgage broker explaining what first-time home buyers need to know about getting a loan, (2) how high risk (“bridge”) lenders decide where to place their funds, and (3) and the leading “reverse” mortgage lender in the country explaining how these loans work and where the money for them comes from.   

The concluding sessions of the course are an introduction to hotel management and franchise agreements including discussion of time shares, hotel management contracts, and franchise agreements.

Many students taking the bar exam gratefully report that they were pleased to have elected this course because so many Real Property bar review topics were covered nowhere else in the law school curriculum.

The required text for this course is Real Estate Law and Business (Carolina Academic Press, 2016). The text is supplemented by current readings on the topics covered in the course, and answers to the questions that appear at the end of each chapter.

The final exam is open book, multiple-choice. From time to time, the instructor will distribute practice multiple-choice questions to give students a chance to see what the final exam questions are like.  

The assigned readings are substantial. Exam questions are written to test how carefully students have read the approximately 800 pages of assigned reading. Mostly, questions are drawn from assigned reading that was not discussed in class or from classroom presentations touching topics not covered in the reading assignments but that engaged students would have been able to understand. Based on the instructor’s informal discussion with students who did well in the course last fall, the reading and other course requirements take an average of four to five hours of concentrated preparation per week.

Class attendanceis expected and figures substantially in the final grade compilation. However, the maximum allowable points for class and site visit attendance comfortably exceed the actual number of scheduled classes and site visits. This is not a miscalculation. The gap is there so that students need not worry about losing points for days they miss attending the class, perhaps for religious, health or family obligations, conflicts with other law school obligations, or whatever. Outstanding class participation is expected and generously rewarded.

For site visits, students will be given a series of questions just before the site visit, some of which they will be asked to answer in short-essays in the week following the site visit. On site visit days, class will extend into the lunch hour. Our site visit hosts generously provide lunch for the class. We try to return to USC in time for students to reach their class after lunch, but adverse traffic conditions may cause us to arrive a few minutes late.

There are several assignments during the semester in connection with particular class sessions for which students are awarded credit. These are designed to enhance the student’s practical knowledge and skill in analyzing potential real estate investments and drafting key legal documents.

Students will receive points for each full class session and site visit they attend.  Occasionally, students will be awarded with substantial grade enhancements attributable to outstanding class participation based not on any single observation but on the totality of their performance during the semester, their thoughtful observations and interesting questions.

Students can elect a fifth unit in separately described courses taught by Phil Nichols and Oscar Sandoval.  (See their offerings described as Real Estate Transactions Problems)

How many units is this course worth?
4 units plus an optional 1 unit section ("Fifth Unit").

Is the course available for CR/D/F grading?

Not for the four unit course.
CR/D/F is only available for the additional Fifth Unit.

Is class participation graded and/or required?
See above.

Will there be a final exam? If so will it be an in-class exam or a take-home exam?
 There will be a scheduled final exam at the law school.

Will there be a term paper and/or in-class presentation?
No. But there are short essays and other assignments during the semester.

Will students in this course engage in actual or simulated trial, pretrial or appellate advocacy, negotiations, legal document drafting, client interviewing or counseling, investigation or the management of legal work? If so, how much of the class is dedicated to this?
No, except as explained above.

Will you permit students to take the final exam on laptop computers with SofTest?
Yes. But since it is a multiple-choice exam, this is hardly necessary.

Is enrollment limited to a particular number of students or to a particular group of students?
Yes: 30 3Ls, 30 2Ls, and 5 LLMs.

Recent Laudatory Comments From Students

“I can’t tell you how proud I felt after getting my grade back in your class. I don’t think any class will affect my career more than yours and I am truly appreciative for the knowledge you imparted on us. I consider myself fortunate to have been in your class and even more fortunate to learn from the best! Thank you once again for everything.”

“I wanted to let you know that I recently was offered an Associate position at Feldman & Associates and started work today.  They deal in a variety of construction and real estate related matters, and I am very excited about the new position. Thanks again for the great letter of recommendation. I think it really helped me get my foot in the door.  I’ll talk to you soon”

“I hope all is well, it has been a very long time since we last spoke. Can’t thank you enough for the priceless knowledge I gained after taking your course. Absolutely invaluable!”

“I am really satisfied with the course so far. The guest speakers you bring in to speak with us have been a real inspiration for me. Having the chance to hear from the guy in charge was a real treat. I got his business card after class that day, and I am going to reach out to him for some advice on how I can achieve some of my career goals. That would not have been possible if not for your class.”

“I enjoy how each class lecture brings experts in various sectors of the law. After hearing Mr. Afshin Beyzaee of Liner LLP speak about the role of tax law in real estate, I decided to look into career opportunities where I would gain experience in minimizing tax liability for business entities. Enthusiastic about tax and real estate, I secured a position with a Big 4 accounting firm in their tax department. The many introductions we receive in your class prompted an idea I would not otherwise have pursued. Thank you."

“I originally came to USC with the intent of pursuing a career in corporate law.  However, gradually, as I spent more time at USC, my career goals changed, and I fell sway to the tremendous influence of the real estate industry on the school.  One need only look as far as the names on the buildings, streets and institutes on campus to get a sense of how pervasive this influence is – Watt Way, Pardee Way, Lewis Hall, Lusk Center, etc.  Ultimately, I decided to also get my MRED degree during my time at USC.

Your courses were a significant factor in leading me down the path that took me to where I am now.  The knowledge gained from the material that you taught was a phenomenal foundation upon which to build as I embarked on my development career – not least because you and the distinguished guest speakers that were invited in to lecture always spoke not just to black letter law but practical real world business considerations as well.  However, even more importantly, your classes served as a tremendous source of inspiration for me – it was impossible not to be inspired by the site visits to landmark projects, such as The Grove and The Wiltern Theatre, and some of the larger than life figures that walked through your classroom doors.  An interesting side note is that in the course of my career, I ultimately ended up working for two of the guest speakers that you had invited to class my year.

I appreciate the opportunity to reflect back on how I got here, and I am not overstating it when I say that it all truly did begin at USC and in your classes for me.”

"The bar exam is fast approaching and I wanted to send you a quick thank you for preparing us so well with respect to the property portion of it. Mortgages and land conveyances have become increasingly common on the multiple choice, and your classes have been immensely helpful in those areas."+

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 4
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: T/Th 10:00 am - 11:50 am
  • Exam: In-class exam
  • Writing Requirement: No
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: No
  • Participation: Points will be awarded
  • Enrollment Limitation: 30 3L students, 30 2L students, 5 LLM students