Reader question: I found a great parcel of land I want to buy. It is landlocked, but the seller is an estate and willing to sell it way below market if I buy it as is. They want to settle the estate quickly. I am leaning towards taking a chance because the price is so attractive and I have a friend that claims the town will condemn an easement point if the neighbors object. What do you think?
Monty’s answer: An easement is a right held by one property owner to make use of the land of another for a limited purpose, as a right of passage. Unless your friend is an attorney, consider seeking legal opinions as to your legal rights in obtaining an easement and the legal rights of the person who owns the property that would grant such an easement.
Understanding these rights will provide you with information that will allow you to analyze the risks of buying the property without the easement. One has to wonder why no easement currently exists and what the estate knows, as there are many conditions to consider in obtaining an easement. Once you understand exactly how an easement works, and what provisions should be included to provide the rights your intended use requires, you can assess the risks.
Questions to consider
1. Will granting the easement enhance the value of the property of the owners with whom you want to cooperate?
2. If you are not able to gain an easement, is the current price still a good deal without access to the property?
3. Depending on your intended use, is there anything you (or a future owner) require with the easement, such as sewer pipes and electric power, that will create extra expense?
4. It is not uncommon for a property owner granting an easement to seek compensation for the right given. Have you considered that if a property owner resists, there will likely be additional costs to pursue the easement?
These are just examples of questions. Consider what the surroundings will be like for other neighbors. Who will have the right to use the easement? If the conditions are not enforced, what will happen to the easement? If you learn something in the process that is troubling to you; ask yourself how much money is it worth to pursue the property?
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He is a real estate industry veteran who advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Find him at DearMonty.com.