Don’t get landlocked on your land

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It seems odd, doesn’t it, to think of land being landlocked? But it happens more often than you’d think.

Before you buy that piece of land that seems perfect for your forever home, make sure you can answer this question: Can you access the land from the road?

That seems like a silly question, but it can create a big hassle if you don’t know the answer. One of my recent clients discovered in the process of purchasing a piece of land that there was no legal way to access the land from the road.

How does that happen? Typically, the bank that’s loaning you money will have people look at the title work and make sure there’s access to the land, among other things. But If you buy a parcel of land in cash, there’s no built-in mechanism like that to help you identify access to your property.

And whether you’re working with a bank or not, there can be any number of unforeseen issues with land title and documentation of easements and right-of-way decisions. However it happens, if you’ve purchased land that you discover is landlocked, the only way out is to negotiate an easement with one of your neighbors.

It’s much easier to prevent being landlocked than it is to resolve it, but it can be resolved. In the case of my recent client, the five-acre parcel she purchased was split from another piece and was situated directly behind that other piece in relation to the road.

Our client came to us before she had purchased the land, thankfully, and when we reviewed it as part of our normal process, we discovered the oversight. If we hadn’t, our client might have bought a piece of land that was useless. It might as well have been someone’s backyard!

But we were able to proactively solve the problem. We knocked on her neighbor’s door (the one whose property sat in between our client’s land and the road), and we asked about the property behind her. She told us the whole story, and mentioned that she’d always wondered how anyone was going to access that property.

We asked if she’d be wiling to grant an easement for access from the road to my client’s property, assuming we could do so along the edge where it wouldn’t be obtrusive. After some negotiation, we got her permission, and all of a sudden, the property behind her was once again usable for something other than growing grass!

Fortunately for our client, her neighbor was wiling to work with us. That’s not always a guarantee, so it’s in your best interest to make sure someone—the title company your banker is using, a knowledgable builder, or someone else who is experienced in these matters—is on your side to help you identify issues like this one before you purchase any land.

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