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What do you think of this land sale?

June 18th, 2014 at 02:43 am

When I bought my house, it came with an easement running across my property. My neighbors, who have an interior lot behind my house, have rights to use that easement, which is a very long strip of land about 10 feet wide (6 feet for the driveway and an additional 2 feet on either side) to access their house.

I wasn't crazy about the easement when i bought the place, and didn't really understand what legal ramifications it might have.

I am on very good terms with the people who live in this house. They have had their over-improved house on the market since last year becus they can no longer afford their mortgage or property taxes after he lost his job.

They have lowered the price of the house at least once, and hope to move to Tennessee to start over, where real estate prices are much lower.

Years ago we briefly considered my selling them the land their driveway occupies. Their driveway had been deteriorating for years, but they had resisted fixing it because technically they didn't own the land, I did. They finally were forced to becus in the winter they couldn't make it up the hill and had to leave the car and walk to the house a distance of over 100 feet on a treacherous slope. It cost them $50,000 to repave the entire driveway.

Fast forward to today. They're having trouble selling their house. They doubled the square footage of the house to 5,000 sf and it is magnificent (in a very modest neighborhood), in a very private setting, but i am sure the long rather steep hill is a detriment.

I was also thinking recently that the existence of the easement would be a negative in any would-be buyers' minds, and I was thinking of again offering to sell my neighbors the easement, this time for basically nothing.

It could help facilitate a sale since their realtor would no longer have to "explain" the easement thing. For my part, I would also benefit by not having the easement on my deed AND my property taxes would at least somewhat be lowered becus I'd have less land. Their driveway runs at least 300 feet long and as mentioned, 10 feet wide.

So I was thinking of saying you could buy it for $100 plus whatever legal and remapping fees would be involved.

Do you think this is wise? Years ago when I first offered to sell it to them, I'd talked to a few realtors to try to determine the value of the land I was selling. I had hopes of getting $5,000 to $10,000 for it but after brief consideration (the husband liked the idea, the wife didn't) they declined because while we didn't get to the point of even discussing numbers, they felt it would be spending a lot of money and not getting anything tangible in return.

On my end, the land could never be built on, obviously, since it's not a lot, and the realtors basically said the value is established by the owner and buyer. The land is of no value to me and i treat it, for all intents and purposes, as their land. I don't use their driveway or maintain it in any fashion.

Reducing my property taxes, if only by a few hundred a year, would be a big plus in my book as I currently pay $5800 a year.

Today, given my neighbors' precarious financial position, I am pretty sure they would not be interested in buying the land from me for anywheres near $10K, or even $1K. But if they only had to pay the associated fees involved (so I wouldn't be out of pocket in anything), they could be interested in doing so as a means of facilitating the sale of their home.

The other thing to know about this situation is that the husband has huge money-making potential. He was working for a toy designer for a well-known company when he was laid off, and after the layoff he started building his own company. He knows a lot about the business and used to travel to the factories in China to oversee production. Last time I spoke to them, their business was looking very promising, he's gotten lots of orders from different toy stores, etc, but they don't feel he can take any salary for a full year until the business takes off.

So I don't know, but another possibility would be to arrange the deal would be to say you owe me $X in 1 or 2 years from now, presumably when they could afford to pay me. Although even that is maybe too iffy.

9 Responses to “What do you think of this land sale?”

  1. Another Reader Says:

    Your neighbor has an overimproved house that is not selling because the price is too high. The easement likely has little to do with the house failing to sell. If buyers were pulling out of sales contracts because they found out about the easement, the neighbor or the agent would have already approached you about selling.

    The taxing jurisdiction is aware of the easement, and the value of the land is probably implicitly included in the assessed value of the neighbor's property. They have the use of the land and you cannot exclude them. Deeding them the land underlying the easement will probably not affect your taxes, although you should ask your local assessor's office to make sure.

    Selling the land and expecting payment later does not make sense. Once your neighbor sells or is foreclosed on and moves on, the incentive to pay is lost.

    Once the house sells or is foreclosed on and sells, you can discuss a sale with the new buyer. They will have the money to buy the underlying ground, for whatever it is worth to them at that time.

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    I'd say it doesn't hurt to approach the topic with them. I wouldn't wait for any payment either.

  3. just a thought Says:

    Do you have any liability issues with the land? If they are injured on the easement, do they have any recourse to sue you?

  4. CB in the City Says:

    I actually think your idea is quite reasonable and it returns that strip of land to the logical owner, making all future neighborly relations (whoever is living there) easier. I would certainly talk to them about it. I agree with the others, though, that any payment should be made now, not in the future.

  5. Xtreme Thunder Says:

    Could the lot be considered a "Flag Lot" where the the easement runs along side the property where you wouldn't need to cross it to access any other portion of your property?

    Depending on your municipality, and the situation described above, I wonder if you could agree to just perform a simple lot line adjustment. Your parcel would become smaller, and theirs would become larger. A survey would be required of both properties though, and those aren't cheap. In that case, they would assume all rights and responsibility of their land, that now includes their driveway to the street frontage.

    What is stated in your deed regarding maintenance of the easement?

    Is it an easement or right-of-way?

  6. LivingAlmostLarge Says:

    I agree with just a thought. What are the liability issues? We had a fence put up on the city easement running parallel to our lot to prevent liability issues. If they get injured using your land or their friend can they sue? If so give it to them and wash your hands of it.

  7. Nika Says:

    I would probably just let their realtor know that she could tell to prospective buyers that you will let go of the driveway for a very reasonable, under-market-rate amount of say 3K.

  8. PatientSaver Says:

    These are all great comments, thanks!

    I have never really been sure of liability issues, to be honest. And yes, it is a flag lot, tho i never heard that term before...but the driveway runs alongside one edge of my property line. The deed says nothing about maintenance or responsibilities. I believe it is referenced as an easement on the deed.

    It would be pure conjecture on my part to say why the house hasn't sold yet, and the existence of the easement could discourage prospective buyers even before they get to the point of signing a contract. And yes, i would anticipate a survey would h ave to be done to redraw the property lines.

  9. LuxLivingFrugalis Says:

    IF they are willing to buy it at even your discounted rate you could perhaps structure the deal to be paid at the closing of their sale to someone else - IOW the check comes to you out of the proceeds of the sale. Hope it works out.

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