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The Scary Side of Land

Forget goblins and ghosts – these are the really scary parts of October. These land nightmares can cost you time, money, clients, and even your reputation as a land expert. Read on to find out some of the scariest things that can happen to land professionals and to see how you can avoid falling prey.

Buying A Property From Someone Who Doesn’t Actually Own It

One thing that every land expert fears is helping a client sell a property for a seller that doesn’t actually have a clear title to the property. This can create a horror show of legal battles and thousands (even millions) down the drain.

Sometimes, a seller doesn’t have legal rights to a property because they didn’t know enough about the history of the land and genuinely thought they owned it. It is important for agents to secure a title proving ownership before moving forward with a client.

Less scary: For those of you that are newer to the land industry, a title search is the process of retrieving documents about the history of a property. Title searches are the best way to know exactly who owned the property when.

Finding Out Too Late That There Is Something Wrong With Your Property

Just because a property looks perfect doesn’t mean that it is. There is nothing worse than buying what seems to be a flawless property only to find out after the check clears that there are environmental hazards lurking in your land.

Less scary: Soil tests do take time and money, but they are the best surefire way to weed out anything that could lower the value of your land. These tests can show a variety of things, from nutrient content and composition to other important characteristics such as the acidity or pH level. Nutrients in the soil can vary depending on depth and the timing of when the sample was taken so it is important to make sure you have a recent test.

Soil tests are especially important when building a structure or planting crops. You’ll want to make sure you have the right soil type for your produce.

Buying A Property With No Access

This might sound ridiculous, but there are thousands of landlocked properties with no access. As Future Committee Leaders member, Eric Leisy, ALC, pointed out in his guest post for RLI, “not having deeded access to a property can cause the value to plummet.”

Less scary: If your dream property is landlocked, you do have options. You can go to court to try and get an ingress and egress easement or purchase deeded access from whoever holds it.

“It is best to sit down face to face with the landowner that you are requesting the access easement from,” said Leisy. “Calmly go over the process, and explain why it is needed. Most people will respond much more positively to this type of meeting over a cup of coffee rather than getting a letter or email. You might be pleasantly surprised at the end result.

Buying Land Zoned Wrong

There’s a common misconception that the strictest land zoning happens in urban areas. In reality, zoning regulations can be just as strict for agricultural and rural land, especially when it comes to the livestock.

Less scary: Do your research on the area’s zoning laws. Local jurisdictions determine zoning requirements such as minimum farm size, number of non-farm dwellings, density of development, and land use.

Be sure to also check if the land is zoned as being in a 100-year flood zone. You don’t want to wake up to see the structures you’ve built on the land have floated away!

Buying Land Without An ALC

We saved the scariest for last! Accredited Land Consultants bring decades of experience, in-depth knowledge, and a network of other professionals to every land deal. Working with an ALC is a surefire way to avoid all the other land horror stories (and even some we couldn’t think of) mentioned in this article.

Less scary: Always work with an ALC! Use the Find A Land Consultant tool to find a qualified land agent in your area.

Being trapped in a land horror story will cost you time, money, and more. Be sure to keep your land and money protected by always working with a professional. Happy Halloween!

About the Author: Laura Barker is a freelance writer based out of California for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has been with RLI since October 2017.

Handling Access Easements

So you get a call from Mr. Jones asking if you want to list his 500 acres. He tells you the property has a fully stocked 50 – acre lake that has been intensively managed for trophy bass; the property is dominated by beautiful mature hardwoods that have never been cut; there are over 75 acres of planted food plots for wildlife, also intensively managed; and the road system is extensive and   can be driven in a car. He goes on to say he wants to price it to sell fast, as he and his wife are getting too old to look after the property and are ready to move closer to their grandchildren.  You make an appointment to meet him tomorrow, to visit the tract, gather information, and do your due diligence. This potential dream listing in a great location that you know will sell quickly has you giddy with excitement!

Well, you meet Mr. Jones at the coffee shop. He jumps into your truck to ride with you to his property. After a short drive you pull up to the first gate and enter, then you go a little further and through another gate that is the entrance to his property. You enjoy your tour. The property is actually even better than he previously described. You know this will be an easy property to sell.

Then you ask him “Do you have deeded access from the paved county road to your gate?” and he answers “Well, no I don’t. Mr. Smith has always just allowed me to cross his property and we get along just fine.”

You now see your dream listing in a whole different light and it is not so good! Well, what do you do now?

Basically. you have four options.

OPTION 1- Accept the fact that you have a prescriptive easement to access the property and factor the price accordingly.

This option will pretty much limit your market to cash buyers only, as most lenders will not lend money to purchase property without deeded access. Another problem with this option is the unknown of what will happen when Mr. Smith is no longer the owner of the adjoining property being used for access. The new owner may not want you driving across his property.

OPTION 2 – Although in Alabama you cannot be landlocked, you still may have to go to court to gain some sort of access.

This will mean legal fees and other possible expenses, as well as, the court may only grant you an easement for ingress and egress (coming and going). The easement may be limited in width and not include utilities. This is a legal easement that the lenders will now finance, but the buyer may not be able to get power and public water to a home/cabin site.

OPTION 3 – Mr. Jones asks Mr. Smith to give him deeded access.

Mr. Jones can offer to pay for the survey and any other costs associated with having this agreement drawn up. This obviously is the best case scenario.

OPTION 4 – Mr. Jones offers to purchase deeded access to his property from Mr. Smith.

If you choose this option or option 3 be sure that the easement is wide enough (typically 45’-60’should suffice) and allows utilities. We recently helped a client purchase a 45’ easement for ingress, egress, and utilities that was ½ mile long, at a cost of $4,000.00. The value added to the property was far greater than the cost to purchase the easement.

So, there you have it, a quick summary on how to handle a fairly common easement issue. In closing, I have found that when you encounter potential problems like this, it is best to sit down face to face with the landowner that you are requesting the access easement from. Calmly go over the process, and explain why it is needed. Most people will respond much more positively to this type of meeting over a cup of coffee rather than getting a letter or email. You might be pleasantly surprised at the end result.

This post is part of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.

About the Author: Eric Leisy, ALC, is an avid outdoors-man, freelance outdoor writer, REALTOR® & Land Specialist for Great Southern Land Co.