Buying Land

Handling Easements Attached to Rural Property

Handling Easements Attached to Rural Property

Property easements can be a sore point for many landowners and can be a red flag for those looking to buy land. It’s common for people to not have a clear understanding of how easements work and what they entail. For this reason, numerous legal problems can arise and land buyers may experience ongoing headaches trying to resolve all the easement miscommunication with the seller.

The transfer of land can be delayed for a number of reasons, and easements can throw a curve into the best-laid plans if they are not well understood. That’s why buyers should employ the help of land agents to advise and demystify easements and close on deals that benefit both parties.

A person who is interested in buying rural property should always be aware of any existing easements that affect the property.

Frequent Snags

It’s not always clear where an easement physically begins and ends, particularly if it is not documented in the Register of Deeds, according to Nick Marinelli, partner with Mossy Oak Properties Land and Luxury in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Ingress and egress refer to the right of entry and exit, respectively, in an easement. However, these rights are not as simple as they seem and in many cases, landowners aren’t sure of the exact specifics on these two rights. If the property does not have direct access to a public road, then it is usually accessed via an easement, Marinelli said. An existing easement may cross another landowners’ property, which can cause disputes between neighbors over deeds and rights.

It is important to note that an easement may have been in place for a long time, and it can last for any specified amount of time, or even forever, and buyers may not have been notified of the impact on the property they plan to purchase. If a buyer purchases land, they may have an existing easement cutting right through their property. In this instance, a neighbor may have the right to walk through your land to access his or her own property because of the easement. Buyers may not like this fact, but easements are backed by the law and those who don’t follow the requirements and rules of easements could face fines and legal action.

Another salient issue to note is that conservation easements permanently limit how buyers can use the land in order to protect its conservation values. A conservation easement is typically put into place by the government to safeguard and protect certain portions of land.

Marinelli noted that conservation easements generally prohibit all commercial and industrial activities on the easement property. Buyers may be restricted from harvesting timber, making improvements or building new structures on their newly bought land if there is a conservation easement. This is why buyers should be certain that the purpose for which they are buying land is in accordance with the law. It would be extremely frustrating and defeating if a buyer found out after the fact that their newly acquired property isn’t what they thought it was. It could completely dash the hopes and dreams they had for the property.

Repercussions On Sales

While easements can be a source of ire when buying land, it’s necessary to realize they may or may not impact the purchase price of property as well. Because easements essentially restrict or place limitations on the uses of land and owners’ rights, sellers take this into consideration and list their property at reduced rates.

A standard buyer could choose any other plot of land without an easement and be free to do as he or she pleases. But, to sell land that has an easement is a bit trickier.

“In some cases, [Mossy Oak Properties] has seen where land with conservation easements has sold for less than 50 percent of comparable land in the area that doesn’t have an easement on it,” said Marinelli. “These easements were extremely restrictive in these cases.”

Some easements can certainly bring down the sale price of land, potentially acting as a boon for buyers who can purchase land much more cheaply. However, for easements that have fewer restrictions, the sale price isn’t slashed nearly as much.

“Ingress and egress easements have a similar effect on land prices though the discount is not as much, and sometimes there is no effect on land value at all,” Marinelli added.

In certain situations, buyers may win out by purchasing land with a conservation easement if the intended use is for recreational purposes. Because the easement protects the condition of the land, and the buyer doesn’t want to greatly alter it for hunting or other activities, securing this type of land makes sense. Plus, it can be bought at a lower price.

Circumventing Future Issues

Navigating the ins and outs of an easement is no easy task. The key to making it through the process is to become as knowledgeable about them as possible. This may difficult for the average buyer, but to make the smartest financial decision, research is vital.

At Mossy Oak Properties, brokers review easements with buyers to ensure all questions are answered and buyers make informed decisions, said Marinelli. Addressing the pros and cons of the easement in question helps buyers determine where their interests lie and what their next move should be.

To avoid running into any other problems down the road, all easement activity should be accurately recorded in a timely manner and made available on request. The property’s deed needs to contain information about any easements, which a broker can help sort out and verify. Any easement-encumbered property must be disclosed to a buyer.

Realizing the legality and the real-world implications of easements is the first step to making the land-buying process more efficient and rewarding.

Contact a land professional for the best advice and guidance regarding easements and land transfers.

Article contribution by Mossy Oak Properties. The Mossy Oak Properties land brokerage network was launched in 2003 and has since grown to over 100 franchised brokerages in 30 states throughout the country.

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