Property Access FAQ's
These tips are generalizations only and do not adequately cover all situations, locations, or circumstances. We offer them for consideration only so that buyers may make more informed decisions about land purchases. An old adage is that "real estate transactions are like train wrecks - no two are ever exactly alike".
Before you sign the sales contract, consider these tips about land access.
Q: If there is a roadway accessing the parcel I want to buy, will I always be able to access my property via that road?
A: Not necessarily. The issue of access, especially to parcels of land outside of platted towns or subdivisions, can be more complicated than it appears on the surface. Not only should you determine whether the parcel has good, year-round physical access, you must also make sure that the physical access and the legal access are the same. This basically means making sure any roads you use to access your property are in the correct physical location. If the access to the parcel is improperly located, you may have to find another way in, at your expense.
Q: How can I make sure the access to the property is legal?
A: First, you must determine whether the roads that access properties in that area, as well as the access roads to your particular parcel, are public or private. If the roads are public, platted, and maintained by the county or other government entity, the existing access is most likely assured. The situation becomes more complicated if the access roads are private and legal access to parcels is granted via easements that run across the private real property of others. In cases like this, it may be nearly impossible to ensure that all the roads that are used to access a parcel are legally located within the road easements.
If a dispute arises, common law dictates in most areas that once a road has been in use, a property owner must take civil legal action in order to physically stop others from using it. In other places, the property owner must provide an alternate route of comparable quality in order to stop others from using a roadway. If a survey shows that the road is improperly located, you should be prepared to move it at your expense. In many cases, the best solution is to try to come to some sort of agreement about the road with the property owner. If you are able to do this, get the agreement in writing and have it legally recorded. Another option is mediation or arbitration, offered in many jurisdictions as alternatives to court action.
Q: Is there any way to avoid situations where my property access is in dispute?
A: Not totally, but there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. First, inquire about the property access with the seller and/or his real estate agent. Ask the seller to sign a statement, required by some states and title insurance companies, to the effect that the property has physical and legal access, and that the physical and legal access are the same. Have this document recorded. Second, have the property surveyed, and the physical and legal access to the property described and mapped on the survey to the extent possible. Third, obtain a title insurance policy that guarantees physical and legal access to the property.
FAQ's: Real Estate, Survey and Land Measurement
Added: Mon Feb 11 2008
Last Modified: Sat Jul 05 2008