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.