Rules for landlocked properties

DEAR BOB: Quite by accident, my wife and I stumbled on abeautiful 3.5-acre hilltop parcel for sale near a small town where we havevacationed many times. The asking price is quite reasonable, but it has beenfor sale over 12 months. There is a very good reason: It is landlocked with nopermanent access to a public road. It has a dirt road over a neighbor’s land.The real estate agent introduced us. The neighbor is a “good old countryboy.” He says we can use the dirt road over his acreage “if we don’tcause trouble.” When we explained we would like to build a retirement homeif we buy the 3.5 acres, he said, “That might be all right if you don’tcause no trouble.” However, we would want to pave the dirt road because inrainy weather it could become dangerous. Is there any way we can force theneighbor to sell us a permanent easement? –Dean W.

DEAR DEAN: Possibly. You certainly don’t want to risk buyingthat landlocked land without a permanent recorded road access easement.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

The general rule on landlocked parcels, depending on statelaw, is the owner of the landlocked property has a right of access to a publicroad. However, to acquire such access you must be able to prove at one time inthe past both the landlocked parcel and an adjoining parcel with road accesshad common ownership.

The legal theory is that when the property was subdivided,the owner forgot to provide road access to the landlocked parcel.

This is not a do-it-yourself project. You need to consult anexperienced real estate attorney, and a title researcher, to determine if youmeet the requirements for an easement by necessity. If not, your bestalternative is to buy a permanent easement over the neighbor’s land. Cashusually talks.


DEAR BOB: I refinanced my home to lower my interest rate andthe payments. At that time, I thought my grandson should co-sign because he wasmaking part of the payments. By mistake, I signed a quitclaim deed giving himright of survivorship. How can I get my property back? My daughter (mygrandson’s mother) will inherit the home in my will. –Alice McC.

DEAR ALICE: For your grandson to co-sign on the mortgageobligation, the lender probably required him to be on the title. That isprobably why you were presented with the quitclaim deed conveying an interestin the property to your grandson.

If you had not signed that quitclaim deed, you probablywouldn’t have received the new mortgage.

Although a title mistake can be “undone,” youmight not want to do that. You and your grandson should consult a local realestate attorney to discuss the consequences. He might stop paying part of yourmortgage payment if he can’t claim the tax deduction because he is no longer aco-owner.


DEAR BOB: My wife died in 2003. We lived in our house for 35years and I continue living in it today. Having read your articles aboutstepped-up basis, I realize if I decide to sell, this will be very important tohave my basis stepped-up as of the date she died. How do I prove the marketvalue on that date? –Morton G.

DEAR MORTON: An easy way is to check with the local taxassessor’s office to see what value they showed for your home as of that date.If that valuation is acceptable to you, ask for a copy and file it away in yourimportant records file.

That’s what I did when I inherited some property in 1991. Inthe local jurisdiction, each property is reassessed annually and I felt theassessor’s market value estimate was reasonable. That became my adjusted-costbasis for the inherited property.

However, not all local tax jurisdictions reassess each year.Some assessments are far lower than market value. If that is your situation, Isuggest you hire an experienced licensed appraiser to determine the 2003 marketvalue of your home. The appraiser can do this by checking comparable 2003 salesprices of homes like yours.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

Copyright 2006 Inman News

Distributed by Inman News

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