There are often challenges with selling or buying undeveloped acreage. Challenges can include lack of electric options, ground that would result in deep well depths, expensive driveway requirements, rocky ground which will make building difficult and more. The particular challenge being discussed in this post relates to access.
Specifically, there are two different types of access issues that could exist with a parcel of land, especially a larger parcel outside of town. One pertains to physical access, and one to legal access.
The term physical access specifically refers to the actual road that is place and must be transversed to reach a specific parcel of land. In my area of Montana, there are many roads that are not maintained by the county. And while people in many other areas of the country might not even be able to imagine this, many of those roads also do not have any formal road maintenance agreement in place. Nor do there seem to be any specific requirements in terms of how wide or graded those roads should be.
What this means is that many of the roads, especially those that go into more remote areas, may be in need of repair. They might have deep ruts from years of melting snow and strong rainstorms. Or they may be rarely used and full of grass. If it's wintertime, there might be a lot of unplowed snow, or sometimes even worse, icy roads that have been driven on many times. There might be potholes. In addition, there may be very sharp or steep areas that would make bringing in lumber trucks or concrete trucks very difficult if not impossible.
Further, in many areas, there is nothing that requires any land or home owner to take care of the road. And quite frankly, many owners like a crappy road. It means less people will be driving by their land. So anyone considering buying property like this would need to understand "it is what it is" and they should expect the road to remain as it is. Or perhaps get worse with time.
This is important because sellers might have to price their property lower to reflect the difficulty new owners will have in accessing and utilizing the land. And buyers need to understand they will have to make accommodations for the road. Perhaps they will need a side-by-side or snowmobile to get up and down the road. Or maybe they'll need to hunker down in the winter. Maybe they'll need to spend some money in making road repairs themselves so that driving in and out is easier. Bottom line, access to some properties can be physically challenging.
Both sellers and buyers of land also need to be aware of potential legal access issues. For example, during a recent title search we found out a specific piece of land that had been in a family for decades was basically landlocked, even though a road went right to it. In fact, on this one road, there were five parcels of land that each had access to the other four. But those five parcels did not have legal access to the seven parcels before their land, nor did they have legal access to property owned by Flathead National Forest. To make that road even more confusing, the four parcels even further up the road did not have legal access to any other parcels that needed to be passed through to get to their property. What?
This kind of situation is mostly found in rural areas outside of town. In another situation, people purchased a parcel of land three decades ago and have not been to the property since. When they purchased it, there was physical access through two different parcels of land. In the thirty years since then, those private owners, who never signed an easement, blocked off access to their property which blocked access to any other properties behind them. After thirty years, the land owners now want to sell their land but there isn't any way to get to it. Not legally and now, not physically. Yikes!
There are resolutions to the access issue, but none of them are fast or simple. First is to ask the private owners if they would agree to sign an easement. This is the simplest, least expensive and quickest way to move forward.
But there are many land and home owners in this area who don't want to sign anything. They don't really care what the document is for, they just aren't interested. There are others who have been around forever and think they know the status of the road. In other words, they are sure it's a county road, not a private road, and therefore they shouldn't need to sign! And even if they receive proof that it is indeed a private road, they still object to the idea. Or a home owner might insist the road does not go through their property. And even if three different official maps are provided that indicate the road does indeed go through their property, they don't believe it. And then there are some who just say yes and some who just say no.
So if home and land owners refuse to sign an easement, then a more official, costly, and legal route is necessary. In this case, an attorney would need to draft documents that will pursue an Easement of Necessity, Prescription or Implication, depending upon which is the correct route to take. All of this takes time, and in the case of the attorney route, money. So if possible, making sure a parcel has legal access should be done prior to putting the home on the market.
Anyone who wants to sell property in Kalispell or anywhere in the Flathead Valley needs to investigate access issues as best they can prior to putting land on the market. If a title company determines there is no legal access after a purchase is in process, not only will the new owner not be able to get title insurance to cover any future access issues, but the buyer cannot use a land mortgage to purchase the property. And most buyers will not want to purchase land if they know they cannot build on it because there's no way a bank will give them a construction loan without legal access. To say nothing of the risk that a property owner could block off the road at some point in the future, and it would be totally legal. In terms of physical access, buyers just need to know what they are buying and plan accordingly.
If you want to talk to a Kalispell real estate broker who focuses on land, call Kat at 406-270-3667!
Originally posted at thehousekat.com
Photo of files from Relaythat.