Easements can be a delicate subject for many landowners, and especially so for those looking to purchase land. Many people are not entirely knowledgeable of how easements work and what they entail. Because of this, land buyers may run into legal issues and ongoing headaches trying to resolve all the easement miscommunication with the seller.
There are a host of items that may delay the transfer of land from one owner to another, and easements can throw a wrench into even the best-laid plans if they are not understood fully. That's why buyers should employ the help of certified land specialists from Mossy Oak Properties to advise on easement matters and close on deals that benefit everyone involved.
When on the hunt for a new piece of land, buyers should be mindful of what they may be walking into when it comes to easements.
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 easements relate to a person's right to enter a property while egress easements pertain to exiting, and in many cases, landowners aren't sure of the exact specifics on these two rights. If there's no road frontage, then the property is usually accessed via an easement, Marinelli said. However, this existing easement may actually run through another landowners' property, which creates disputes over deeds and rights.
Further, easements may last forever or have been in place for a long time, which buyers may not be notified of. So 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. And while buyers may not like this fact, 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 important problem to note is that conservation easements effectively limit what buyers can do with the land once they own it. A conservation easement is typically put into place by the government to safeguard and protect certain portions of land.
Marinelli noted buyers may not be able to harvest timber, make improvements or build new structures on their newly bought land if there is a conservation easement. That's why buyers should be sure that the purpose for which they are buying land is in accordance with the law. It would be extremely frustrating if a buyer found out after the fact that their property isn't what they thought it was.
Impact on sales
While easements can be a source of ire when buying land, it's necessary to realize they can affect 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 drive 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.
Avoiding future issues
The key to navigating the sometimes muddy waters of easements 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 move to make next.
To avoid running into any other problems down the road, all easement activity should be accurately recorded in a timely manner and supplied to upon future request. The property's deed needs to contain information about any easements, which a broker can help sort out and verify.
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 specialist at Mossy Oak Properties for the best advice and guidance regarding easements and land transfers.