How To Buy Your Country Dream

...Without Having A Nightmare!

Property Access

by Phil Hoover

"There's a road to the property, so there must be access." This is the lament of many a country property owner who didn't ask enough questions. Legal access to your property is critically important. Without it, you are the proud owner of a piece of landlocked, inaccessible property.

There are many types of access, some trouble free and many full of problems. The most trouble free access is where the property adjoins a public road. With no other properties between yours and a public road, few problems can arise.

The fun begins when you find that secluded piece of property, tucked away back on a hill or in a scenic little valley with a stream, hundreds or even thousands of feet from the main road. The access to such a piece of property will undoubtedly be across other surrounding properties, and that's where you'll often encounter access problems. To avoid such problems, verify that the property you are purchasing has deeded access. In other words, the owners of the surrounding properties have signed and recorded deeds granting access to your property.

If the property doesn't have deeded access, you may still have access because the road to the property has been in continuous use for an extended period. This is called prescriptive access, and varies according to the laws of each state. Prescriptive access is unreliable, though, and you may find yourself in court after you purchase the property if your neighbors decide they don't want you crossing their property any longer.

After you've determined that you have access to the property, you need to ask yourself "Who's going to maintain the road?" Unless you are the only one who owns property on the road, you probably will need to share road maintenance expenses with neighboring property owners. Is there a written road maintenance agreement? Or do the owners just get together and share the costs and physical work of maintaining the road? If there's a written maintenance agreement, get a copy of it and study it.

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