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Survey Says

By Datta Khalsa, Broker

For some reason, it seems like it’s often the smallest projects that pose the largest number of issues. Sometimes this is due to the sheer number of parties involved. Sometimes it’s because of certain limiting characteristics of the property, and the parties involved are often operating on smaller margins with limited resources. Other times, it’s due to a history of conflict, or even a neighbor with a personality disorder. And sometimes, all of the above factors are intertwined.

Take for example a land listing with a little burned down cabin I have in escrow in Ben Lomond. With a contract price well under $100K, I’m pretty sure it’s the lowest priced piece of real estate I have handled in my career, but of course that doesn’t make it any less significant to the parties involved. Nor does it make for a simple transaction.

To start with, the Seller is a trust with 11 heirs who, rather than appointing a single trustee, have chosen to have all 11 family members sign any documents involved in the sale. This includes the Listing Agreement, all disclosures, the Purchase Contract along with any Addenda that have been needed and, of course, the closing documents including the grant deed.

Then there was the matter of the large amount of debris and overgrowth on the property which required over a week of clearing and cleanout to get the property presentable.

After factoring in the narrow road, the northern exposure, the dense tree cover and the lack of any legal septic or water source, the price had been reduced to an irresistible level, and yet the property still languished on the market.

Then we found out why: It turns out that the downhill neighbor, whose large collection of items stored outside had also been considered as a factor in keeping the price down, had been approaching anyone who viewed the property telling them that prime parts of the land are on his property and that he intends to buy the property for himself.

We ended up getting a survey done, and discovered that in fact he was encroaching on our client’s property with many of his vehicles and other belongings. To this he is claiming he has a claim of adverse possession which will likely not hold up due to multiple technical shortfalls in his argument.

On the other hand, his property encompasses the base of my client’s property, but there is an easement dating back to 1928 that appears to give our clients the right to use the driveway where it crosses his property. We are gearing up for a site visit with the surveyor and the buyer’s agent to assess the various points of encroachment in both directions.

Between a good surveyor, our knowledgeable trustee, a savvy buyer agent on the other side, a good title officer and legal team on our side we will likely get things settled and move forward, but I still have to marvel at how complicated things often get along the way.

And all this on a little piece of land in Ben Lomond.

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