A Georgia man bought a house from a friend without the assistance of a real estate agent. He soon learned that most of his new house and driveway are located on a neighbors property. The neighbor, who is the nephew of the friend who sold the property, is actively denying access to the new homeowner. The police are involved in this ugly property dispute theres no doubt that costly attorneys will make an appearance soon, if they havent already. Click here for a local news report telling the story.
Extreme examples where the peaceful ownership of a home is challenged are rare, but they do occur.
In my mind, the news report raises more questions than it answers. Still there are a few key points that are worth taking away.
A Realtor might have made a difference.
While there’s no guarantee the scenario in Georgia could have been avoided, I feel that a skilled Realtor might have saved this man a great deal of expense and grief. Simply attempting to locate and walk property lines, something I routinely do, might have revealed clues of a problem with the property lines.
I often ask if a seller has a location drawing from a prior transaction before writing a contract as a buyer’s agent. Particularly in Cecil County, where shared private lanes, inter-family conveyances, and un-dedicated roads are commonplace, it is so important that buyers understand all matters affecting the land being purchased.
There’s a site named CecilMaps that shows the approximate location of property lines for all of Cecil County. You enter a property address to see that property and any structures on it. Its a valuable resource that I use often.
A Realtors network is a powerful resource for buyers after a contract is accepted. Buyers rarely have a preferred title company. As a buyer’s agent, I will suggest local title companies that I’ve worked with and trust. I have no financial ties to any of the title companies that I recommend.
The role that a title company plays in a real estate transaction can’t be underestimated and goes far beyond the hour spent signing documents at closing. A title company is responsible for searching the chain of title including an examination of property descriptions, issuing title insurance policies, and ordering location drawings.
Location Drawings are typically required by mortgage lenders and title insurers when real estate ownership is being transferred. A location drawing is prepared by a surveyor after visiting the property. It shows the approximate location of houses and other improvements within property lines. The drawing will also show easements, encroachments, shared driveways, or any other matters affecting the use of the land. A location drawing isn’t as precise, or nearly as expensive, as a boundary survey, but it is accurate enough to reveal potential problems like the one we see in the Georgia property line dispute.
A Realtor can discuss the importance of an Owners Title Insurance Policy. As far as the Georgia man is concerned, an owners title insurance policy might have provided the ultimate peace of mind as tensions and expenses mount. Unfortunately, title insurance remains an ambiguous and misunderstood product that’s only briefly discussed at real estate settlements.
When you buy a home, you have a right to use and enjoy the home and the land, to sell it, or use it as security for a mortgage without being challenged or threatened with litigation. The right to the quiet enjoyment of your home is one of many rights protected by an owners title insurance policy.
I feel that trying to buy a home without a Realtor is like trying to perform surgery on yourself. A Realtor adds a great deal of value to every aspect of a real estate transaction.
Reach out with any questions you might have about Harford County or Cecil County real estate.