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Is the property you want subject to easements?

Finding the right property depends on a variety of factors. You may look at several tracts of land before deciding on one. Once you do, you begin the process involved in completing the transaction. As part of that process, a title search occurs that tells you the history of the property, including any easements that may exist.

Easements grant someone else the right to use a portion of the land you intend to buy. More than one type of easement exists, and understanding each of them, along with how they could affect your use of the property, along with its value, is crucial.

Different easements do different things

Each type of easement provides the recipient with different rights. Below are what each represents and how it may affect your property value:

  • A public easement allows the public to use a portion of your land. For example, your land may technically include a public thoroughfare. You own the sidewalk, for example, but the public has the right to use it. The amount of access to the property the public has could affect its value. However, if every property owner in your neighborhood is subject to the same public access, it shouldn't affect value.
  • A private easement allows a neighboring landowner to use a portion of the property. Depending on the degree to which your use of the land is affected, the value may suffer. For example, putting a structure on your land would interfere with your use more than a sewer line underground.
  • A utility easement allows a utility company to install sewage pipes, electrical lines and other utilities needed by the community in which you live. You may be restricted from using the land in some ways in order not to damage the utilities. Companies may use the land subject to the easement for the good of the community, but that does not mean they can do whatever they want.
  • An easement by prior use gives another landowner certain rights to part of your property. The other landowner must meet certain requirements in order to obtain such rights.
  • An easement by necessity allows another landowner access to your property in order to reach his or her property. For example, if the only ingress or egress from another person's land is through yours, this access will more than likely be granted.
  • A prescriptive easement allows another person to use a portion of the property for a specific purpose. Using the last example, the landowner who needs to be able to reach his or her property receives the right to put in a driveway on your land.

In most cases, easements don't affect the value of the property. If they do, you will need to gauge whether any reduction in property value makes the land undesirable.

You may need some help

The above information may only raise more questions than it answers when it comes to easements. In order to fully understand how a particular easement affects your purchase, you may need some help. A Massachusetts real estate attorney's knowledge may prove invaluable in this endeavor.

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