DEAR BOB: For at least 30 years, we (and the previous owners of our property) have used a “shortcut” driveway over an adjoining owner’s property to reach the paved county highway. Our property adjoins a dirt road, which becomes very difficult to use during bad weather so we use the shortcut most of the time. However, the adjoining owner, with whom we were good friends, died a few months ago. His heirs plan to sell that property. They tried to block our use of the shortcut, but our attorney obtained a temporary court injunction allowing us to continue using that driveway. As our attorney is semi-retired and not very familiar with real estate law, what should we do to save our “shortcut” driveway over the adjoining property? –Marvin M.

DEAR MARVIN: Hire the best real estate attorney you can find because you have a big legal problem.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

To obtain a prescriptive easement over a neighbor’s property, your use of that driveway must be open, notorious, hostile and continuous for the number of years required in your state.

From your description, it sounds like your late neighbor was a friend who didn’t mind your driving over his property. That means your use was not “hostile” without the owner’s permission.

Therefore, you won’t be entitled to create a permanent prescriptive easement over the adjoining property. If I were in your situation, I would start getting used to driving over the dirt road that adjoins your property.


DEAR BOB: Recently I stopped in a real estate office in a town where my husband and I are thinking of relocating. We spent about 15 minutes talking with an agent. She took my name and phone and said she would get back to us. After checking her out on the Internet, I learned that agent has been there just two years and really didn’t know the area that well. I would rather deal with a more experienced agent. Is it possible to change agents within the same brokerage office without having to pay two commissions and creating a mess? –Mrs. B.J.

DEAR MRS. B.J.: Just because you talked with a real estate agent for 15 minutes and gave her your name and phone did not create a buyer’s agent relationship.

Unless you signed a “buyer’s agency” contract with that agent, you are free to work with any licensed agent you wish, including another agent with the same brokerage firm. As a buyer, you won’t be paying any sales commission anyway.


DEAR BOB: My husband and I want to sell our property. We inherited this five-unit property in a distant city. Should we hire a professional appraiser or trust the realty agent we choose and the lender to set a fair asking price? –Sheila G.

DEAR SHEILA: Before listing any property for sale, always interview at least three local successful realty agents who sell properties like yours in the vicinity.

After inspecting your property, each agent should prepare a written CMA (comparative market analysis) showing recent sales prices of similar nearby properties, current listings of neighborhood properties like yours, and recently expired comparable listings (usually overpriced). Each CMA should include the agent’s opinion of your property’s market value.

Most realty agents are in closer touch with local real estate market conditions than are professional appraisers who confirm market values for mortgage lenders. In today’s buyer’s market in most cities, successful realty agents usually understand local market conditions and can give you the most accurate opinion of your property’s market value.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “How to Sell Your House or Condo for Top Dollar in a Buyer’s Market,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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