What Is An “Easement” In Real Estate?
An easement is defined as someone’s right to use a piece of land — someone who is not the owner of the land. There are many easements that can affect the value of land, but oftentimes there is nothing you can do about them.
An easement is usually put into place to serve a purpose and is limited to this particular type of use only. The owner of the property on which the easement exists is not able to do whatever they wish to the property.
This example might help to clarify the situation. A “right of way” easement means that utility companies (and other entities) can use that easement to access roads they need to service neighborhoods. Some easements may have certain restrictions regarding whether or not fencing or other structures can be installed on that land.
Another type of easement involves land located in historic districts. This type of easement may include restrictions on the types of changes that can be made to the inside and outside of historical buildings. Oftentimes, these restrictions are placed on any structural additions even the colors of paint the owner can select.
A third type of easement is a recreational easement. This will allow for public use of undeveloped land to be used for biking, hunting, fishing or any other recreational activities. Some states have tax incentives in place for recreational easements for the population to use.
An “easement in gross” is an easement that applies only to a particular person or business, not the public at large. For example, a homeowner who allows his neighbor to fish in his pond — only that neighbor, and only for as long as the owner retains the rights to the property — has entered into an “easement in gross.”
Easements are why it is important for homebuyers to order a land survey. This survey will let you know if there are any easements that are associated with the property you are purchasing. You can also order a survey on a piece of land that you already own if someone is asking about an easement. However, if there is a current easement, it should be listed on the title that is filed with the county clerk’s office.
If you have found a piece of property that you wish to purchase and there is an easement, sit down and figure out how that easement will affect the use of the land you are buying or any future plans of selling the land. Easements are not always considered a bad thing, but they can sometimes cause troubles for the owners.
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