Easement-only access vs public street

4 Replies

I've noticed a trend where it seems a lot of parcels are being sold with easement-only access (no public street fronting parcel).

As a generalization, I don't feel easement only access is very desireable. It leads to potential conflict with the servient estate, it is more expensive to maintain, and nobody can see your house from the street. I consider all things less desireable.

One example is a saw a parcel with a 1200 foot long easement from the public street through another property before you got to the property for sale. That's one heck of a long driveway. Plus you have to go from the property line to where the house is built.

Just curious how you add/subtract value based on public street versus private easement.

My driveway is 1/3 mile of gravel off a county road, we own property on one side-it is still an easement. Perfect for residence; but I probably would not recommend that as a rental. We enjoy the privacy, it is heavily wooded, we have a locked gate, what could be better! But not ideal if it were a rental.

Not seeing the house from the road is no problem. An easment could be a problem if the property is a rental and tthe tenant dont just use it for property entry and exit.

I don't see how the easement approach is more expensive.  It is something the seller of the property owning the easement should already have in place.  It will work just like a driveway.

Be sure your local government considers the lot buildable.  Many zoning regulations require a certain amount of street frontage that is owned.  Easements don't always meet that standard.  Don't assume that because there is already a house there that it must be buildable.  It probably is buildable, but you might have to get a variance to do anything else with your property if it is nonconforming.

Otherwise, it is just a long driveway.  Make sure the easement is recorded on the deed and the driveway follows the easement.  If so, the easement is as good as or better than owning the ground.

There are a variety reasons why an easement approach would be more expensive than direct public street. Primarily, the driveway is longer so there is more upkeep cost in landscaping along the easement (leaf removal, vegetation, etc), more cost in removing snow, more cost in maintain the gravel and/or asphalt, and any other assorted costs. The extra costs might be a lot or little depending on local environmental factors as well as how well the driveway is built.

The upsides, as you aluded to, are more privacy and less noise. The downsides are lack of curb appeal of the house, any difficulties working with the servient estate owners (easement disputes are common and many real estate attorneys make a tidy sum from answering questions regarding them). Lack of curb appeal is a big deal to me, it feels to me that a house you can see from the public street (or have the potential to see from the public street depending on landscaping choices) is more valuable that one that you cannot. 

Anyways, I am just wanting to gain a variety of opinions.