Developer building high-rise behind me-want to buy my twin duplex

23 Replies

Hi,

My sister and I own a twin duplex near Philadelphia, PA. The other (half of?) twin is own by someone else - and it's also a duplex, owner occupies one unit, other unit is rented out. Our twin duplex is rented out and we like both of our tenants as they're dependable, stable, and relatively long-term, at least for the next 3-5 years. Our location is near transportation so an easy commute into Philly. 

A developer is now building a big apartment building behind us. Now some of this info was relayed to me (I no longer live near the area) and this is what I know, relayed by the other twin's owner:

Developer started to dig down into the ground and realize it's a high water line area. So they will be installing "several" industrial-strength water pumps/sump pumps.

Developer approached my neighbor (the owner of the other half of the twin) and said he's looking to buy both our properties so he can tear it down. He apparently let slipped that his plans actually/accidentally encroach on our garages in the back of our properties.

The other twin's owner want to sell. He has some experience in construction, and he explained:

- Our properties flood easily (minor but our sump pumps do turn on whenever it rains hard) due to the area being a high water line area - hence why everyone in the area has a sump pump.

- This big building will go up (& they're building a basement too) - and it will pump all the water out to the surrounding properties whenever it rains. There's no way our sump pumps will be able to handle the regular water we already get PLUS the additional water from the high-rise as well.

- He has a finished basement and he does not want to handle the hassle. Our basement isn't finished but we do have laundry down there plus storage.

- If the developer only gets one twin (or 1/2 of the house) then he will just rent it out. (Not sure what the game plan is here... wait it out until we sell as well?)

- If we both don't sell, and we suffer water damage, it would be costly to pursue for damages, and doubtful that we'd get anything <-- neighbor's opinion.

I'm looking for some advice or direction on where to go from here? I'd like to get some a second opinion but I don't know where to start.

We converted from oil to gas when we bought it in early 2015. We did a 15 yr mortgage so we've built some good equity. We have great tenants that more than cover our monthly PITI.

- If we stay, and there is water damage... what then? Get an industrial strength sump pump?

- If we sell, can we take the appliances out of there since he wants to demolish it? Can we salvage the new system we installed when we converted from oil to gas? I know we need to get an updated evaluation of our property since we did renovated one of the bathrooms and did the oil to gas conversion.

If you've read down this far, thank you!

Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

Updated almost 3 years ago

The correct terminology is "high water table" - apologies.

if its a fair price sell and move on.. you may get a little premium if they REALLY need it.. but keep in mind you can engineer out many problems.

What value are we talking here...$100-150k? I would think if it solves his problem, you could probably get a 50% premium.  As for “his sump pump discharge flooding your property”, I don’t think he would be allowed to do that and you would have recourse.  I would think his discharge would have to go directly to the storm sewer system, as per permitting design, but I don’t know how that works in your area.

If you could trade up to a better property, I’d certainly look at it.

You might want to go down to the building dept and look at his plans, assuming it is that far along.

Originally posted by @Wayne Brooks :

What value are we talking here...$100-150k? I would think if it solves his problem, you could probably get a 50% premium.  As for “his sump pump discharge flooding your property”, I don’t think he would be allowed to do that and you would have recourse.  I would think his discharge would have to go directly to the storm sewer system, as per permitting design, but I don’t know how that works in your area.

If you could trade up to a better property, I’d certainly look at it.

You might want to go down to the building dept and look at his plans, assuming it is that far along.

Thank you! I hadn't thought about the water discharge having to go directly into the storm sewer system.

And I'll see if there are plans for the building yet. Thank you so much!

I would second @Wayne Brooks about him not being able to pump directly onto your property. And I would have to disagree with your neighbor about not having any recourse. 

The idea that his bad engineering and planning would allow him to pump water onto your property is kind of stupid. It would be like you saying, "Well, I do not want to fix the sewer system, so I am just going to pump it onto the back of my property in such a way to guarantees it flows into your high rise area." Now that is the more common sense idea on the situation but we all know how well laws are written so talk to a local attorney. $300 for piece of mind isn't that bad.

I personally would not let the implied threat of him flooding you out affect your decision to sell. If you want to keep the property and you are worried talk to a lawyer and see if you have recourse if he does flood you. If not try to get an injunction to stop construction from a judge, up your flood insurance, there are a few different ways to deal with the situation or the blow back in this case.

To me is sounds like the builder made a error in his engineering plans, and he knows it. Due to that he is attempting to talk to both of you in an effort to avoid legal hassles. I might be cynical when I say this, but do you really think if this problem wasn't going to legally affect him down the road he wouldn't just be moving forward? He messed up, he knows it, and he is attempting to fix it so he doesn't get tied down in courts for (possibly) years on end.

That being said this sounds like a possibly amazing opportunity for you, its like your duplex just appreciated in value considerably faster than the entire city.

The price you can get will be a direct function of how badly the developer needs your property.  Try to gather as much intel as you can.  If you do decide to sell, you can keep whatever you want out of the property as long as you detail it in the contract.  This could be a good opportunity, just don't sell yourself short.  Good luck.

Originally posted by @Michael Randle :

I would second @Wayne Brooks about him not being able to pump directly onto your property. And I would have to disagree with your neighbor about not having any recourse. 

The idea that his bad engineering and planning would allow him to pump water onto your property is kind of stupid. It would be like you saying, "Well, I do not want to fix the sewer system, so I am just going to pump it onto the back of my property in such a way to guarantees it flows into your high rise area." Now that is the more common sense idea on the situation but we all know how well laws are written so talk to a local attorney. $300 for piece of mind isn't that bad.

I personally would not let the implied threat of him flooding you out affect your decision to sell. If you want to keep the property and you are worried talk to a lawyer and see if you have recourse if he does flood you. If not try to get an injunction to stop construction from a judge, up your flood insurance, there are a few different ways to deal with the situation or the blow back in this case.

To me is sounds like the builder made a error in his engineering plans, and he knows it. Due to that he is attempting to talk to both of you in an effort to avoid legal hassles. I might be cynical when I say this, but do you really think if this problem wasn't going to legally affect him down the road he wouldn't just be moving forward? He messed up, he knows it, and he is attempting to fix it so he doesn't get tied down in courts for (possibly) years on end.

That being said this sounds like a possibly amazing opportunity for you, its like your duplex just appreciated in value considerably faster than the entire city.

Unfortunately his plans have been approved and they've started some digging already. I'm guessing there's more to the story than what my neighbor told me. Else how can someone get their plans approved if their plans overlap our properties.

But thank you so much for your input. Appreciate it!

Originally posted by @Jeff Ledyard :

The price you can get will be a direct function of how badly the developer needs your property.  Try to gather as much intel as you can.  If you do decide to sell, you can keep whatever you want out of the property as long as you detail it in the contract.  This could be a good opportunity, just don't sell yourself short.  Good luck.

Thank you Jeff. I guess I need to change my mindset since like you said, this could be a very good thing.

Originally posted by @TJ H. :
Originally posted by @Michael Randle:

I would second @Wayne Brooks about him not being able to pump directly onto your property. And I would have to disagree with your neighbor about not having any recourse. 

The idea that his bad engineering and planning would allow him to pump water onto your property is kind of stupid. It would be like you saying, "Well, I do not want to fix the sewer system, so I am just going to pump it onto the back of my property in such a way to guarantees it flows into your high rise area." Now that is the more common sense idea on the situation but we all know how well laws are written so talk to a local attorney. $300 for piece of mind isn't that bad.

I personally would not let the implied threat of him flooding you out affect your decision to sell. If you want to keep the property and you are worried talk to a lawyer and see if you have recourse if he does flood you. If not try to get an injunction to stop construction from a judge, up your flood insurance, there are a few different ways to deal with the situation or the blow back in this case.

To me is sounds like the builder made a error in his engineering plans, and he knows it. Due to that he is attempting to talk to both of you in an effort to avoid legal hassles. I might be cynical when I say this, but do you really think if this problem wasn't going to legally affect him down the road he wouldn't just be moving forward? He messed up, he knows it, and he is attempting to fix it so he doesn't get tied down in courts for (possibly) years on end.

That being said this sounds like a possibly amazing opportunity for you, its like your duplex just appreciated in value considerably faster than the entire city.

Unfortunately his plans have been approved and they've started some digging already. I'm guessing there's more to the story than what my neighbor told me. Else how can someone get their plans approved if their plans overlap our properties.

But thank you so much for your input. Appreciate it!

Their original plans probably did not overlap with your property. But while they where digging (example) they found something that is affecting those plans, ie water coming onto your property while the original plans had it going somewhere else. Now they have to amend those original plans and possibly have the project delayed or shut down since it will affect your property. So instead they are trying to nip this in the butt when they submit the plans by saying, "Well now we have to pump our waste water into this property due to X, but we have bought that property so it will not affect anyone."

Originally posted by @TJ H. :
Originally posted by @Michael Randle:

I would second @Wayne Brooks about him not being able to pump directly onto your property. And I would have to disagree with your neighbor about not having any recourse. 

The idea that his bad engineering and planning would allow him to pump water onto your property is kind of stupid. It would be like you saying, "Well, I do not want to fix the sewer system, so I am just going to pump it onto the back of my property in such a way to guarantees it flows into your high rise area." Now that is the more common sense idea on the situation but we all know how well laws are written so talk to a local attorney. $300 for piece of mind isn't that bad.

I personally would not let the implied threat of him flooding you out affect your decision to sell. If you want to keep the property and you are worried talk to a lawyer and see if you have recourse if he does flood you. If not try to get an injunction to stop construction from a judge, up your flood insurance, there are a few different ways to deal with the situation or the blow back in this case.

To me is sounds like the builder made a error in his engineering plans, and he knows it. Due to that he is attempting to talk to both of you in an effort to avoid legal hassles. I might be cynical when I say this, but do you really think if this problem wasn't going to legally affect him down the road he wouldn't just be moving forward? He messed up, he knows it, and he is attempting to fix it so he doesn't get tied down in courts for (possibly) years on end.

That being said this sounds like a possibly amazing opportunity for you, its like your duplex just appreciated in value considerably faster than the entire city.

Unfortunately his plans have been approved and they've started some digging already. I'm guessing there's more to the story than what my neighbor told me. Else how can someone get their plans approved if their plans overlap our properties.

But thank you so much for your input. Appreciate it!

Its the philly area, enough money in the "right" pockets and they could get permission to do anything, anyplace... I would sell and move on

@TJ H.   - as noted above, and I can say since i own/rent philly places... YES developer must have his sump pumps and ALL drain lines (including from roof) run into public sewer line.  That's a code requirement.  Many new builds in philly, if you'll notice, MOST of them have a drain line right in front of the property (collects water from roof via gutters, and drains in front of building because that runs into main sewer lines). 

I also agree with others.. would determine what your property is worth, add a large (but not insane) premium and ask that.  For example if your duplex (that you own) is worth $150K at most, given recent comps, then I would think it's fair to ask $225K (I assume builder will talk you down) and you do a private sale (avoid realtors costs) and perhaps settle at a $200K sales price. 

Good luck!

Originally posted by @Michael Randle :
Originally posted by @TJ H.:
Originally posted by @Michael Randle:

I would second @Wayne Brooks about him not being able to pump directly onto your property. And I would have to disagree with your neighbor about not having any recourse. 

The idea that his bad engineering and planning would allow him to pump water onto your property is kind of stupid. It would be like you saying, "Well, I do not want to fix the sewer system, so I am just going to pump it onto the back of my property in such a way to guarantees it flows into your high rise area." Now that is the more common sense idea on the situation but we all know how well laws are written so talk to a local attorney. $300 for piece of mind isn't that bad.

I personally would not let the implied threat of him flooding you out affect your decision to sell. If you want to keep the property and you are worried talk to a lawyer and see if you have recourse if he does flood you. If not try to get an injunction to stop construction from a judge, up your flood insurance, there are a few different ways to deal with the situation or the blow back in this case.

To me is sounds like the builder made a error in his engineering plans, and he knows it. Due to that he is attempting to talk to both of you in an effort to avoid legal hassles. I might be cynical when I say this, but do you really think if this problem wasn't going to legally affect him down the road he wouldn't just be moving forward? He messed up, he knows it, and he is attempting to fix it so he doesn't get tied down in courts for (possibly) years on end.

That being said this sounds like a possibly amazing opportunity for you, its like your duplex just appreciated in value considerably faster than the entire city.

Unfortunately his plans have been approved and they've started some digging already. I'm guessing there's more to the story than what my neighbor told me. Else how can someone get their plans approved if their plans overlap our properties.

But thank you so much for your input. Appreciate it!

Their original plans probably did not overlap with your property. But while they where digging (example) they found something that is affecting those plans, ie water coming onto your property while the original plans had it going somewhere else. Now they have to amend those original plans and possibly have the project delayed or shut down since it will affect your property. So instead they are trying to nip this in the butt when they submit the plans by saying, "Well now we have to pump our waste water into this property due to X, but we have bought that property so it will not affect anyone."

 Ohh got it! That would make more sense. Thank you so much for all your help!

Originally posted by @Jim C. :
Originally posted by @TJ H.:
Originally posted by @Michael Randle:

I would second @Wayne Brooks about him not being able to pump directly onto your property. And I would have to disagree with your neighbor about not having any recourse. 

The idea that his bad engineering and planning would allow him to pump water onto your property is kind of stupid. It would be like you saying, "Well, I do not want to fix the sewer system, so I am just going to pump it onto the back of my property in such a way to guarantees it flows into your high rise area." Now that is the more common sense idea on the situation but we all know how well laws are written so talk to a local attorney. $300 for piece of mind isn't that bad.

I personally would not let the implied threat of him flooding you out affect your decision to sell. If you want to keep the property and you are worried talk to a lawyer and see if you have recourse if he does flood you. If not try to get an injunction to stop construction from a judge, up your flood insurance, there are a few different ways to deal with the situation or the blow back in this case.

To me is sounds like the builder made a error in his engineering plans, and he knows it. Due to that he is attempting to talk to both of you in an effort to avoid legal hassles. I might be cynical when I say this, but do you really think if this problem wasn't going to legally affect him down the road he wouldn't just be moving forward? He messed up, he knows it, and he is attempting to fix it so he doesn't get tied down in courts for (possibly) years on end.

That being said this sounds like a possibly amazing opportunity for you, its like your duplex just appreciated in value considerably faster than the entire city.

Unfortunately his plans have been approved and they've started some digging already. I'm guessing there's more to the story than what my neighbor told me. Else how can someone get their plans approved if their plans overlap our properties.

But thank you so much for your input. Appreciate it!

Its the philly area, enough money in the "right" pockets and they could get permission to do anything, anyplace... I would sell and move on

 Thank you.

Originally posted by @Wayne Brooks :

You may still learn more by talking to the building dept about the plans...approved design, any proposed changes, etc.

 I definitely will! Thank you for your insight! It has helped put our minds at ease - now we have a game plan in place instead of just panicking.

Originally posted by @Mike B. :

@TJ H.  - as noted above, and I can say since i own/rent philly places... YES developer must have his sump pumps and ALL drain lines (including from roof) run into public sewer line.  That's a code requirement.  Many new builds in philly, if you'll notice, MOST of them have a drain line right in front of the property (collects water from roof via gutters, and drains in front of building because that runs into main sewer lines). 

I also agree with others.. would determine what your property is worth, add a large (but not insane) premium and ask that.  For example if your duplex (that you own) is worth $150K at most, given recent comps, then I would think it's fair to ask $225K (I assume builder will talk you down) and you do a private sale (avoid realtors costs) and perhaps settle at a $200K sales price. 

Good luck!

 Thank you Mike! My sister and I are buckling down and doing our homework now.

@TJ H. - @Mike B. Has some good advice. Work with your neighbor to come to a joint agreement and ask for like 50% above market value or some other semi reasonable premium. And don’t budge. And they’ll probably give it to you. If your neighbor offers to sell and you are a maybe, your stake could suddenly be worth even more if the developer really needs it. They’ll lowball you first. Read about making the first offer in a negotiation. They’ll try to anchor you low.

I’m surprised you didn’t learn about this apartment before. If the high rise developer had your land at the beginning, they can request to build higher or have more units in the initial zoning and planning.

@TJ H. Here’s a fun story that I just found fascinating. This took YEARS and I’m sure cost lots of attorney fees (which were likely reimbursed in the settlement) but just a interesting story. https://www.google.com/amp/www.orlandosentinel.com/news/orange/os-westgates-pays-widow-15-million-20171218-story,amp.html
@TJ H. Sell for the price that makes sense to you. Write anything you want into the contract (salvage, etc.) Developed areas generally have requirements for storm water drainage. You can call the municipality to find out what those are. If you get a premium on the sale you may be able to buy something else and offer your current tenants first opportunity.
Originally posted by @Natalie Schanne :

TJ H. - Mike B. Has some good advice. Work with your neighbor to come to a joint agreement and ask for like 50% above market value or some other semi reasonable premium. And don’t budge. And they’ll probably give it to you. If your neighbor offers to sell and you are a maybe, your stake could suddenly be worth even more if the developer really needs it. They’ll lowball you first. Read about making the first offer in a negotiation. They’ll try to anchor you low.

I’m surprised you didn’t learn about this apartment before. If the high rise developer had your land at the beginning, they can request to build higher or have more units in the initial zoning and planning.

Thank you for your insight!

Because they didn't approach us until they've broken ground that I am unsure of the reasons why... but my sister and I will be looking at building plans, proposals, and any amendments to the original plans to see what's going on and hopefully resolve this soon. Thank you once again.

Originally posted by @Kelly I. :
@TJ H. Here’s a fun story that I just found fascinating. This took YEARS and I’m sure cost lots of attorney fees (which were likely reimbursed in the settlement) but just a interesting story. https://www.google.com/amp/www.orlandosentinel.com/news/orange/os-westgates-pays-widow-15-million-20171218-story,amp.html

That was a fun read - I don't think we'll be that lucky (or willing to drag things out for years).

Originally posted by @Timothy Daniels :
@TJ H. Sell for the price that makes sense to you. Write anything you want into the contract (salvage, etc.) Developed areas generally have requirements for storm water drainage. You can call the municipality to find out what those are. If you get a premium on the sale you may be able to buy something else and offer your current tenants first opportunity.

I hadn't thought of that (buying something else and offering our tenants first opportunity) - so definitely something to consider. Thank you!

I would also talk to the developer directly and not just go through your neighbor. The developer may have offered a lil sum'n sum'n, if they can convince you. So, I wouldn't necessarily be sure that you're getting the full story from the neighbor, who wants to sell and needs you to pull along. 

Another thing to consider is hiring an appraiser that specializes in this kind of transaction. 

Some years ago I had a double lot and the city tried to take it with eminent domain. They low-balled me and offered 25K. I went and found an appraiser that does commercial stuff and is willing to be a witness in court. Most appraisers wouldn't do that.

It cost me about $ 3,000 and it was worth every penny. At the hearing he ran circles around the city's appraiser, who wasn't used to that kind of adversary. I ended up getting 95K. 

That type of appraiser will look at the proposed plans and cost involved and what it would cost the builder, if you didn't sell etc. 

@TJ H.

Pumping water into a neighboring property in such a manner is a trespass action waiting for it to happen. I also can't imagine its compliant with local code. Based on the description you gave, it's a decent lawsuit waiting to happen.

But with that said, I would personally sell it at a premium. But do some research about what the premium is. Developers have sometimes paid ridiculous premiums to buy a patch of land due to unforeseen concerns. It just depends on how bad they need it. 

When it comes to appliance and fixtures, you can expressly include that in your agreement of sale. Nothing stops you from the parties agreeing to it (as long as you can safely remove the said items).  

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it for legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.