Tying to sell and my house is on the neighbors property - MN

17 Replies

I purchased this property in 2011 from a bank as a foreclosure. It is in the country and has a couple acres. I lived in it for a couple of years and then rented it for the last 5. This year I decided to sell, so I fixed it up, put it on the market, and got an offer. The only thing the guy wanted was a survey so I figured, why not? Well, that opened up a big can of worms. According to the survey, the house, the buildings, the driveway, the septic, all of it is on the neighbors land. I've talked to my title person, county assessor, real estate attorney, and any body else I think may know what to do, and no one has been able to give me any advice that I can act on. I'm going to lose this sale if I can't get this straightened out. Do any of you in MN know what actions need to be taken to get this straightened out?

I'm not an expert, but I don't think there is much you can do. Is the neighbor aware of the situation? Maybe they'd be willing to sell a portion of their property to you. If so, you could do a lot line adjustment. I would consult with the real estate attorney about this as an option.

Around 25 years ago, I knew someone who owned a building (shed), a few mini storage units on a lot in a town. The neighbor somehow learned the property line was 20 ft over into my friends property. One day they showed up with a missing storage unit...taken down courtesy of the neighbor. 

Their attorney said something about if there hasn't been any dispute over property lines for 15 years then it's considered grandfathered in. There was a wire fence grown into trees of what anyone would think would be the property line. However the previous owner of the property was friends with the neighbors and testified there was a dispute.

They ended up settling for some money and an easement onto my friends property. That was many moons ago and laws may have changed. Best to talk to an real estate attorney as Ben had mentioned. I wasn't directly involved with headache, so my info maybe a little askewd. ;)


Just to make sure..... verify that the legal description in Your purchase matches the legal description in; the foreclosure action, the original mtg from the previous owner, and in the deed where the previous owner purchased.

Surveyors rarely make this kind of mistake, but that is also possible.

If all the previous legal descriptions are the same, dating back to when the house was actually built, are we to assume that whoever built the house just “guessed” at where to build it?

Assuming there was no simple typing/scrivener’s error, then making a deal with the neighbor seems like the only solution.....maybe a prescriptive easement.

@Steve R.

You need to do two things.  And none of us would like the first one.  You need to hire a real estate attorney.  Show him/her the problem.  They will create some type of waiver, and you take that to the neighbor, and for a sum, I am assuming they would grant a variance to you.  Tell them you are trying to sell, and you discovered, quite innocently, problems.  Save your sale, and shell out a couple grand to get this fixed.

I haven't informed the neighbors because I don't have a solution to offer them. I hired an attorney 3 weeks ago but he has not come up with any solutions. I  would like to switch attorneys, because I feel he isn't giving this much effort, but that is hard also because I don't know how deep he is into my pocket. 

@Steve R.

Where is the land located?  It may be possible to come up with a fair market value just for this land, and make an offer to buy it.  Yes, another hassle.  But there is yet another option.  Tell the buyer to take it or leave it.  Let's them take the headache.  And if they won't, find another buyer until someone will take it as is.  Why do you have to solve it?  The bank didn't.

@Steve R.   its is too bad it has only been 7 years or else adverse possession would apply (15 years).  I would think your real estate attorney would be able to make the case of possession for 15 years for the prior owner before you purchased the property.  We had part of one of our duplexes 2' on the neighbors land and offered him 5k to purchase 5' and we filed it with the county.    It may be cheaper to do that than anything else.  Sorry about your issue.

Thank you everyone for your input so far. It looks like the neighbor has a mortgage on his property. Has anyone had any luck with a bank signing a release so that a piece of the land can be sold?

@Steve R. If you buy the strip of land 99.99% the bank will release its security interest. That land had zero value to the lender when they made the loan and that remains true. You can help by preparing the release for their execution.

@Amber Gonion The concept you are referring to is "tacking" consecutive owners' possession together to meet the adverse possession time requirements and as far as I know there is some recognized variation of it everywhere.

Talk to @Brad Schaeppi , he can help sort it out.  May be cheaper to purchase an easement than purchasing the land.  I will be dealing with this at some point on one of my rental properties but from the opposite angle.  At one of my rentals it was discovered that I own half of my neighbor's driveway.  The neighbor is a group home and they want to replace the driveway and build a garage.  Their survey caught this problem.

Have you looked up the county/city parcel maps online? Or a GIS map online? This will give you a overlay that shows parcel lines. Not super accurate with a google map underlay but it close. Also this is where you can get a legal property description. You can also get your property boundary description as well.

Do you know if adverse possession applies to the former owner as well? Say the former owner owned it for over 15 years and now you've owned it for 7. Would that count?  Or any combination of years totaling 15+ years. It would show the true owner of the property never had no intent of maintaining the property or claiming ownership. Just a thought. i dont know if this would work or not.

I went up and talked to both neighbors this week. They are both willing to work with me on this. I need to figure out if I need to get their whole properties surveyed or just the portion that will be changing hands. Anybody know? Also, they both have mortgages so hopefully the banks will be cooperative.


This probably all got worked out but you should have both surveyed and the neighbors quit claim the disputed parcel to you. Luckily it sounds like your neighbors are nice enough about it otherwise it would be annoying to jump through hoops with it. The bank will have to be included in any lawsuit you file but unless the land significantly affects their collateral, in my experience, they don't really care. 

This happened a while ago but I wanted to let people know how this turned out...

My title company ended up handling most of it for me for a small fee. I had to get my property resurveyed with lines in the correct spot to include all buildings along with surveys for the neighbors on each side of me. The neighbor agreed to give me the land for free if I paid all fees. I ended up paying down his mortgage about 5K so the bank would release it. The process took about 6 months but it all ended well.

I had a similar situation.  I had to get a second attorney for a deal in Indiana.  A road to access my sellers house had been there for 50+ years with no complaint by the land owners.  The county had maintained the road the entire time.   In the process of selling the title company discovered the road, according to records, was on the landowners property.   I called the county recorder and discovered the road was never dedicated as a county rd. The landowner is the one that sold the house to the my seller originally.  How this wasn't caught then who knows.  First attorney said we needed an easement granted from the landowner.  Landowner would cooperate if we paid her $1500.  I went to another attorney and the solution ended up being filing an Affidavit of Adverse Possession signed by the seller and attorney and filed with the title ppwk. as part of closing. Since the land had been used for over 50 years without complaint the landowner had no grounds to dispute.   I would definitely seek counsel from another attorney.  The initial consultation shouldn't cost you anything.