How An Easement Can Help You Keep An Eye On The View That Comes With Your New Home

There's a lot of different factors that go into purchasing a home, including the view that you have of the neighborhood and access points to favorite spots. This might be especially true if you live close to the ocean, a river, or some other natural wonder. However, unless you're purchasing all of the property that lies in your view, you could end up frustrated and angry a year or so down the line when your neighbor puts up a fence or plants a hedgerow. Is there anything you can do to prevent this from happening? This is what you should do before you buy that home.

1.) Carefully investigate for any existing easements before you buy the home.

It may be possible that there's an existing easement that goes with the home that will prevent such future problems. Known as an easement in appurtenant, they go with the land. When the current owner sells, the easement goes with the sale—and if that easement happens to include an unobstructed view or access to that natural wonder that you love, that could be the end of your problem.

It's important to note that the easement doesn't give you any further rights over the property than what's expressly stated. You'll have what is known as a "nonpossessory" interest in the property. That means that you can't do anything that will alter the property in any way to make it easier for you to use.

2.) Make sure that the easement doesn't just belong to the current owner of the house you want.

Some easements are tied to the individual, not the property. Those are called easements in gross, are generally informal and unwritten, and don't transfer with the sale of the property. This sort of easement won't protect your view or access way in the future.

For example, if the current owner of the home you want to buy tells you that the neighbor whose property lies between the house and that spectacular ocean view is a nice guy who allows him to cut through his property every morning on the way to the beach, you can't assume that you'll be granted the same privilege. While the current owner has been given an easement in gross, it won't transfer with the sale. 

3.) Consider purchasing an easement from the other neighbor.

If you really want the home that you're considering buying, you could consider trying to buy an easement from the neighbor who owns the property that lies between you and the view you love. This would give you a written contract that will grant you a very limited amount of control over the land in question. For example, if all you really want is to ensure that you keep your view, the easement would be specifically worded so that your neighbor agrees not to build or plant anything that would obstruct it. 

Keep in mind, this could be an expensive prospect because you're asking someone to sell you something that will dictate what they can and cannot do with their own land. However, if you're in a position to offer enough money to make the easement worth the restrictions, you may be able to make the deal.

You can also offer to buy a self-limiting easement. Your neighbor may not be concerned about selling you the easement as much as he or she is concerned about how having an easement attached to their property could affect its resale value—it could potentially make the property harder to sell. If you make the easement self-limiting so that it expires automatically if the neighbor decides to sell the property, you may find your neighbor more than willing to make the deal.

For more information on how to handle current and future issues like these, talk to a real estate attorney in your area.