When you buy a home, you probably assume that you own everything in and around it within the property lines. But in some parts of the country, homeowners are discovering the property they’re buying does not fully include the land beneath it. For example, in Tampa, FL a family realized at closing that their home builder had already signed away the rights to the land underneath their home to its own energy company. The “mineral rights” grant gave the energy company the freedom to drill, mine or explore for precious minerals beneath the home.How is this even possible, and how can it be avoided? Who really owns the land beneath your home? Here’s what you need to know.
You Probably Own the Land
Generally speaking, it’s likely that you own the property underneath and around your house. Most property ownership law is based on the Latin doctrine, “For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to heaven and down to hell.” There can be exceptions, though. On occasion, a buyer will uncover an easement for a driveway or walkway that goes through their property. This is why it’s important to carefully review contracts and disclosures.
Contract and Disclosures
A seller, be it a home builder or a homeowner, can’t claim any sort of rights to the property without first disclosing those rights in the real estate contract or in some sort of disclosure statement. Each state is different with regard to how things are disclosed. Many disclosure statements require the seller to tell the buyer whether or not someone else has laid claim to the property or if the buyer is limited to claims in the future. If the seller is unaware, or the home you’re purchasing is in a state that doesn't require the seller to disclose, then you should carefully review the property’s title report before signing off.
Preliminary Title Report
There can be a situation in which a seller doesn't know that someone else has laid claim to the property. For example, this could happen in the case of a resale in a newer subdivision where the current owner bought from a home builder directly. Throughout the years, there have been instances when an easement, encroachment or even a small mechanic’s lien sits on a title unbeknownst to the current seller. When this happens, all parties must work together to determine the best course of action. Access to the land below your home would have to be granted via a deed and, as such, it would show up on the preliminary title report. The title report provides ownership information and acknowledges loans, deeds or trusts, easements, encroachments, unpaid property taxes or anything else that has been recorded against the property. If a home builder deeded mineral rights to themselves, for instance, they would have had to record that deed. If so, it stays on the title report until they and the current owner agree to take it off.
How to Avoid Last-Minute Disclosures
In Tampa, unsuspecting homeowners signed over to the builder’s holding company the “eternal rights to practically anything of value (found) buried underground, including gold, groundwater and gemstones,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. If that weren't enough, homeowners who didn't realize they had signed over the mineral rights, or who did so at the last minute under duress, could have trouble selling their home later to wary buyers. With any home purchase, you should give yourself enough time so that you can do your due diligence, either as a contingency to the contract or in the period leading up to the contract before you sign it. When buyers think about due diligence, they immediately think “property inspection.” And in the case of new construction, it’s uncommon to do an inspection. But there is so much more to due diligence than a simple property inspection. Never wait until the closing to discover such a big disclosure, as the unfortunate buyers in Tampa experienced. It’s common practice for a good listing agent or seller, in states where disclosure is required, to raise something like mineral rights as a red flag to all buyers from the get-go. Deeding access to the land below your home isn't simply some “fine print” buried in the closing papers that could be easily overlooked. Such a disclosure would require paragraphs, if not pages, of documentation. Best course of action: Review all documentation, disclosures and title paperwork prior to signing a real estate contract or during a due diligence period. If you’re uncertain, ask your agent for help reviewing the documents or hire a real estate attorney to pore through the paperwork on your behalf.
My focus is to best understand the goals and visions of my clients, ensuring
all decisions are made with a wealth of information and the necessary tools for
a successful, rewarding experience.
I have found my Slice of Heaven I look
forward to you finding yours! KathyDecker@exitkingrealtygroup.com Have Questions? Call Me 941-544-7270
Author:Kathy Toonder Phone: 941-544-7270 Dated: February 3rd 2014 Views: 681 About Kathy: I enjoy walking the warm sandy beaches, swimming and watching the magnificent sunsets on Florida’s...
View our latest blog posts in your RSS reader. Click here to access.
One sentence says it all: "Working from sign up till sign down...." We provide the best possible service to our clients with respect to buying or selling real estate, marketing, advertising, follow-up and negotiating the sale or purchase of your dream home.
Florida is well known for being the perfect retirement destination. Af
"While we didn’t win the recent big Powerball Jackpot, we definitely believe we won the real estate
agent lottery when we found Deidre DiTaranto. About six weeks ago we were trapped in frozen,
snowy Michigan. We’d had enough and decided to look for a place to buy in Florida. We looked on line,
but didn’t see anything we really liked. We saw DD’s name on one of the listing and followed up with
her. We told her what we were looking for and she suggested multiple listings in several locations for us
to review. We narrowed the list and DD set up a packed schedule for us to view them.
We met her in Florida, spent 2 days looking at the selections, found the one we loved, made
an offer, signed a contract and went back to Michigan. DD helped us through the steps we needed to
complete to be ready for the closing. We went back a week ago, met her for a final walk through, signed
the closing documents and moved in.
We attribute the success of this to DD’s hardwork, focused effort and attention to detail. It would not
have happened without her. Her professionalism makes it easy for us to give her our highest