Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Q: I’m upset at you.

I sent my buddy to you and I think you talked him out of moving here.  He wants to buy land and build here but you really scared him about water and all kinds of limitations to building.  Don’t you want to make a living?

A:  I do want to make a living but not by talking folks into buying property without knowing all the issues.  We have critical area (landslide hazards, extreme slopes, flood hazards, wetlands) that require setbacks.  We have septic systems that cost a fair amount to design and install, plus there is the need for legal access that meets County requirements for a road and a proper turn around for emergency vehicles. So there are lots of things for potential buyers to learn.

The most pressing issue right now is a new legal decision that could be troublesome.  It’s called the Hirst decision and you should look it up on the internet and read carefully.  It’s from a lawsuit in Whatcom County but will influence building all over the state.  Basically, it says that if it can be shown that by drilling a well you will draw down a creek, stream, or aquafer, you will not be allowed to drill that well.

This issue will be coming before the state legislature this session and could be the basis for new laws.  That could go several different ways.  But until it is resolved I am warning people that they’re taking a greater risk buying land that doesn’t already have a water share, or is in a water system that has shares available to purchase.

Building is difficult enough without this added burden.  I do sell land, and enjoy doing it, but I want to keep people out of harm’s way.  I was fortunate enough to sell several parcels of property over the last year that already had water on the property or had a paid water share.  These parcels also had septic designs approved.  I can sleep better at night knowing that  my clients will be able to build their homes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Q: My neighbor has agreed to sell me a part of his property.

It’s an area I have been gardening for years and we didn’t know it wasn’t mine until we got a survey done. I needed to do some fencing for a horse we’re getting for our daughter so that’s why we did the survey.  Who should write up the paperwork for us?

A: I am not an attorney, but in my experience with similar situations, I believe that what you probably need to do is a permissive easement or some sort of covenant from your neighbor.  It isn’t legal in our county to just chop off a section of your property and give it or sell it to someone.  You can do a lot line adjustment through King County but be sure to read though the requirements.  It will require a survey, a substantial fee and you can’t make the property smaller than it’s presently zoned for, nor can you create a new separate lot.

You could go through a subdivision process but that takes years and a whole lot of money, and that is only assuming that the properties involved are large enough and properly zoned to do it.  Any real estate attorney can write up a covenant or easement that will allow you to continue using that portion of your neighbor’s property without owning it.  These are common solutions to similar issues.  You might want to split the cost of an attorney to have it done correctly and legally.  Be sure it is recorded on the title to your property and your neighbor’s property.

It would not be unusual for the neighbor to put some restrictions on that area of the property if you do a covenant or easement.  For instance, they might want to write into that agreement that it is only good if that part of their property is being used as a garden.  Or perhaps only if you are the owner.  It’s good to research the options with a good attorney and then decide the best way to approach it.