What Does Landlocked Mean?
What does the phrase “landlocked” mean in real estate parlance – and how might this terminology apply to you as a current or prospective landowner? In short, the term landlocked is used to describe a piece of property that is surrounded by lots that are owned by different people. Here, we take a closer look at the definition of landlocked, and what implications it might have on any real estate investments (including the purchase of a new parcel of land) that you might be considering. Don’t buy a landlocked property until you’ve read it.
What Is Landlocked Property?
In real estate terms, landlocked refers to a piece of property that has no legal access road leading to it. In other words, because of its location – which is surrounded by lots owned by other individuals – the only way to travel to it is by passing through and crossing one of your neighbors’ properties.
An example of a landlocked property might be one that’s situated in a remote rural wooded area, next to a distant lake, or behind a strip mall. If the only way to get to this piece of property is via a means besides a legal access road, for example by crossing through others’ lots or walking across a commercial development, it would be landlocked.
That’s not to say landlocked property is unattractive or an unsuggested buy. A landlocked property doesn’t have to remain one permanently. After all, if you’re considering purchasing the parcel of land, you can always negotiate with neighboring owners to obtain a right of way or easement which would allow you to build a road to it that runs through their property. Whether or not they’ll be amenable to it, or the process will be simple or require some legal wrangling, well … that’s up to you to determine at the bargaining table.
Buying Landlocked Property
Purchasing a piece of landlocked property can differ somewhat from buying a home with road access. On the one hand, it’s often sold at a significant discount, as there’s no direct roadway that allows you to visit your property. On the other hand, as landlocked plots of land offer limited accessibility, and are often the result of owners subdividing parcels of their real estate holdings, they often also come with more back-end strings attached.
Case in point: If you buy landlocked property, odds are that you’ll need to secure an easement (which gives you the right to access someone else’s property) with at least one of your neighbors. If that doesn’t work, you may need to petition local officials for an access road.
Securing An Easement
An easement might allow you to drive through designated portions of another person’s land, or grant permission for you to build an access road across their parcel that leads to your property. Easements should be formally codified in signed writing, and your ability to obtain one will often depend on your neighbors’ willingness to play ball. If they’re not willing to negotiate though (neighbors are often happy to allow you to pass through, especially in exchange for a small fee), you may have to file a lawsuit and go to court to obtain the easement. Note: Easement or no, property taxes are still the new landlocked landowners’ responsibility.
To secure an easement in brief, you’ll need to:
- Hire a professional to conduct a property survey.
- Speak with the property owner whose land you’re seeking an easement on.
- Make the landholder an offer and negotiate with them.
- Meet with an attorney to get advice, review deal terms, and process any paperwork.
- Should negotiations fail, have your real estate attorney sue to obtain access to your property.
- Secure a court order awarding you the easement.
Understanding Right Of Way Easements
Also be advised: There are multiple types of easements. A right of way easement lets you travel through another party’s property – helpful if you need to pass through, say, a paved road or dirt track running through their land. Alternatively, it might allow you to build a driveway through their land that leads right up to your front door.
Alas, if your neighbor won’t grant one, you may have to ask for an easement by necessity. Effectively, a court order that awards you the access that you need to your property through someone else’s land.
To gain an easement by necessity, as above, you’ll need to speak with an attorney and have them go through the process of filing a lawsuit so that you can obtain a court order that awards it.
Filing such a lawsuit is often time-consuming, costly, and stressful – and will do little to improve neighborly relations. If you can strike a deal, it generally pays to talk things out first without turning for relief to the legal system.
Pros And Cons Of Landlocked Property
As with any real estate purchase or investment, landlocked property comes with benefits and drawbacks attached.
Pros Of Landlocked Property
- Due to the lack of convenient access to the land, landlocked property frequently comes at a lower cost.
- As a new landowner, you will get the opportunity to learn more about the area from the surrounding landowners. This includes property lines, surrounding wildlife, local traffic, etc.
- New landowners will also have the possibility to expand or change the landlocked property in some way if a positive relationship is established with the neighbors surrounding the land.
Cons Of Landlocked Property
- It may take added time, expense, and hassle trying to obtain access to your land through easements.
- There’s a high chance that another property owner could end up wanting to extend their land and purchase other parcels of landlocked land around you.
- Ongoing challenges may arise, especially in terms of having to negotiate and work with your neighbors, when you want to change the land in any sort of way.
The Bottom Line: Landlocked Property Has Its Own Set Of Unique Challenges
Sometimes, the perfect parcel of land for your is situated in a remote rural escape or distant woodland area that just hasn’t been developed yet – or is surrounded by others’ properties.
Without a road leading to it or means of access apart from crossing over other owners’ real estate holdings, it becomes landlocked property. Which isn’t to say that you can’t obtain the ability to change that status and build or acquire access to the land by securing a right of way or easement. You’ll just have several added variables to consider as you consider how to go about purchasing landlocked property vs. making your average real estate acquisition.
Interested in buying investment property? Don’t forget that landlocked property tends to be cheaper due to its inaccessibility. Noting this, it’s a potential investment property venture that you’ll want to consider – albeit, perhaps, not the initial type you’ll want to look at diving into if you’re a first-time real estate investor.