A couple of years ago, I was asked to visit a home and chat with a nice couple about how I would price their property, and what approach I would take to market it, as they were “just mulling over” the possibility of selling their home. A couple days prior to our appointment, I took a drive by the home to have an early peek. I noted the parking situation, which appeared to be a mutual driveway shared with the neighbour’s home. Both homes had detached garages. I looked up the old listing and it stated the driveway as mutual the last time it sold.
Upon arrival and after introductions, I was given a tour of the lovely home and recent renovations. Afterwards, we sat down to chat. One of my questions was about the parking situation. They told me the driveway was indeed a mutual driveway, and that they could park one car in the garage if need be, but that it was mostly full of stuff, so they usually parked just in front of it. They pointed out it was difficult to back up through the mutual drive, and rather than risk a scrape to their car, they turned their vehicle around easily at the back and drove out frontwards. I asked how far back the reciprocal right-of-way extended, and whether they parked and/or turned their vehicle around on their own property, or partly (or wholly) on the reciprocal right-of-way – or did they drive onto their neighbour’s property?
They couldn’t answer this question with any degree of certainty, because they didn’t know the extent of the right-of-way. They had been provided an original survey when they bought the home, and would locate it for me if indeed they were to sell with me.
They went on to tell me that their neighbour was an elderly woman who hadn’t used the driveway in the time that they had lived there. Thus, they didn’t see the concern I saw about the parking. The homeowners told me they had already interviewed other sales representatives, neither of whom had concerns about the mutual driveway. They were much more interested in what improvements they could make to their home and how I would stage it, and how I would get a “bidding war” for them.
For instance, another agent had insisted that they would achieve a higher price if they built a nice deck off the rear, and further landscaping would really improve the price and saleability of their home. I expressed my opinion that an updated survey should be a priority, and that it would be a sound investment before anything else, being valuable whether they sold or not. It would provide them with the answer to any questions about the right-of-way and its exact location.
Fast forward to the middle of March. I ran into the couple at a local coffee shop, where they proceeded to tell me of recent developments with their home. They explained that their elderly neighbour had gone into an extended-care facility. Her son had moved into the home with his family, and completed some interior renovations. He was now planning an addition to the rear of his mother’s home, and informed them of his plans. The new addition was extending into the rear of his mother’s yard within the permitted boundary of the home.
However, upon reviewing the plans, the couple realized the addition would greatly hinder their ability to use the mutual driveway as they had been, since they wouldn’t be able to turn their car around in the back anymore. To make matters worse, they had in fact built a beautiful big new deck with built-in hot-tub and privacy fence, and spent thousands of dollars landscaping the backyard. The finished results produced a spectacular oasis, but with the neighbour’s impending plans, they surely could not manoeuvre a car in the back, and would shortly need to back straight out of that difficult mutual drive. Further, the neighbour produced a new survey in order to apply for permits for the addition, which showed the reciprocal right-of-way extended further back than they thought, parallel to each of the current structures, which left them without enough room to park a car in front of their garage without impinging on the neighbour’s rights to the drive.
They do have a great relationship with their neighbours, who they find to be a wonderful family, and fully understand their needs for more space. They’re working on a solution, but have found that the best solution is to replace their own new big back deck with something much smaller, and remove much of the fencing and landscaping in order to make their parking situation more amenable.
They realized that when they do sell, a better parking situation will fetch a better return on investment than the deck and landscaping would. Their parting comment was that they now realize that experience far outweighs the fluff in real estate matters. Experience is indeed a great teacher.
Take care and enjoy the spring, now that it’s finally arrived.
Thomas Neal is a respected Beach real estate agent – firstname.lastname@example.org