Does seller owe buyer for part of land sold to city?

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

A: As we read your ques­tion, the real ques­tion in our mind is what ex­actly did you agree to buy? Did you agree to pur­chase a home on 0.6 of an acre or a half-acre? And, did you pay a price com­men­su­rate with the larger lot size or a smaller lot size? Even if your seller did sell the land to the city, once the wa­ter mains are in­stalled and the land­scap­ing is patched up, will any­thing be built on that land or will it seem like yours?

When buy­ers search for homes, they gen­er­ally look for a cer­tain type of home, with a cer­tain num­ber of be­d­rooms and bath­rooms. In ur­ban ar­eas, peo­ple tend to fo­cus more on the home and less on the land on which it sits. As long as a home fits cer­tain ba­sic pa­ram­e­ters, the ex­act size of the land is usu­ally not a big is­sue.

Yes, you find some buy­ers who fo­cus on a lot that is big­ger, but a buyer usu­ally fo­cuses on see­ing the home and the lot and ap­pre­ci­at­ing how they feel more so than know­ing that the buyer is get­ting a hal­facre or 0.6 acre. If you were buy­ing a lot to build a home, the ex­act di­men­sions of the land would be crit­i­cal to know how big a house you could build on the prop­erty. But when you have an ex­ist­ing home on the land, the is­sue be­comes less rel­e­vant.

In your sit­u­a­tion, we’d ar­gue that you might be a bit bet­ter off with the smaller par­cel. You will only pay real es­tate taxes on the half-acre but still ben­e­fit from the rest of the land.

Pre­sum­ably, the city pur­chased that land for its use in plac­ing wa­ter pipes un­der­ground. In many sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, the land will re­main open and will ap­pear to be part of your prop­erty if you don’t put up fenc­ing.

Don’t get us wrong. We know that land square footage and build­ing square footage can be crit­i­cal, but you haven’t given us any in­for­ma­tion that would lead us to be­lieve that you were de­ceived or that you were ex­pect­ing to get more land than you got.

Nor­mally a real es­tate con­tract may state the size of the lot you are buy­ing. In his prac­tice, Sam usu­ally sees res­i­den­tial con­tracts state the ap­prox­i­mate area of land that is part of a deal. How­ever, he has rarely ever seen a con­tract in which the ex­act square footage of the land be­ing sold is a con­di­tion of the deal.

Fi­nally, you’re ask­ing to be com­pen­sated for a loss you may not have sus­tained. The home you pur­chased may have the same value with or with­out the strip of land sold to the city. If your con­tract did not con­tain a spe­cific rep­re­sen­ta­tion and obli­ga­tion for the seller to con­vey a spe­cific amount of land to you, you might be out of luck. You may want to talk to a real es­tate at­tor­ney to de­ter­mine if you have any right against the seller and what your next course of ac­tion should be. Ilyce Glink is the CEO of Best Money Moves and Sa­muel J. Tamkin is a real es­tate at­tor­ney. Con­tact them through the web­site ThinkGlink.com.

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