A Place of Your Own Part Seven: Access

What is the access like? This is one of the first questions I ask when evaluating land to buy, and it’s one of the first questions you should ask, as well. Here’s why. For most people, obstacles to access present a problem. I guess it really makes sense. If you are looking to buy land, you want to be able to get to it, get on it, and get around it.

Here are some things to consider.

Easy access via state highway or interstate can make for a convenient drive, but too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing. Too much “transportation” can be a distraction. While easy to get to, a tract located just off the interstate or adjacent to a busy highway can be a bit too convenient for my liking. The quiet of a morning in the deer stand seems to lose something if I can hear airplanes taking off or 18 wheelers rumbling down the interstate. However, if you get too far off the beaten path, you can find yourself bouncing down county road that looks like a pig trail when dry and a tractor pull course when wet. No fun. Here’s a tip. Mail boxes are a good sign. If someone lives on the road, there is a good chance school buses travel the road, in which case it will probably be accessible year round. In any event, somewhere between the boonies and the interstate is probably your best bet.

Once you get to a potential tract, pay close attention to how you get ON it. If it has road frontage, you can probably get on it, but there are situations where that may not be the case. High banks or ravines can cut off access. States control where (or if) you can locate a driveway on a state highway, and counties may have rules regarding minimum frontage for a driveway on any road. If a seller promotes access “through” a neighbors property (even though the tract has frontage), I’d suggest you start asking a lot of questions and maybe looking for another tract to buy.

If a tract has no frontage, it is either accessed via an easement or it is landlocked. An easement offers legal access to the property across the property of someone else. Land locked property is just that – land locked, and you can’t legally access it without the permission of one of the adjacent landowners. Now, easements are not necessarily bad, although they can create some limitations on building and subdividing, and they do come with some common sense responsibilities associated with protecting the property rights of the landowner whose property you’re crossing. But, easements don’t affect the hunting, and they do offer a degree of privacy that highway frontage can’t. Landlocked tracts, on the other hand, are almost always bad.

Here’s how you can tell the difference. An easement is recorded just like a deed and is verifiable through a title search. Despite what a seller may tell you about historical access, abandoned county roads, and gentleman’s agreements over access, if he or she can’t produce (or your attorney can’t find) a recorded easement, then one probably doesn’t exist. Next tract, please.

Once you get on the tract, you want to be able to access most of it through an internal road system. Now, I’m not suggesting that every acre needs a road going through it. Again, too much of a good thing is not a good thing, but be mindful that inaccessible areas of any property are pretty much useless. If you can get to it, you’ll use it and enjoy it. For most properties a good network of roads and four wheeler trails offers the best of both worlds. If you’re considering building a road system, keep in mind that natural obstacles like ravines, large creeks, and steep inclines can be expensive to overcome. You may want to get some professional advice before you commit your money to a tract with no internal road system.

When considering a tract of land, you need to ask yourself these questions. Can I get to it? Can I get on it? Can I get around on it? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you might want to keep looking.

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