In 1951 George sold 80 acres to Titus. Titus was his neighbor and owned an adjoining 80 acres. Well, he didn’t sell the entire 80 acres. He kept a strip of land 15 ft x 1,320 ft along the north side of the land. It was described in the deed as a “roadway.” A few years later George died, but the ownership of this 15 ft strip remained in his name. Here’s the chronicle of the 15 ft x 1,320 ft strip of land as well as a 1/100 of an acre that nearly kept a sale from closing.
In the 1980’s Titus died and his two sons, Don and John inherited 160 which included the 80 acres purchased from George. In 1997, Don and John divided their joint ownership and John became the sole owner of George’s 80 acres. They prepared the deed themselves. Their rationale was that this was a sale between family members, so why should they pay a title company? Unfortunately, the new deed did not exclude the 15 ft strip and it was forgotten.
In May, I listed John’s 80 acres. I obtained a copy of the most recent deed. The county assessor’s aerial photo showed the county road touching the northwest corner of the property.
In early June, I negotiated a contract on the sale of the eastern 40 acres with a cooperating broker who represented a buyer. Soon afterwards, I had a buyer for the western 40 acres. Just as we were ready to sign the final contracts, John remembered he had promised his nephew first chance to buy the land.
The buyer of the western 40 acres agreed to wait. But the broker representing the other buyer was offended, accusing the seller of “using” his buyer just to force the nephew to buy. But finally, his buyer agreed to wait for the nephew’s decision.
A few days later, the nephew informed his uncle that he was financially unable to buy the land. He thought his uncle should sell the land to him for a lower price since he was “family.” But John needed the money for retirement. The property would sell for the highest price possible. I contacted the other buyers.
Contracts were signed with both buyers with each contract contingent upon both properties selling at the same time. The contract from the buyer of the eastern 40 acres was contingent upon his ability to obtain financing. Both properties were to be surveyed, but each buyer would use different title companies.
In the meantime, I ordered a title report and learned of the 15 ft strip of land owned by the late George, A few days later the survey confirmed that the 15 ft strip of land was between the county road and the 80 acres. John’s 80 acres was landlocked! Without legal access, the bank would not make the loan. So we reviewed possible solutions.
George was dead and left no heirs. So there was no one from whom the 15 ft strip could be purchased. The only solution to the problem would be for John to file a quiet title suit against the late George or any living heirs. If no one made a claim then a quiet title judgment would probably be granted by the judge to John.
In the meantime, the loan commitment for the buyer of the eastern 40 acres was about to expire. If the bank did not renew the commitment, the buyer would not be able to close. And if he didn’t close, the sale of the western 40 acres would also be voided. After a few anxious days, the bank agreed to extend their loan commitment another 60 days.
John hired an attorney to file a suit to quiet the title. The notice would have to be published in the newspaper for 45 days.. All seemed to go well, until the 44th day when the attorney noticed the publication was incorrect. The process would have to start all over. Publication began again. On the 34th day a gentleman in his 90s called the attorney. He was a distant relative of George and Iona, but had no interest in establishing a claim.
The survey had revealed another problem. Even if John acquired the 15 ft strip of land, the northwestern corner would be 8 feet short of the county road, or about 400 square feet. The 15 ft strip had the property closer to the road, but not close enough. The solution was either to buy or to acquire an easement from the owner of the 400 sq ft. And that owner was the nephew who was still miffed that his uncle had not sold the property to him. If he said no, the sale was dead. Sure, the uncle could sue for access, but that was not a desirable alternative.
To John’s surprise, the nephew agreed to grant an easement over the 400 sq ft under one condition: He would have the right to use the 15 ft strip as a field road twice a year. One of the buyers agreed but the second wanted the nephew to share in maintenance. That was not going to happen. Finally the buyer realized that this would be a “deal breaker” and withdrew his demand.
The 45 days passed with no one coming forth and the judge signed the quiet title judgment. John now owned the 15 ft strip of land. But both title companies stated that even though the judge had signed the document, they would not insure access until another 30 days passed. During that period, the buyer of the eastern 40 acres had to request a new loan commitment. This time the banker was not as cooperative. They wanted a higher interest rate. A few days later the buyer had a new loan commitment, but he wasn’t pleased.
The survey of the 1/100 of an acre or 400 sq ft was completed, the easement deed was prepared and the nephew signed. Since there was a loan on the nephew’s property, his lender had to agree to release the 400 sq ft from their collateral. The seller paid the survey costs, preparation of the easement deed, the partial deed of release from the bank, recording fees, and attorney’s fee. (That was probably the most expensive 1/100 of an acre rural land ever sold in Missouri.)
The sale contracts had been signed in June and were scheduled to close in August. The sale didn’t close until February of the following year, six months beyond the original closing date. The seller was lucky. Very few buyers would wait six extra months or endure the ups and downs that occurred with this sale. The strip of land and 400 sq. ft amounted to less than one half acre and it’s value was less than $1,000.00, but it nearly derailed the sale of a $320,000 tract of land and John’s retirement fund.