Reader Question: Monty, I have a neighbor wanting to buy a small piece of frontage on my lake property because a small slew on the waters edge on my easterly lot line places part of my lot on his side of the slew. I am trying to decide whether or not I should agree to this proposition. If I traded him for about 30 feet on the back westerly edge of his lot, I would pick up room to build a garage on it. I have included a link to the county GIS map and a sketch demonstrating the new configuration results. Do you think this is a good idea? Bill P. – Rhinelander, WI.
Monty’s Answer: Bill, it was clever to email a sketch and a link with your question. I reviewed both the link to the property and your sketch. The county GIS information includes topographical and aerial photo layers, which added detail to the perspective. I want to qualify my answer because there is no substitute for being there. If I walked the land, my answer could be different.
That said, here is what I would do to determine which option to act on. The land with the most value is the water frontage the neighbor would acquire. In your first sentence, you state the neighbor “wants to buy”. Later, you introduce the concept of trading land with him. The land you are trading away is worth far more than the land you are acquiring, even though the parcel you would acquire is much larger.
It appears from the aerial photo there is room to build a garage on the westerly side of the driveway on land you already own. It would be closer to your home and further from the main road. It also appears to require some fill.
The 30 feet you are thinking of trading for appears that it will have to be excavated for the garage floor and may require a retaining wall behind the garage. I would ask a local contractor to come to inspect both sites and bring his transit. I have suggestions on how to find that contractor at DearMonty.com. The contractor could better judge which site would require the lowest cost to prepare for actual construction of the garage.
Additionally, I would contact the agent that sold the property originally and ask them a few questions and for a favor. I would ask their opinion on the going price for water frontage on your lake or similar lakes. This would provide a sense of the fairness of your neighbors offer. I would then ask them to email MLS data sheets on the 3 or 4 recent vacant lot sales that support their statement. I would also ask their opinion of the value increase attributed to adding 30 feet to the back of the easterly portion of your lot. Because they are familiar with the property, it should be relatively easy for them to render an opinion. I expect their estimate would be a negligible amount of money. Because your neighbors lot is vacant and the land he acquires increases the front footage, I suspect it will add value to his entire lot by the value of each additional foot of property acquired.
If it were me, I would strongly consider simply selling the neighbor your land on the other side of the slew then apply those proceeds toward the cost of building the garage on land you presently own. This solution preserves your potential capital outlay by the value established for the 30 feet not needed to build the garage.
Lastly, because the action under consideration is a negotiation, if you were able to negotiate for the 30 feet in such a way that it did not affect the price the neighbor was willing to pay for the frontage, you could acquire the 30 feet at no cost and then have a choice as to where to build the garage. I have a suggestion as to how to frame that discussion so ask me if you are interested in hearing it.
I wish you good luck with your negotiation, Bill. Let me know how it turns out.