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What exactly is an access road? So many interpretations online.

 
pollinator
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The more I search on google, the less I understand. What exactly is an ‘access road’ in the context of undeveloped rural land for sale? I see some similar, yet slightly different interpretations even amongst those whom are talking about rural roads as opposed to highway exits.

Also, I remember Paul bringing up access roads on the Quest For Land podcast episode, but I believe he got sidetracked and never explained what his concern was. So while I’m at it, I’ll also ask why an access road would be of concern when searching for property.
 
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An access road enables you to drive into a piece of property which is otherwise inaccessible.

An access road requires a recorded easement and/or a deeded right of way, if the property doesn't have any public road frontage.
 
pollinator
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All rural, undeveloped property typically has a dirt/gravel/roadbase road leading to it from the nearest official county road (which could also be dirt, or asphalt). Could even be just a "two-track" path through the grass.

Before purchasing any piece of land, investigate if the road leading to it is actually easemented and recorded as part of the property deed. Without the easement, the land is known as "land-locked", and is a HUGE problem! As in ... don't buy it!

In Colorado, no land is allowed to be land-locked ... you are always guaranteed to be able to drive over someone else's land to get to the land-locked piece. HOWEVER, the other landowners don't have to provide "free" access to it ... they can charge whatever they want each time you cross their land. Could be a dozen eggs, could be $1000. When their land changes hands, the deal is off and has to be renegotiated. It's impossible to live with and work with, so you just can't buy these things.

We looked at one piece of (beautiful) property, and the realtor never mentioned the land-locked aspect. As I'm digging thru property records, I suddenly catch on that it's in the middle of other properties, with no easement leading out to the nearest county road. Deal is dead, and I now warn everyone about that realtor, if asked.

Your state's laws could be different on this subject, so check those as well.

Hope this helps ... and don't use the realtor we first worked with ...
 
master steward
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An access road can be a frontage road that offers access to a property.

A purchaser must build their own driveway onto the property.

This is the definition that fits almost all the properties we have bought.

I have owned two properties that had an easement for all property owners.

William said, "An access road requires a recorded easement and/or a deeded right of way, if the property doesn't have any public road frontage.



"Requires", I am not sure this is always the case.

When purchasing land, to be safe, make sure that any access road is recorded on the deed as an easement and who has the right to use that easement.

Jt said, " Without the easement, the land is known as "land-locked", and is a HUGE problem! As in ... don't buy it!



Very wise advice.

 
master pollinator
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Also be sure the easement runs the whole way to the public road.  It is possible to have a road that runs most of the way but NOT the whole way and it is another way to be screwed.  For example the easement road goes right up a fence line.  Then it cuts diagonally thru a corner to the other side of the fence.  Depending on the ownership of that other 2 fence corner properties and your states land rules you can be blocked out.
 
William Kellogg
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An access road "sometimes requires" a recorded easement and/or a deeded right of way, if the property doesn't have any public road frontage.
 
pollinator
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An additional consideration is having an access road through your property or sharing an access road with others.  

When we were doing our property search, we found a piece of land that had a mile-long driveway through someone else's property that was shared between 3 neighbors, none of which lived on their plots of land. This meant no electricity running along the road, and the neighbors used either tractors or a Suzuki samurai to get down the frankly disastrously muddy driveway with huge sheets of shale popping up at all angles.  If we had wanted to improve the road at all to make it a functional driveway for our cars, it would have cost tens of thousands that the others that shared it wouldn't have found any value in, and probably would have undone somewhat through their use with tractors and whatnot.  

Another piece of land had an access easement along the edge of someone else's plot, where it bordered another neighbor who had huge trees overhanging the driveway.  Even with a deeded access easement, you have the potential of a neighbor who gets sassy and decides they want to cut you off and it becomes an issue.  Or they have multiple gates you have to drive through to get home.  This particular piece of property also had an easement going through it that gave access to another landlocked piece of property, so we'd have had to deal with someone coming and going through our land as they saw fit, that might be in monster trucks in the middle of the night.  It came down to a whole lot of absolutely not worth the risk for a property we intended to never move from.

We ended up with a piece of land with a significant amount of road frontage, and a recorded 15' access easement along one of the shared fencelines, which really only benefits us as our side of that fenceline easement is hilly and a pain, and theirs is a hayfield.
 
master steward
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I would like to add that “the devil is in the details”.   Much depends upon the laws of the state.   Also there is a difference between an access road and a deeded access road.  

The most impressive access issue I have encountered is when a new store was built.   After the construction was well underway, a neighbor came up with access papers that had never been filed at the courthouse.   The owner of the store made the needed modifications, but I have long wondered how things might have played out in court.
 
Kevin David
pollinator
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I’m still a bit confused. I get that the easement/deed thing can be a bit messy and unreliable.  And I get that not having that could mean being land locked. However, it sounds like there is a third scenario some of you have eluded to that I don’t quite get yet. Both of those two scenarios I mentioned sound pretty bad to me. It makes me feel like I would want to completely avoid property without public road frontage.

Am I missing some exception? I feel like some of the posts suggest there might be access roads that don’t have an easement/deed and aren’t land locked either. If so, what is the situation with this type of access road?

For example,

An access road can be a frontage road that offers access to a property.

this sounds like a normal public road to me.

I’m really glad I asked this question. I see why the google results were so confusing now. Thanks for all the details and warnings.

EDIT: oh, I’m guessing the frontage road in the above quote is not public road frontage, right?
 
pollinator
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One other thing to consider with access roads is what type of traffic is allowed. Ours specifies that it is only for residents and their personal vehicles. Logging trucks not allowed. Which also means that if someone starts a business that requires access to their house for the public, it's a no go. This actually protects us (we own the tract of land) from misuse and people tearing up the road.
 
Jt Lamb
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Don't think you are missing anything ... to summarize:

1. road access with named, county-accepted road leading to or alongside your property is GOOD ... all you'll need is an address and a driveway permit. This is actually best ...

2. land-locked piece of land, but there is some kind of non-county-accepted road leading to it; you can see this road easement (recorded at the county, and part of your property papers) and it is also GOOD! Read the fine print on the easement details.

3. your land fronts either a highway, or a frontage road next to a highway. This is GOOD (but you might have to jump through hoops to get a state/county driveway permit (with some engineering).

4. totally land-locked piece of property, and no recorded easement, no named road leading to this property ... this is BAD!

5. neighbors ... these are BAD (if you can see them) ... oh, wait ... I'm done with use cases! Strike this last one ...

Good luck!
 
Kevin David
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Ok, I’m back…and thanks for that summary Jt.

What about “access through federal land”?
Could this be too vague?
Is clarification needed to know if access is guaranteed?

The land is a little cheaper, but not ridiculously cheap like when a place has no access or walk-in only access.
 
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