If during your home shopping you come across a property with a shared driveway, there is a good chance you will have some questions before you make the decision to purchase. The automatic question from most buyers is “how do shared driveways work”?
The other question I often hear as a real estate agent is whether having a shared driveway will make it more difficult for my home to sell sometime down the road.
Lets take a look in depth at both of these issues.
For most home buyers the idea of owning a home is an idea of independence, and the thought of sharing the access point for their new home can be a little disconcerting. But keep in mind that there are plenty of homes out there that do have shared driveways, particularly in rural settings.
Your job as the buyer is to determine if the arrangements around the shared driveway are something you can live with.
Over the years I have sold many homes that were serviced by a shared drive. More often than not it is not the end of the world to be involved with such a situation. There are however some things you should research before jumping in with a full head of steam.
One other thing I will mention is you may also hear the term “common driveway” which means the same thing as a shared driveway.
Things To Consider About A Shared Driveway
There are several positives and negatives to consider when you are looking at a property with a shared driveway:
Pros of shared driveways
On the positive side, you can generally expect the costs of maintenance and repair to be shared between you and the other owners. If you live in an area where snow is an issue, you and the other people sharing the driveway may also share in the cost of snow removal. And if something does go disastrously wrong, like the driveway washes out after flooding or a heavy rain, you have other parties that can assist you in getting the driveway repaired.
Cons of shared driveways
On the negative side, there can be some frustrations that come along with sharing a driveway. There may be some rules that you do not agree with concerning the driveway. For instance, you may not be able to repair your vehicle along the driveway, or you may have parking restrictions. If you have a limited amount of parking on your property and you want to have guests over, you may be limited in how you can use the driveway to offer your guests parking.
The biggest possible negative is that – because you are sharing the driveway with other people – you may become involved in a disagreement. Neighbors, being human, can sometimes get into arguments. It is a part of life, but these arguments can be made much more difficult by the fact that you are sharing something necessary to both you and your neighbor’s comfort and convenience. The argument may not even be about the driveway, but the disagreement can spill over into the way you both use and share the main access to your homes. Dealing with bad neighbors is never pleasant, especially down the road when it comes time to sell your home.
Shared Driveways Should Have Rules
The possibly negative aspects of sharing a driveway can often be avoided or eliminated altogether by having a clear set of rules governing the shared property. It is fairly common for there to be written rules that are included in the legal documentation for the land where the driveway resides.
The rules may be included as a covenant on the deeds of individual homes that share the driveway, or they may be recorded as an easement on the subdivision plan. It is not that uncommon by the way for a portion of one driveway to have an easement or right of use over the portion of another.
The exact arrangement can vary, but in many cases there are already rules in place that dictate how the driveway will be cared for and how disagreements will be handled should they arise. Working as a Milford Mass Real Estate agent, I have sold a number of homes with common driveways over the years. Milford is one of a few towns in my service area where there are quite a few homes serviced by a common driveway.
Overall these properties have been slightly more challenging sales, due to the fact that a portion of the buying public does not want to deal with them. Anytime your buyer pool shrinks it presents additional challenges.
Your Job As A Buyer
As a potential buyer, it is the job of you and your real estate agent to verify what, if any, rules exist concerning the shared driveway. Once you know the current situation, you can determine if it is something you can live with.
The first thing to do is ask your Realtor to gather documentation surrounding the use and rules of the shared driveway. The Realtor should dig up a survey map that shows the easement boundaries of the driveway, and that will show you who actually owns the driveway.
Even though the driveway is shared, it may actually be owned by one particular party, with rules in place to allow others to use it. Your Realtor can also gather all the information about how the driveway is shared, where the responsibility for maintenance and repair lies, and any other pertinent information.
Equally important, your agent should be able to explain these rules to you in plain language so you understand exactly what you are getting into.
If you do not have a real estate agent, you can conduct the research yourself. You will need to take a trip tot he registry of deeds office or possibly explore the assessors maps for the county to see if you can find information related to the driveway. This may take some time, especially if you are not experienced in it, but it can be done on your own.
One last thing you can do to get further information is to visit the neighbors that you will possibly be sharing the driveway with. You can ask about their experience with the driveway, how the users care for the driveway and what happens if there are disputes.
Just remember that your neighbors, including the owner (if there is a single owner) can sell their properties at a later time. Although verbal agreements can be functional, it is still better to have written rules in place in case of a property transfer.
What If There Are No Rules?
Do not be surprised if there are no rules surrounding the driveway, or if your neighbors have no idea about any written rules. If you discover that there are no legally binding rules, it would be best for you to request that the seller obtain a written agreement from all parties before you buy the house. Consider talking to a lawyer to ensure that the agreement is sound and protects you before you make the purchase. You may also want to consider having language drafted that puts language into the deed that will survive the closing.
The same concerns you have, could be experienced by the eventual buyer of the property when it comes time for you to sell. By having an agreement in place it gives everyone involved a little bit more piece of mind. The unknown is something that could bother someone enough that they decide to pass on the property.
Check Resale Values
One of the more important considerations when purchasing a home with a shared driveway is to find out from a competent local real estate professional how it will impact future resale of the home. You need to find out if the fact there is a shared driveway will make the property more difficult to sell or if the home will not appreciate as quickly as the general market.
You need to ask your real estate agent a very direct question like “will having a shared driveway make my property more difficult to sell in the future”? What could be true for one area may not be the same for another. In some places shared driveways are extremely common and present no issues as far as resale or appreciation potential.
Don’t however, assume this is the case everywhere. It is really uncommon to have a shared drive it is possible it could be considered a negative. Your real estate agent should be able to give you proper guidance. You may even want to ask them for an example of another property that had a shared driveway. You can then evaluate whether this property was impacted financially due to the fact it’s shared.
Additional Helpful Home Buying Articles
- How to choose a neighborhood via Massachusetts Real Estate Exposure.
- How to select a buyers agent when purchasing a home via Rochester Real Estate Blog.
- Avoid these common home buying mistakes via Raleigh Realty.
Use these additional home buying references to have a smooth real estate transaction from start to finish.
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on what to know about shared driveways was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 28+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.