Dear Monty: In 2021 I inherited my mom’s house, which is falling apart. I live on a dead-end street with only two homes in an area zoned heavy industrial. There is a lot of new apartment construction in the area. My house is appraised for taxes as residential. My mom fenced and used property behind and adjoining hers for 40 years, during which she saw the owner twice. Am I able to sell the property as either commercial or residential? And which would appraise higher? Also, can I claim the portion of the other persons’ land that we have fenced, used and maintained by adverse possession? The city has the house and property appraised at $122,000. The house is in such disrepair that I would not get that, and in fact, I was offered $45,000 today for the home (not the adjoining property). I feel like it is worth much more than that if it is sold as not residential. So, how do I know which direction to go and if I am being offered a fair price? And if I can claim adverse possession on the adjoining land, don’t I really need to do that before I sell the house to sell all of it at once? The land portion my mom fenced was appraised at $34,370 by itself. I know whoever buys it wants to make a profit, but I got a little leery when I saw the words “substantial profit.”
Monty’s Answer: Put up a “for sale” sign by the road where it is most visible. Have your phone number prominently displayed. Then I would follow the path as written in the following article on Dear Monty.
Upon checking, there is a plan with the city, so the rezoning will not be an issue. The developer will deal with the rezoning and may help you with the adverse possession question.
The idea is to get developers to bid for the site. The developers may try to assemble more land if your parcel is not large enough.
You are correct not to fix the house as the developers will demolish it as a part of the development.
Once you have spoken to callers (take names, phone numbers, and notes), you will get different stories from different callers. Ask for a Letter of Intent (LOI) that describes when they will close, what conditions they need and how much they will pay. Ask them to include how they would work with you on adverse possession. You do not want to share that others are looking. They already know that. Once you have written LOIs, bring them to your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, here is an article about how to find an attorney. I know it will require work, and to keep you motivated, here is an article about what can happen if you don’t try to compare attorneys.
Do not forget the $45,000 offer. While the offer appears to be from an opportunist, that may not be the correct assumption. The fact that the buyer warned you suggests it may have been a trial balloon.
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty, or at DearMonty.com.
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