Current Affairs

Aerial views are tremendously useful when property hunting. From a buyer’s viewpoint they show up all sorts of important details – geographical location, proximity to neighbours, nuisances and can even give a vision of the property from the public domain using the ‘little man’ function (the latter works much better in urban areas as he tends to get lost in wheat fields in the depths of the countryside!) A site that has become an indispensible tool for buyers and estate agents alike is geoportail.gouv.fr. This site enables you to superimpose the land registry parcels (cadastre) on to the aerial view. But sometimes this can reveal issues…

We recently sold a property where the owner had made his garden coming up to 30 years ago in the farmer’s field… The two neighbours had never really cottoned on to this fact. The encroachment was something like 600m² on a pretty much rectangular parcel of land of about 4,000m² (along one length and one width). On the ground and with the land registry plan (plan cadastral) it was not really very visible but on ‘geoportail’ the difference was blindingly obvious… One could potentially have said that it was not really of significance on such a large parcel (after all the official surface area sold came from the title deeds and so was correct) but the main problem was that the access to the back of the building, as well as the drains for the septic tank, was rendered much more complicated because one would have had to go via the other side which would have been much less practical. Plus naturally the buyer wanted the garden as he had seen it and did not want to inherit a problem of this nature.

To resolve the issue we needed the intervention of a land surveyor (Géomètre) to re-draw the boundaries and insert boundary stones (bornage) and create two new parcels from the larger ones belonging to the neighbour (arpentage). Very fortunately the neighbour agreed that the owner purchase the 600m² from him (finally he added in a bit more to make angles easier to work with by tractor) at the price of agricultural land (he had recently purchased land close by so there was an exact reference for the price). Everything went smoothly but it was a relatively complex situation that could quickly have become tense and potentially evolve into a ‘ransom strip’ type scenario…

Given the time necessary the situation was resolved at the same time as the sale of the property went through subject to a condition precedent in order to protect the buyer. The seller acquired the new parcels and then immediately sold them along with the rest to the buyer. The fees for the land surveyor were approx. 1,400 Euros incl. VAT.

Some 15 years ago, in September 2002, I left London for good for the Gers. The Gers?! Where on earth is that some may ask? The Gers: rural ‘département’ in the depths of south-west France, tucked away between Toulouse and Bordeaux just north the Pyrenean mountains. No motorway, a single-line railway and a main city of 22,000 people. In London, one of the world’s major cities after all, I was at the beginning of my carrier (law degree in the UK and France, qualified as a barrister, pupillage at a criminal law Chambers then head of the legal department of a French real estate agency). Give all that up?! That’s nuts!

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