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Identifying Easements for Appraisals

by Administrator on Mar 1, 2015 Narrative Writing 1269 Views

I got a title policy the other day on a property that had a major power transmission line traversing it.  I looked and looked again when I got the policy but I couldn't find an easement detailed in it that described the transmission line. 

This wasn't a small transmission line mind you it was big enough to improve a major highway beneath it.  Two parallel major 256 kV lines on metal poles that look to be 60' high or higher crossing 330' or more of the subject property.

The title company told me that I should contact the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) about the power line easement, they told me that they didn't have any record of it.  It's amazing to me that a title insurance company that is supposed to identify the recorded documents that affect a property and guarantee that they have identified all of the factors affecting title could issue a preliminary title report that has absolutely no information on a major transmission line.

If the title company issued a title report that excluded a major transmission line it's time in my opinion to start looking for an attorney.  I don't care when the easement rights were conveyed to the power company that allowed them to construct the transmission line.  It's important that the rights can't be ignored.  If I don't find the easement in the title report my assumption is that rights don't exist and the power company needs to talk to me about an easement, not that the title company forgot to consider it.

Appraisers rely on title reports.  We go through Schedule A items one by one, we got through Schedule B items one by one and we read the minutiae.  When there is no discussion about a transmission line easement it shouldn't be staring you in the face when you go out to inspect a property.

I contacted the title company when I discovered the transmission line easement and the title company acted like they couldn't be responsible for easement recordings that happened before or just after a Patent was issued.  But if a title company can't identify that a transmission line exists then what is a customer paying for?  Maybe the entire parcel has a pipeline easement across it and it has no other legal use, wouldn't that be something that a potential buyer should know?

While an appraiser should be able to rely on a title policy the fact of the matter is that they can't.  Title companies used to be responsible for their omissions I guess that is part of the past.  Appraiser observations go a long way toward identifying reality with regard to property conditions and existing ROWs.  But the real world changes, things like roadways, offsite improvements, utility improvements and external influences can change over time. 

Title policies often don't detail important contributory offsite improvements like optical cable or roadway improvements.  They definitely don't discuss things like zoning and planning that make a huge difference regarding what a property can be used for and what it is ultimately worth.

Often an appraiser will find trails, two track roads, paved roads and at times even buildings that are apparent by observation but they don't show up on maps or in the title report.  The benefit of having an ALTA survey completed on a property is that they surveyor details easements and encroachments. 

Private restrictions, like deed restrictions, can detail powerful limitations that can direct or compel the use of a property for a specific purpose or they can exclude a specific use.  A property may be the perfect for use as a fast food site but if deed restricted for that use it’s not going to happen.  A title policy may reveal a private restriction but there are times when it just doesn't show up.  Or the private restriction may be on a deed that's in the chain of title but no one, including you, read each and every document.

It's important for an appraiser to consider what has been recorded against a subject property.  If there are deed restrictions, CC&R's or easement documents it's important for an appraiser to get copies and review them, especially if it's obvious that the title report that you received lack all credibility.  Just knowing that a easement or deed exists doesn't tell you what it says.  I'm not saying that appraisers are supposed to become title reviewers, I'm just saying if there are obvious omissions maybe you should figure out what's going on.

I can't complete an appraisal report on a property when there is no record of a major transmission line that crosses it, so I have to cancel the assignment or spend time finding the easement that should be in the title policy.

For more appraisal information contact Glenn Rigdon, MA, MRICS, ASA a Las Vegas / Henderson Nevada appraiser via email at or via his business website Horizon Village Appraisal (, or you can also click on “Contact Us” on the home page of this website.

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