Non-county maintained road

Here is the not so glamorous side of Real Estate.  I live in the Tamalpais Valley neighborhood of Mill Valley California.  As it turns out, there are about 80 non-county maintained roads in just our neighborhood – let alone all of Marin County.  If you live on one of these roads and have tried to get it repaved, you will understand the importance of this.  It can be very problematic for residents who live along the road and use it for access because the maintenance is usually not coordinated or organized.  Some homeowners may feel the maintenance is more important (and/or affordable) than others.  The problem comes when the road is so bad that it needs work, but the neighbors cannot come to an agreement to do the work or have a plan for the maintenance.

Who is responsible for the maintenance?  The County of Marin website says:  The California Civil Code requires the cost of maintenance of privately maintained roads to be shared equitably by the landowners benefiting from those roads.

I am a realtor in Marin County and have been asked recently by neighbors about updating a non-county maintained road.  They asked this question: “What that would do to our property values if we do this maintenance?”.  My answer is that it depends on the severity of the condition of the road. It will give an increase of around 10% and make the home more marketable – meaning that more potential buyers will come see it if it is not a bumpy ride.  Since there is not good data about this situation, I asked agents in my office to weigh in and here are the responses I got:

  • 162 Marina Vista in Larkspur took almost a year to sell the last time it was on the market when the road was a mess, but after they repaired the road then put the house on it sold first weekend! (In 2015.  By the way, had the price been lowered, it would have sold sooner.) Bitsa F.
  • Depends how long the road is but in my experience in Sonoma (including my own road which is privately shared with others) I say it’s VERY important!  At least 10 – 20% of the home’s value.  James N.
  • I think more people will consider a property if the road is well maintained. There are times when clients turn around  and don’t even look if a property is difficult to get to.  Allison S.
  • If the condition would prevent service by emergency vehicles (Especially large firetrucks) This could render the homes potentially uninsurable.  (There are several roads that are this bad according to Captain Gloeckner) Elliot F.
  • We live in a non-city or county maintained road in San Anselmo. All of us neighbors pitch in to pave the roadway. We just had our house appraised to get a mortgage and we told the appraiser the same thing. She said that that would not be a factor in the evaluation of the property. (This was a refinance appraisal – not a sale appraisal.) Kelly V.
  • I think that’s a total shot in the dark.  Probably not as important in a hot market, more important in a slower market.  It also depends on the house.  If it’s already desirable, it’ll make it that much more so.  If it’s not desirable, it may now be tolerable with a paved road.  I’d give it a $25-$50k value — but, like I said… total shot in the dark.  Kevin P.

This has implications for both buyers and sellers that live or are interested in buying on these roads.  For the seller, how bad is the road and how much will it affect their price?  Will it increase the value of the home more than the cost of repairing the road? For the buyer, they have to consider that there will be an expense in the future to maintain the road and need to plan for it with their purchase.  Thus affecting the price.  My job is to help my sellers get the highest possible price and my buyers get the best possible price for their homes.  This is an important conversation to have.

I have been collecting resources and have contacts who are going through the process as well.  If you have questions, do not hesitate to call me at 415-297-3874.

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