Fee Simple Ownership
First lets start off on what is fee simple ownership? Fee simple ownership (from the old word, feifdom) refers to legal rights in land, and simple means unconstrained. Fee simple ownership is the absolute and unqualified legal title to real property, including both buildings and land. This is the most commonly used type of ownership.
Know the Rules in Fee Simple Ownership
In a fee simple type of ownership, there are several possibilities with respect to the obligations of ownership:
(1) The property may not be in a subdivision at all. In this case, there will be no subdivision restrictions attached to your deed that affect your use of the property. Keep in mind that you may still be governed by city or county ordinances or zoning laws, and there may be in existence previous deed restrictions limiting your use of the property.
(2) You may be a part of a subdivision that has very minimal restrictions, no common areas, no architectural control committee and no mandatory dues. Usually these are older subdivisions.
(3) You may be in a townhome project, a garden home community, or a subdivision of homes on larger lots in which there is a legally created homeowners association. If so, each homeowner is required to be a member of the association. Many associations charge mandatory dues. The association may require a certain level of maintenance by each property owner and enforce subdivision rules. For example, you may need association approval of paint colors, fences or home remodeling.
As in the condominium form of ownership, fee simple ownership does not prescribe how developments are governed, or how maintenance is handled. For example, a townhome project, with fee simple ownership, may require the owners to fully maintain their units. Or, the townhome association may handle exterior maintenance and yard work for the owners. In subdivisions with single family homes on larger lots, it is more common for the homeowners association to manage only entrances, common grounds, parks and pools, while the individual owners maintain their own properties.
Understand Your Real Estate Ownership
Whether you are buying into a condominium regime or purchasing a fee simple property, you should have a clear understanding of the type of ownership you will have in your property. If you are buying a condominium, you should read the condo documents carefully to understand how maintenance is divided between individual owners and the common budget.
If you are buying a fee simple property, with individual ownership of the land, you should read the deed restrictions (if any) to understand the rules that apply to your property. In fee simple ownership, there may be mandatory dues to pay for common area maintenance, or, in some cases, the dues may pay for partial maintenance of the individual properties.
If you are not clear about your ownership of a property, or have a question about your obligations as a homeowner, it would be wise to review the title documents with a real estate attorney before proceeding with your purchase. Don’t hesitate to ask questions! A clear understanding of your ownership and obligations leads to a more satisfying home purchase
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