When searching to purchase a property, most buyers are on high alert for any excuse to hackle down on price. Discovering that a property comes with a servitude often gives buyers exactly such an excuse. Before you decide to invest in a property with a registered servitude, it might be best to know exactly how these can affect property values.

What is a servitude
Simply put, a servitude allows for a third party, who is not the owner of the property, certain limited rights over the property. For example, a servitude might allow a person the right to travel over a portion of another person’s property in order to easily access their property. A servitude could also take the form of a municipal walkway between properties. Servitudes are not too prevalent in the suburbs; however, they do tend to appear more often on farms or smallholdings.

How servitudes affect the owner
If you’re the owner of the property, you may exercise all your usual rights of ownership, provided it doesn’t impede the rights of the servitude holder. Similarly, the servitude holder may utilize the servitude but should do so in a way that causes the least possible inconvenience to the owner of the property. 

Praedial versus personal servitudes
Praedial servitude is the right that attaches to the property itself (not a person), therefore, it’ll be passed over to the new owner of the land on which the servitude is held should you decide to sell the property. On the other hand, a personal servitude only refers to one specific person and not to the land itself. In this case, the servitude is not transferred to the new owner and will fall away once the specified person relocates or passes on.

How the servitude affects the seller
If you’re the owner of the property on which the servitude is held, you’re not required to get permission from the servitude holder before you sell. However, if you’re a new owner, you’ll be required to honour the servitude agreement. While servitudes may not be an issue for some buyers, others may still be deterred by it. This can reduce the demand for your property which in turn can hurt what asking price you can achieve.

Determining if a property has a servitude
If you’d like to find out whether there’s a servitude registered over a property you’re interested in buying, you can do so by either asking the seller, the agent or by examining the title deed. If you already own a property with an existing servitude, you should be upfront with your chosen real estate professional and disclose this when it comes time to sell.

Be transparent with your agent
An experienced real estate professional will know how to market your home correctly to attract buyers who wouldn’t be deterred by a servitude. If you’re thinking about selling your home, keep in mind that it’s never wise to hide the fact that the property comes with a servitude, as the truth will have to come up later in the transaction and is then likely to ruin the whole deal.