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Believing Miss Mildred (a true parable of shade trees, neighborly trust, and a bottomless cup of coffee)

March 1, 2020 Real Estate Blog Real Estate Law

Once upon a time, a young fresh family bought a fine old home in a fine old subdivision dotted with a veritable forest of fine old shade trees and lakes, not to mention neighbors of a similarly fine old stature.

One day, the young fresh family brought home a frisky new puppy. Nothing would do but to fence in their fine old back yard to protect their new faithful friend. Daddy James, a real estate professional, went next-door to see Miss Mildred, their fine old neighbor who had lived in the fine old neighborhood for nearly too many years to count.

Miss Mildred, aside from knowing her way around the kitchen, was a fountain of knowledge on all things important to their fine old neighborhood, including who owned what, and what went where. In this case, the question was whether the fine old oak tree between their two properties was on the young fresh family’s side of the line, or Miss Mildred’s? It seems that James, the real estate professional, had not procured a survey when the young fresh family purchased their fine old home.

Over an endless cup of coffee and a scrumptious piece of homemade cake, Miss Mildred opined as to how the fine old oak tree was on her side of the dividing line. Unwilling to question such an acknowledged neighborhood authority, James, the real estate professional, reckoned that their new fence should be placed on the young fresh family’s side of the tree.

Nary a word was ever spoken again on the subject until the young fresh family expanded, and the time came to move to a larger, finer new home. Much to everyone’s surprise, the buyer’s survey revealed that the young fresh family’s fence had been installed a couple of feet inside of their actual property line!

When questioned by the buyer’s agent, then the closing attorney, James, the real estate professional, happily recounted the story of coffee and conversation with Miss Mildred and insisted her assessment of the boundary line location was correct. His devotion to his future former neighbor was so staunch, in fact, that James stated emphatically and with increasing ire that the buyer’s survey was incorrect, and that was that.

With emotions at a fever pitch, the buyer’s attorney ordered his own survey of the questionable property line to check the work of the prior surveyor. Lo and behold, the lines matched to a tee.

Finally seeing the writing on the wall, James, the real estate professional, agreed that perhaps the buyer’s request to relocate the fence was reasonable, and hat in hand he trekked over to Miss Mildred’s house one last time to deliver the news. An eminently practical woman, not to mention a frugal one, Miss Mildred politely agreed that two surveyors could not possibly be wrong, and in fact perhaps it was her memory that had gotten a little fuzzy after all these years. Work soon commenced to relocate the fence, and the closing happened without further ado.

The moral of the story is that fine old neighbors can be a treasure trove of community knowledge, not to mention hospitality. Unless, however, they are licensed surveyors, their insights on the precise location of boundary lines and other technical matters best be regarded as anecdotal, and leave the measurements and legal opinions up to the professionals.