Shared driveways and and garages are a common sight in the older areas of Kansas City including Brookside, Waldo, and neighborhoods around the Plaza. I sometimes forget that this is unusual to many people until they begin asking me lots of questions. Here is a breakdown.
What is a share driveway? Shared driveways, or easement driveways as they are more formally called, are when one or more homes share the use of the same driveway. Many times there was not enough space between the houses to build more than one driveway, so a driveway was laid allowing both homes to access their garages or parking in the backyard. Sometimes the driveway falls on both properties, sometimes it actually falls on just one of the properties but with easement use granted.
Who maintains it? Both owners should share the maintenance. If you are so inclined, you can come up with a maintenance agreement. If your driveway is falling apart, chances are both of you would like to have it repaired. Should your neighbor not be in a position to afford the costs, I would recommend having the work done anyway. It only improves your property value – especially if you are planning to sell the property. Perhaps you can draw up some sort of payment plan with them.
Surveys, Deeds, and Property Lines. It is best of the easement is described in the property deeds. This just reinforces the right of usage and ownership. If the boundary and usage lines are unclear, you may want to have a survey done to determine ownership and property lines. I rarely hear about problems and disputes, but if you are in a tough position with your neighbor, remember that you can always consult an attorney about costs, rights and maintenance agreements.
Shared Garages. A shared garage is the same structure, but there is a dividing wall between the garage spaces so that you cannot access or see the other’s side. Each of you also have separate garage doors. You can maintain your half, they can maintain their half. Many times maintenance is done at the same time, but I have seen them looking totally different right down the center line. It can be kind of cute actually when each half of the garage is matched to its respective house colors. As with shared driveways, problems can arise from time to time.
My thoughts… I approve of sharing, but be a diligent buyer. Many people simply will not buy a home with a shared garage or driveway. Either they are not comfortable sharing or they do not want to open themselves up to any potential sticky situations. I understand this, but if it is the right house in the right neighborhood, I would not rule it out. Just be sure to ask lots of questions, meet the neighbor, and make sure all the shared property is in reasonably good condition or ask the seller to make it so before purchasing.