Real Estate Terms

Does anyone know what “fee simple” means? I friend of mine suggests it means you own the land, but not anything below the surface…such as if oil were found beneath your lot.

Is this correct?

Also, does anyone know what a partywall (party wall?) is?
At first, I thought it meant a firewall between townhomes, but it seems to have to do with a property’s boundary lines, perhaps?

Thanks,

  • Jinx

Fee Simple - a freehold estate of virtually infinite duration and of absoulte inheritance free of any conditions, limitations, or restriction to particular heirs.

Party Wall - a dividing wall between adjoining landowners. It exists for the common benefit of the properties which it separates.

(A quick search on an on-line legal dictionary will give you more details.)

Fee simple does say you own the ground, and everything in it, along with the sky with everything in it. Now be aware that exceptions can be taken on a fee simple title that removes those rights.

A partywall is generally part of a structure (a wall) that sits on the property line. So yes by code, a partywall would be a firewall in a townhome.

FYI IANAL

IANAL but

http://www.maui.net/~codelia/fee.htm

FEE SIMPLE (FS) ownership is the individual, direct ownership of real property. You can, within zoning, building and health codes, do what you want with the land, including leaving it to your heirs. You purchase the property, receive title, and it is yours or your heirs forever, or until such time as you dispose of the property.

THE best way to describe FEE SIMPLE, is to say that it is the type of OWNERSHIP that most are accustomed to. You purchase property, receive title and it’s yours or your heirs forever, or until such time that the property is disposed of.

http://www.or.blm.gov/NILS/terms/f/fee-simple.htm

Fee Simple: The estate which a man has where lands are owned by him and his heirs absolutely, with unconditional power of disposition during his life, and descending to his heirs and legal representatives upon his death intestate. Fee simple title to public lands is conveyed by a patent, approved clear list, deed or grant without condition.

http://www.inresco.com/Glossary/FEE_SIMPLE_ABSOLUTE.html

FEE SIMPLE ABSOLUTE

The maximum possible estate or right of ownership of real property, continuing forever.
Re the land above and below issues I believe you are referring to some version of mineral rights. I don’t think the concept of fee simple ownership addresses this specifically other than defining the kind of title ownership is being held in. Typically in “absolute” fee simple ownership the title holder owns and controls everything on and “in” the land unless otherwise proscribed by law or superior claim. This ownership and control would normally include the mineral rights as well in most cases.

IANAL but

http://www.maui.net/~codelia/fee.htm

FEE SIMPLE (FS) ownership is the individual, direct ownership of real property. You can, within zoning, building and health codes, do what you want with the land, including leaving it to your heirs. You purchase the property, receive title, and it is yours or your heirs forever, or until such time as you dispose of the property.

THE best way to describe FEE SIMPLE, is to say that it is the type of OWNERSHIP that most are accustomed to. You purchase property, receive title and it’s yours or your heirs forever, or until such time that the property is disposed of.

http://www.or.blm.gov/NILS/terms/f/fee-simple.htm

Fee Simple: The estate which a man has where lands are owned by him and his heirs absolutely, with unconditional power of disposition during his life, and descending to his heirs and legal representatives upon his death intestate. Fee simple title to public lands is conveyed by a patent, approved clear list, deed or grant without condition.

http://www.inresco.com/Glossary/FEE_SIMPLE_ABSOLUTE.html

FEE SIMPLE ABSOLUTE

The maximum possible estate or right of ownership of real property, continuing forever.
Re the land above and below issues I believe you are referring to some version of mineral rights. I don’t think the concept of fee simple ownership addresses this specifically other than defining the kind of title ownership is being held in. Typically in “absolute” fee simple ownership the title holder owns and controls everything on and “in” the land unless otherwise proscribed by law or superior claim. This ownership and control would normally include the mineral rights as well in most cases.

In the U.S., a traditional way of teaching property rights is that no one actually owns the land. You own a “bundle of rights” in the land. Items in the “bundle” could be the right to possess, the right to sell, the right to lease, and so forth. Example: someone with a life estate has the right to possess but not the right to sell. “Fee Simple” as stated above is the greatest bundle that someone can possess. You own the land to the center of the earth below you and to infinity above you. The government has the right of “eminent domain” (the subject of a thread or two here, I believe)however, which allows the government to take private property and convert it to public use (a road, a park, and so forth). Of course, you could take title in fee simple but the prior owner(s) or the government still sets forth exceptions in the deed like mineral rights or an easement. The vast majority of residential property transfers are fee simple transfers.

Now, as to the origins of the word “fee”. I believe it stems back to feudalism, where a fee was an estate of land held by someone who was beholden to a lord.

Fee simple is usually used as a description of one form of ownership of say townhouses. If fee simple, you own that part of the lot and that part of the building. The fee simple townhouse owners do NOT have common ownership of the land and building, each owns his specific portion.

Yes, it applies to houses, but the OP refers to townhouses, so he may be asking about forms of townhouse ownership.

In Texas, mineral rights can be sold separately from surface property rights. In many housing developments here, only the surface property rights are sold to home owners.

In some British real estate ads I’ve stumbled upon, it seems like there’s little fee simple ownership or property, but there are long-term leases, usually 99 years. Wen the lease expires, does the land revert to the crown, some branch of the royal family, or what?

It reverts to the landlord, whoever that might be.

In medieval times full ownership of land was possible only for the King. Land ‘owners’ held their land under different forms of tenure.

Today, you might as well look at it the same way. You have certain rights but you do not absolutely and unconditionally own real estate. Some of these righst can be transferred separately: you can rent your property out or you can mortgage it. Property may be encumbered by easements, servitudes etc.

fee simple is the most complete form of ownership (but still subject to encumbrances).

A tenant in fee tail has slightly lesser rights of disposing of the property by inheritance.

Life estate is just that: for life.

then there are different forms of title:

  • sole ownership
  • joint tenancy (co-ownership of the whole)
  • Community property (for married couples in some states)
  • Tenency by the entirety (for married couples)
  • Tenancy in common (each owner owns a percentage)
  • partnership (sort of like a corporation, puts owners at arms length)

A fee tail is a complicated common law concept and I won’t go into it. Most states, if not all, have abolished it by statute. Briefly, it limits devolution of property to your immediate heirs (“heirs of your body”), and it provides you with a life estate, not a fee simple.

Fee simple is one of the “freehold” estates, which include fee tail, life estates, and fee simple. It is the one that most people refer to when they say that they own the land.

Incidentally, in most states you don’t own the air space to infinity. If you did, you can claim ownership to many heavenly bodies and airplanes would be trespassing, not to mention rocket ships. You own it to the extent that you can reasonably make use of it. These air rights provide the basis for condominium ownership of individual air units.

A snippet from Merriam-Webster: