Written for YourProperty

This week the Property Poser panel considers the issues surrounding panhandle properties and the pros and cons of purchasing one.

A reader writes that she is interested in buying a property situated on a panhandle-shaped piece of land.

She explains that the property has been on the market for a considerable period of time and is concerned that there may be problems in purchasing such a property.

The reader does not want to discover any unforeseen problems at a later stage and then be unable to sell the undesirable property.

According to Schalk van der Merwe from Rawson Properties in Somerset West, Cape Town, a panhandle is usually characterised by a long driveway that runs alongside an adjacent property and leads to the rest of the property where the buildings are usually situated.

“Generally, the panhandle shape arises from the subdivision of a larger piece of land. The long, narrow ‘handle’ portion is simply there to allow access to the property.”

Van der Merwe says this is typically the case where the portion subdivided from the main property falls towards the back of it.

“The ‘handle’ is usually then made available to the newly separated portion by way of a servitude which is registered over the ‘driveway’.”

This is arguably one of the biggest drawbacks of a panhandle, as one is somewhat reliant on the other landowner’s observance of the servitude, says Van der Merwe.

“Access shouldn’t be a problem where the driveway is properly separated off from the other property by way of a wall or fence.”

Van der Merwe says it is preferable that the access or driveway portion be clearly demarcated as these areas are often quite narrow to begin with and further constriction would make reversing out quite tricky.

“A further potential problem is that parking for guests and visitors may be restricted and parking within the property itself may not be possible due to space constraints.”

This could be a problem in high crime areas, as the visiting vehicles would be exposed, says Van der Merwe.

Another crime-related issue to consider is that visibility is restricted and a panhandle could ostensibly be more prone to burglaries, says Grant Hill of Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys in Somerset West.

“But then again, many properties with high boundary walls and the like are equally hidden from the general view of passers-by.”

Hill says the privacy could even be viewed as a positive aspect by many potential buyers.

What makes the reader’s situation somewhat different is that this particular property is situated in a sectional title complex.

“This might be an important distinction as the property was probably designed as a panhandle from the planning and layout stage, and before the registration of the plans for the complex.”

Hill says the plot of land would thus not be reliant on access by way of a servitude or the like over another landowner’s property.

“Access could be enforced using the mechanisms regulating conduct and other aspects within the complex.”

Parking would possibly also be less of an issue as many complexes make provision for visitors’ parking in demarcated areas and not in front of the sectional title units, says Hill.

“In this instance, it may just be a case of general prejudice in the perception of panhandles.”

Hill says the property may well prove to be a good buy, provided that the possible issues relating to a panhandle are acceptable and that the property itself is generally satisfactory in all other respects.

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Issued by:

Full Stop Communications

Coetzee Gouws
082 575 7991
041 368 4992

On behalf of:

Rawson Properties Helderberg & Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys