How can multiple owners sell land when one of the owners' doesn't want to sell?

Question

My family has four lots of land in a rural community where prices have shot up. Three of us want to sell, but one does not.  What are our options? 

Asked by: JM – California
Answer

Restatement: How can multiple owners sell land when one of the owners' doesn't want to sell?  

An excellent real estate attorney can walk you through this transaction to a sale and conclusion.  I am not an attorney.

There's good news here for those that want to sell.  No one partner can force other partners to continue to own land/property if they no longer wish to own it.  The question is how to liquidate when there is contention.  Family members complicate matters, so there are more emotions attached to the transaction, mainly if it's land that's been in the family for a long time. There will always be one person that wants to keep it forever, regardless of value. 

You've made it relatively easy for me to get to a quick answer.  There are four lots and four people.  Presently, it seems that all four are on title to all four lots. Well, how about changing the title to give each person 100% ownership of one lot each (versus 25% ownership in four lots)?  

Along with this, the party not wanting to sell can offer the other owners to buy out their stake. It's family, so if there is no overt financial pressure, maybe sell the lots at a 20% discount to market.  This offer is a good faith olive leaf to say the deal is not all about money but taking the non-sellers status and feelings into account. 

Perhaps, after further discussion, there's only one person that needs or wants to sell. If that's the case, then the three remaining owners can buy out the one who needs to exit. 

Land, buildings, and family matters are always sticky, especially if the land has been in the family for a long time.  Codified real estate law directs us to a remedy.  The trick is to gain agreement without knock-down arguments, contention (or worse), or litigation.  

The best-case scenario is dinner with wine and talking through to a path forward. The worst is when everyone has an attorney to speak on their behalf at $300 an hour.  Dinner with wine is a lot less expensive.  And faster.  

As I am writing this, I am thinking in terms of $100,000 buildable lots.  The paradigm changes exponentially if these are contiguous $1,000,000  parcels of 25-acre tracts (times four tracts).  As the dollar amount rises, so too does the incentive to sell and diversify. That's the nature of measuring risk.  

If this my most significant asset, and it is earning a return of zero, well then, I'm certainly looking to sell for multiple reasons.  Accommodating the one person that wants everyone to stay is no longer tenable.  Get sound legal counsel.  See if you can get everyone to agree on using the same attorney or law firm to work through a remedy.  This recommendation to use one law firm keeps everyone on the same page and is thoroughly informed throughout the process.  

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