5 On Your Side

'Prisoners in our own home': Property spat renders Cary home unsellable

Posted May 30
Updated May 31

— A property line dispute that should have been fixed years ago is keeping a Cary homeowner from selling her house.

The unusual dilemma boiled down to two things: wrong paperwork that was complicated by neighbors who no longer get along.

The home sold quickly until the buyer's agent found that the deed was wrong.

When Joanne King bought her Cary home, her closing attorney, Rebecca Stevens, did not use an updated deed that reflected a property line change of 18 inches into her neighbor's property. Her home is not on the neighbor's property, but it is too close to the setback.

"It's just this corner of the house, a foot and a half of this corner," King said.

'Prisoners in our own home': Property spat renders Cary home unsellable

A map on record with Wake County shows the old, dotted property line from the new, solid property line. King's neighbor installed a walkway on his property to mark the spot where his land ends.

It has now been four years since the error came to light.

"We just want to get out of here, and we're trying everything we can," King said. "We just feel that we've exhausted all our options."

Town land records involving the homes are correct. The error only involves the deed. So, Cary officials say the town has no role in a fix.

"We've looked at this and explored this with the property owner for the last couple of years and tried to find a way to resolve it through the town, you know, from the town's perspective, but it's just something that's really a private, a private property matter," said Cary Planning Manager Wayne Nicholas.

Nicholas said the usual fix in these situations is for neighbors to work it out. King says her neighbor, Shawn Collins, declined their $5,000 cash offer to buy the 18 inches.

When contacted by 5 On Your Side, Collins said there's not a problem.

"As far as I'm concerned, there is no property dispute," Collins said.

King hoped the attorney who helped close on the house, Stevens, would lend her legal expertise to help correct her error. Stevens told 5 On Your Side that she couldn't discuss the case because of confidentiality.

'Prisoners in our own home': Property spat renders Cary home unsellable

After the Kings signed a release, Stevens left them a voicemail saying "the file is closed" and she "will not be making any comment."

"I know that you have waived attorney-client confidentiality," Stevens said. "However, the file is closed and I will not be making any comment."

King also filed a claim with her title insurance company, First American. The company denied the claim, saying there was no basis for the claim.

Nicholas said the process is difficult, but the town can't do anything about it.

"It's like I say, we can understand it's a difficult process and difficult thing, but, you know, unfortunately, there's just nothing—we've looked at all our options to try and help the situation and there's nothing we can do under our ordinance to fix the problem," Nicholas said.

But King said she wants the whole thing to be over.

"We've been living like this for four years, and it has been a nightmare," King said. "We're prisoners in our own home and we want to get out."

First American did not return phone calls asking for clarification but recently reopened King's case.

Clarification: A previous version of this story said that the property deed reflected a property line change of 18 inches into her neighbor's property. It has been clarified to say the home is not on the neighbor's property, but it is too close to the setback.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Jim Smith Jun 1, 3:20 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Actually things like this don't happen "only in Cary":


  • Nick LeBon Jun 1, 1:07 p.m.
    user avatar

    I'll also add that this is prime example of why you always get a survey when you buy property. A proper survey should uncover errors like this.

  • Nick LeBon Jun 1, 1:03 p.m.
    user avatar

    Looked this up last night on the Wake Register of Deeds. The fault and whom to blame was clear in less than 10 minutes. All I'll say is that the builder bought two adjacent lots and then recombined them resulting in a new map. The new map was filed.

  • Johnny Priest Jun 1, 8:30 a.m.
    user avatar

    When were the houses built? What was the setback law back then? Has the home been sold before and why wasn't it a problem then? If the house is 8 feet 6 inches instead of 10 feet from the property, or whatever the setback rule is, why can't the city issue a variance and allow the setback in this instance. Yes the homeowner loses the 18 inches they think they paid for but that happens. When we had our home surveyed in Raleigh neighbors on both sides lost a lot more than 18 inches. They weren't happy either but fortunately it didn't involve any setback rules.

  • Kim Stew May 31, 11:23 p.m.
    user avatar

    Sell your house to an investor "as-is", take a huge price cut and get away from a bad neighbor. An investor would more than likely rent the house to tenants since no one would want to buy a home next to a bad neighbor. It would always be one thing after another with that guy.

    Peace of mind is worth more than a house.

  • Alex De Lara May 31, 11:01 p.m.
    user avatar

    This is not "only in Cary" thing... unfortunately, this happens anywhere where there are "people" involved and that are not civilized enough to sit down and do the right thing. Those

  • Jim Dunn May 31, 11:36 a.m.
    user avatar

    Sometime in the past, the home owner purchased this 18 inches so they could expand their home and the proper paperwork was not filed with the county it seems. Now the current owner wants to sell the house they bought that the previous owner expanded.

    Most likely the current owner tried to get off cheap by using an old survey rather than paying for a new one when they purchased the home. Going to pay an arm and a leg now, as the only legal alternative (other than pay big $$ to the neighbors) is to move the wall of the home that is too close to or on the property line.

  • Lee Sparrow May 31, 9:43 a.m.
    user avatar

    Only in Cary!

  • Thomas Williams May 31, 8:30 a.m.
    user avatar

    My rule of thumb is avoid close in neighborhoods, and neighbors in general who have a tiny lot and think they own 40 acres near the golf course. Speaking from experience, living with neighbors this close can become like living in Hades. I hate it for them.

  • Susan Olvera May 31, 8:05 a.m.
    user avatar

    Her neighbor sounds like a real piece of work.