News Article | 5/11/2010

A new wrinkle in real estate


Two ostensibly unrelated stories on the front page of Monday’s paper caught our attention, and we made a connection we hadn’t made before.


The first story was that Central Village Estates, a partway-there housing development on Fort Worth Drive near Country Club Road is going on the auction block May 19. The 69-lot development has been sitting idle for a couple of years, with streets, street signs and utilities completed but not much done as far as actually building houses is concerned.


The present owner, Carl Ehrlich, says the residential real-estate market is beginning to perk up, so he’s ready to sell, and he’s using the auction format — unusual for property — to do it.


The second story was about some Robson Ranch residents who are concerned that some natural gas wells in a neighboring development may end up closer to their homes than they’d like.


The residents are opposing a request by the developer of the neighboring Hunter Ranch project to move planned gas well sites to the western edge of the Hunter Ranch property. The Robson Ranch folks — we presume they live on the east side of their development — fear that if the zoning district is amended as the Hunter Ranch developers request, two gas wells would end up close to their homes.


The city Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to consider the matter Wednesday.


The thing that connected these two stories in our mind was a sentence in the former: “The auction will include two adjacent commercial lots and the mineral rights” to both the commercial and residential lots.


We may be way behind on this — we are way behind on a lot of things, and seem to be getting way behinder — is that we have entered a period in our history in which prospective home buyers are going to be studying their title abstracts a lot closer than they used to.


Our editorialist is no land baron, but in his long and errant trek through life he has bought more parcels of real estate than he ever dreamed as a young man that he would. Never, he revealed to us today, had he ever checked his abstract to see if he owned the rights to the minerals under his tiny kingdom of the moment. We suspect that may have been true of a lot of other people of our man’s generation.


But with the Barnett Shale play, a lot more people became extremely interested in mineral rights. Them that had ’em were envied at first. Then the heavy exploration trucks came in, and then the drilling equipment, and the noise, and the fracking, and the funny smells in the air, and the mineral rights owners started being resented by their neighbors. Even some of the leaseholders became disillusioned with the deals they had made; some of them began to think their leases weren’t worth the problems they were encountering.


Now, virtually every gas well being drilled in anything remotely resembling an urban setting is being examined and argued, usually before city boards and commissions like Denton’s.


Everyone knows about mineral rights now; the smart buyers among us always did.