What is accretion real estate?

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What Is Accretion Real Estate? A Quick Guide for Agents

Land accretion is something that most real estate agents might not encounter during most of their careers. However, it’s still beneficial to understand what it is, especially for those who will work on properties that border bodies of water. 

We have shared an introductory guide to help you understand what accretion is in real estate and how it affects property value. Keep reading to learn more.

Accretion in Real Estate

In legal terms, accretion is the gradual increase of landmass because of soil or sand deposits caused by the movement of water.

Most of us think of land as permanent and unchanging, but that’s not the case near rivers, lakes, and the sea.

Moving water affects geography as it slowly deposits or erodes the land. This is an important consideration when it comes to selling properties near bodies of water, as accretion can affect the value of the property.

Examples of Accretion

Let’s imagine a property that has been with a family for many generations. It sits next to the river, which regularly deposits new soil onto the shore next to the property.

As the accretion builds up, the property gains extra square feet of land. This also increases the property value proportionally, and the owner might need another survey to determine the exact new dimensions of the land.

Accretion vs. Avulsion vs. Reliction

The opposite of accretion is avulsion. This is when water takes away soil from a property, resulting in a sudden and noticeable change in the landscape. As a result, the property’s surface decreases or may be permanently submerged underwater.

This usually happens after extreme weather events, flooding, and even earthquakes. However, avulsion can occur more gradually. Water currents slowly but steadily erode banks, diverting their course and eventually flooding properties.

Reliction is also, in some ways, the opposite of accretion. While the latter is the process of adding new land because of water, reliction is the gradual increase of land area because of receding water. This is more common now because many rivers and lakes are drying up.

While this is indicative of droughts, reliction has a silver lining. Like accretion, reliction increases the value of a property.

Who Owns the New Land?

One point of contention for accreted land is who owns it. In general, the owner of the property adjoining the riverbank or lakeside is considered the owner of the new land. The tricky part is if the accreted land resulted from the avulsion of a property upstream.

Unfortunately, the property owner that lost the land cannot claim accreted land on another property, even if they’re neighbors. This contention usually happens when the accreted land contains precious metals or minerals. However, it’s difficult to prove that the soil came exactly from the upstream property.

The only caveat is if the accreted land was deposited on an existing right of way. In this case, the property owner has no more claim to it than they did before.

Final Thoughts

Accretion happens when bodies of water deposit soil onto a property, increasing its area and value. So if you’re working with a home buyer or seller for a property next to a body of water, it is important to consider this factor during the transaction.

Published on Oct 7, 2022 under

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