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Do You Own the Air Above Your Home?

By Jamie Richardson | May 3, 2019

Have you ever wondered if you do own the air above your home? Generally, most people do own air rights above their houses, at least to a certain point. Despite this, you still need to be aware of the basics when it comes to your air rights. Let’s try to break down this matter carefully.

Air Rights: What exactly are they?

By real estate definition, air rights refer to the empty space found right above a property. In nature, it is a type of development right. Back in the day, before the turn of the 20th century, if you own a particular real estate property, you also own unlimited air rights above it. The rights also covered the ground under.

But by the advent of the airplanes, things started to change as far as the coverage and boundaries of air rights went. The change stated that homeowners still have their air rights, but only up to a point in the airspace above that they can use reasonably. If this change was not instituted, it means that airplanes would be flying over houses illegally. 

The Restrictions

It is important to note that every neighborhood or town has existing zoning restrictions. Even if you own air rights to a certain property, these restrictions may keep you from erecting a 10-story commercial building inside a residential community.

The same thing goes for homeowners who have a small house. If they wish to extend their house for a few stories, the zoning restrictions will likely prevent them from extending for more than two floors.

Bigger value in a bigger city?

In larger cities like New York, air rights have the most potential. This is because of the high demand for land that is basically limited. If you own a building and you are practically not using your air rights, you can opt to make money by having a developer pay for those rights. They can give you a significant amount of money so they can build a property that is adjacent to yours.

How about the view?

When it comes to ownership of the view, it is crucial to note that air rights do not have any direct relationship to the views. Today, you may enjoy a breathtaking view from your property. Tomorrow, a developer can build something that will obstruct the view. This is legal, provided that the construction is in line with the existing zoning laws.

But keep in mind that you still have a say in regards to the construction of your neighbor. You may air out your grievances and prompt a public hearing in some cities. In the market for real estate contact a team of trusted Boulder real estate agents.

Jamie is a 5-year freelance writer who enjoys real estate. He is currently a Realty Biz News Contributor.
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