VERGENNES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — After nearly two years, a Lowell area homeowner’s botched boundary nightmare is over.
It’s taken that much time for Lori Houghtaling to get a title to the property under her house after it was mistakenly built partially on Kent County land.
She had been trying for years to get county officials to swap property before calling Target 8 investigators in 2017 out of frustration. After reporters started asking questions, the county relented and agreed to a land swap, but that was nearly two years ago.
Houghtaling’s home sits on a bluff overlooking the Flat River in Vergennes Township. She says about 25% of her house was built over the line on Kent County property.
It’s not exactly clear how the mistake happened. The house was built as a wedding gift from her father more than 20 years ago. A survey from around that time shows the property line taking an odd jog inland from the bluff, but that was somehow overlooked.
A fence ran along the bluff giving a mistaken idea where the property line existed, and another survey showed the wrong property line.
Houghtaling says her surveyor at the time of the house build blamed old equipment for the mistake, which a township building inspector failed to catch when he issued a construction permit. Target 8 Investigators found that the permit was actually issued for the wrong property.
The mistake left Houghtaling worried she wouldn’t be able to sell or refinance the house. Even though Kent County had written a letter saying the Houghtalings had permission to use the land, the county admitted that might change someday.
Houghtaling says the county’s agreement to a land swap was just the start of a deal because she had to get approval from her mortgage company.
“We worked through the step process for about eight, nine months,” she said. “I don’t think it was a normal process for them. I think it was too much and they ended up selling our mortgage.”
So Houghtaling had to start over with a second mortgage company, trying to get its employees to understand what was happening and what they needed to approve the land transfer.
After the mortgage company signed off, it took a few more months for Kent County to finish up the paperwork. But now the deal is finally done, giving the family the land under their house and surrounding their well.
However, the backyard still belongs to the county, which is allowing them to use it.
“I feel good that we have the flexibility now to sell if we wanted to sell,” Houghtaling says. “I think everybody’s happy now.”