Flag Lots

What is a flag lot? A flag lot is is a lot that has no direct street frontage. The lot is accessed by a driveway, usually down the side of another house. The picture highlights a flag lot.
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There is no direct method to search out flag lots (or exclude them from) an RMLS search so analysis about them is tough. I expect that we’d find that the flag lots have a lower value than the equivalent home with curb frontage. The flag lot allows for higher density by splitting existing lots and getting lots in developments where curb frontage is not possible.

The disadvantage for the house on the curb is that anyone wanting access to flag lot has to pass by the edge of their house. In some cases the drive may be shared by easement. The disadvantage for the flag lot is that there is no curb appeal as there is no curb. The advantage for the flag lot is that there should be minimal street noise (depending what is in the back yard) and the sales price should be a little lower than the same house on the curb.

I’d be curious to hear people’s experience living in either the curb house or the flag house.

12 Comments on “Flag Lots

  1. We live in a flag lot. Bad because no curb appeal, but good if you run a dope house b/c the privacy. It is much more profitable than the duplex we used to have off a somewhat major intersection. YoY revenues up 63%.

  2. We just had our 9,000+ sq ft lot divided in two in January. Then in March they started building a house.
    The flag lot has a long driveway reaching into what was our beautiful backyard with a gracious garden. now there’s a 2500 sq ft two car garage monstrosity that was built in about 2 months. I’ve never seen such poor construction and the builder used the cheapest material he could get his hands on. No attention to style or anything esthetics.
    This house has no front yard, about a 12×10 backyard and like you say no curb appeal.
    Buyer be aware, because this thing is gonna start needing repairs in a couple of years from judging the workmanship of the drunk Burnside Mexicanos. I’ve picked up quiet a few beer bottles off our property since those guys started working.
    Its going to be interesting to see if this thing sells in a very old established SE neighborhood.

    do you know how much it would cost to build a really cheap 2500 sq ft house on a 4200 sq ft flag lot with a long drivway?
    And, what’s the going rate for such a house in south tabor around 76th?

  3. oops forgot to mention there’s a large apartment complex adjacent to the back of the flag lot.

  4. I’m a builder and a designer. The low end new house (tile, laminate, simple) cost the big builders around $48-$50 dollars a SF. Concrete driveways are about $3.00/SF.

  5. “drunk Burnside Mexicanos.”

    Unfortunately this attitude is a common one for portland home debtors. Cesar Chavez Blvd anyone?

    Between the racial tension and the drug problems (see Bob and Wang’s post) I do not understand why anyone would want to buy a home in portland.

    “I’m a builder and a designer.”

    Designer? Let me guess…granite, pergo, and stainless steel.

  6. Assuming the person whose 9000 sf lot was subdivided owns:

    Did you subdivide it to make money? No control over what was put there?

    This is one of the reasons I don’t buy. Having owned before, I had no control over the activities of the neighbors who could often be raucous and rude. Now, if the neighbors get crummy I can move or even have the landlord rein them in. No such luck with a house.

    In fact, the apt I rent is in an area and complex that is the quietest, least dirtball-heavy area I’ve ever lived.

  7. Erase Racism.

    Bob & Wang

    PS — Obama for President!!!!!

  8. “Now, if the neighbors get crummy I can move or even have the landlord rein them in.”

    Great strategy, because, I mean, it’s so easy to move when the neighbors get crummy, huh?

  9. Bob and Wang bring up a good point. The flag lot offers privacy not found with homes on the curb. The owner of the curb house might take issue with the increased traffic down the driveway and when the police show up, escape routes may be limited; especially if the back yard neighbor breed pit bulls.

    The flag lot does not breed bad construction, bad contractors do that. Which brings up Naysayer’s comment. If your neighbor is doing something legal, there isn’t much you can do other than engage in friendly conversation. Both the CCB and City protect you from poor and illegal building practices (and due diligence should help protect the buyer). It wouldn’t make a difference if you were an owner or landlord. There is, of course, the issue of ratting on your neighbors but I don’t see there being a renter/owner difference there either. But, the cost and ease of moving is easier as a renter. You’d also have to decide if you are going to let the neighbor’s dictate your decision to move.

  10. As an owner I did let the neighbors “dictate” my decision to move and it was a lot harder than if I had been renter. I didn’t lose money, though, something that might not be true in today’s market.

    So yes, Tiff, it really IS easier to move if you rent. Haven’t had to yet but the escape hatch is much easier to get through than if I was an owner, i.e., no losses.

  11. As a buyer new to Portland, I have to say that I just don’t “get” flaglots. They seem to be detrimental to the livability and property values in established neighborhoods. I would never consider a flag lot (or a lot next to a flag lot). I hate those damn skinny houses, also.

  12. We have a flag lot behind us. It’s been a nightmare. I didn’t realize what a booby trap flag lots are–for the house living adjacent the driveway, that is. For the flag lot owner, it’s great. FREE LAND! You pay for a tiny little strip of driveway, and then get three times that width in the form of an “easement” that your neighbor pays the taxes on, in perpetuity.

    This was a very costly lesson. In our case, having this flag lot’s drive easement on our property lowers the value of our property by $100,000, minimum. It was the first, and the last, time I’ll ever buy a property with a driveway easement on it ever again. REALTORS: IT IS YOUR OBLIGATION TO INFORM YOUR CLIENTS ABOUT EASEMENTS!!! That’s what you get paid for, so protect and advise your client. Thanks.

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