A few months ago my aunt, sister, and I each received letters from a company offering to buy what they are calling a combination of “oil and gas rights and non-participating royalty rights” for property in Greene County, PA.  It is a total of 44 acres among the three of us.

The letter contained portions of a chain of title (field notes from the company’s title agent) showing that in the 1970s a friend of the family left the rights to my grandparents (who died in the 1980s), and that subsequently the rights now rest with my aunt, sister, and me.  (The field notes do not contain any actual language from the wills to show the language used in granting the rights.)

The letter said that if we would like to sell the interest, the company will run a full mineral title of the property to confirm the ownership, and that the offer could increase or decrease, depending on what they find.  Further, it says that we would not be under an obligation to sell until we agree on a purchase price.

We were unaware that we owned any rights prior to receiving the letters.

The first letter offered $2,000 an acre.  My aunt called the company, said that the offer was not enough, and asked them to send a second offer.

The second offer was for $2,500 per acre.  The second letter stated that “The big issue that is preventing us from paying more money is that about 95% of this interest is a non-participating royalty interest. …  If you owned more of the executive rights, we could offer you more money.” This second offer was limited to 30 days.

From what I understand, a non-participating royalty interest means that we are not able to force the lease of the oil and gas, and are not entitled to a lease signing bonus.  But, if the “executive” holder of the mineral rights ever decides to enter into a lease, and the land is drilled, we will be entitled to a portion of the royalties.

I informally talked to an attorney who said his firm would charge around $10,000 for the title search.  

My guess is that the 30 day limit on the offer is a pressure tactic, to force us to move quickly, without exploring other options.

We are wondering if $2,500 is a reasonable price and if not, who could we talk to about getting a better price?  (I’m guessing that without knowing the percentage of the royalty rights, an accurate price is hard to judge.)

I have done some research, but all of the web pages I find are talking about holders of full mineral rights.  Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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Correct, it is hard to know exactly what you could get for it without actually knowing what you own, but a price of $2500 per acre seems low.  The 30 days could be a pressure tactic, but it could also be because the company would want to reevaluate their offer should you decide to accept 60, 90, 120 days etc. down the road.  Things can and do change in a few months.  Probably mostly a pressure tactic though.  I do not have suggestions about who to contact for a better price, but you could do some google searching for mineral buyers.

I have questions.....what does this mean? From what I understand, a non-participating royalty interest means that we are not able to force the lease of the oil and gas, and are not entitled to a lease signing bonus. But, if the “executive” holder of the mineral rights ever decides to enter into a lease, and the land is drilled, we will be entitled to a portion of the royalties.

Is there an executor addressing the probate of your grandparents will? Are there any additional owners of the rights, besides the three mentioned? Is your aunt able to access the will(s) of your grandparents?

Just my take here, but if you are the owners of record, you and only you three can lease (you can't 'force a lease') the rights in question.

The estimate of $10K for a title search seems a bit excessive, but I have not had that service performed in many years.

In any event, the $2500/acre offer is VERY, VERY low.  Do some research and see if you can determine a clear path of ownership. At some point, you will need an attorney, but see if you can be reasonably certain they are in fact your rights before employing a title search outfit.

I agree with GH.....30 days to sign is a typical pressure tactic....you should Google the outfit making the offer. Sounds like a mineral buyer, who only wishes to secure your rights and then market them, at a handsome profit, to an E&P company.

Also, you are not under any obligation to do anything until you sign on the dotted line. Maybe let them do the title search for you and see what comes back? The offer may increase or decrease, but you are under no obligation, ever, until you sign.

Everyone's situation is different, and you will find many opinions on this site about whether you should sell or hold. That is a personal choice that no one can make for you.

In my opinion, and from what I have read on this site, you could reasonably expect $2,000 to $3,000 per acre in a signing bonus, with the real money coming in the form of royalties when your rights are included in a producing unit. Royalties are not a given, but patience will likely reward you in the long run....they will drill there eventually.

Best of luck to you!! 

Bullfrex - http://www.mineralweb.com/non-participating-royalty-interest-npri/

What is a Non-Participating Royalty Interest?

Non-Participating Royalty Interest (NPRI) is an interest in oil and gas production which is created from the mineral estate.  Like the plain “royalty interest” it is expense-free, bearing no operational costs of production.  The term “non-participating” indicates that the interest owner does not share in the bonus, rentals from a lease, nor the right (or obligation) to make decisions regarding execution of those leases (ie no executive rights). The owner of a NPRI has fewer rights than does the ‘regular’ royalty owner, who participates in at least one, if not all, of the aforementioned activities.

Essentially the grantor that assigned the minerals to his grandparents (or someone prior in the chain of title) broke the minerals into participating and non-participating ans assigned the non-participating out.  It's most likely not the executor of the estate.  If his description is accurate, he is not entitled to a bonus nor is he entitled to negotiate the terms of the lease. 

$10,000 for a title search isn't unheard of, and depending on complexity it could very well be cheap, however, you can probably chain the title via Green County's recorder site (more specifically the site they contract out to).  I think it would make sense to look at the area where the minerals are located to see if there are permits, etc and then decide how to proceed.

If there is drilling eminent, then a couple thousand per acre maybe cheap - depends on lease terms....if there is no activity, then it still maybe cheap, depending on where in Greene the minerals are located - Greene does sit on both Marcellus and Utica.  With EQT's acquisition of Rice, they will be pushing development in the area

Have a similar situation here. Leased 54 acres with Rice/EQT 5 years ago this Nov. Landowners have executive rights and rents. Our family has 100% royalties. We signed, recorded , notarized leases in Greene County Coutrthouse in 2013. Went back to visit oroperties last Nov. Pipline is in. According to landowners no drilling yet. Then the landowners questioned how we thought we even had any rights at all. Very upsetting since deed, leases, are all recorded in Greene county couthouse. Was all my great grandfathers land and minerals. Cover letter from Rice said landowners were getting royalties already. How can that be if they arent drilling? I think we are getting screwed. Third parcel is 111 acres and has a small well that has been producing from 1800. Folks are real nice on that property and live in my great grandfathers house. Not leased yet for Marcellus. Landowners say they are only getting hoise gas. Deed is there no lease that we have found for smallcwell. Then the Holbrook Storage Field gets thrown up as an excuse for not drilling. EQT sent us a letter when they took over Rice. Have not heard from them since. My gut feeling is that the landowners convinced us to sign with Rice 5 years ago, and we have been getting the run around ever since. Live here in Virginia now but retired so I can come to Pa if need be. Just very frustrated. Thanks. Debbie

Debra,  how much research have you done on your title at the court  house (seems like you have some details based on your post).

Also seems like there is quite a bit of confusion as to whether there is production or not.  The well doesn't necessarily have to be located on the property as horizontal lateral can go a mile or two from the well head.  I would be happy to map your parcel versus current wells if it would help you (you may have already done this).  let me know..

regards

Jeff

Yes, a non-participating royalty interest (NPRI) will only entitle you to receive royalties from a lease signed by the executive rights owner. 

It would be imprudent to agree to anything until you do some due diligence. You can't gauge whether the offer is fair until you have the full picture. For instance, is the property already leased? Who owns the rest of the executive rights? Which operators are in the area and is your property likely to be drilled?  What royalty would you likely get if you keep your NPRI and don't sell?

I really recommend engaging an oil and gas attorney to help you through the process -- one might be able to (1) get the company to do the full title search without locking you into any per-acre rate beforehand, and (2) negotiate a fair price and favorable terms of sale. $10,000 for a mineral title search in Greene County is high. If you want recommendations for other oil and gas attorneys, particularly those familiar with Greene County, I can provide some. 

Thanks Ally....consider me now informed about NPRI. So your NPRI rights are in fact marketable?

No mention of the Executive rights owner in the OP....is it a family member who might be brought into this discussion, allowing them to come up to speed? That would seem a logical step before you make any decisions.

Thanks for all of the information.  Very helpful. 

Bullfrex -- the whole concept of NPRI was new to me as well.  From what I read, creation of NPRI was designed to allow a cash strapped land owner to raise cash without having to sell the surface land or the mineral rights.  Instead, they could sell an interest in a portion of the future royalties. 

Unfortunately, the friend of the family who made the bequeath to my grandparents was relatively ancient when she died in the 1970s, and we do not have any information as to the status of her family members.  So no, we don't know anything about those who hold the executive rights. 

Because no royalty checks have started coming our way, I assume that the land has not yet been leased.  (Or it has been leased, and the driller has not bothered to find all of the holders.)

My aunt received a call from an entirely different company making an offer for our rights.  That may mean that drilling is soon (relatively) to begin in the area where my property is.

I sent the same post I put up on this site to a buyer who said they would do a title search and have their title person contact me with an offer.  I think it will be helpful just by getting the word out that we are thinking about selling, as that might lead to some competitive bidding.

Thanks again for the information.  It was very helpful.

Joe

Hi Joe, have you tried to find any online records for Greene County? I did a search and found Greene County Register and Recorder's Office   and  Pensylvania Land Records - Greene County 

Worth looking and seeing what you might find.

sorry looks like I'm late in responding to your post above and sent duplicate information...my apologies.

You can have a title abstract done without an attorney, I had an attorney who reccomended the abstractor who did their title searches for them, he had been doing searches for over fifteen years when I contacted him, he charges by the hour and it’s way less than an attorney. I believe it was under 50 an hour and cost me $ 300.00 Just be informed as I was by him that his results are not 100 % as he’s not an attorney. I was very happy and comfortable with him and his work. He stated that he can only be 99.9 % accurate. With out being an attorney. He’s the one who would the the work for the attorneys. This was a few years ago that I hired him and have no doubt I own my minerals. They are prepping the pad next to me now and when they start to produce I’ll have a better idea with it all. I get offers to buy about once a week lately and I’m sure it’s because they are aware of the pad. Its set up with 10 wells. EQT has it.

Thank you Nancy Mosley.  I had not found the Greene County Register yet.  (I'd been doing more research on mineral rights in general.) 

Thank you also carp.  I know a person who does title work for a law firm.  I was thinking of asking if she did any free-lance work, or knew anyone who did.  That sounds like a smart and frugal way to approach it.  Thanks again.

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