Home Buyer Tips: What Do I Need A Survey For?
A common question many buyers ask is, “What do I need a survey for?“, primarily because they want to keep out-of-pocket costs low but also because many do not understand what a survey is and why they are important.
In some states, home sellers are expected to make the necessary property disclosures to the potential buyer. The disclosures are made based on the survey carried out. The survey protects the buyer in any real estate transaction.
What is Covered in a Residential Property Survey?
Before the residential transaction is closed, the buyer is expected to obtain a detailed survey. The survey will highlight the property access via easement or a neighboring public street, as well as the use of that land by other third parties. Also, the buyer will know about the fence lines that are not corresponding to the property boundaries.
The survey highlights the serious and minor problems that are on the property. For instance, if there is a deck, pool, or driveway that is incorrectly placed on the property (i.e. partially on the neighbors property), it will be disclosed in the survey. Also, the buyer will know if the property is located in a hazardous location, like a flood area. The survey simply helps to inform the buyer about details of the property, along with any possible challenges.
The Current and Existing Survey Contracts
With the current survey, the date of certification and the date of the transaction are simultaneous. Conversely, the existing survey is prepared before the transaction, and the certification date doesn’t match the transaction date.
The Common Residential Survey Types
Surveys are split into various types, based on the transaction nature. They include the following;
• Improvement Location Certificate, ILC
It is the most basic and cheapest among the rest. A Title Insurance or a Mortgage Company will require this certificate before a property is sold. It highlights the enhancements on the property, including fences, leach field, power lines, driveways, buildings, among others. The ILC shows the encroachments onto or from the property.
• Land Survey Plat
This is also called a Boundary Survey, and it verifies and locates all the corners and boundaries of the property. Also, it identifies the locations of every improvement that relate to the property lines. The Land Survey Plat covers the area of the property and cites any existing infringements.
• Site Plan
This survey is specifically used for the construction proposal of a driveway or structure. The state might ask for this survey in place of an Improved Location Certificate when one applies for a building license. The Site Plan will not disclose the existing improvement or easements unless they are directly connected to the new construction.
• Improved Survey Plat
An ISP is a land survey that discloses the location of all the fences, walls, hedges, and structures that are located on the subject parcel, and within five feet of the parcel’s boundaries. It also highlights any violations of those boundaries.
How Much Does the Survey Cost?
The cost of the survey will vary depending on the geographical location, the size, and age of the property. It can cost between $200 and $800.
When is a Survey Needed?
Each state will have its survey requirements. However, a buyer should clearly understand the land that they are paying for. The survey helps to identify any defects that can allow for price negotiation. So if you notice some encroachments in the property you intend to purchase, ensure that you request for a survey.
When are Survey’s a Bad Idea?
In some cases, the Title Insurance Company will nullify the survey, considering the possible risks facing them. The guidelines will vary based on the use of the subject property. These guidelines also apply to residential properties that are between one and four families. They include the following;
• In case the property is located in a platted subdivision. Suppose the subject property is defined by a block or a lot, no survey will be needed. However, if the survey already existed before the transaction date, it will be presented along with an affidavit indicating that not changes were made afterward.
• If bounds and metes describe the property, (not in a platted subdivision). Also, if some constructions were made recently and they affected the improvement’s footprints in relation to the boundaries of the property, no survey will be required.
All in all, it is advised to get a survey before closing any real estate transaction. The survey should come from a reputable company or surveyor. If any possible violations or improvements affect the property, the survey will point them out. It helps the buyer to pay the fair amount of money for the property of their preference. The survey is more of a testing or evaluation document that identifies the flaws in a subject property.
One of the things home buyers often overlook is having a survey accomplished for the property they are about to purchase. Invariably, when the subject comes up I get asked “What do I need a survey for?”.
A survey is a property map, used to determine the property boundary, easements (allowing a party to use land they do not own for a specific purpose. I.E. a water well or right-of-way), setbacks (distance a property must be from the property lines), location of improvements, and the exact home location within the property boundaries.
What do I need a survey for
To protect your investment in the event there is an encroachment issue or a building setback violation as well as providing you with a blueprint that identifies precisely what you are purchasing and the locations of the structures on the property.
Some of the problems that a survey will identify include:
- Fences/sheds over the property line
- Sprinkler placement issues
- Driveway encroachments
- Structures too close to setback
- Gardens, shrubs, trees planted over the property line
- Septic tanks too close to water wells
- Incorrect deeds/flood zone issues
What to do if there is a survey issue
Determine if the “issue” is worth fighting over. One foot on the back-end of a large back yard won’t make as much difference as having a garage built partly on the neighbors property (or vice versa).
If you decide there is an issue that needs to be resolved, or it’s decided for you, contact a real estate attorney to determine the next steps and whether adverse possession (property boundary and rights becoming the encroachers) is applicable….In Georgia the right of claim is 7 years but the law is complex so do not assume you have gained or lost property, call an attorney!
Note: If you purchase owner’s title insurance without a survey, the policy exclude coverage for anything a survey would have disclosed.
Buying real estate is a huge investment, and smart buyers who have a survey conducted (on both resale and new construction) put themselves in the best position to act proactively if a property issue arises.