Whether or not the lender requires it, every buyer should invest in having a property survey (also called a land survey) conducted before closing on a real estate purchase.
Land surveys are critical for marking the true boundaries of a property. As a buyer who is making a large investment, you don’t want to rely on anyone else’s word or older surveys about a property’s exact boundaries. Fences and trees aren’t always placed exactly where boundaries are, so it’s important information to establish as a buyer so you know precisely what you are buying.
What Happens During a Survey?
When a surveyor conducts a land survey, they accomplish a few things.
They will research property deeds and possibly do a title search to make sure there are no discrepancies in ownership. They will also research the legal descriptions of the property to see the established boundaries. From there, they will do a physical survey of the property. This means they will measure and sketch out boundaries and key elements of the land, like driveways, ditches, barns, wooded areas, and ponds.
When the survey is complete, they will provide you with a map that details the property’s boundaries, as well as a legal description, the location of buildings and adjacent properties, and any right-of-ways or easements associated with the property. Those details ensure the property described in the closing documents is actually the property you intend to buy.
Why Land Surveys Are So Important for Buyers
Sellers are not obligated to conduct a survey of their property before listing it and not all lenders require one, but buyers put their new real estate investment at risk if they don’t conduct one. Here are some key reasons these surveys are so important to buyers.
- Surveys help prevent boundary disputes. Boundaries can be a source of contention between neighbors who often dispute the placement of trees, fences, and driveways. A survey can help settle those disagreements.
- Surveys can be outdated and wrong. Mapping technology has improved the accuracy of land surveys. Older surveys may not account for property or home improvements.
- Surveys inform home improvement plans. If a buyer plans on making home improvements to a newly-purchased property, like adding on a room or putting up a fence, a current survey can show them if their plans are feasible based on the property lines.
- Surveys protect the owner in title insurance claims. A new homeowner’s title insurance policy may not cover title claims related to boundary issues, like encroachment, without a new survey of the property.
To make sure the real estate you are purchasing is exactly what you think it is, get a land survey done before closing. This will uncover potential problems with a property before it’s too late for the buyer. It’s a simple matter of due diligence to protect yourself from making a bad investment.