Consulting a Professional Land Surveyor Before Buying a Home

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Buying a house is one of the most important financial investments that most home buyers will make in their lives. Despite the enormity of the purchase, many home buyers act swiftly when they find the home that fits their needs, particularly in tight markets. While it is tempting to complete the process quickly, if you are not careful this can result in the purchase of a flawed property. Taking the time to consult a professional land surveyor before purchase will ensure that you know what you are getting.

What Is a Property Survey?

A property survey is a detailed, aerial depiction of the legal boundaries of a piece of property. It includes accurate measurements and includes descriptions of land features and property structures.

All properties begin with a legal description of the land. Then, the surveyor will go out and use their tools to sketch the boundaries of the property. This is called fieldwork.

The extent of a property survey depends on the price you pay. Some surveys can include photographs, previous property changes, the presence of utilities, and any geographic issues (eg, sinkholes).

A property survey also includes elements like right-of-ways and easements. These are details that clarify shared driveways and yard space, or who has right of way in a shared alleyway.

Why Hire a Land Surveyor?

While land surveyors do charge a fee for their service, they may end up saving you money and catching potential problems. There are several compelling reasons to hire a land surveyor before making a purchase.

Uncover Problems

Oftentimes, the information about a property that is provided by a seller differs significantly from the actual state of the property. Occasionally sellers are intentionally deceitful to complete a sale. More commonly, sellers are simply ignorant of their property. For this reason, it is important to check for problems even when buying from trustworthy sellers.

Sometimes, a land survey will uncover differences in stated property lines and the actual boundaries. You do not want to discover you purchased less property than you intended.

Other times, a land survey will reveal environmental conditions that impact the quality of the land. This could include floodplains or unstable land.

Finally, a land survey can reveal easements on the land by neighbors or companies. If, for example, a utility company has the right to build a telephone pole on the property, this could negatively impact the appeal of the land.

Hiring a professional land surveyor is the only way to determine that the parcel as represented by the seller and realtor is the parcel you are purchasing.

Mortgage Insurance

Many lenders require a land survey to confirm the property is worth the loan they are giving. However, some mortgage companies will be satisfied with title insurance.

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Title insurance is granted by a title company. Title companies verify that the title to the real estate is truly the home buyer.

You should be aware that while title insurance insures your bank against deficiencies in the title, it does not ensure landowners against misrepresentation of boundaries.

Negotiations

If you do determine that there are discrepancies in the property and the way the property is marketed, then you have two options. The first option is to walk away and look for a new property.

Alternatively, you can leverage this new information in negotiations. Any undisclosed issues will depreciate the value of the property. The seller may be willing to sell for a much lower price than the initial agreement.

Cross-check Old Surveys

You may feel you do not need to conduct a survey if you have access to an older survey. While recent surveys are reliable, older surveys may no longer be relevant for several reasons.

First, the past owner may have made changes to the property since purchasing. This would mean the property lines could have changed since the survey was conducted.

Second, a new survey may pick up environmental issues that are not listed in older surveys. If the environment has changed in recent years, then this could introduce new environmental factors. Furthermore, advanced surveying technology may identify information about your property that older technology did not catch.

For these reasons, it is always wise to conduct a new property survey for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Help After Buying Property

Even if your land survey does not dissuade you from buying the property, it will be useful in the future after purchasing the home. This makes it a worthy investment no matter what you find.

First, a land survey will help you see if a neighbor builds on your property. Given a knowledge of the property line, you will be able to make this assertion before the building progresses.

Second, after purchasing the house, you may want to build more improvements on the property such as fences, sheds, or another construction project. Before doing so, you must be confident you are building on your own land. A land survey will enable you to build with confidence that you are not encroaching on a neighbor.

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Finally, hiring a land surveyor will be helpful when it is time to sell the property. Not only will the property survey inform prospective buyers about the property, but the land surveyor may also be helpful due to their understanding of local property laws. Some land surveyors will even help you go through the process of seeking approval in city or county meetings.

How to Save Costs

Yes, hiring a land surveyor costs extra money. The average cost of a land survey is $500 (this varies based on the property’s size, history, and unique features). However, there are several steps you can take to save some costs in the process.

Hire a Professional

First, it is important to hire a licensed land surveyor. You may be able to find unlicensed professionals that will offer their services at a lower cost. This is not worth the risk. If the land surveyor makes a mistake, you will not be covered. In the end, you will have to pay more money to correct their mistakes.

Ask around your community to find trusted real estate professionals. If you hear people repeating the same name, that is a good sign.

Come Prepared

There are several steps you can take to make the job easier for the property surveyor. First, provide them with a deed and a past plat of your subdivision if one is available.

Second, make sure the property lines are not obscured. Remove plants or other materials that may be in the way.

Taking these steps will make their lives easier while land surveying and reduce the amount of time they need to complete the job. Subsequently, it will reduce the cost you must pay for their services.

Conclusion

There is nothing worse than buying a new home, only to realize that the property is not what you expected. Without consulting a professional land surveyor, there is no way to confirm for sure the boundaries and characteristics of a plot of land.

Hiring a land surveyor can help to uncover problems, satisfy title insurance companies, and cross-check old surveys. Furthermore, it will continue to be helpful after the home purchase is complete.

While the process can be expensive, you can save money by hiring a professional and putting in the preparatory work to make their job as easy as possible.

Identify the key reasons that it is best practice to consult a professional land surveyor before buying a new home.

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