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What Is A Land Survey?

There is more than one type of land survey that you may need if you are buying or selling a property.

A residential boundary survey identifies the borderlines of the property from corner to corner.  Boundary surveys may be used in the case of property disputes or before you build on the land.

Mortgage surveys are used by lenders, title companies and other parties in a property transaction to determine if improvements to a property, such as driveways, sidewalks, garages, decks or swimming pools have crossed the recorded borderline to an adjoining property. If there are encroachment issues, this can cause a delay in closing.

Do I Need A Survey?

A boundary survey is not always required. Different states have different requirements, but, if you are the buyer, it is to your benefit to know exactly how much land you are paying for. Surveyors often find defects that could lead to renegotiating the price of the property you are buying.

A fence that divides a property from a neighbor may not be built along the boundary line of the adjoining properties. The property’s driveway may encroach on a neighbor’s land. A neighbor may have built a deck that extends over the borderline. Issues like these should be addressed before you close a transaction.

What Does A Land Surveyor Do?

Land surveyors work in the office and in the field.  In the field, they use the latest technology to stake the boundaries of a property and create a scale drawing that shows the location of a business, residence, fence lines, pipelines and any improvements that have been made to the property to be sure that they do not encroach on an adjoining property.

In the office, a surveyor uses software such as Auto-cad, to draft plans and map the measurements determined in the field.  Surveyors also use online resources to determine existing property legal descriptions, previous surveys and any additional information that will help them provide the most accurate survey possible.

A surveyor will also point out any established easements, access to any public right of way and determine if there are any building setback violations.

How Much Does A Property Survey Cost?

The price of a survey is based on the service and the size of the property. If a title company sends its own surveyor to define the boundaries of the property, there will likely be a separate charge for that service.

Who Pays For A Survey When Buying A Home Or Land?

Generally the buyer pays for the survey as part of the closing costs, unless a different arrangement has been made with the seller prior to signing the purchase agreement.

Smart Land Survey Tips

  • It’s always a good idea to request a survey if you are buying property in a remote or rural area or if you’re buying an irregular lot, so that you’ll know the exact boundaries.
  • If you are buying a property, it’s advisable to include a survey contingency in a purchase agreement for a couple of reasons.  First, to protect yourself if the survey comes back vastly different than anticipated. And secondly, to allow room for renegotiating the price of the property if a problem is discovered.
  • If you are buying a vacant lot with intentions of building, a survey showing setback and boundary lines will determine the size of a structure you’ll be allowed to build, before you invest in architectural plans.
  • A certified building inspector can advise whether you should order a survey. If a structure has been built close to a lot line, a survey is recommended so that there won’t be any problems with title clearance.
  • If your bank or mortgage company will accept a survey that has been done within the past few years, you might be able to use an previous survey provided by the seller to save on your closing costs.
  • Understand as much as you can about the property you are buying, especially if you’re aware of or suspect incidents of ground instability, flooding or seismic shifts in the area.

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