Do I Need a Survey when Purchasing a Home?

First-time and even repeat homebuyers do not understand why a survey is an important part of the homebuying process.

Here is the “cliff notes” version (aka Land Survey 101) which will give you some information about surveys.

What is a survey?

The dictionary definition is, ” to determine and delineate the form, extent, and position of (as a tract of land) by taking linear and angular measurements and by applying the principles of geometry and trigonometry.” (from Mirriam-Webster dictionary)

What does a survey tell you?

  • The property boundaries
  • Whether the house, driveway, decks, fences, and sheds are on the property or on your neighbor’s property
  • Whether your property has any easements such as sewer or drainage easements
  • Whether any of the property, including the house, sits in a federally designated flood plain
  • Sometimes the survey will show the setback requirements for a deck or structure from each of the property lines

What things can change on a survey?

  • Revised flood plain areas
  • New guidelines initiated by a neighborhood, city or town
  • Additions or changes to a home, deck, driveway, fence

Why do buyers get a survey when they buy a home?

  • To cover survey issues on the buyer’s title insurance
  • To verify if the neighbors have their driveway/fence on the buyer’s property or vice versa
  • To show which trees or landscaping belong to the buyer vs a neighbor

Do you need a survey if the seller already has one?

Usually the answer is yes. Sometimes the buyer feels confident there are no changes and they are willing to accept the seller’s survey. The closing attorney will usually recommend the buyer get an updated survey. On new construction the builder/seller will sometimes provide the survey since they had to do a preliminary survey prior to construction.

How much does a survey cost?

The cost of a survey depends on how much time it takes the surveyor to complete it. The size of the lot effects the cost. The cost is also determined by time to survey creeks or ponds on the property, and how much research the surveyor must put into easements, flood plain, etc..

The bottom line

The bottom line is that a homebuyer needs to understand what they are buying. That understanding includes knowing how much property they have, the boundary lines and anything that might affect the usability of their property. A survey is one part of the due diligence process for the buyer to get information about the home, townhome or piece of land they are purchasing.

Let me know if you have any further questions about surveys either below or you can send me an email to: Amy@AmyShair.com

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