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Property Survey Basics

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

When you buy a property, you need a survey. A property survey confirms a property’s boundary lines and legal description. It also helps to locate other restrictions, easements, or encroachments and setback requirements affecting the property. Technically, you can get a property survey at any time after you sign a purchase contract. However, most of the time the survey is done after the property appraisal and inspection period. During the inspection period, the buyer and seller may not agree on the repairs and the buyer may cancel the contract. Even if the inspection goes smoothly, the appraised value may not meet the contract purchase price. Generally, the lender will not make a loan above the appraised value of the property. If the seller does not agree to reduce the purchase price to meet the appraised value, the contract can be canceled too. Therefore, in most cases, the survey is done after the property inspection and appraisal and before purchasing homeowners’ insurance.

Most buyers often ask why they need a property survey, especially if the seller already has a property survey. However, the seller’s property survey is certified to the seller and not the buyer. If there is an error on the survey, the buyer has no claim against the surveyor unless the survey is recertified to the buyer. In addition, the seller’s survey, even if recertified to the buyer, will not reflect changes in the status of the property since the original survey. The seller or a neighbor may have installed a fence or swimming pool that crosses over the property boundary since the date of the old survey. A fence is easy to remove; the swimming pool is hard to remove. Sometimes, the county or city may put a new restriction or easement on the property. It may be a small problem or a big problem, but you will not know you have a problem if you don’t get an updated survey. Most mortgage companies also require a property survey to make sure the property does not have survey problems that will affect the title and value of the property that is the security for their loan.

A survey will show the physical evidence of the rights of others to use your property for access, drainage, parking, utilities, and other purposes. A survey is a way to inform if a third party has a potential claim to part of your property because their improvements, such as a garage, fence, swimming pool or etc., are built on your land. In some extreme cases, surveyors have discovered that the house is built on the wrong lot. The survey will confirm whether there are any of these types of problems with respect to the property that you are buying.

A survey maps out your property, shows the exact dimensions of the property’s boundary lines, improvements made to the property, and all access to the property. Many residential platted lots can have building restrictions, such as setbacks, which prohibit the construction of buildings and improvements too close to the boundary lines. A survey can also help make sure any future improvements are constructed within the property’s boundary lines and setbacks.

Most buyers don’t know where to get a survey. Don’t worry about it. Your real estate agent can help guide you through the process and recommend a qualified company to provide the survey.

Most first-time homebuyers do not have much experience and knowledge about how to purchase a home. Sometimes it can be stressful, and you may have many questions. This short survey article may help you understand what the property survey is and why you need a property survey.

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