Land surveys are an important but often overlooked part of real estate due diligence. Sometimes a lender will require some type of survey or certificate from a surveyor before a title company issues a lender’s title insurance policy, but that’s not the case everywhere. Often, the survey used in a new real estate transaction is an old one conveyed by the seller. Whether you're a real estate agent, investor or a savvy buyer who's been through a closing, you've probably heard this before. While this may be an acceptable standard in the real estate and title industry in certain regions, it’s not ideal for a new homeowner and could cause major problems for the buyer in the future.
Below is excerpts from an interview between Amanda Farrell with PropLogix and Akkad Bakhsh with First Choice Surveying to give more details on why a survey is so important to the investment experience.
1. What is the worst advice you’ve heard about land surveys?
That a new survey is not needed if an old survey can be provided.
2. Is there any new technology in the industry changing the way you do surveys?
GPS and drone surveying are making a huge impact on the accuracy and speed of conducting a survey.
3. What is the most important thing for home buyers to know about land surveys when looking for a home?
Always order a survey, even when the current sellers have one. A seller could say they didn’t make any changes to the property and sign a document saying that but the problem is if a neighbor makes a change to their property. For example, the neighbor may build a concrete slab that encroaches slightly onto your property and if somebody happens to fall on that concrete slab that is partially on your property, you are now liable to for any injuries to that person. In my opinion, it’s always best to get a new survey that is certified to the current buyer.
4. How many hours does it usually take to conduct a standard survey?
This is a difficult question to answer because surveys require different phases and time in between each phase to get completed. If I had to give it an hourly breakdown I would estimate 5-8 hours, spread over multiple days.
5. What was the most difficult survey you've done?
One that comes to mind recently was a commercial lot where we could not find any control points or corners. There was absolutely nothing on the property that could help us create the survey. We worked on it a for a week and had to go back to the client and tell them we couldn’t complete the survey. That was the only time that we have been unable to figure out a boundary on a property.
6. What are some common misconceptions about land surveys?
Again, that a new survey is not needed when an old one is provided.
The corners in the ground are always correct. Sometimes, those corners can be pulled up and moved. This can be corrected, but it takes additional detective work and creative problem-solving.
The fee for a survey should be the same on all properties that are the same size. The size of the property doesn't always dictate the difficulty of completing a survey. Land, especially un-development or under-development land, isn't all the same. Finding corners in a rural parcel that might be small won't be as easy as a completing a survey in a PUD (Planned Unit Development).
Still think you don't need a survey?
It's common in the real estate industry to suggest that the buyer use the old survey from the seller because a new survey may seem like an unnecessary cost, but this is a common misconception with potential for massive disappointment for the new owner. Even though a survey isn't required by every state or lender, the value of a survey is evident. Is saving a few hundred dollars on one of the biggest investments you will ever make really worth taking that kind of risk?