What Does a Survey Show?

Posted by Lise | Filed under: Buyers, Services

Surveys of real property are certainly not new!  More than 5000 years ago, the Egyptians were surveying the fertile land along the Nile.   Surveys are mentioned in the Old Testament, such as the admonishment at Deuteronomy 19:14, “You shall not move your neighbor’s landmarks, set by previous generations, in the property …”. Small wonder that your lender will require that you have a survey of your property before you purchase.

Spend Money Wisely but Get a Survey!

While you always want to minimize the money spent in the home buying process, a wise buyer knows when spending money makes financial sense.   Your lender will require that you get a survey of the property but you need to decide between a boundary survey and a location drawing.  (Maryland law actually authorizes nine types of surveys: (1) Location Drawings, (2) Boundary Surveys, (3) Field Run Topographic Surveys, (4) Field Run Planimetric Surveys, (5) As-Constructed Surveys, (6) Right-of-Way/ Easement Surveys, (7) Condominium Plats, (8) Land Patent Surveys, and (9) Special Purpose Surveys, but the two most relevant ones for most buyers are the location drawing and the boundary survey.)

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LOCATION DRAWING AND A BOUNDARY SURVEY?
A Location Drawing in NOT a survey, it is a drawing which shows the property inspected and the physical representation of the buildings and other visible improvements. These inspections usually do not do much beyond confirm that the land exists and that there are improvements on it. The accuracy and level of detail shown on a location drawing varies greatly from as little as 1 foot to as much or greater than 10 feet. Location Drawings are an inexpensive inspection of the property designed strictly to satisfy the requirements of the mortgage lenders.  The Location Drawing will satisfy you in most instances that the house you are buying is well within the property lines and that no one else’s structures are impinging on your enjoyment of your new property.

A Boundary Survey is for the express purpose of locating or establishing property corners and property lines of a given parcel of land. This involves thorough research of both public and private records, field research, measurements and computations. Establishing boundary lines is not only a specific process, but a legal process as well. The surveyor must consider the legal implications of conflicting boundary lines, vague deed descriptions, encroachments, prescriptive easements, adverse possession and erroneous property markers.

Enlisting the services of a surveyor can help you avoid potentially expensive problems down the road. For example, surveyors routinely uncover fence encroachments from adjacent lots. If the neighbors’ fence (or, worse, part of their house!) extends on to the property you’re purchasing, it’s wise to address that issue before you purchase the home and it becomes your problem.

WHEN SHOULD I HAVE MY PROPERTY SURVEYED?
In general a  Boundary Survey should be performed before purchasing unimproved property, when dividing property and prior to the construction of any improvements, such as erecting a fence, building an addition or installing a driveway. The purchase of real estate is a big investment. Having a surveyor mark the property corners is the only way to protect your property investment. The cost of moving improvements or defending a lawsuit will out weigh the cost of a survey.

HOW MUCH SHOULD A BOUNDRY SURVEY COST?
The cost for most Boundary Surveys is based on the following variables:

• Complexity of legal records; the number of deeds that need to be researched are often complicated by vague, incomplete and contradictory wording.

• Size and Shape; an irregular shape has more corners and the larger the property the longer it takes to work around it.

IS THE PRICE ALONE SUFFICIENT?
A boundary survey is expensive, but worthwhile in the circumstances described above. You should plan on about $1500 for a suburban property.  This is not a time to cut costs if you need a boundary survey, because you will get what you pay for!



42 Responses

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