A survey is not always required to close on a property but is useful for showing some important information, such as the exact location of the property, where it begins and ends and how it relates to properties around it. It will also disclose zoning, setbacks, distances, north orientation, easements, boundaries, possible encroachments and environmental issues. Additionally, the survey will show any improvements that have been made to the property, such as a fence or a shed.
TYPES OF SURVEYS
When you need a survey on a property done, there are a few options to choose from:
- House location drawing – This type of survey is cheaper and faster than a boundary survey. For a house location drawing, a field crew will come out and determine what improvements have been made and where the property lines are. Then a drawing will be created to show a birds-eye view of the property, including boundaries, improvements, easements, right-of-way on the property, and building restriction lines. If you need a permit for some work you are planning on doing, this type of survey is not valid. You need a boundary survey.
- Boundary survey – A boundary survey takes longer than a house location drawing and is more expensive. The process is similar to the house location drawing, but the field crew will locate the corners of the property and mark them with iron rebar and possibly stakes or flags. The surveyor may also mark other points along the property for an added cost. As mentioned before, this is the type of survey you need if you require a permit.
HOW TO DETERMINE IF YOU NEED A SURVEY
When trying to decide if you need a survey or not, consider the work you are planning on doing and research whether it requires a permit or not.
You may also want to do a survey to head off any conflicts with your neighbors. For example, if you are planning on putting up a fence or a shed, it will be helpful to know precisely where your property lines are and your rights to build on your property.
A property survey can be completed at any time, not just during settlement, so if you are just curious about your property lines, you might want to consider a house location drawing.
If you are buying property, it’s advisable to have a current (within the last two years) survey on file with the Register of Deeds. You cannot rely on fences or tree lines to determine where the property begins and ends.
REASONS TO HAVE A SURVEY DONE
- Title insurance requires a survey – Without a survey, your title insurance will not cover any legal disputes that you may have with your neighbor over a boundary, a fence, landscaping, a waterline, etc.
- Surveys can prevent costly boundary disputes – If you have title insurance and a boundary dispute arises, the insurance will cover the legal fees. If you have a survey done, you can avoid this situation altogether. It’s not uncommon for neighbors to dispute things like the location of a fence, a tree or a driveway.
- Surveys show eminent domain takings – A survey can show what portion of your land has been taken through eminent domain (the right of government to expropriate private property for public use, with compensation). If you are buying a property where this is the case, you must get a new survey as the Department of Transportation is not required to file a new survey with the Register of Deeds.
- Surveys become outdated – Since mapping technology for surveys is updated regularly, older surveys are not considered valid. The original surveyor will not validate the work they did due to the constantly changing technology.
- You need a survey for the legal description of the property – If you are buying a property, in order to close, you need an accurate legal description of the property. A recorded survey will strengthen the legal description of the property and ensure that the description is in line with the drawing on file in the tax office. If the most recent property survey is outdated, you will have to get a new survey to get an accurate legal description to close.