Home Buyer Tip: Always Get a Survey!

real estate survey markerThe number one rule of buying a home is this: Know what you’re getting. Buying real estate is one of the biggest investments most people will ever make, so don’t you want to know what you’re investing in?┬áMost people know that it’s important to have a home inspection before buying property; what they often don’t know are the actual boundaries and limitations of that property! Fortunately you can easily find out by getting a residential property survey.

What is a residential property survey?

A property survey is a sketch or map of a piece of land showing the home’s placement on the property as well as the property’s boundaries and other physical features, from roads to creeks to adjoining plots. Residential property surveys usually include the locations of houses and other structures like storage sheds, fences, driveways, guest houses, and the like. Depending on the extent of the survey, it may also include information like property easements.

When arranging for a survey, make sure you ask for the property corners to be staked. Some land surveyors include this while others charge extra, but having the stakes there to demarcate the end of your property can come in quite handy later, from having a fence installed to dealing with encroaching neighbors. It is important to note that the wooden stakes placed by the surveyor are not the property markers and could be off by a few feet. The actual property markers are rebar stakes driven into the ground, with metal or durable plastic caps on the end.

Why do you need a survey when buying a house?

Having a property survey done before buying a home is a smart choice that will give you a fuller understanding of what you’re getting into. There are many situations when a survey can come in handy, including:

  • Property disputes– If you think a neighbor is encroaching on your space, you’ll need a property survey to prove it. Having a survey will also help you avoid accidentally invading your neighbor’s property with your home improvement projects.
  • Building constraints– If you have entertained even the slightest notion of adding on to the home with a deck, porch, or addition, a survey is crucial. There may be building restrictions that are not immediately visible to you, but would be picked up by the surveyor. Even seemingly minor issues like utility easements can dictate where you can build a fence or place a shed.
  • Preventing sale issues– This is especially important with new construction homes. If a prior survey was done on the unbuilt land, it’s important to know where the home is situated on the lot. While it may seem far-fetched, it’s not unheard of for a home to accidentally be built half-on a neighboring plot! That would obviously cause some issues with the neighboring landowners!

Photo by Mike Linksvayer via Flickr (CC by 2.0)