Among the numerous documents that certify real estate ownership, the survey holds a place of particular importance. Its purpose is straightforward — to verify the location and the legal description of a tract of real estate as recited in the owner’s deed.
If funds are being borrowed to conclude the purchase, then it’s likely the lending institution will require a loan survey for that purpose, as well as to document the location of the land that the title policy insures. If no survey is obtained in a real estate transaction, a title policy is likely to exclude any claims that may arise in the future based on a subsequent survey or boundary discrepancy.
A loan survey typically describes the tract of land and then supplies a drawing that supports the findings of a licensed surveyor who has done due diligence, meaning researching the history of the property, visiting the location and performing basic field work by measuring and identifying particular landmarks or, possibly, metal pins located in the ground during an earlier survey. It may include such unfamiliar phrases as, “From a pin located at X … to a point Y … and thence to a fence line.” The drawing also will include the property lines and any rights of way that cross the property in question. These rights of way are generally referred to as “easements” and most commonly record a utility company’s legal privilege to access the property to perform maintenance, repair or installation of water or power lines or other necessary infrastructure.
Different types of surveys are available depending on the reason for engaging the surveyor in the first place. For instance, real estate developers may need a survey to determine lot lines for a residential community. Utility companies may need surveys to ascertain routes of access to power, water or gas lines. Construction projects require surveys at various stages to verify that the footprint of a structure is appropriately located and the foundation is built in the proper place. Depending on the situation at hand, types of surveys include boundary surveys, ALTA surveys, location surveys, topographic surveys, site-planning surveys and construction surveys. The more complex the transaction, the more detailed the survey and the more cost involved – and to complicate matters just a bit, these may be known by other names depending on conventional dialogue in certain areas of the United States.
Property owners may need a survey to settle a boundary dispute with a neighbor or to verify that any improvements, such as fences, outbuildings or even the foundation of a home, are within the perimeter of the owner’s property. Fences, driveways, mailboxes, landscaping and other improvements may encroach on adjoining property, and the final arbiter in such boundary disputes is, in fact, the survey. Therefore, obtaining a survey at the time or purchase or to remove any doubt regarding property lines may well prevent a challenge when further improvements are made and avoid the potential costlier removal and/or relocation of those improvements to where they belong.