Thanks to our regular contributor, Hugh Page, of FM Lending for this post!
Whether buying a home right here in the Triangle or across the country, many homebuyers do not understand why a survey can be an important part of the home buying process. Many buyers forgo a survey because it saves them some money, but it’s important to understand what a survey is and what it does for you before you make that decision to forgo it. Here is the “cliff notes” version (aka “Land Survey 101″) which will give you some information about surveys.
What is a survey?
The dictionary definition is -
”to determine and delineate the form, extent, and position of (as a tract of land) by taking linear and angular measurements and by applying the principles of geometry and trigonometry.” (from Miriam-Webster dictionary)
What does a survey tell you?
The property boundaries
- Whether the house, driveway, decks, fences, and sheds are on the property or on your neighbor’s property.
- Whether your property has any easements such as sewer or drainage easements
- Whether any of the property, including the house, sits in a federally designated flood plain
- Sometimes the survey will show the setback requirements for a deck or structure from each of the property lines. You want to make sure these are not violated.
What things can change on a survey?
- Revised flood plain areas
- New guidelines initiated by a neighborhood, city or town
- Additions or changes to a home, deck, driveway, fence
Why do buyers get a survey when they buy a home?
- To cover survey issues on the buyer’s title insurance
- To verify if the neighbors have their driveway/fence on the buyer’s property or vice versa
- To show which trees or landscaping belong to the buyer vs. a neighbor
Do you need a survey if the seller already has one?
Usually the answer is yes. Sometimes the buyer feels confident there are no changes and they are willing to accept the seller’s survey. The closing attorney will usually recommend the buyer get an updated survey. On new construction the builder/seller will sometimes provide the survey since they had to do a preliminary survey prior to construction.
How much does a survey cost?
The cost of a survey depends on how much time it takes the surveyor to complete it. The size of the lot affects the cost. The cost is also determined by time to survey creeks or ponds on the property, and how much research the surveyor must put into easements, flood plain, etc.. A typical standard and simple survey will range from $250 to $400.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that a homebuyer needs to understand what they are buying. That understanding includes knowing how much property they have, the boundary lines and anything that might affect the usability of their property. A survey is one part of the due diligence process for the buyer to get information about the home, townhome or piece of land they are purchasing.