The Land Surveyor and the Real Estate Transaction
Whether buying or selling real estate, the professional services of the land surveyor are an intricate part of any land transaction. As consumers or investors, nearly every item, product, or good we purchase must be clearly labeled, listed, measured, and weighed. As a general rule we expect to be able to clearly define exactly what we are buying, what the contents contain, and what risks may be involved when purchasing goods. From bottled water and gasoline to soft drinks and vehicles there is a legal system of weights and measurements which provides us with a way of knowing exactly what we are buying or investing in.
What about real estate? Can one hold land in his hands and tell how much is there? Can one see the history behind this investment? Can one see potential legal problems that may have existed long before she has considered making that investment? Every parcel or tract of land sold within our State does have the benefit of a deed description, most transactions take place with a certified title report, the former owner may be able to point out where he or she THINKS their bounds lie. But what if?
What if the deed description contains errors?
What if the outbuildings encroach upon the neighbor’s land?
What if the fences are not the property lines?
What if the driveway is not completely on this parcel?
What if the HOUSE is not completely on this parcel?
What if the adjoins’ deed descriptions do not match that of this parcel?
What if the hedges are not the property lines?
What if there is evidence of unrecorded/unwritten easements affecting this parcel?
Above are just a few “What Ifs” that land surveyors deal with and give opinions and answers to on a daily basis for their clients. The sad part of this story is that quite often the client does not receive these answers nor even ask these questions until long after purchasing their real estate. At this point and time the problem is purchased and quite often the new home owner/investor is left with problems that may have existed for years and there is often no recourse due to title policy exemptions or the use of survey affidavits.
Investing in real estate is quite often the largest investment one will make in a lifetime. The average homebuyer may invest tens of thousands or often hundreds of thousands of dollars in a real estate investment, and quite often these investments are made on pure assumptions. Without having the services of a land surveyor PRIOR to purchasing real estate one is in fact making assumptions with regards to their most important and largest investments, and assumptions can lead to very complex legal problems.
How can one avoid making assumptions when purchasing real estate? Simply retain the services of a land surveyor well before closing to take the guesswork out of your real estate transaction.
It is a fact that lenders, realtors, and attorneys provide much needed advice to homebuyers and investors during the course of a real estate transaction. Unfortunately, many homebuyers and investors are advised that they are not in need of a survey prior to closing. This advice is confusing and not well thought out. Often, what the agent is referring to is that there is no REQUIREMENT for a survey prior to closing. A requirement of a survey prior to closing usually hinges on the wants of the lender or title insurer. If the lender or title insurer requires a survey, this service will be ordered to benefit their needs and their policies. There is a distinct difference between the REQUIREMENTS of lenders and title companies and the NEEDS of the individual homebuyer or investor.
If you are advised that you do not need a survey conducted prior to closing you should be armed with the correct questions before accepting this advice.
1. Where are the legal boundaries of this property?
2. Are visible survey monuments marking the boundaries of this property?
3. Are the fences I see the legal boundaries of this property?
4. What is the true acreage of this property?
5. Are the outbuildings completely within the bounds of this property?
6. Is the house even on the property as described in the deed?
7. Do the neighbors’ outbuildings encroach into this property?
8. Is there evidence of unwritten easements or possession affecting the title of this property?
9. Are the driveways completely within the bounds of this property?
10. What do the adjoins’ deeds call for and do they overlap into the bounds of this property?
These are but a few of the questions, which the land surveyor may answer for his or her client. One will quickly find that without the benefit of a recent survey that the above questions and many more cannot be answered. The attorney, the realtor, nor the lender can in professional capacity answer these and many more very important questions. They have neither the education nor expertise in these matters. More importantly they do not have licensure to do so, and if a professional agent other than the land surveyor is providing opinions in professional capacity regarding questions as above they themselves may very well be breaking State laws regarding unlicensed practice of land surveying.
Before investing in real estate educate yourself, do not be afraid to ask questions, do not be pressured into purchasing a problem, and most importantly seek the services of the one professional who can provide a detailed examination of the boundaries and matters which may affect those boundaries. Call your local land surveyor today.