Land surveys are an important but often overlooked part of real estate due diligence.
Sometimes a lender will require some type of survey or certificate from a surveyor before a title company issues a lender’s title insurance policy, but that’s not the case everywhere. Often, the survey used in a new real estate transaction is an old one conveyed by the seller. Whether you're a real estate agent, title agent, investor or a savvy buyer who's been through a closing, you've probably heard this before. While this may be an acceptable standard in the real estate and title industry in certain regions, it’s not ideal for a new homeowner and could cause major problems for the buyer in the future.
One of our core services is to procure surveys for our clients, title agents who have a million pieces to coordinate for a successful closing, using a network of surveyors across the nation. I spoke to one of the surveyors in our network, Akkad Bakhsh with First Choice Surveying in Lake Monroe, Fla., to get more details on why a survey is so important to the home buying experience as well as to get some more details on what his job entails. Here’s what he had to say.
1. What is the worst advice you’ve heard about land surveys?
That a new survey is not needed if an old survey can be provided.
2. Is there any new technology in the industry changing the way you do surveys?
GPS and drone surveying are making a huge impact on the accuracy and speed of conducting a survey.
3. What is the most important thing for home buyers to know about land surveys when looking for a home?
Always order a survey, even when the current sellers have one. A seller could say they didn’t make any changes to the property and sign a document saying that but the problem is if a neighbor makes a change to their property. For example, the neighbor may build a concrete slab that encroaches slightly onto your property and if somebody happens to fall on that concrete slab that is partially on your property, you are now liable to for any injuries to that person. In my opinion, it’s always best to get a new survey that is certified to the current buyer.
4. How many hours does it usually take to conduct a standard survey?
This is a difficult question to answer because surveys require different phases and time in between each phase to get completed. If I had to give it an hourly breakdown I would estimate 5-8 hours, spread over multiple days.
5. What was the most difficult survey you've done?
It would be impossible for me to name one survey that was the most difficult. We’ve been in business for a long time and have come across many difficult surveys. One that comes to mind recently was a commercial lot in Sarasota county where we could not find any control points or corners. There was absolutely nothing on the property that could help us create the survey. We worked on it a for a week and had to go back to the client and tell them we couldn’t complete the survey. That was the only time that we have been unable to figure out a boundary on a property.
6. What are some common misconceptions about land surveys?
- Again, that a new survey is not needed when an old one is provided.
- The corners in the ground are always correct. Sometimes, those corners can be pulled up and moved. This can be corrected, but it takes additional detective work and creative problem-solving.
- The fee for a survey should be the same on all properties that are the same size. The size of the property doesn't always dictate the difficulty of completing a survey. Land, especially un-development or under-development land, isn't all the same. Finding corners in a rural parcel that might be small won't be as easy as a completing a survey in a PUD (Planned Unit Development).
7. What is the best part of your job?
Being able to help customers that are in need of a survey so they can close on their property and giving them peace of mind with their real estate transaction. But mostly, providing the best customer service experience we can.
So, if you aren't insisting your clients get a survey, why not?
Don't let your client get caught off guard in the future. It's common in the real estate industry to suggest that the buyer use the old survey from the seller because a new survey may seem like an unnecessary cost, but this is a common misconception with potential for massive disappointment for the new owner. Even though a survey isn't required by every state or lender, the value of a survey is evident. If your clients are trying to cut costs at closing, you may want to share this unfortunate story of what happened to an Ontario couple when they decided to not get a new survey. Is saving a few hundred dollars on one of the biggest investments they will ever make really worth taking that kind of risk?