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What's the cost of skipping a land survey?


The more horror stories I hear, the more I can't believe people are okay to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a home without knowing for certain what they're actually buying when they skip a land survey. The plain truth is that buyers are okay reusing the seller's survey because the bank will allow it, title insurance will protect them and it can save them some money upfront -- so why wouldn't they go that route?

What buyers may not understand is that skipping a survey can cost them in otherways. Today, I'm the one sharing a real life lesson about getting a new survey, because it happened to me.


In 2009, I purchased an 11-year-old home in a planned community. There had been two other homeowners before me; I was the third. Like most, I opted to use the seller's survey, which was the original survey from 1998 provided by the builder. The seller signed a no-change affidavit promising that they had made no improvements or changes, so I had no doubts that the survey would be accurate.

In 2014, when I went to sell my house, I found out otherwise. A new survey showed a very surprising fact: The boundary line cut right through my pool and lanai. This meant that not only was most of my backyard considered common space, but also that I didn't own the water access, or the 80 feet of seawall, either.


To remedy the issue, the original builder, the HOA and attorneys had to get involved in a process that took three. whole. months. These are the unintended costs for buyers and real estate professionals when you don't get a new survey:

Costs for Homebuyers:

Your Time and Aggravation

If you're the seller just now finding out there are boundary issues, you're going to have to go through the ordeal of making it right in order to sell the property. In my situation, I could never have imagined it would take so long to fix the problem and how many parties would have to be involved, it would be a frustrating ordeal for anyone to endure.

Losing a buyer

Three months is a long time. One of the worst-case scenarios would be that a buyer decides it's not worth the wait, or that they can't wait. Many buyers are working on a time crunch and the likelihood that they would be able to afford to stick around for three months is slim. Finding a new buyer means more time and money from you. Furthermore, title insurance can't help you with this cost -- you're on your own.

Cost for real estate professionals:

Your reputation, potentially.

Regardless if title insurance is going to cover the problem, going through the headache of having to resolve this issue and potentially losing a buyer makes for an aggravated customer. They may feel like you let them down. It's going to leave a bad taste in their mouth and it's possible they may never use you as a resource again.

A costly title claim.

If the builder didn't have original plans available, or the HOA wasn't cooperative, I could have had to rip up and relocate the pool and lanai. Plus, because I paid for a home that had water access, I'd file a claim for that, too.

Lessons learned

Going forward, as a consumer, I would never make a real estate purchase without getting a brand new survey. After seeing the situation unfold where there were inaccuracies on an original survey, it just makes sense that you should do your own due diligence to protect yourself.

Tips on how to read a land survey


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About Author

Tim Healy
Tim Healy

Tim Healy is the President of PropLogix. He spent more than 30 years with USPS as an officer of the company and more recently was the president of Novitex Enterprise Solutions. He lives in Bradenton, FL with his lovely wife Jayne. They have two grown sons: one lives in Bradenton, the other in the Chicago area.

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