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Educating Buyers on Why They Should INSIST on a New Property Survey
Homebuying & Selling Tips Land Surveys

Educating Buyers on Why They Should INSIST on a New Property Survey

Lindsey Gordon

“They’re so expensive!” “We’re already spending so much.” “Can’t we just use the one the seller has?” If you’re used to working with homebuyers, you may be familiar with getting pushback when you recommend a land survey.

Since purchasing a home is already an expensive and stressful venture for a buyer, there’s a special talent needed to help guide a homebuyer in the right direction while making them feel confident about their purchase. But how do you help a buyer understand why the extra cost of a land survey is so necessary?

The purpose of the blog is to alleviate some of the confusion and, dare I say, misinformation on the importance of a survey. What’s most important to us, as a due diligence company, is that every buyer is armed with an absolute and complete picture of what they’re walking into with a newly acquired property, with no hidden surprises. Below are some things a buyer should be aware of when making the decision to get a brand new survey done of the property in question.

 

1. A land survey is arguably one of the most important parts of pre-closing due diligence.

This is because issues discovered by a property survey are sometimes one of the most costly. Especially if a property line runs right through your house (which is an honest-to-god thing that has been discovered by a survey.) Whether it be a costly relocation of a shed, fence, landscaping — OR a nasty dispute with your neighbor waiting to happen, knowing exactly what is yours, what isn’t yours and what is shared , is so important. The only way you can have 100% peace of mind on that is to get an updated survey.

 

2. No hidden surprises.

It’s common practice in some places to re-use an old land survey, if the underwriter allows it, but that survey is going to be outdated. Even if the owner before you only had the property for one year, you don’t know what improvements they may have made. Did that owner add a fence? Driveway? Landscaping? Any of those things could be encroaching on the neighbor’s property if that previous owner paid no mind to boundary lines and it will become the new owner’s responsibility to correct.

Buyers should have the most accurate, up-to-date information regarding the definition of exactly the property that they will soon own. Who’s to say that the previous survey has all of the correct information?

 

3. It’s a relatively small investment, worth far more than the cost.

The closing costs are going to feel like they’re piling up higher and higher. But an additional $300 – $700 to be certain what you’re walking into — is that too expensive to know what you own? When you could run into issues that could cost you thousands, it’s better to know upfront to protect your investment.

 

“What I typically tell them is that this is the largest investment that many people make in their lives. Wouldn’t you like to have the best of everything as far as the definition of the property you’re acquiring?” - Cor Donovan, Realtor

 

📺 Click here to watch Realtor, Cor Donovan, explain how he educates buyers on how important it is to protect their full bundle of property rights.

 

4. You live in an HOA.

The typical reaction–especially when buying in an existing planned unit subdivision is ‘well how much could have changed?

If a buyer plans on making any improvements, they’re going to want to know what’s theirs and what’s common property. We’ve heard about people buying a house and then later finding out they have a fence that encroaches several feet into the HOA’s common space. Plus, some HOAs will require that you get an updated survey to make any improvements so that you can prove they’re within the bounds of your property.

 

5. Happiness for years to come.

Maybe your buyer is moving into a home with the intention of building an addition, setting up that white picket fence, or putting in a nice big pool. If they don’t know what they own, how can they be sure their plans fit into that? Also, easements and encroachments can be huge neighborly disputes. It’s better to just know so that they can start off on the right foot.

How to Answer Common Questions

 We sat down with Florida-based Realtor, Corbett Donovan, to talk about how he educates buyers on how important it is to protect their full bundle of property rights. Catch the full interview.

Why don’t more buyers know the value of a land survey?

A survey is something that almost comes across as a second thought. They’re so focused on the contract, the financing, the title insurance, the home inspection, and one of the parts of due diligence is to actually obtain an accurate survey. Since it seems like such a small matter, it’s often not brought up until much later in the transaction.

 

What are some examples of issues that can be uncovered in a land survey?

One particular instance that Cor Donovan has experienced was with a survey in a newer planned subdivision–where you wouldn’t think you would run into this issue–the seller-provided his team with the original survey from the builder. It included a pool and the lanai and all of the building structures that we assumed were built as new. In this one particular instance, there were some additional paved areas including a shed that was built within a setback that was later discovered by the new survey to be an encroachment within the setbacks required by the homeowner’s association, which were more strict than the county regulations at that time.

This protected the buyer in that the attorney was able to secure a variance to permit the additional structures that were built so that the buyer would not run into this problem whenever they go to resell the property or face potential homeowner’s association violation fees.

 

How can title agents and agent attorneys help to educate buyers about the need for a new survey?

According to Cor Donovan, the best way that title companies and attorneys can advise their clients with respect to obtaining a new survey as opposed to using an existing survey, or by-passing it all together should they be paying cash in a transaction, is to really discuss the importance of what the survey is.

Educating them that a survey attached to a title insurance policy will protect their full bundle of rights as defined in the survey and that’s something that can be looked over by several real estate professionals within a given transaction. But ultimately it’s going to come down to the title agent or attorney that’s providing that service to protect, once again, that bundle of rights for the purchaser.

In a world where homebuyers are overwhelmed by all the various aspects of the buying process, a survey might be overlooked as a minor detail. However, by effectively educating homebuyers about the significance of obtaining an accurate survey, we can shift the perception and highlight its essential role in due diligence.

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Lindsey Gordon Director of Communications

Lindsey Gordon is the Director of Communications and video producer at PropLogix. She loves using video and digital media to help educate the title industry and help clients and give the world a glimpse of what it’s like to work at PropLogix.