When Buying a Home, Is a Survey Required?

Posted on: June 30th, 2017 by


When Buying a Home Attorneys Law


Some banks no longer require a survey of residential property being funded, making the need for a survey a decision for the homebuyer. Unless there is an existing survey provided by the seller that can be appropriately updated, the buyer’s attorney will recommend that a licensed surveyor be engaged prior to closing to survey the property, place markers to identify the boundaries, and satisfy other due-diligence inquiries that go along with a purchase.

The surveyor will certify his map to the lender, the buyer, and the seller, as well as to the title company insuring title to the property. Along with the survey map, he or she will provide a metes and bounds description that matches the map and will be used in the deed. That description can be compared to the municipal tax map.

A survey map will show existing structures on the property, such as garages, sheds, pools, and fences, which may have required building permits to be followed by certificates of compliance from the municipal building inspector. Identification of side yard, front yard, and back yard distances to those structures will also be shown, and will verify compliance (or not) with the zoning laws and the possibility of future additions to the home or an existing structure. Typically, there will be utility easements shown. Perhaps other easements, a common driveway, or a right of way requiring further attention will also be shown on the map.

Identification of encroachments on the property being purchased, or in reverse, on adjacent property, is an important part of the survey map. The seller may not have paid any attention to, say, a neighbor’s shed placed on the seller’s property, completely on the property or merely over the line. This could be a problem with respect to the buyer’s title insurance, and a further problem for the buyer when the property is sold. The main question will be how long the encroachment has existed, because after a certain period of time, title to the encroached portion of the property is lost to the encroacher by adverse possession. Hedges and fences may also create encroachments. Boundary line disputes lead to lawsuits. A survey gives the buyer an opportunity to have the seller resolve such issues prior to closing.

With so many other expenses attributed to purchasing a home, it may be tempting to pass on a survey. The cost depends on the size of the property, the topography, and the going rate in the area. It is always wise for a buyer to shop around. The buyer’s attorney may provide a list of local surveyors, and of course, the internet can also be a source. Sometimes there’s a bargain in hiring a surveyor who has worked on nearby properties or the subdivision in which the property is located. Consideration should be given to asking for a firm timeframe for the survey, the number of copies that will be provided, and perhaps a sample of the surveyor’s work.

As soon as the seller and buyer are in contract and the funding source or sources are in place, it is time to engage the surveyor. Completion of the survey in a timely manner prior to closing will be important, because mortgage commitments expire, and often require an additional fee to extend. The survey needs to be inspected by the buyer’s attorney and forwarded to the title company for its review. There may be issues for the seller to address. Although a lender may not require a survey, the purchase of a home is an important investment, and whether or not any problems or concerns arise out of the survey, the cost of a survey is money well spent.

©2018 Blustein, Shapiro, Rich & Barone, LLP. All Rights Reserved.