Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Don't Skip the Survey

Many clients will ask their real estate agent if they need to obtain a survey in connection with their purchase of real property.  If the survey is not required by the purchaser's lender, or if the transaction is a cash deal, some realtors will tell their clients that they do not need a survey and to save the expense.  (Location surveys typically cost between $200.00 and $225.00 for a single family home on a lot less than an acre is size.)  This is a big mistake and, as a lawyer, I strongly recommend that all buyers obtain a location survey of the property they are purchasing - regardless of whether a survey is required by the lender - so that the buyer is aware of any title issues that may be disclosed by the survey.

The survey - which is essentially a map of the property and shows, among other things, where the house, buildings and fences are constructed with respect to the property line - can alert a buyer to potential problems regarding the property under contract that would not otherwise be disclosed by a title search.  For example, my office did a closing last year where the survey showed that the driveway for the property was actually constructed over the next door neighbor's land.  No easement providing the property owner with access over the neighbor's land had ever been recorded and the property being purchased was essentially landlocked.  This fact would never had been discovered had a survey not been ordered by the buyer.  Similarly, we recently conducted a closing on a property where the buyers thought they were getting a large, fenced in backyard.  The survey, however, revealed that the fenced in yard actually contained a large portion of land that belonged to the next door neighbor.  Again, this would have gone undetected if no survey had been ordered. 

Buyers who fail to purchase a survey are also not protected by title insurance which has a specific exception to coverage for issues that would have been disclosed by an accurate survey of the property.

The lesson of this blog post is simple.  When your clients are spending several hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) purchasing a house, they should not spare the nominal $200.00 expense of a survey.

If you have any questions regarding a real estate matter, feel free to call me at (301) 444-4664 or send me an e-mail at bruce@sternlegal.net

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