Frequently Asked Questions
General Survey FAQs
My seller has a survey, so I don’t need a new one, right?
No. Surveys performed for previous owners do not protect new owners. The basics of contract laws typically exclude a third party from liability. So, the previous owner, or seller, may have recourse if he or she is the party that ordered the survey, but you, as the new owner, do not since you weren’t part of the transaction. Additionally, the statute of limitations for surveying errors is 6 years, so even the original client wouldn’t have recourse on older surveys.
I found a point in the ground with ribbon on it, that’s the corner, right?
Not necessarily. Reference points are used for line of sight measurements by surveyors and often have nothing to do with property lines. Many problems have erupted by mistaking a reference point (or “traverse point”) for property line markers. Property corner monuments should be clearly identified on both the survey and on the ground.
There is a ribbon tied in a tree, that’s my corner, isn’t it?
Not necessarily. Ribbons can be tied to trees and even wooden stakes for many reasons, such as to mark reference points, buried utilities, well and springs, proposed power lines, soil borings, clearing limits for construction, hunting spots, bee nests, and even flowers. Many driveways have been built on the assumption that the flagging or ribbon tied in a tree was the property line, only to have to move the driveway later.
If the real estate agent or seller show me the property corners, I’m covered right, can’t I always go back on them if there’s a problem?
No. Although there may be exceptions in the instances of intentional fraud, there are no laws to protect buyers of real estate from the incorrect good faith efforts of those involved with the process of buying and selling real estate. In fact, many forms and closing documents state that the buyer is accepting the property “as is” and will not hold anyone responsible for such errors. Only a registered land surveyor that is working on your behalf can be held responsible for property lines.
Well, if all else fails, that’s where title insurance will save me, right?
No again. Without a current survey done for you the buyer, there will be an exclusion in the policy such that the policy will not cover situations that would have been revealed by a current survey. So, encroachments over the property line, adverse possession by adjacent owners, errors in acreage calculations in older surveys, undocumented driveways over the property, etc. will not be covered under the title insurance policy. At best, title insurance covers the real property on the deed, not the structures on it. If part of a house is over the property line, it is not covered by title insurance!
Since the bank is loaning the money to buy the property, they will make sure that everything is in place, right?
No yet again. Until the late 1990s, all lending institutions required new or updated surveys in the buyers name, to protect all parties from the problems listed above. However, in order to be more competitive with each other by lowering closing costs, they dropped this requirement. They have special insurance that protects them in case they take the loan back and it is devalued due to a matter that a new survey would have alerted them to, but there is no protection for the property owner.
Surveys for Property Sales FAQs
Isn’t it the buyer’s responsibility to have property surveyed?
Not necessarily. Often that is the case, so that the buyer has a contractual agreement and liability chain to the surveyor, but everything in a sales contract is “negotiable”, so don’t be alarmed if you are asked to share all or part of the closing expenses.
Should I be concerned about the flood plain on my property?
Absolutely, take this very seriously. Recent changes in flood maps, as well as the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act have drastically changed the flood plain implications for property owners, particularly new ones (buyers). We recommend that you determine if structures on your property are identified as being in a high risk flood zone, even if you think they are totally outside of it. If they do show to be in a high risk zone, we recommend that you start the process to file a Letter of Map Amendment with FEMA to have it removed. This can take months, so the sooner you get started, the better your chances are of not having a deal killed by a buyer’s mandatory flood insurance.
What can a surveyor do to make my property more marketable?
There are several things that can be done. The most visible would be to have property lines and corners marked for prospective buyers to see. A new survey is also frequently listed among a property’s attributes. We can also plot your property on aerial photography, provide detailed directions, GPS coordinates, etc. Another thing that some sellers ask us to do is to find the negatives to their property, so that they can evaluate them and decide if and how to address them before a buyer gets into a contract negotiation and let it come up then.
What if the buyer has a survey done and comes up with less acreage?
If the acreage that you are relying on is based on a deed estimate or an old survey, this is not uncommon. As far as contractual matters are concerned, if the sale is a lump price, the acreage may not matter. But if the land is being sold on a per acre price, an adjustment will be necessary. If you have concerns that the buyer’s survey is inaccurate, it would be up to you to engage another surveyor to check the buyer’s survey.