As a home buyer, you have the right to have a home inspection and land survey completed prior to the home being closed on. This helps you to know exactly what you’re investing in and could potentially save you thousands of dollars. Most buyers want a home inspection, because it will tell them if there’s anything majorly wrong with the home that may hurt their ability to live in the home. However, unless they plan on making improvements to the property, like a detached building or fence, buyers will opt-out of a survey. We understand buyers want to save money, but we encourage everyone to get a survey.
One common question we get is, “Why do I need a survey? The home already has a fence.” This question is based on the assumption that previous owners did their duty and had a survey of their own completed prior to building the fence. However, unless the sellers produced a survey during the contract period, no one can guarantee that it was done.
There have been instances where property owners have learned that their fences encroached on their neighbor’s property after the sale has already sale occurred. This was discovered after they or their neighbor had a survey completed. The property owners then had to pay to have the fences moved. In one particular case reported on Realtor.com, a buyer discovered that three neighbors had built their fences over the back of the contracted property by over 10 feet. The buyer refused to close until the fences were moved and the neighbors sued saying they had a right to the property. The seller was not protected because he didn’t order a survey, so he had to pay court costs to resolve the matter, a price much higher than the cost of a survey.
A land survey can also tell you if a property has an easement, which is a non-owner right to the property. Easements may be a municipal’s right to run water pipes under your property or the electrical company’s right to run lines across it. Utility easements are pretty common and the companies rarely do not record them properly; however, an easement can also be a private agreement between neighbors to allow a driveway or some other access. Private agreements aren’t always formally registered and you may find that your neighbor’s driveway is on your property without any written agreement. That’s one legal issue you’ll want to tie up prior to closing.
It can also be in your best interests to know exactly where your lot lines are if the property borders public property or the community has a homeowners association. HOAs, counties, and cities have all been known to make improvements that occasionally encroach on private property. While it’s usually to improve the infrastructure and repair drainage issues, if a secondary issue arises, a survey can back up your argument for aid.
So, next time your Realtor asks if you want a survey completed, make sure you say, “Yes!” For more information about surveys, including the cost and services included with the survey, contact your Realtor. If you’re thinking of buying in the Wilmington area and do not have a Realtor, give us a call or send us a message through our Contact page.