12 Real-Life Examples to Prove the Necessity of a Property Survey

property survey

So you’ve made the decision to buy a home, and the topic of purchasing a property survey arises. Amongst so many other costs, you wonder, is a property survey is worth the investment?

The answer is a resounding YES. Having a potential property surveyed before purchasing a home is a crucial step in the home-buying process. This blog explains what a property survey is and why it’s important. In addition, we provide examples we see all too often from homeowners who didn’t have their property surveyed prior to purchasing their home. 

What is a Property Survey?

A property survey shows the exact location of any buildings, improvements, roads, driveways, and/or encroachments on the property, as well as the specific location of the property’s boundaries. As a buyer, this works in your favor. Any potential problems found during the property survey are discovered prior to closing, meaning the seller is responsible. 

This is important for the buyer because it allows them to learn the ins and outs of the property prior to signing the dotted line. This gives the buyer the option to look for other options, or accept the property as it is and move forward with closing. Otherwise, the buyer would be responsible for any existing issues, costing them more in the long run. 

It’s also important to note that an old survey from a prior owner is not really an adequate substitute for a new survey obtained specifically for the new buyer. 

To demonstrate how important a property survey really is, here are 12 potential outcomes of not purchasing a property survey that buyers should be aware of. 

12 Potential Outcomes of Not Purchasing a Property Survey

1. Access

A property survey will reveal the various points of legal access to the property. For example, the home’s driveway may cross over the property line into a neighboring property, which could cause issues with unfriendly neighbors. 

Additionally, while the property may be accessible via a private road, that doesn’t mean that the homeowner can legally access property via the private road. Instances such as these could lead to claims of trespassing and cause serious complications for the homeowner. 

On the flipside, a neighbor’s access point may cross over the property line, resulting in potential liabilities for the homeowner. This is something you probably aren’t likely to think about without a property survey!

2. Acreage

Acreage is important for two reasons: to determine the actual size of the property, and if the property can be broken into subdivisions. 

Surprisingly enough, buyers may purchase a home thinking it’s three acres when in actuality it’s two. Unknowingly, the buyer may begin to build outside of the two acres, thinking the land is theirs to use. As a result, the property owner may decide to take legal action in regards to the construction, putting the homeowner in a very difficult situation.

In another example, a buyer may purchase three acres of land with plans to divide the property into three separate subdivisions for sale. If there are subdivision ordinances in place, this will be impossible for the owner to complete. Ultimately, a property cannot be broken up and sold in pieces if there is a law that says property must maintain a certain size. 

3. Waterfront

Waterfront property can be tricky. As waterfronts erode, it could become part of your property and therefore your responsibility. Plus, homeowners don’t own the actual water, they own the land up to the high water mark. This is important to know if the buyer intends to add a dock. A property survey will tell you if the home has a dock permit, or if this would be an additional expense. 

If the property is below sea level, it may run the risk of flooding which influences if the house can be insured, or what the insurance rates on the home would be. Not all insurers would be willing to insure a home that is knowingly below sea level. If they do, the insurance rates for the home would likely be high, resulting in more costs to the homeowner. 

A brief example

Let’s say that the home backs up onto a greenway and a creek. During a rainstorm, the creek floods, damaging the greenway. Without a property survey, the homeowner would assume that the city is responsible for the repairs to the greenway. After all, the city owns the greenway, right?

However, a property survey would reveal that the flooded part of the greenway is actually a part of the homeowner’s property, meaning it is their responsibility to repair the greenway. These unexpected maintenance and fees are not what the homeowner expected, but these costs fall to them regardless. 

Situations like this occur more often than you may think, especially when it comes to waterfront properties. This is why it’s always a good idea to invest in a property survey. 

4. Utilities

Electrical, sewer, or other right-of-ways, either underground or currently underutilized — whose location or size would be clearly apparent on a property survey — may inhibit or prevent construction plans or replacement of improvements on the property. 

In addition, wells or septic fields may be located on other nearby properties, which may require appurtenance conveyances, easements and maintenance agreements to protect the buyer.

5. Road Right-of-Ways

If you’re planning to make improvements, you will need to take into consideration state- or city-claimed right-of-ways such as fire hydrants, stop signs, parking areas and more. A property survey will reveal these areas to make sure improvements are possible. 

6. Setbacks and Buffers

Piggybacking off of our above point, you will need to make sure you have the space to make improvements without any violations. For example, if there is a stop sign located in the front yard, your planned fence may need to be 10 feet away rather than nine. 

A property survey will help protect buyers against potential coding violations and confirm that they have the space to make the improvements or repairs they want to do. 

7. Governmental Exclusions

Illegal subdivisions, revised flood zones, street widening, or other governmental matters not covered by a title insurance policy may be shown on a property survey. New sidewalks or sewer lines that haven’t been billed yet may also be indicated on a survey. This way, the buyer knows what to expect with the property. 

Expert tip: Buyers who invest in a property survey will know the exact dimensions of their property, which could come in handy for governmental projects. Road widening, for example, could invade your property. Without a previous property survey, you would have no way of proving that the new roads encroaches onto your property. With this evidence, you could receive payment from the government for that piece of your property. Just some food for thought!

8. Boundary Lines

While knowing the boundary lines of your potential property is valuable for many reasons, it becomes especially important if you plan to make improvements, such as building a fence.

If your fence goes into your neighbor’s property, they may force you to move or take the fence down. Meaning even more costs for you that could have been easily avoided with a property survey!  

9. Wrong Property Altogether

Yes, you read that right! Sometimes the property purchased isn’t the correct property. For instance, a home buyer might think their purchasing Lot A of Happy Homes Subdivision, when in reality they’re purchasing Lot B. A property survey completed beforehand would prevent this problem, and clear up any uncertainties surrounding the property in question. 

10. Improvements

It’s possible that the current owner made improvements to the home that aren’t supported by the land. Without a survey, these issues would then be the responsibility of the buyer, and could lead to serious implications and expenses down the road. A property survey will indicate these areas to help the potential buyer make an educated decision before moving forward. 

11. Marketability and Re-Sale

While issues indicated by a property survey may not matter to you, they may matter to the person who buys the home next. If you make the decision to sell the home in the future, issues indicated on a survey, such as encroachment, may deter potential buyers until the problem is solved — at your expense. 

12. Liability

Most importantly, without a property survey, there is no proof to combat claims about the property now or in the future. Disagreements about the property may arise between the buyer and the homeowner, which a professional property survey will be able to squash. This helps to protect the buyer as well as the homeowner. 

At Spencer Properties, we recommend that all of our home buyers invest in a property survey. It truly is the best way to discover what your new potential property really is, as well as issues or costs that may occur in the future. 

If you have questions about property surveys, or about the home buying process in general, give us a call. Our team is happy to help in any way we can!