Q&A: Do I really need a land survey?

Q. What is a location survey?

A. A location survey is a sketch or drawing that shows the boundaries of a particular property. Also, the survey typically includes the dimensions of the house, patio or any additions as well as the locations of fences and any easements or rights of way. Mortgage lenders generally require a survey before lending on a purchase transaction. However, if you are paying cash and not obtaining a loan, you can choose whether or not to obtain a survey. 

Q. Why should I want to obtain a location survey?

A. A location survey defines exactly what it is that you are buying. Just because the back yard has a fence, doesn’t mean that you own everything inside the fence (or that you might not own something outside it). Over the years we have seen many buyers surprised to find out that: 

  • they did not own the driveway, 
  • their house was over the property line, 
  • the neighbor’s fence was inside their yard, 
  • their fence was outside the property lines, 
  • half of what they thought was their back yard belonged to a neighbor,  
  • and countless other complicated scenarios.

Q. Doesn’t the legal description on the deed list the property being conveyed?

A. Yes, but legal descriptions are sometimes wrong. We have seen legal descriptions that have included public alleys and incorrect property dimensions. The survey helps as a check to make sure that the correct legal description is listed. When it is incorrect, a new description is prepared, with the help of the surveyor. 

Q. When do I get to look at a survey?

A. Federal Title & Escrow Company sends out the location survey to the buyers and the buyer’s agent as soon as it becomes available. This way you will have a chance to review it and you can address any issues and/or concerns prior to settlement. The closing attorney will also review the location survey with you again at the closing. 

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