How Important is a Survey When Buying a Home?

When buying a single family home, you don't want any surprises. 

Many of our new home buyers have asked us if they really need to pay the extra money to get a property survey.

After all, the backyard is already fenced, isn’t that enough?
— Home buyer in Washington D.C.
suburban yard and house.jpg

 

Buying a home is the most expensive purchase most of us make in a lifetime.

And you are not just buying the house, you are buying the parcel of land that the house sits on. So the short answer to the question above is, "Yes! You should seriously consider paying for a survey when you are buying a home."

A land survey is a map showing the legal boundaries of a property. The surveyor measures the property and identifies buildings on a property.

In some cases, like when we had our property surveyed in Maryland, the surveyor drove flagged metal stakes into the ground to identify the boundaries. Sometimes surveyors put concrete markers into the ground when the house is built. We found one of these when our surveyor came out to determine the line between our neighbors' property and our property line. 

 

A house location drawing is not a boundary survey. 

A house location drawing is fairly accurate and indicates where the house sits on the property. 

It does not, show the property lines. To have a true understanding of your property size, we recommend paying for the boundary survey. Depending on the lot size and location, a boundary survey can cost between $500 to over $1000. 

  • You will save yourself a lot of trouble if you get a boundary survey. In our case, we paid for a survey and erected a privacy fence. Our neighbor, who was an original buyer from 1961 complained that we had built the fence on his land. However, he was mistaken. He had long thought our side yard was his yard. The fence set the record straight and we were glad to regain the use of our land. 

  • Keep a copy of your boundary survey. If you want to build a shed or plant trees or bushes near your property line, you may need to provide the survey to your County or other local officials. 

Your settlement attorney or title company should answer all your questions about boundary surveys. Remember, you are not just buying the house, you are buying the property. You will want to know what land is yours. Someday, if you decide to sell your house, a buyer will want answers to these questions. If there are any issues with easements or encroachments, you will have a problem. 

 

Happy House Hunting! 

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