Things to Know About Property Surveys

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If you are buying a home, one of the things you will probably want to know right off the bat is what you're actually buying. Many potential home buyers want to know where the property lines start and end.

When you're buying a resale home or buying land to build a property, it's crucial to have a property survey performed to ensure that the land is accurately surveyed and meets your needs.

Property surveys play an essential role in the development and management of land. Property surveys help to determine land boundaries, identify potential property defects, and provide information about the land’s topography.

Typically, when you are getting a loan from a mortgage lender, they will require a mortgage plot plan to be completed. The requirement will hold true whether you are getting a land loan or a construction loan. The mortgage plot plan will locate the home and other structures within the four corners of the property.

The lender will hire a property surveyor to ensure there are no zoning violations, like a fence being erected on the neighbor's property creating an encroachment.

It is essential to note, however, that a mortgage plot plan is not all that detailed. In order to get an accurate picture of where you can build, a property survey is needed. Let's have a look at what to know about property surveys.

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What to Know About Property SurveysDeposit Photos

What is a Property Survey?

A property survey is a detailed investigation of a property’s boundaries, features, and potential defects. Property surveys will help determine what is yours and what isn't. Developers will use property surveys when they are building subdivisions and carving out building lots.

When a new buyer comes along, whether in a neighborhood or not, the boundary lines will become one of the most vital information points. Without having this information, you will be able to know where you can put up additions, fences, or improvements such as a swimming pool.

What Are The Different Types of Property Surveys?

There are more than a few types of property surveys. Each of the property survey types can have its own specific purpose. For example, you may have a land survey explicitly completed to outline the property boundaries.

A topographical survey is often done by a developer who would like to know the conditions and elevations of the terrain. This information helps them determine how roads and utilities will be laid out and the costs as well.

Here are a few other more defined types of property surveys:

  • A floodplain survey - helps determine if there are any designated flood planes on a property and how close they would be to potential structures built.
  • As-built survey - not only will help locate property lines but where improvements can be added, such as sidewalks, driveways, and fences.
  • A monumentation survey will be done specifically to locate where a fence can be installed.
  • Mortgage surveys - as previously mentioned, a mortgage plot plan is a rudimentary drawing on the plot of land.

Where Can You Get a Survey When Buying a Home?

You can ask the current owner if they have ever completed a survey of their home. The next best option is to head to the local city or town hall and check with either the assessor's office or the building department. Either one of these places might have a survey on file.

If you're getting a mortgage, the lender will provide you with a mortgage plot plan at the closing. You pay for this as part of your closing costs. However, it should not be relied upon for making significant improvements. Also, never rely on a real estate agent for the location of property lines. You will be relying on third-hand information that may not be accurate.

If you're planning on doing that, you will need to hire a professional land surveyor.

How Much Do Property Surveys Cost?

Several factors will determine a survey's cost, including the property's size and location. A simple mortgage plot plan when purchasing a home will only cost a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, if you are performing a more detailed property survey, you can expect the house to be a couple of thousand dollars.

If the land is more complex and the surveyor needs to spend more time, you can expect the survey costs to increase.

How Do You Find a Good Property Surveyor?

If you are unfamiliar with any area surveyors, there are a few decent ways to choose one. First, ask your family and friends if they have used anyone recently. You may be surprised how often people do work at their properties that require a survey completed.

If you strike out with friends and family, Google should be able to help. Do a search for land surveyors near me, and you should get some helpful options. Lastly, ask your real estate agent for a referral. Real Estate agents often work with land surveyors in their line of work.

Why Are Property Surveys So Essential?

When buying a home with a mortgage, a lender cannot provide title insurance without knowing if there are any zoning violations. They are also crucial to determine where projects can and cannot go. Without professional surveys being completed, homeowners would often make improvements that violate zoning laws or encroach upon their neighbors.

The bottom line is when in doubt, get a survey completed.

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Bill Gassett is an avid writer for numerous real estate topics including finance, mortgages, moving, home improvement, and general real estate. His work has been featured on numerous prestigious real estate publications.

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