Property Surveys in Residential Real Estate Transactions

A property survey is typically obtained by a prospective purchaser of real property, either with or without a home currently constructed on it, during the due diligence period.  The surveyor will provide a sketch of the land that includes its legal boundaries, any discrepancies identified that may be present in public record documents and one or more of a number of items of note that could be present in connection with any specific piece of real estate (location of building(s), right(s) of way, easement(s), encroachment(s), monument(s), setback lines, any possible violation of applicable covenants, and many others).  There is typically a written report that is provided along with the property sketch that identifies any possible issues as well.

Cost for obtaining a property survey does vary according to how complicated the survey is but, for the most part, is usually between $400-$600 for most residential properties on average size lots.  It is because of this cost that many prospective buyers choose to not obtain surveys and why there is now a standard survey exception on new owner’s title policies for those who do not get one.  That is to say, if you buy a piece of property and do not obtain a survey for review by attorney and/or title insurance underwriter, you are not covered for any problematic matters that might have been disclosed thereon. 

As you can imagine, there are some nightmare scenarios that can arise for a property owner that show up after closing where they have not obtained a survey for review before closing.  Examples of this would be parts of already built houses violating established setback restrictions, detached garages that are located in utility easements and many others.  As a general practice, our firm does recommend that new buyers obtain surveys before closing or obtain a recent one from seller for review. The Importance of running down all of your due diligence items when purchasing real property, including survey review, cannot be understated in order to get fully comfortable and covered in your purchase.

If you have any questions or concerns about whether or not you should obtain a property survey in regard to your upcoming transaction, contact an attorney at Black, Slaughter & Black, P.A. in one of our Greensboro, Charlotte, Triangle or Coastal offices to assist you.