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Surveys 101: What Homebuyers Should Know

As people try to cut costs in their home buying transitions, one of the things many buyers choose to not order is a survey for their purchase. Whether their realtor advises that they don’t need one, or they simply want to save money, this can cause issues down the road.

Why Are Surveys Beneficial?

Residential property surveys are performed to confirm land boundaries and confirm any potential restrictions that may apply to the legal description of a property. This is typically done after an offer is accepted but before closings take place.

A survey can be useful if a buyer decides to make any changes to the property, such as adding a fence. The survey will let them know exactly where that fence must stop.

How Might a Survey Cause Problems?

Survey-related issues can cause a lot of problems and aggravation, especially in an already stressful time of a home sale. 

Encroachments — such as a fence or driveway over a property line — are frequent findings in surveys. A survey might also show that you and your neighbors had the wrong assumption about your boundary lines. Or you go to install a pool and discover there are underground cables and drains that prevent your ability to do so. 

Many times, no one knows about these occurrences until a survey is performed or is resurrected.

How Are Survey Issues Resolved?

Survey roadblocks could completely stop the sale but typically will be able to proceed after some time. The solution will depend on the issue. 

For instance, if an encroachment becomes the responsibility of the seller (such as their driveway is over onto the neighbor’s property line), then an easement might be the solution, which would confirm that the neighbor allows the driveway to stay where it is. However, if the roles are reversed, the neighbor might give the seller permission (like a license) to use the driveway. This license, however, is revocable.

It is usually in the neighbor’s best interest to agree to the easement, especially if it’s been there for a long time and doesn’t affect their property. Plus, if the neighbor ever decided to sell their property, they would have something in writing that addresses the survey issue.

At Investors Title Company, our lawyers are experts at real estate transactions and can help our clients proceed in their sale or purchase with the right plan of attack. When the problem is discovered, the realtor may contact the title company for assistance. Once an arrangement has been made, the title company draws up a document that allows the buyer to have title insurance and survey coverage and resolves the issue.

Have additional questions about surveys or residential title insurance in general? Please contact one of our title specialists today. We have locations across metro St. Louis and are here to help.