Do you need a survey before you buy?

Our office always recommends that a purchaser obtain either a location drawing or boundary/stake survey. We make this recommendation so that you, the buyer, can obtain more information about the property before the closing.

Many people think that the title search tells all about the land, buildings and all. That is incorrect. In most instances all that the title search tells is where the boundary lines should be located as per a recorded subdivision plat or detailed legal description with longitude and latitude. That is why the eyes on the ground (an inspection of the property by a licensed surveyor) provides valuable information to everyone.

The location drawing shows where the boundary lines should be and the approximate location of the exterior footprint of the house, walkways, patio, decks, driveway and fences. However, the surveyor does not certify the exact accuracy of the location drawing. In some cases, a purchaser may decide that the location drawing is adequate for their needs based on the particulars of that piece of property.

The boundary/stake survey has the actual corners of the property marked with a stake. The survey also shows the precise location of the exterior footprint of the house, walkways, patio, driveway, fences and any other visible improvements (sheds, exterior steps, pools, etc.). Most importantly, the survey certifies the exact location of everything. If you plan to install a new fence, relocate an existing fence or make any additions or modifications to the exterior of the house, you should definitely obtain the boundary survey.

In the above example, the buyers thought that the property line on the right side was the fence line. Turns out their assumption was incorrect. The neighbor had built their driveway right up to the fence line. Now the buyers want to move the fence to the actual line and the neighbor has made a claim to that land. This information could have been discovered before the purchase if the buyers had obtained a survey.

While the location drawing might not show a small variation between fence and property lines, it may have showed it in this case, and a boundary survey would have definitely identified the problem.

You, the buyer, have to decide whether you want to purchase the location drawing or the more expensive boundary/stake survey.