Surveys say a lot about real estate

In all of our lifetimes, it has been rather common to see survey crews along the roads or at large construction sites.

Having surveys conducted to sell a home is even more common. So let’s look at a survey and surveyor, and what they do.

Surveying, or using precise descriptions of bodies of land, have been around for thousands of years. The precise measurements and orientation of the Egyptian pyramids prove that even in ancient times, men (back then) cared about keeping accurate dimensions and descriptions of parcels of land.

Seems fairly simple — somebody puts four stakes at the corners of your lot and it is done. That shows what property is there, but what happens when property moves, as in an earthquake or landslide? These things are just part of what make surveying a difficult and valuable process. What happens when the survey was last done 100 years ago, when the boundary was a river, or the corner of the property was a tree or large rock?

Many times when a Realtor lists a property, the title company will look at the deed and say: “This property must be surveyed before it can be transferred.” Why? Surveys can cost a seller $400 to thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of acreage. The county sometimes requires a survey when a large tract (say 100 acres) had smaller parcels sold off over the last 30 years. The main deed will say “100 acres less exceptions.” Those exceptions are all the sold-off parcels. The deed no longer describes what is being sold and so the county requires the survey to be updated and correct. Sometimes the survey is so old that the historic monuments (rock, tree, river) are not exact and accurate enough.

In most bank-financed sales, even “city” lots still need a “site survey” to make sure that any driveways, fences, garages or even houses were built in the exact correct location, and not accidentally on the neighboring property. These are the most common problems that surveyors find when homes are sold in urban and suburban neighborhoods.

Although it seems like “overkill,” if you are doing anything around your home like installing a fence, swimming pool or widening a driveway, a survey is a very smart investment.

It will pay off in a very big way down the road when you go to sell your home. Another good suggestion is to make a copy of that survey and mark on it any underground wires, gas or water lines, even downspout drains or septic tank and leach fields. Keeping a copy of those underground assets will help you in the future if you need to dig. This can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars by preventing you or your contractors from accidentally digging up those underground lines, and it is very comforting to buyers to have a record of where they are, long after you sell.

Truth is, surveys say a lot. Keeping a copy of your property’s survey is a very smart investment.

Mink-Crouse is the 2018 president of the Warren Area Board of Realtors.