Should I Get a Survey?

?I am come to survey the Tower this day; since Henry’s death, I fear, there is conveyance.?

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is a relatively simple one: “Should I get a survey on the property I’m buying?” My answer is almost always in the affirmative. We think it’s important to make sure that the house that you are purchasing is located within the boundaries of the lot you are getting. The fact that a house is constructed upon the property is certainly no guarantee that it sits within the lot lines.

Similarly, just because there is a fence around the yard doesn’t mean that the true boundaries follow the fence lines. Fences can be the least accurate indication of boundary lines because of homeowners’ propensity to butt their fence up to a neighbor’s existing fence to save money. If the neighbor’s fence is located several feet within the neighbor’s own lot, then the adjoining lot suddenly looks several feet larger by the abutting fence enclosing a portion of the neighbor’s yard.

A survey will also reflect whether the improvements on the property, be it a house or an office building, violate (i) the subdivision setbacks established by local government; and (ii) the setbacks in a set of recorded restrictive covenants affecting the property. For example, we have had the situation arise where a seller had added onto his house and did the work himself. The buyer obtained a survey and determined that the addition violated both the subdivision setbacks and the restrictive covenant setbacks because it was built too close to the boundary line. The survey allowed this buyer to make an informed decision about closing on this purchase.

If you are buying vacant land, a survey will allow you to verify the acreage that you think you are receiving and also delineate any potential wetlands which will cut down on the developable portion of your property.