Is a Survey Important?


A picture is worth a thousand words. 

A survey can be mildly interesting or critically important, yet mortgage companies no longer require a survey, so I always recommend my clients get one when buying a home. They literally show things that the attorney can't see on a title search. 

The biggest encroachment I saw was several years ago. I had suggested my buyers order a survey, and it showed that a large part of the next-door neighbor's beautifully landscaped and fenced yard actually belonged to the property that my clients were buying. It stretched from about six feet wide in the front to thirty feet in the back along the entire side of the lot. It was a huge chunk of their yard. Both of the homes had been purchased nearly seven years earlier, and neither property had used brokers, so neither knew to buy a survey. We had to hold the closing until the sellers could have the neighbor's fence removed from their yard. (At one point the seller went out with a sledge hammer when the neighbors left for the weekend. Luckily I was there and advised him to go through better channels. This is how feuds get started.)  Since it was nearly seven years of allowing the neighbor to use their yard (even unknowingly), they were very close to creating a legal claim to keep it. 


How annoying is it when someone lays claim to your yard?

Sometimes it's by mistake, and sometimes they are trying to claim some extra space. Someone will mow "over the line" by a little or a lot, and the owner's blood pressure will shoot up, sure that this is on purpose. Other times the neighbors will plant trees or shrubs on the neighbor's yard. Quite often just having those little orange flags put along your borders can jog the neighbors' memories that this is your lot.

Don't build a fence or add any structure to your yard until you know where the lot lines are for certain. The city of Raleigh requires a survey to be drawn and flagged if a fence is built, as do many homeowner's associations. 


Hidden easements

Your attorney will perform a title search when you purchase a home, but they often don't show an easement.  For example:

•You would want to know if you can't fence the back 30 feet of your lot due to a utility easement. 


•You might like to know if the lines that pump jet fuel from Apex to the airport lie underneath your lot- especially if you were planning to dig a pool.

Since many homeowners will end up ordering a survey at some point in the future, you might as well get one when you are purchasing the property when you might still have some leverage to get a problem resolved by the previous owner.

For more information on how to be a savvy home buyer or seller, contact Cynthia.