What is a Survey and Why Do I Need One?

We’ve recently updated our real estate FAQ section–be sure to visit that page for even more common questions about the real estate purchasing process. 

Question: What is a survey and why do I need one? 

Answer: A survey is a map of your property, showing precisely where your house lies within the property boundaries, as well as easements, other encumbrances, setback lines, and building lines. A survey will reveal whether the property is in violation of any county requirements or PUD restrictions and whether there are any encroachments.

Surveys are prepared by professional, licensed surveyors pursuant to industry standards; a Survey is also mostly insured for its own liability.

Purchasers sometimes mistakenly believe that since they are buying new construction there will not be any encroachment issues. Builders often unwittingly create driveway encroachments during construction that are revealed by a survey. Building setback violations are also frequently caused by builders and exposed with a survey.

Purchasers of fee simple townhouses sometimes incorrectly assume that a survey certificate is not necessary. Remember that townhouses can just as easily be built in violation of setback requirements or encroaching upon easements that is not going to be decipher without survey or survey certificate.

It is also important to know that a survey conducted for the seller at the time the seller purchased the property is not a protection for a subsequent purchaser. A purchaser must have his or her own survey conducted.

In owner’s title insurance, your policy will offer more extensive coverage if you have a survey. Generally, title insurance companies do not insure against matters that would be disclosed on an actual survey. If you purchase a survey, however, your title insurance company will usually insure that the survey is correct.

If you want a survey prepared, you should make arrangements for the survey with us so that the survey can be completed and reviewed before your closing. This allows time to address any potential problems. A few years ago, lenders usually required a survey of the property as a requirement of obtaining the loan. Today, most lenders no longer require the purchaser to get a survey. However, even if your lender does not require it, you may want to purchase a survey because of the many potential risks.

This is just a general statement, and not to be considered exclusive. For questions about this and other real estate issues, please contact us via the form in the footer of this website to set up an appointment.

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Photo by Trish Hartmann, used under Creative Commons Attribution License.

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