What is a property survey?

Many people don’t know where their property begins and ends. A property survey confirms the boundaries of a given property according to records and legal descriptions. It can be potentially significant to know where your property line is for legal purposes and if you’re adding structures to your property.

3 min to read

Why is a property survey important?

If you know where your property line is when you add a new structure, your neighbors won't be able to argue you're encroaching on their property. Your property limit may also be relevant regarding accidents. For example, if a tree falls on your property, your neighbors might argue that the tree belongs to you. Therefore, you’re responsible for cleaning it up. There's less confusion about who's responsible if you know where the boundary line exists between the two properties.

Property limits also help determine your property value. Some buyers may bypass a property that doesn't have clearly defined boundary lines due to the headache it can cause.

Is a survey necessary when buying a home?

Not necessarily, but performing a property survey before buying a home ensures you pay for the advertised property. Property surveys are rarely required when buying a home but are often a good idea to ensure you're paying for what you think you're paying for. The last thing you want is to close the deal on a home, only to discover that what you purchased is not what the seller promised. If a survey is required during the closing process, you can often negotiate these costs with the sellers.

A survey can help you to understand what kind of infrastructure lies beneath your home. Some examples might include: underground power lines, sewage and water pipes, and telephone lines. If you don't know where these utilities are, you risk damaging them during the construction process. Learn more about the difference between buying vs. building a home.

How do I get a property survey?

If you’ve purchased a home or want to perform a property survey on your existing property, your first step should be to check the property deed. While the deed contains pertinent information like the owner's name, address, property tax number, and more, deeds also have a land surveyor's measurements and home surveys.

If your deed does not list the dimensions of a land survey, check with your local courthouse or tax office. Many states require that you file any property surveys with the county. Your tax office may have records of property surveys the deed does not.

If no one conducted a home survey previously, you can hire a land surveyor to define the legal limits of your property. If there is a legal question regarding the extent of your property, the surveyor can be a witness to testify to your property limits.

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