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  • Adam Millendorf

Surveys Are Hard to Come By...But You Should Still Get One Anyway

We are currently in a perfect storm of being unable to get a survey before the closing of a real estate transaction. With the lingering effects of the pandemic, a crazier than usual market where properties are being snapped up as soon as they can be listed and closed on not too soon afterward, and a transition in the professional survey field with some older surveyors leaving the business but few new surveyors joining the practice. We have huge demand and not enough supply when it comes to surveys and that has led to longer than normal wait times. We at Master Title receive many questions from agents and attorneys regarding surveys and whether the benefit of having them really outweighs the cost and hassle in getting one in the current market. So, Master Title would like to take a second to give our thoughts on what a survey can do for you and why getting one really is the way to go. A Buyer’s Title Insurance Policy serves as the protective shield for the buyer against issues in title that might threaten their ownership or enjoyment of the property they purchase. Like any other insurance policy there are going to be exceptions in the standard policy for certain issues that a title insurer would cover in case of issues. When there is no survey available, the title policy will include a general blanket exception for any and all matters that a survey would have shown. If there is a survey provided that was produced as part of the transaction, that general exception is removed and in its place is a detailed exception taking specific exception to what is on that survey with anything not shown on the survey, if it ever became an issue, being covered. It is a small incremental change in coverage, but it is the difference between some coverage and no coverage at all. Now, while the difference between the coverage a title policy provides whether a survey is provided or not may be small, the biggest benefit of having a survey isn’t in the area of title insurance, it is in the area of being informed and knowing exactly what you are buying before you sign those papers, having peace of mind about your new property. A survey is a snapshot of the land, it is a scaled drawing of measurements and records taken and examined by a licensed professional. It can reveal access to the property, easements or rights of way, restrictions, setbacks set by the town or subdivision, and most importantly it can reveal encroachments. Say you purchase a piece of property but didn’t get a survey. After you have moved in and unpacked, you find out that your fence is in the wrong place, you have an easement going across the property you didn’t know about, there are restrictions as to what you can build because of drainage requirements, or your home itself encroaches over the property line. Once you took title to that property all of these issues became yours to deal with. However, if you had a survey done before you took title you could have been made aware of these issues, you could have known that the fence was in the wrong place, or the house is partially in your neighbor’s yard. This gives you an opportunity, you could choose to throw your hands up and say that it isn’t worth the issue, walking away from the property.

Or you could have the attorneys speak and have the sellers begin the process of taking care of some of the issues so they don’t become your problem. Chances are a neighbor who has property encroaching over their land would be more willing to work with the neighbor they have known for years as opposed to someone they just met. At the very least you can use these issues and the cost of fixing them as bargaining chips in the deal. Is it difficult to get a survey right now? Yes. Is it costly? Yes. However, beyond its effect on your title insurance policy, having a survey lets you know exactly what you are getting when you purchase the property. You have seen the outside and inside of the home, you may have even met your neighbors, but a survey shows what the eye can’t see. It shows you the things that might cause an issue for you down the line and it puts you in the driver’s seat as to what you want to do to fix them.

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