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Survey Basics: A Guide for Agents and Their Clients
By Barbara Pronin
As a real estate professional, you keep your buyers’ best interests in mind, spending many hours and a lot of energy helping them find the best home, in the best neighborhood, at the best possible price.
 
You handle the paperwork, hold their hands to help them through the stress, and answer a myriad of questions. One of those questions is likely to be, “Do we need to get a land survey?”
 
It’s a tricky question to answer.
 
Some lenders require a land survey, which makes it a non-issue.
 
If your buyers are planning to build on or renovate the property - even to put in a pool or a fence - the answer is a resounding, yes, because it’s crucial to know the boundaries of the property in order to avoid any disputes.
 
And sometimes, it’s just a good idea to know the exact dimensions of the land you are buying and about any encroachments that may be on it, such as a neighbor’s fence or outbuilding that extends into the property.
 
Land surveying is basically the art and science of mapping and measuring land. It’s done by professionals who use specialized equipment and a combination of law, math, engineering and physics to establish property boundaries. In most cases, they will also confirm the boundary descriptions of adjacent land.
 
Because land surveys can become outdated as a result of various missing records, tree lines that no longer exist, or changes made to floodplain maps, getting a current survey can help give the buyers peace of mind and avoid possible legal battles later.
 
A professional surveyor will refer to the dimensions as laid out in the deed to the home and then measure to determine the actual boundaries and the location of any improvements that may have been made, such as outbuildings, new paving, or fences.
 
If the home is in a floodplain, the surveyor will also provide an elevation certificate, which details its floor elevation as well as the lowest and highest ground elevations near the home.
 
In the final analysis, while a survey can cost a few hundred dollars or more depending on the size of the property, getting one is the answer to resolving any current or future issues about who owns what, or where the new owners - or their neighbors - may put up a fence, install a greenhouse, or build a swimming pool.
 
It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
 
Barbara Pronin is an award-winning writer based in Orange County, Calif. A former news editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism and corporate communications, she has specialized in real estate topics for over a decade.

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