CAUTION: Don't scrimp on surveys, inspections
Fortunes have been made and lost in real estate, and even if yours is modest, failing to take prudent precautions when you purchase can cost you yours.
Most of us go through a real estate agent when buying real estate. Their job is to protect the interests of the buyer/seller and they recommend things such as a home inspection, arranging electricians, plumbers, landscapers and other crafts to help ensure a sound purchase. What is often overlooked is an updated survey of the property itself.
A good real estate professional will absolutely recommend an updated survey, while other less reputable agents just want to get you to the closing table for their commission check and they always always always deter you from requesting a survey because it could conflict with their timetable, threaten the purchase and ultimately cost them a closing.
But you are the one who is going to be left holding the bag. It is your financial security at stake. We find problems with about 50% of the properties we survey. These considerations are all too often secondary to the matters of closing. That real estate professional is not acting in your best interest and you should be leery of such agents and pressure tactics especially when your sixth sense is telling you to take precautions.
The case of a close friend of mine illustrates the need to take care when purchasing a home or land. This friend did not get a home inspection or property survey despite having worked in the industry and being of sound mind. They saved about $350 by skipping the home inspection and about $850 passing on the survey. It is a good thing too, because now they have an extra $1200 to put towards the rat infestation (about $2,000 remediation fees), new insulation is needed in the attic because of the rat infestation (about $5,000 remediation), not to mention air conditioning duct work because the rats decided amongst themselves that they wanted to have air conditioning in the crawl space by chewing through each and every air duct (estimated at about $1,400). And all that had to be addressed before they got to the privacy fence needs in the backyard.
The point is this: Trust the professionals to do their job and be willing to invest money to know what is going on with the house or property before purchasing. It will save your bank account in the long run.
And just as you should NEVER buy a house without a home inspection, you should NEVER buy a house or land without an updated survey.
Here’s why. Many subdivisions were created based off of a survey plat that was recorded at the time the developer finished building the roads, amenities and installing the utilities for the subdivision. This is called simultaneous transfer: creating all of these lots at the time of the recording of the subdivision plat. The builder then sells lots, builds homes, fences, pools, etc., and many times the property corners are lost or ignored sometime shortly after the builder is done with his work. Heck, I have even seen builders construct a home on the wrong lot or straddling lots much to the dismay of his boss and the family who purchased the home.
The point is, the iron corners were set by the original survey, which is a requirement by law, but they are many times covered, ripped out by the utility contractors or even moved. These iron corners are the markings of what you are LEGALLY ENTITLED to possess. So to say that they are important is a huge understatement.
Many times, the listing agent has this nice pretty map with an aerial picture depicting your property with lines over laying the image and a lot of information about the property owners and what is on your property. Isn’t that a survey?
That is not a survey, it is an image from the county tax assessor’s website. Those were developed by the tax department to assess taxes. They are not your property lines and if you read the fine print on every tax assessor’s website, they say the same exact thing.
The problem with these attached images of the tax map or maybe the original plat is that the original plat does not show the improvements on the lot, it does not show the new fence Jim Bob Thornton built next door when they bought the house and likely never had a survey to erect the fence. The original plat only shows what was originally intended to be sold. The buyer is the one responsible to know what he/she is buying. So if that little check box is not selected when negotiating a contract on a home, it is very much “Buyer Beware.”
So the next time you consider buying, remember to make the purchase of real estate contingent on a recent survey, even if you have to pay the full amount. It could save you tens of thousands of dollars.