A land survey is an essential part of due diligence that must be performed for the security of your investment.
Land surveys should be completed before closing on a property at the very least and preferably earlier if your plans are complex. They are most critically needed before the purchase of acreage or development. You may find unknown easements or rights of way, encroachment of buildings or other property not included in the legal description of the land, or if there is a case of adverse possession (someone else owns that piece of land merely because they squatted there and were not evicted within the statute of limitations).
Do not use an old survey. It may be, or probably is, outdated and will not contain any improvements or changes that have occurred since it was conducted. A new survey is definitely needed if there is no evidence of permanent boundary markers or other easily recognized boundary structures such as fences. Boundaries must be easily discerned by someone on the ground. If the boundary lines are obscured or if you are purchasing multiple parcels that are not platted (showing metes and bounds), a new survey is in order.
Before the survey, you should walk the land yourself, no matter the size, and see it with your own eyes. Also, you should request a property profile from the realtor showing ownership information, a plat map, a legal description of the property, and tax information.
A land survey includes:
- Boundary measurements.
- Details of the property including the presence of buildings, sidewalks, fences, trees and stumps, driveways, and other features.
- Any discovered encroachments, as noted above.
- Easements, rights of way, adverse possession, and other legal appurtenances.
The minimum amount of information in a legal land survey is defined by state law. A land surveyor should be up to date on all local regulations regarding building, wetlands, zoning, and can help determine the legality of developing or subdividing a piece of property. The surveyor will also place permanent corner markers for future use. A good surveyor can even help you evaluate the land for building purposes, especially for more difficult properties such as mountainous land.
In order to protect yourself and your investment, complete a property survey and resolve any problems before closing. The cost of the survey is worth it.