ARE YOU BUYING A HOME OR AN ENCROACHMENT??
A Land Surveying Primer
Ok... I am a little biased right now. I grew up in a Real Estate Industry Family...specifically my parents own a Land Surveying Company.
- I remember at 11-12 years old going in and doing tax book research and answering phones...yes I was a master of microfiche then!
- I remember at 14-15 going to the courthouse and looking up deeds and plat maps.
- I remember at 16-17 following the field crew around and watching and helping them spot houses
- I remember at 17-18 after drafting and architecture classes at High School drawing the mortgage inspections (the simpler ones)...
I remember driving out and doing Mortgage Inspections... spotting boundaries, driveways, decks... anything that may have been added either after construction or since the last sale.
Why am I relating this to you??
Because... the mortgage industry has become cheap!
Everyone is worried about closing costs and interior inspections... but who is making sure that you are not buying a property with an encroachment?
Who is making sure that you're buying a home without a huge easement?
Why?? Because lenders are not requiring mortgage inspections... much less full surveys, or pins.
- Mortgage Inspections are rudimentary checks of the house to make sure that whoever built on the land colored within the lines.
- Surveys actually find benchmarks, setbacks, landmarks, centerlines and easements and detail them on paper...they are of legal record if recorded.
- A Staked Survey is when the crew marks the corners with wooden stakes or flags. They are temporary but are important for construction.
- Pins is when the surveying crew does a survey and then puts iron rods, usually capped with an orange plastic cap with the surveyor's initials and license number. These are "permanent".
- Plat... the drawing to the left is a "plat map" ... it shows all the dimensions and directions of a property including where the house sits. Note the dotted lines, those are set backs. Transits, GPS and Triangulation are used to find these dimensions and their latitudes and longitudes.
The biggest issue that arises from not ordering at least a mortgage inspection is border disputes!
What a survey or mortgage inspection helps to prove is whether your neighbor has a deck or driveway on your property and whether the area you wish to expand upon is buildable land!
If you purchase a piece of property and the neighbor has his driveway over the lot line, you can request that he move it.
If he cannot, you have to do a "sell-off" of that portion of the land to the neighbor - which leaves you with an irregular lot and some deed restrictions will not allow you to have a smaller lot than you already have ... this requires rezoning!
You can also create an easement... a legal pass-through allowing your neighbor to use that part of your property. The easement will be written for a number of years and for one specific use.
My community is Zero-Lot-Line... because of this, the Eastern boundary of my lot abuts my neighbor's house. Well... the roof line hangs over my lot so there is a legal "Overhang Easement" drawn onto my property allowing the neighbor to have his roof and a satellite dish overhanging but not attached to my property.
An easement can also be created to provide access to a lot behind another parcel that has no direct road access... and the driveway created would be the responsibility of the property owner to maintain not the person behind them.
Because of the complicated nature of land - raw or unimproved - it is up to us - the Real Estate professionals - to encourage the use of Land Surveying techniques. It is up to us to step forward and head off the purchase of land without an inspection of the parcel because then we can ensure a smoother transaction and a peaceful existence for our clients on their properties for the entire term of ownership.