I am buying a house, do I need a land survey?

When buying a house, do I need a land survey?

A land survey is one of many pieces of due diligence that any responsible advisor would recommend when buying real property. That said, my official answer is that you should have a survey done on any piece of property that you purchase. The cost will range from a couple of hundred dollars (normal sub division yard) to thousands (large properties, especially wooded), and can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses.

Now that I have done that bit… lets talk about whether or not I would pay for a survey when personally buying property…and some of my thinking on the subject.

Times I personally would not bother with getting a land survey:

When buying a home in a new development. I wouldn’t pay for a survey in this instance, because you are already getting one (and paying for it if you read enough of the paperwork to find it). In addition to that, if the home was just built it is most likely that the wooden stakes are still in the corners of your lot…and even visible. Pro Tip: If this is true for you, replace the wooden stakes with a two foot piece of rebar pounded in the ground and mark with a fencepost or large rock. Then document it with photos. This will save boundary disputes for years to come.

When buying  a house in a recently developed neighborhood. So you are the second owner of a home in a recently (12 years or less) developed neighborhood? I would probably get a copy of the plat from the county clerk, and walk the yard to see if things are pretty close to it (fences, outbuildings and such) if nothing stands out as out of place, I would skip the survey. If things seem way out of place, I probably just wouldn’t buy the property. Not that a survey can’t help…but legal battles over property lines are frequently more expensive than the actual value of the land (especially a 1 foot strip of your yard) you are fighting over. This is the main reason I wouldn’t get a survey in most instances.

When buying a home in an established (12 years or more) development. In this case I wouldn’t even pull the plat. The truth is, any encroachment that has been going on for more than 7 years is going to be very difficult to get undone…and very expensive. So look at the yard as it appears based on fencing and existing buildings and decide if you want it or not. If you want to be cautious, pull the plat and see if there are any encroachments that could cause you difficulty when you resell the property. Its only 1 in 100 that will, but you don’t want to be the one.

When I would absolutely have a survey done on a property I was buying:

Any type of home bought for property investment purposes. This is less true with a rental than with a flip, but nonetheless, if I am buying a property with business in mind then I am going to spend the few hundred dollars on a survey to make sure that I wont end up with a multi thousand dollar legal bill, or any issues with a quick sale. Its the difference between buying a house to live in and buying one to make money on. In order for a flip strategy to work well, hindrances of any type cost money. Since most of these properties would be neighborhood homes, the couple of hundred dollars spent would be well worth it to keep the deal quick and smooth.

Any property being bought with development in mind. Whether it is your home or major business construction, if you are going to develop a property you need to know EXACTLY where all the property lines are and what the set backs in the area are. You need this information before you make the purchase. You know…when you are making the plans that you are going to have to adjust 50 times. Having valid information about the property that has been confirmed by a licensed surveyor will save you some of the bigger adjustments.

When buying a home that is not part of a development. If you are buying a home that is not part of a subdivision, it may be a little harder to get your hands on the plat….especially if the home was built in the pre computer era. Also, it should be noted that lots that are not part of subdivisions frequently are irregularly shaped and will be difficult to eyeball from the plat even if you do find one. Based on these things, if I was buying outside of a subdivision I would probably get the survey done.

When buying any type of rural property. I learned this one the hard way. If you are buying land out in the country, and especially if you are not from that area, have a survey done before making the purchase. I also strongly suggest having the surveyor place the largest and most difficult to move markers they have available. In my case, not doing so cost me about a quarter acre of land I bought, and after discussing the matter with attorneys, it would have cost me 10 times the value of the land to recover it. Live and learn.

Surely there are other types of real estate transactions where you may or may not want a survey,

but if you aren’t sure, its best to err on the side of doing that due diligence rather than regretting not doing it later. Just to be clear….getting the survey is always my recommendation. The survey can save you from a world of headaches, expenses, and legal fights.

If you have any other questions about surveys, or anything real estate related; CALL ROBB NOW at 317-657-8059 or email him at robb@yourrealtylink.com .

As always you can use that contact information to set up a consultation and hire the best available Realtor in Indianapolis.

If you are thinking about selling your home, or if you would just like to know what your home may bring on the open market; fill out the form below and request a CMA on your home.
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About Robb

A husband, Dad to 5, and Grandpa to 9. US Navy Vet. 18 Year Postal Employee turned full time Realtor. I enjoy a wide variety of things, but you will find that here I mostly write about Indianapolis, government/politics, recent news, and whatever book I am reading or have just finished at the moment.
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