Buying or building a home is one of the most important and expensive decisions many people make in their lifetime. A home is a huge cost and, therefore, a huge commitment. Unfortunately, it can also be an incredibly exciting time for home buyers as they look around at possibilities and imagine their lives unfolding in the location of their dreams.
But in all the excitement that builds up as you near a decision on which piece of land or which home to buy, people can sometimes put boring old common sense aside. Mundane tasks like getting a land survey done is not usually at the top of everyone’s agenda when deciding which home to buy. We can be far more excited about a beautiful view or the perfect kitchen and completely disregard some essential actions like getting a land survey before making such an enormous investment.
But the importance of land surveys cannot be overstated. Without one, you might be setting yourself up for disaster down the road. So let’s talk about what exactly a land survey is and why it should be an essential part of buying land or a home.
How Do Land Surveyors Do Their Job?
Surveying a piece of property requires the surveyor to take incredibly accurate measurements across large parcels of land. Fortunately, there are many technological advancements and tools that make the surveyor’s job easier and their findings even more accurate than previous methods allowed. Some tools that surveyors use include:
- Theodolites—visual instruments that accurately measure angles;
- Global positioning systems (GPS)—satellites used to take incredibly accurate measurements;
- Altimeters—instruments that measure slopes;
- Total stations—instruments that electronically measure distance and help level surfaces; and
- 3D scanners—instruments that help measure elevation changes.
Today’s land surveyors also use software that is designed to incorporate the measurements taken from multiple instruments. This software combines all of the gathered information to render survey reports that are not only incredibly detailed, but easy for the average person to read and understand. However, if you need some help understanding it, your real estate lawyer can always help.
What Is the Importance of Land Surveys?
As you can see, a land survey is basically an assessment of all the important aspects of a piece of land. After a surveyor does their job, the end result is often a description and drawing of the plot of land that shows some critical things homeowners and landowners need to know about their property. This information includes:
- The precise boundary lines of the parcel of land;
- The exact location and dimensions of structures on the property;
- Any additions or improvements that previous owners made over the years;
- Geographical features that have important ramifications regarding the usage of the land, such as slopes;
- Whether any gaps or overlap with other properties currently exist;
- The existence and location of any easements;
- Any visible bodies of water that are on or near the land, such as creeks, lakes, ponds, and the like;
- The location of utility lines, cables, drains, or pipes;
- Whether cemeteries have ever existed on the property;
- Whether your property has unfettered access from a public street; and
- Zoning restrictions and classifications of the property.
Knowing all these things for certain before purchasing a piece of land or home can save you huge headaches and legal pains in the future.
How Does Having a Land Survey Help You?
The importance of a land survey is often overlooked if the mortgage company does not require one. But this can be a costly mistake.
One of the most important things a land survey can tell you is whether the land or property you wish to buy will suit the purpose you are buying it for. For instance, if you want to start a vineyard or orchard, you need to know that the slope is correct so that the land drains well. More likely, you are thinking of building a home on land you buy. Or perhaps you are buying a home that is already built, but you plan on making additions in the future. Or you may want to add stand-alone buildings to the property at some point.
If you want to know if the law allows a piece of land to be used in the way you want to use it, you need a land survey. For instance, if you are buying land to build a home and do not get a proper survey, you may be in for a rude shock when you try to break ground. If you don’t know the water table or the location of underground pipes, breaking ground can cause water to gush all over the property and make an incredibly costly mess. Or you may not even realize that your neighbor’s fence encroaches on your property by 10 feet. This encroachment can diminish the value of the property significantly. The examples are endless, but the result is the same. The importance of a land survey simply cannot be overstated.
Avoid Legal Hassles Down the Road
Lastly, a land survey can avoid intense, costly, and frustrating legal hassles down the road. For example, consider this true cautionary tale out of Utah. Mother and daughter, Kim and Bonnie Bowman, bought a plot of land in Stockton, Utah, and built their home on it. A real estate agent showed them the property, and they loved it. The Bowmans applied for all the right permits and built their home only to find out later that the land they bought was actually not the land they built their home on! A realtor’s misidentification of the property resulted in the Bowmans building their home on someone else’s land. No one noticed this until the actual, out-of-state landowners stopped by one day to check on their property. To their great shock, they found someone else’s home on their land. Granted, this is certainly not a situation that happens often. But it does prove the value of getting a survey done so that no stone is left unturned when making such a huge investment.
We Are Your Real Estate Professionals
The experienced legal team at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., is highly knowledgeable in the intricacies of real estate law in the great state of Washington. We know how to avoid future legal hassles. We can also help you correct any current real estate issues you face. So call us or contact us online today to set up your initial consultation with one of our attorneys.