Don’t buy land without a new survey!

Now this one would seem like a no-brainer right? It is yet many agree to buy land without a new survey and it can be the costliest mistake you can make. I’ll explain why and who is responsible for all that goes with it.

Typically what happens when land is made available for sale there is no recent survey to show a prospective buyer. Having bought countless parcels of land over the years I can tell you there were maybe a handful that were surveyed within the 5 years previous. If a seller has any map of the property it’s usually a tax map that is available at the local county office where property records are kept. Although these maps can be helpful they are not a survey and cannot be trusted under any circumstances. So what are your options when you want to buy this property but there is no survey?

Most important at the start is to always keep in mind the seller is responsible for proving they actually have what they’re advertising for sale. The only way to prove it is by a survey. If a survey was done on this land a few years ago you may be tempted to accept it and move to close on the deal. I wouldn’t and you shouldn’t either. The reasons are many but things change and you have to know exactly where everything stands regarding access , road frontage , water frontage , utility easements and countless other items that will impact your enjoyment of the land you want to buy.

A few years ago I was trying to buy what I considered the most beautiful piece of land I had ever walked on. It was stunning and had everything I was looking for and more. It showed frontage on 2 seasonal roads that were considered “town roads” with all kinds of access possibilities. Once we got to the point of gathering survey info I was informed one of the town roads had been legally “abandoned” by the town and was no longer legal access to the property I wanted to buy. The seller had no idea this had happened and neither did their attorney. Ultimately the deal died because of this road situation and I was saved from losing significant money. These types of situations happen more than you would guess and they can be costly if you don’t know exactly where everything stands prior to closing.

When you find a property you want to look at the 1st question you should ask is “has the property been surveyed recently and do you have a map to show me? “. If the answer is no then ask WHEN the property is going to be surveyed. Don’t be surprised when you’re told there are no plans to survey because this is typical. Make sure the broker, or whoever you’re dealing with , knows you will require a new survey if you decide you want to buy this parcel. They expect to hear this so don’t feel as though you’re asking for more than is reasonable. Naturally the more acres involved the more important the survey is. You have to know exactly where everything is located and what else is included. There are so many ingredients that come with buying land you can’t take a chance under any circumstances. There are easements , rights of way , frontages on roads and water and so many other things you have to know. I could spend all day listing the things that could be involved but I won’t take up more time. Trust me , you need to know so make sure you do.

Back to who’s paying for this and why. A survey is NOT a simple exercise that is completed at someone’s desk. It’s costly and it will take some time to be finished and a map made available. The seller of the property is always responsible for the cost of the survey, many times they need to be reminded so do it if you have to. They are advertising and representing this land as being X number of acres etc. so they have to prove it. This doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate it because often times it is. You can agree to pay for the survey or half of it as long as you’re getting a reduction in the sale price , closing costs or any other expense involved. Be willing to throw some ideas around if you really want to buy the place but make sure you’re getting something in return besides a survey bill.

When all is said and done I promise you will be happy that survey has been completed. I guarantee you will learn more about the property and will sleep better knowing you’re investment is safe. Enjoy the search , be prepared and ask all the questions you have to. Thanks for stopping by , I hope this was worth your time. Any questions about this topic or any other involving a land purchase please write me anytime.   mj

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