NoVA Surveys Inc. Blog



2012-06-10

What to look for in a house location survey.


If you start shopping around for a land surveyor to do your house location (mortgage) survey and your first criteria is cost/price, you may be making a mistake.   Survey plats come in a wide range of cost and quality.   Sometimes a survey of the same high quality can come with a much lower price tag from one surveyor.   Sometimes the survey with the low price can be of greatly inferior quality.

Just for the record.

An inferior quality survey plat may be one that has a note on it stating that its only purpose is to get a client through settlement.  Often, these surveys also have a note on them saying that all fence locations are approximate and that the surveyor does not certify as to their accuracy.   These surveys also have disclaimers on them stating that the plat is not to be used for construction purposes etc.

A quality survey plat does not have disclaimers on it, and all the fences, sheds or other improvements that are near the property line will be labeled with a tag telling you exactly how far on or off the property they are and has no disclaimers


When you are looking at that new home, and all you are thinking about is how much it is going to cost to move in etc, many people (and the settlement companies they use) try to cut costs by finding the cheapest survey plat they can find (thus lowering settlement costs).   This works as a short term solution,
but it can sometimes cost you more money in the long run.  

For instance:   When you first looked at that new house, did you imagine fencing in the back yard?  For some houses, a quality house location survey plat might be all you needed to know where to put that new fence (or to let your fence company know where to put it.  But if you got an inferior plat, you might not know if the neighbors wall/fence was off your property three feet or seven feet, and you might have to pay for a lot stakeout in order to put up that new fence.  And sometimes, that lot stakeout can cost more than your original survey.

For instance: Where you planning to put up a new deck in the middle of the back of the house.  If you have to submit a plan for the permit to build  that deck, you may have to pay for a new survey to do so.    Planners and reviewers don't like statements like "not for construction purposes"  or "locations are approximate"  or "for informational purposes in the issuance of title insurance", plats with these disclaimers are often rejected.

In short, your house is often the biggest purchase of your life.  Buying a new home with an approximate survey for informational purposes does
not make sense.  It particularly does not make sense if you have the idea that you might want to build a fence, a deck, an addition or some
type improvement and need to know where the boundary lines are or if you might end up submitting that house location plat to the county for permit purposes.

What to look for in a Survey Plat...

1.  Shop for price,  but also try and view a sample of the surveyors work to see what you are paying for.  Sometimes you can pay the same low price and yet get more detail from one surveyor.  Sometimes that low price will give you a plat with disclaimers.   Sometimes paying and extra $10 or $20 more can mean a world of difference in the product your receive.   If you see disclaimers, (not for construction purposes, fence locations are approximate) look for a surveyor who offers a plat without disclaimers or tell the survey you want a plat without disclaimers and see if it affects the price.

2.  Look for reviews, but remember that the person who wrote that review may be like you.  The average person orders a survey less than once every 10 years.  So while their experience may have been a good one, they may not have much to compare it to.   Not many people order 3 survey plats of their property at the same time and can tell you which surveyor produced the better product.

3.  Find someone in the know.  People in construction know what they need when they order a plat,  they know what they need, and they order plats often, unlike most homeowners.  If you do not know someone in construction, then perhaps a neighbor pulled a permit for an addition, deck, fence etc. and the name of the surveyor who did their plat might help you.

Tags: House location, Mortgage, survey, cost

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