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william-e-duquette-jr-smallThis is the tenth article in a series of articles about Buying and Selling a Home in New York State. Click here for the first installment in the series. Subscribe to this blog for future installments.

Q: Do I Need A Survey When I Buy a House?

A: The strictly legal answer is generally no. Whether or not you should get a survey is a different question. We normally recommend that our clients get a survey. Not all surveyors mark or stake the corners of the property as part of the survey process. You should consider asking the surveyor to install appropriate monumentation to help you locate the bounds of the property.

Title insurance policies generally contain the following exceptions to coverage: (1) “any state of facts a survey of the premises described in Schedule “A” would disclose” and (2) “the exact acreage of the premises are not insured.”

What would a survey of the premises disclose? There are different types of surveys (varying levels of details). When buying a house, you will generally get a boundary survey. The boundary survey will show the boundaries of the property, acreage, access to the property, location of visible utility lines, well, structures (house, deck, pool, shed, etc.), stone walls, and fences on the property and near the boundary lines, if any.

Why are these items shown on a survey important? Say you buy a property that is shown on the Tax Map as five acres and the deed describes the same five acre parcel. Subsequently, you learn that the seller did not own 2 acres of the parcel that includes the road access. If you do not have a survey read into your title insurance policy, the title insurance policy will not cover the loss.

A survey should also answer the following questions:

  • Is the driveway partially or wholly located on the neighboring property?
  • While the property is located on a public road, is the access to the property (driveway) over an adjoining private driveway or private road?
  • Is the property really on the waterfront or just water view?
  • Are the well and septic field located within the property boundaries?
  • Are there any utility easements and utility lines that cross the property?
  • re the shed, fence, and pool are located within the property boundaries?
  • Who owns the tree that is shading the pool?
  • Does the ATV trail or neighbor’s driveway cuts across a portion of the property?
  • The exact size of the premises is important for certain intended uses of the property or if you intend to subdivide the property.
  • While a survey inspection is a less expensive alternative, it provides less protection because you do not have privity (a legal relationship) with the surveyor.
  • Lets face it, it is not in the real estate agent’s best interest for you to get a survey and possibly delay or derail the closing. Since the lender’s loan policy provides it with protection against survey issues, it not in the lender’s best interest for you to get a survey. But it is in your best interest to get all survey matters resolved prior to closing when the hassle and expense of resolving the issues is someone else’s responsibility.

William E. Duquette, Jr. is Senior Counsel on the firm’s Real Estate Team. He can be reached by phone at 845-778-2121 toll free or 845-778-2121 and by email.

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