5 Reasons Land Surveys Are Crucial for Home Buyers

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated July 28, 2021
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Land surveys help home and property buyers avoid future headaches, such as boundary disputes

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How does a residential survey help buyers—and how much do they cost? A professional survey from a local land survey company can bring to light any ownership issues before you buy the property, but costs will vary. Learn more reasons you should get a land survey and how much you’ll pay.

What Exactly Is a Residential Land Survey?

A property survey probably isn’t a top priority when you begin looking for a new house or piece of land. You’re too busy checking out that gourmet kitchen and water views. But don’t overlook the importance of a land survey—even during a hot sellers’ market when competing buyers are simply hoping to have a clean offer accepted.

Land Survey Defined

A property survey is a detailed, aerial view drawing or diagram that clearly shows your property lines complete with measurements. It also describes the land features and other structures on the property.

Depending on your budget, you can pay a property surveyor for more detailed renderings that include photographs, previous property changes or improvements, the presence of utilities, and any location-specific issues like a floodplain or sinkhole. You’ll definitely want to know about these potential issues before signing the purchase contract. 

5 Reasons You Need a Residential Land Survey

You need a land survey to prevent future problems, or at least to let you know of potential issues. Land surveys reveal current and future issues associated with the property.

Here are five reasons residential land surveys are crucial for buyers. 

1. Land Surveys Tell You Where You Can (and Can’t) Build

When building a new addition (garage, driveway, home, deck, patio), you’ll need to make sure you’re building on your own land or risk the financial loss of a teardown and rebuild.

2. You Need a Land Survey for an Accurate Fence Line

If a fence lies between you and your neighbor’s house, you may want to figure out who owns a shared fence. If it falls on their property, they are responsible for all maintenance, and if it falls directly on the property line, you share those costs with your neighbor. You will need an accurate survey for your fence line, or it could cost more in the long run. The same is true for tree and shrub lines.

3. Land Surveys Alert You if a Neighbor Has Built on Your Land

Your neighbor might have any of the above built on your potential property or may try to build in the future. Having a residential survey done protects you from these potential issues. 

4. You’ll Have More Peace of Mind With a Residential Land Survey

Property surveys also offer peace of mind as you plan for future projects, like a fence, home addition, or a deck. No homeowner wants to find out they’ve built on their neighbor’s land and they’d like it removed now, please.

5. Land Surveys Are Crucial for When You Sell Your Property

Hiring a land surveyor is also a good idea if you’re considering dividing and selling your land in the future. They’ll know local laws that will affect your plans. They might even help you go through the process of seeking approval during city or county meetings.   

How Much Does a Land Survey Cost?

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The average cost of a land survey is $500, which is a bargain compared to what you could pay to fix property line errors in the future. Of course, the total depends on the property's history, size, location, and unique features.

Ask your surveyors if they provide a free estimate for the property. But for reference, a historic farmhouse on a large property unfamiliar to the surveyor costs much more than a new construction home in a new subdivision with easily accessible records.

Also, note that a paid residential land survey could be part of your overall property buying negotiations, but it isn’t required to seal the deal.

How Can I Save on Residential Land Surveying Costs?

Not all property surveys need a detailed map. If you only want your legal property lines flagged and your corners marked, you’ll save money. This is often the case for a new construction house where the land divisions are pretty straightforward. However, you can save a bit of money if you follow the tips below.

Do the Legwork Yourself

Most land surveyors work on an hourly basis. Make the job easier for them and less costly for you by taking away the legwork. Provide the surveyor the deed and a past plat of your subdivision if one is available at your local probate office.

Make Sure Property Lines Are Not Obscured

You can also reduce costs by ensuring that the assumed property lines are clear and unobstructed before the land surveyor arrives. This reduces the time needed to complete the survey.

Hire a Pro

Don’t try to save money by hiring an unlicensed, uninsured, or inexperienced property surveyor. A correct property survey is worth the cost. If the surveyor makes a mistake, you won't be covered, and you’ll end up paying more to correct the problems.

Ask around in your community or your trusted real estate professionals for recommendations. If you hear the same name repeated—that’s your go-to professional.

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