Surveys are diagrams of the property that detail the orientation of structures, the location of easements, fences, decks, patios and garages and their relationship to neighboring properties. It is important to know at the time of purchase that the improvements you are investing in are not in jeopardy because they encroach on neighboring property or are built on a utility easement or if a neighboring property has some form of encroachment on your property. All scenarios could cause real trouble for you, the seller and potentially your new neighbors. It is essential that you ascertain the disposition of these improvements before you close as opposed to discovering a terrible surprise after the fact.
There are essentially two types of residential surveys: a surveyor’s real property report (SRPR) and a boundary survey. An SRPR is a visual guide and represents simply a cursory check of the location of the improvements. It may not disclose encroachments, overlaps and boundary line or acreage discrepancies. A boundary survey is more comprehensive as it identifies the property corners, property lines and the location of the improvements.
Even though boundary surveys are more expensive, at $450, and SRPRs run around $275, boundary surveys are preferable because they will identify any trouble areas. This is critical information during the buying process because you have a chance to rectify the problem BEFORE you purchase the home when the seller is motivated to remedy the problem themselves. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Do yourself a favor and get the better survey as it can pay for itself several times over.