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Surveys of real property: Do I need one?

By Chesley Payne

When buying a home or other real estate, I’m often asked by the potential purchasers if it’s necessary to have a survey performed. In most cases, I believe having a survey is beneficial, as it allows property corners to be marked and can pinpoint any boundary line issues that may arise over several years between adjoining landowners. Where the legal description of the property is a “metes and bounds” description (100 feet to Point A, 200 feet to Point B — usually property outside of developed areas), I believe a survey is always called for due to the fact that only a surveyor has the ability to accurately point out the boundary lines of a property and give a straightforward answer to the question of “Where are my boundary lines?”

If the property you’re buying is a lot in a subdivision, a survey may be requested but is usually not required. This is due to the fact that a subdivision has been surveyed and the plat map of the subdivision has been recorded in the Office of the Judge of Probate of that county. However, if there’s a question of the placement of the boundary lines or it appears an adjoining landowner is encroaching on your lot, a survey is recommended.

In the event an encroachment is found, you should contact that adjoining landowner and inform that person of the issue. Property owners are usually afraid of losing property to an adjoining landowner due to adverse possession. However, if the encroachment is one that is acceptable to you, a written agreement setting out your permission for the encroachment will be evidence of your willingness to allow encroachment and remove the threat of the loss of that portion of your property through adverse possession. If the adjoining landowner refuses to deal with this issue directly, your next call should be to your attorney to discuss the possible impact on your rights on the property.

Our property laws require you to take action to retain your rights. In the event a survey shows a possible threat to your property or your ownership interest, reach out to your attorney to discuss your plan of action.

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