With available homes only being on the market for 38 days, competition is fierce to buy the perfect home. This has led many potential home buyers to find another alternative. Buying an empty lot is like purchasing a blank canvas with the freedom to build a dream home.
However, like any other real estate purchase, there are potential pitfalls. Hire a land surveyor and do your due diligence before signing the sale contract.
What Is a Land Survey?
Land surveying is the practice of creating a graphical depiction of a piece of property. It’s sort of like a map, but with more legal elements. A land survey aims to identify the property’s boundary edges and other features.
Always compare the legal description of the property to the land survey. You want the legal description included in the sale contract to match what the survey says. This helps to reduce the risk of land disputes later.
The Mortgage Company Requires It
If you plan to work with a lender to mortgage the purchase of the property, they will likely require you to get a land survey done. Otherwise, you won’t be able to obtain title insurance to protect you from things the property surveyor would have easily identified.
The mortgage company won’t take on the risk of not knowing something that a survey could easily identify. Without the survey, the property may not be as large or usable and, thusly, as valuable as originally thought. Since the property is the collateral for the loan, the lender wants to know they can use the property to recoup their loss should you fail to repay the loan.
Know the Property’s Boundaries and Location
Sometimes properties get sold without an exact identifier. It will say “10 acres, more or less”, which isn’t exactly specific in what you get. You know you are buying ten acres, but where exactly do that ten acres start and stop?
In addition, is your property exactly ten acres? Perhaps it’s closer to 9.5 or 10.75 acres. This can make a big difference in your future plans for the property.
In addition to identifying the property’s exact boundaries, the surveying engineer will record any applicable easements. An easement gives legal permission to another non-owner party to use the property. If there are established easements, they could limit your use of the property.
Despite the other party being a non-owner, they have a rightful legal claim to the use of the property that falls within the easement.
Other common encumbrances that are similar to easements are encroachments and rights-of-way. An encroachment is when the owner of a neighboring property has a physical structure that intrudes onto your property.
A right-of-way gives someone permission to travel across the property. For example, this typically happens when another property is landlocked without road access. The property owner has a right-of-way that gives them access to their property.
ALTA Land Survey
The most comprehensive type of survey is an ALTA/ACSM (ALTA) survey. ALTA stands for American Land Title Association/American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. This survey identifies encroachments, easements, boundaries, improvements, and rights-of-way for a comprehensive view of the property.
Understand the Topography
A small vacant lot is easy enough to walk and look at. The larger the property is, the harder this becomes. You don’t want any surprises post-purchase regarding the land’s features.
Topography features include natural and man-made elements. Man-made features could be buildings, utilities, or fences. Natural features include hills, trees, and lakes.
You Plan to Divide the Property
If you plan to buy a large property and break it up into smaller parcels, you need to know exactly what you are working with. That way, you accurately divide and identify each smaller property. Subdivision surveys are done and filed with the recorder’s office to officially record the new real estate boundaries.
You Plan to Build on the Property
If you buy ten acres and plan to build in the middle, you may not be too concerned about where the edges of your property are. However, if you plan to build near the property boundary or build a fence, then the boundary becomes a lot more important.
There are two types of surveys that become helpful when you plan to build on a property. Survey engineers can prepare site-plan surveys and construction surveys to outline a proposed building plan. This helps you secure approval for your building plans pre-purchase.
You Have an Old Survey
There may be an old survey available for a property. It’s wise to have this survey re-certified to confirm that it is still correct. While you could use the old survey, having a new one verifies the previous surveyor’s work is correct.
Land can change, so even if the original survey was correct at the time of completion, this could no longer be the case. An updated survey provides a record to create an accurate timeline of the changing property.
A common issue that arises when comparing new and old surveys is erosion. This is when the surface of the property changes due to the soil or rock dissolving or getting weathered away. It’s a natural process and can negatively impact construction or buildings added to the property.
Hire a Land Surveyor Today
If you plan to purchase a vacant piece of property, then you’ll want to hire a land surveyor. While land surveying can be expensive, the upfront cost is well worth the peace of mind. You can work with a lender and purchase your new real estate with the confidence of knowing the exact details of your property.
Request a proposal today to get the process started.