Why a Neglected Plot Survey Could Kill a Sale

plot of land with home

Failing to update an old plot survey could cause big trouble for the sale of your home, writes the Washington Post – Here.

The article notes that a frequent question posed to the paper’s Where We Live blog has to do with why sellers need to update their property survey before a sale. The paper answers that a current survey proves that nothing has changed on the property over the years.

If you live by the water’s edge of a lake or river, the boundary of your land may have changed slightly. Over the years, you or your neighbors may have installed a new driveway, patio or other improvement. In some instances, utility companies may have obtained new easement rights and installed new electric poles, or you may have had new installations of sewer drains.

Although all of these items are generally perfectly fine, any one of these items could pose a potential title problem and hinder your sale. For example, if you put up a new fence and put it a couple of feet on your neighbor’s land, your neighbor could potentially require your buyer to remove the fence. Your buyer may be willing to take the risk, but it’s good to know ahead of time. But if, on the other hand, you built a side room on a part of your land on which building any improvement is prohibited, that could be a major issue for the buyer and kill your sale.

Fresh plot survey ensures no boundary, easement problems exist

A plot survey, or in some jurisdictions a plat of survey, exists as proof to a buyer, the closing agent, and the title insurance company insuring the mortgage loan that there are no boundary or easement problems with the property in question.

The article points out that numerous issues, perhaps unknown to the seller, can occur over the years. Homes bordered by a lake or river may have changed boundaries slightly. Neighbors may have installed a new driveway, patio, or other such structure. Utility companies may have obtained new easement rights for electric poles or sewer drains. A homeowner may have installed a fence, side room, porch, shed, gazebo, or other such structure on the property. The paper notes that all these features are generally acceptable, but a plot survey documents that they are indeed acceptable.

Buyer takes on a risk accepting old survey

A buyer who accepts an old survey could be taking on a risk, says the news outlet. A fence could have strayed onto a neighbor’s land, or a structural addition could be prohibited by local codes. Those could cause major problems for a new owner and could kill a sale.

Seller in some cases may sign an affidavit

However, if a survey is only a year or so old, and the seller signs an affidavit that no changes have taken place since the survey date, a buyer and closing agent may be willing to accept the previous survey. Those documents, in the parts of the country where the practice is accepted, would reportedly allow a title company to insure the title. On the other hand, this then places the risk on the home seller, who could be sued by the title company if a pre-existing problem with the property’s survey turns up after the sale.

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