Buying land or a new home? Here’s why you need a survey, even if it’s not required.
When you are buying a home, having an up to date boundary survey can save you a lot of headaches, protect your investment, and help expedite the sale process. In some cases, your realtor or broker will suggest you get a survey, but when it isn’t required, it may not come up at all. Getting ahead of the process and ensuring you have an accurate and current survey can be helpful and keep away unwanted surprises.
Things to Consider When Buying:
Buying a home is like buying anything else; you want to be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, and that can include knowing where your property lines start and end. This can help you get ahead of any future disputes with neighbors about your boundary lines and be helpful if you ever want to build any additional structures.
When buying, you want to get your lines in order as soon as possible and can start by:
- Having an updated boundary survey completed prior to closing
- Allowing plenty of time in the contingency for boundary surveying. Many times, 30 days is not enough!
- Inquiring if there is a historic survey plan showing the property. This could be a good starting point for providing an updated survey.
- Checking the zoning of the property if any change of the current use is being considered. Many uses are not allowed or restricted, including residential to business uses, short term rentals, home occupations, etc.
- Checking with the municipality if there are any known code/land use violations current or past.
Also, keep in mind that a title search is not always enough. The title standards only require an attorney or abstractor to research a property back in time 40 years. We have found many instances of land being conveyed or some other burden on the land more than 40 years ago that severely impact the property being purchased.
By making sure you have clear and distinct boundary lines whether buying or selling – and starting this process as soon as you can – you will save yourself a lot of stress.
Do you have additional questions about boundary surveys or want to get a quote? Fill out the form below and our team will contact you.
Common Questions About Property Surveys:
Of course. We survey all types of properties, from small in-town parcels to large rural parcels.
Yes, we can prepare what is commonly known as a mortgage inspection for clients. Mortgage inspections are used many times by prospective buyers to evaluate potential purchases during a due diligence period.
Yes, at Herrick & Salsbury, Inc., we provide free cost estimates. Please provide as much information as you can such as what need you have, street address of the property, tax map and lot number, deed, existing survey plan, purchase and sale agreement, real estate listing, and the anticipated closing date, if applicable. You can fill out our form here.
We can do that. The Maine Board of Licensure for Land Surveyors sets out requirements for land surveying, but with an agreement between land surveyor and client, the scope of work can be limited per a written agreement. See the board’s web page on Land Surveyor rules at https://www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/surveyors/laws.html.
Yes, we would be glad to help. If we have surveyed the property, we can show the flood hazard boundary line on the survey plan we prepared. As an alternative, we can physically locate your house and plot the house location on the flood maps to see if the structure is located in the flood hazard zone or not.
We assist many clients with establishing a boundary line agreement. We will monument the agreed-to line, usually by setting pins along the line, prepare a plan showing the agreed to boundary line location, and also prepare a metes and bounds description of the agreed-to boundary line. An attorney will then use this in preparing the documentation for both parties to sign, memorializing the agreement. This agreement ultimately gets recorded at the registry of deeds just like a property deed.
We offer clients assistance with planning and evaluating many types of projects including housing developments, commercial buildings, land subdivisions, and shoreland zoning permits. Knowing the local best practices, we can maximize the value of your project and advance a realistic application for approval.
You will need an attorney to assist you in preparing the property deed. We prepare a legal description, also known as a metes and bounds description. This describes the direction and distances around the property so that others know what you own for property. The description is typically contained between the heading of the deed (to and from) and the signature on the deed at the end, but sometimes it will be at the end of the deed which is typically referred to as Exhibit A. The deed will then be recorded in the registry of deeds.
A survey is a snapshot in time, if you will. The plan and/or pins represent the property boundaries at that moment in time. If a plan is prepared, the improvements shown are the improvements shown at the time of the survey. After the surveyors have left the property, a neighbor could create an encroachment, a new fence could be installed, buildings could be built or added on to, driveways could be built or enlarged, or the property could be divided and a piece of the property sold. If nothing ever changes and no land is sold, then a survey plan would continue to reflect and convey the correct information.
The price of a land survey will depend on many variables. In Maine, the cost can range from $300 to $4,000 or more.
Unlike many states, Maine does not employ a Public Land Survey System and does not require land to be surveyed upon every conveyance. This can make surveying land in Maine more expensive and less predictable for the surveyor.
Also, Maine is a “colonial” state in which land was not always divided up in equal squares/
The complexity of the survey and the requirements of the client will determine the exact cost:
- A mortgage inspection/pre-purchase inspection costs the least.
- If just the fieldwork of marking corners is needed, the survey will cost less than if a drawing is also required.
- If the property deed is vague or poorly written, has no dimensions for the length of the boundary lines, or has not been updated to reflect previous conveyances, the extra amount of deed research needed will make the survey costs go up.
- Single parcels cost less than surveying a large parcel divided into multiple smaller parcels; the more divisions, the higher the land survey cost will be.
- The more corners a single parcel has, the higher the cost will be.
- When boundary lines and corners are hard to access due to dense woods or water, the costs will most likely be higher.
- The more detailed the survey is (structures, topography, wooded areas) or if encroachments are found, the higher the cost.
- If the boundary lines are to be brushed out and the trees along the boundary lines blazed for visual reference, the cost will be higher. Brushing and blazing are highly labor-intensive.
We can usually find this information on the town’s website. We will need to know how the property is being taxed, i.e., Billy Bob versus Billy’s LLC, and can look it up in their commitment book. Some smaller towns do not put their information on a website so you may need to visit the town office to obtain the documents.