Survey The Situation

Which Side Of The Line Is It On?

You found the most wonderful property and you're ready to purchase it. However, before you go riding off into the sunset, do you know where the boundaries of the property lie? We've all heard stories about boundary disputes when it comes to property lines-everything from a garage two feet onto somebody's land, or a fence arbitrarily built cutting off the corner of another person's property. It really is interesting how quickly a seemingly innocent fencepost can be the source of an ongoing nightmare for a buyer when property lines are not clearly defined before the sale.

It is important to take the necessary steps to ensure the property you are buying is not encroached upon by others. Protection set out in the purchase agreement along with possible methods of resolving potential boundary problems are wise things to consider before closing a deal on a property.

Check It Out Thoroughly

Often, encroachments are easy to spot with the naked eye and a real estate agent will visually inspect the property lines when taking on a listing. If there are any abnormalities or discrepancies with the boundaries, s/he will probably check a plat map as well as the legal description, then measure the boundaries of the property. S/he may suggest the seller contact a surveyor to ensure the boundaries are properly delineated. Surveys help to correct problems with boundaries, and clarify lines that may have been altered with fencing, landscaping, or natural events.

Why Do I Need A Survey?

A survey is necessary to secure from a seller because if the boundaries are unclear, then the real estate agent does not know the real value of the property and/or whether the property can be sold without encountering difficulties with title insurance. The agent would not be able to inform a buyer of the correct boundaries of the property nor would s/he know if there would be challenges to the title by the person who may have encroached on the property. The net effect is that if the property is sold without the necessary precautions having been taken, the person buying the property may inherit more than s/he bargained for, including major headaches at a high price.

Protect Yourself

In order to protect yourself in a purchase agreement when a possible boundary problem exists, the first thing to do is gather all of the information you can get about the situation. Was the encroachment innocent or did somebody have a vendetta? Does the seller know about the problem? Is the seller willing to pay for the survey, and, is the seller willing to fix the problem before the purchase is consummated? This part can be challenging because it requires both the seller and the other party to work out the issue as quickly as possible.

It is important to ensure a contingency is written into the purchase agreement regarding satisfactory, reliable, verifiable, information about the property lines. Before the contingency is removed, have a survey or title company interpret the information and have it double checked by your own surveyor or real estate lawyer. Be aware that you may be the person who inherits the problem, so you want to be sure you are satisfied with the findings before you commit.

If You Decide To Buy Anyway...

If the problem cannot be remedied, you may still decide to purchase the property. The problem could affect the value of the property. You may also need to ensure the seller is willing to make some sort of concession to balance the risk. If you are planning to build on the site, be sure title insurance will be available at a reasonable price. By having a boundary issue hanging over the property, the costs of insurance may be very high or insurance may be unavailable. Your ability to secure a mortgage may also be affected.