A. Are matters of survey covered in the policy?

Matters of survey relate to anything that could negatively affect the use of property being purchased. These include encroachments across property lines or building restriction lines; fences/walls, landscaping features, wells, swimming pool decks; the location of utilities, access ways, etc., relative to easements, property lines or buildings; the existence of flood zones; and other similar matters.

It is possible that matters of survey may be covered in title insurance policies, but coverage that protects the purchaser’s interests is unlikely to be included unless a survey is performed prior to issuance of the policy.

Lenders generally will not accept a survey exception in the loan policy. In many instances, the survey exception can be deleted. Specifically, the policy can be issued free of the survey exception IF the property is residential, in a platted subdivision, contains less than 25 acres and has no apparent risks that a survey would disclose.

B. What about using an existing survey with an affidavit?

This can be a good solution, depending on several factors. Is the survey reasonably recent? (There is no hard and fast rule on how old a survey can be; it depends on the type of property, the likelihood of change between the date of the survey and now, etc.) Was the survey obtained by the current owner? This decision should be made on a case-by-case basis with the assistance of underwriting counsel. The survey affidavit places the risk of any changes in the property on the seller, who may or may not be willing to execute this instrument. Of course, a purchaser relying on a prior owner’s survey has no contractual privity with the surveyor and could not pursue an action against the surveyor in the event of an error.

C. Apart from a lack of policy coverage, why should a purchaser get a survey?

If there is a problem that the survey would have revealed and it needs to be resolved, the expense will fall squarely on the owner to the extent the issue is created by something on his or her property.

  1. If the issue pertains to a neighbor’s property, the cost of any legal fees to get it resolved will fall on the owner. Examples of problems that a survey might show include lack of access, access easements used by adjoining properties, and encroachments.
  2. The owner can improve the property without concern that the addition, fence, etc. will violate a property line or setback line.
  3. There are times when the exact acreage is in dispute and a survey can put that matter to rest.

D. Are surveys necessary for the purchase of a condominium?

You don’t need a survey when you buy a condo. The drawings are public record.

E. A physical survey IS….

  1. A complete depiction of all boundary lines, with calls for each line.
  2. A depiction of the location of all improvements, with distances given for distance of improvements from boundary lines.
  3. A disclosure of other items located on the property, including but not limited to:
    • Access easements
    • Cemeteries
    • Encroachments
  4. Certified by the surveyor to be an accurate depiction of all characteristics of the property based on an actual physical examination of the property.

For more information about the closing process, please contact your Heritage Title Company Escrow Team. We make it our priority to deliver consistent, high-level closing and escrow services to our clients.

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