08 June 2010

On the Importance of a Land Survey when Buying Property in Charleston

Land Surveyors Close  Deals
What do Land Surveyors Really Do?
Surveyors mark the boundaries of land, create maps and legal descriptions, and plan and organize the development of property. If we don’t know the location of the boundaries of our land we can’t enjoy any unique use of it. We could not buy, sell, mortgage or develop land in an orderly and predictable fashion. The land surveyor provides that knowledge.

Why Do I need to Have Land Surveyed?
Considering the fact that your Charleston area land and house represent one of your largest assets, it makes perfect sense that you should know as much as possible about the various physical characteristics of your real estate investment in the Charleston area. Obtaining a certified land survey may quite possibly be the most important thing you do before you close on any property. Without a registered survey of your land or the land you plan to purchase, you will never know the true details of your property and are ultimately risking your entire investment. Even a minor discrepancy in the boundaries can make a huge difference. Something as seemingly insignificant as a fence post crossing the boundaries can create a snowball of expensive litigation and even worse, nasty looks between neighbors.

The Importance of Surveys in Charleston
I have found it odd that on many outer-lying islands of Charleston such as Wadmalaw Island and John's Island, property bounds are rarely marked and the original markers, if any, have long since disappeared (example: a rebar or tree that no longer sits where it once did or a drilled marker hole in a rock that was moved long ago). In these cases, a buyer is forced to approximate (or just down-right guess) where the boundaries are, based upon a vague description evidenced by where a row of hedges, a stone wall,a fence line or a utility box is today. When this is all you have to work with,the seller or the seller's agent may be able to point out approximately where the property line is, but that is almost always the best you can expect. Did you know that lenders did not even require surveys until 1987? Its true.  Mortgage companies, whether they are a bank, some form of trust company or some other financial entity, pretty much always want to be sure that the land and buildings to which they are lending money be precise and exactly as described in the various documents that accompany the real estate transaction. Even more, a lender also needs to know that in the case you default on their loan, there will be no complications in re-selling of said property. So, the point here is that a survey not only protects the lender's investment, it ultimately protects your Charleston area real estate investment.
Read More about the Importance of Land Surveys after the Jump...
Land Surveyors United

What a land survey does is disclose the actual lot size, whether the various structures on the property are within the boundaries of the property and conform to building setbacks. A registered survey identifies fence and pool locations and determines precisely whether they meet regional and local zoning by-laws. Furthermore, an up-to-date land survey even go so far as to identify any possible encroachments imposed by adjoining or abutting properties and any easements that may have an impact upon the property title. The majority of lenders (at least in Charleston) will not accept a survey if it is more than six months old; nevertheless, if the seller of the property has a survey, ask them who did their survey. It may save you some money if the surveyor will update the survey. I just so happen to have a valuable resource for this type of situation! Visit and connect with professional land surveyors across the globe on Land Surveyors United and ask them anything you might be worrying about.

The Land Survey and The Closing
Sometime before the official closing on a property, you should take it upon yourself to ask your settlement attorney to review the most up-to-date survey with you and discuss any potential problems that may have been uncovered so that these may be fixed prior to closing the deal. Who owns the stone wall that appears to be in the wrong place? Is the fence or driveway shared by an easement or do you own it? Who owns all of those trees and shrubs planted along the boundary line? You get the picture. Once you actually own the property, it may become much more difficult and costly to settle issues related to boundaries. Finally, when you make it to the closing table, make sure you get a copy of that survey for your own records.

If you happen to be working with the SC Property Pros and closing on a property, don't worry-we are well connected in the land surveying industry and would never let you run into trouble like this.

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