Sometimes it can be confusing for both buyers and sellers on why a property survey is necessary when selling or buying a home and which party is responsible for paying for the survey.

What is a Property Survey?

A survey is a document that shows exactly where the property lines begin and end. In addition to the boundary lines, a survey will show if there are any easements on the property and where they are located, where the utility lines are located, any fence lines, any water or flood plain issues and any right of ways and access. It’s kind of a big deal.

In Texas, it is a very common practice for the seller to provide their existing survey (if they have one) along with a notarized document to the new buyer.

I recommend that my buyer clients purchase a new survey even if there is an existing survey available because things can change over time.

Is it a Survey Really Necessary?

A boundary survey is not always required. If you are the buyer, it is to your benefit to know exactly how much land you are paying for. There could be issues that only a surveyor will be able to find. Maybe a fence that divides a property from a neighbor may not be built along the boundary line of the adjoining properties. Or, the driveway or deck may be on part of the neighbor’s land. These are important things to know when you are buying a property. An existing survey may not show this issues because they may not have been present when the original survey was done.

Who Pays for it?

The party that pays for it is the party that agrees to pay for it. I personally believe that it is a buyer’s fee. The seller likely paid for their existing survey when they originally purchased the home way back when. A buyer who accepts an old survey generally has no claim against the surveyor and that buyer must rely on the coverages in his or her title policy if a survey issue should come up.

The take away is that I suggest that a buyer get a new survey rather than relying on an old survey. Doing so adds the surveyor to the list of people with potential liability if an error is found down the road. The survey cost will vary depending upon the size of the property but it is a small price to pay to protect your investment.