Should I Buy Property with an Existing Survey?

Regardless of whether you are conducting a residential or commercial transaction, in almost all cases it is the responsibility of the seller to provide a survey for the closing of a land transaction. Section 6C(1) of the TREC contract states: “Seller shall furnish to Buyer and Title Company Seller’s existing survey.” If you are buying real estate, this sounds great from a financial standpoint – it means one less closing cost to worry about. Often a survey is overlooked because it is a relatively small ticket item in a closing compared to the costs of financing. However, if you look at the purpose of a survey, it is just as important because of what it determines.

Most importantly, a survey shows the legal boundaries of the land being purchased as well as any encroachments, structures, and easements associated with the property. It is crucial to know the correct legal boundaries of the property being purchased, and just as important to know other items if the land is being purchased for development. As a buyer, it is important to do the correct due diligence and confirm the survey being furnished by the seller is correct. In most cases, existing surveys are accepted for closings, which means the seller does not have to provide a recent one. Often surveys provided at closing can be decades old and may not capture additional buildings, changes in monuments on the property such as fence lines, or even changes in easements and setback, which affect the buyer’s ability to develop.

Even if the buyer has an existing relationship with the seller and believes that are not acting with any malicious intent, how does the buyer know that the seller received the correct existing survey when they purchased the land? If the furnished survey is more than ten years old, how do they know the quality of the survey work that was done by a firm many years ago, who may not even still be registered? How can they confirm that the existing monuments, fences, and structures are all captured and that no zoning changes have occurred since that survey?
All these are important questions, and the simple answer is that it is in the best interest of anyone purchasing residential or commercial property to request a current survey of the property from a reputable surveying firm. While it is the seller’s obligation to provide a survey often regardless of age, it is the buyer’s headache to deal with any changes or updates to the plat that have taken place since that survey once the land is purchased. For the minimal cost it takes to request an accurate, updated survey, the benefits of knowing exactly what is on the land is well worth it.

While you can buy a property with an existing survey, it is usually within the buyer’s best interest to acquire an updated one.
Windrose Land Services provides Texas with professional surveying services. If you are buying a home or land to develop, our surveyors in Houston, and Dallas will be happy to assist you in this process.