Do I Need a Property Survey? A New Jersey Real Estate Attorney Answers

property survey

photo credit Daniel Mccullough

As a New Jersey real estate attorney at Zager Fuchs, one of the most common questions I hear from clients is, “Do I need a property survey?  Understanding the importance of a property survey is crucial for any homebuyer or seller in the state.  In this blog post, we’ll delve into what a survey entails, why it might be necessary, and how to get one.

What is a Property Survey?

A property survey, also known as a land survey, is a detailed document created by a licensed professional surveyor.  It depicts the exact boundaries of your property and identifies any structures or improvements on the land.  It typically includes:

  • Property lines: It meticulously marks the legal borders of your property based on public records and physical markers.
  • Improvements: It illustrates the location and dimensions of buildings, fences, driveways, and other structures on the property.
  • Easements and encroachments: An easement grants another party the right to use a portion of your land for a specific purpose (e.g., a utility line). The survey will reveal any existing easements and potential encroachments, where a structure from a neighboring property might be built on yours or vice versa.

Why Get a Property Survey?

While not always mandatory by law, a property survey offers significant benefits for both buyers and sellers:

  • Peace of mind: Knowing the precise boundaries of your property prevents future disputes with neighbors regarding property lines.
  • Mortgage approval: Many lenders require a recent property survey for loan approval to ensure the property being financed matches the legal description in the deed.
  • Accurate title insurance: A title insurance company relies on an accurate survey to assess potential ownership claims on the property. A survey helps ensure smooth title insurance coverage.
  • Construction projects: If you plan future renovations or additions, a property survey is essential for determining available space and potential zoning restrictions.

Case Study: The Importance of Property Surveys in Real Estate Transactions

Situation: Mr. and Mrs. Smith were excited to purchase their dream home, a charming colonial-style house nestled in a suburban neighborhood. They found the perfect property after months of searching, and the deal seemed promising. However, due to budget constraints and eagerness to close the deal quickly, they decided to forgo a property survey.

Recommendation: Despite the urgency to finalize the purchase, the Smiths’ real estate agent strongly recommended obtaining a property survey to accurately delineate the boundaries, identify any encroachments, and ensure there were no issues with easements or zoning regulations. However, in their haste, the Smiths chose to proceed without one, assuming that the property’s existing fences and markers were sufficient indicators of its boundaries.

Results: Several months after moving into their new home, the Smiths received a notice from their neighbor claiming that their fence encroached onto the neighbor’s property. Confused and concerned, the Smiths investigated further, only to realize that the property boundaries were not where they had initially assumed. Without a survey, they had unknowingly built their fence beyond their property line.

The dispute escalated, leading to legal proceedings between the Smiths and their neighbor. The absence of a property survey made it challenging to resolve the issue swiftly and amicably. Additionally, the lack of accurate boundary information caused complications when the Smiths attempted to secure permits for renovations and landscaping.

Ultimately, the Smiths regretted their decision to forego a property survey. The cost-saving measure at the beginning of the transaction ended up costing them significantly more in legal fees, stress, and potential property devaluation due to the unresolved boundary dispute.

Key Takeaway: This case highlights the critical importance of obtaining a property survey during real estate transactions. It can provide essential information that can prevent costly disputes, ensure compliance with local regulations, and safeguard the buyer’s investment in their property. Despite the temptation to cut corners, investing in one is a prudent decision that can save buyers from future headaches and financial losses.

How to Get a Property Survey

The process of obtaining a property survey is relatively straightforward:

  1. Consult your real estate professionals: Discuss the need for a survey with your real estate agent or your lawyer. They can guide you based on your specific situation and recommend reputable surveyors.
  2. Contact a licensed surveyor: Research and choose a qualified surveyor licensed in New Jersey. Inquire about their experience, turnaround time, and fees.
  3. Schedule the surveyor: The surveyor will visit the property to conduct measurements and research public records.
  4. Final Review: Once completed, the surveyor will provide a detailed report with a map outlining the property boundaries and other relevant information. Carefully review the survey to ensure all details are accurate.

Investing in a survey is a wise decision for any New Jersey real estate transaction.  It provides valuable information about your property, protecting your investment and ensuring a smooth buying or selling process. 

For further guidance on any real estate legal matters, feel free to contact Zager Fuchs to schedule a consultation with attorney Andrew Krantz.