Do I Really Need a Survey?

June 21, 2023

What is a survey and do I even need one?

Whether you are buying or refinancing a current business that includes commercial real estate, you really do need a current survey. In fact, most lenders and title officers require a survey.

What Does a Survey Do and Why is it so important?

• Boundaries: The basic purpose of a survey is to show a detailed drawing of your entire property with all of its buildings and improvements. The survey will clearly delineate where your property begins and ends. The survey will be on record and show that you have clear legal ownership of everything within these boundaries.

Encroachments: An encroachment indicates a place where ownership of a property crosses a boundary line. So maybe there is a shared septic tank with the neighbor and part of that infrastructure is on your property. The survey would show that encroachment and the title company would “insure around that”.

• Easement:  An easement is a section of your property that is carved out for somebody else’s access and use, typically a utility company. So if you have buried cables or an alleyway, sometimes there are easements here. You own the full property, but the easement designates a place that a third party has access to and sometimes even control over. Again, these would be clearly labelled on a survey and title insurance insures around this.

How much time does it take and how much does a survey cost?

Don’t leave me hanging; what does it cost and how long will it take? Surveyors are professionals. They have to determine the scope of the survey, do research about the boundaries of your property, search city or county records for previous surveys, go to the site, draw the survey and obtain approval from the title officer and the lender of their final survey. Therefore, a survey typically takes at least four weeks and sometimes much longer in different marketplaces and different seasons. The costs can vary but are typically under $10,000, depending on the complications of the building and prior documentation.

• ALTA surveys: There are different types of surveying tools. However, we recommend that borrowers purchase an ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey. These surveys conform to the industry standards and even have a standard document (Table A) which lenders, title officers and surveyors use to communicate about what information they require.

• Are there any ways to save money and time?  The best way to save money and time is to make sure that a relatively current survey has already been done. So if you are refinancing and you never got a survey when you bought your property, arrange for a survey right now! If you are buying a property, ask the seller if there is a current or even an old survey. We often are able to contact the previous surveyor and obtain an updated, re-certified survey, which will save lots of time and money.

If you would like to discuss surveys, title issues, closing, refinancing and purchasing or any other business plans, feel free to contact our team.  We can conduct a business evaluation, reach out to our lenders, offer advice on bidding and doing your due diligence and secure financing for you. An initial business evaluation is complimentary.

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