Why You Need to Have a Property Survey

Posted by under Buying a Home

The popular saying claims “good fences make good neighbors”, but what if your neighbour’s fence is actually on your property? Understanding the boundaries of your property may seem obvious, but it’s not always clear to home buyers and owners – and it’s one of the many reasons you need to have a property survey.

This can be especially important if you live in close quarters with your neighbours in a Toronto townhouse or duplex, where it can be easy to lose track of exactly where your property rights end and your neighbours begin.

Why You Need to Have a Property Survey

While it’s not mandatory to have a property survey done when you are selling a home, it can be helpful for both you and the buyer to understand all aspects of your property better. Many people also decide to get a property survey done if they’re considering building an addition or knocking down and rebuilding their home in order to make sure that they comply with city mandates around the distance of walls and buildings from the property line.

Here is a rundown of everything you need to know about property surveys and why you might want to get one done.

Related Read: What Home Buyers Should Know About Corner Lots

What is a Land or Property Survey?

When you conduct a land survey of your lot, a certified surveyor comes out and inspects your property. The surveyor uses specialized equipment like GPS or sometimes even an altimeter, which measures elevation, in order to measure and plot your land.

Surveyors first look at your home’s deed in order to understand the size of your property. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the descriptions in some deeds, they are often out-of-date and might include landmarks to demarcate property boundaries – like trees that no longer exist.

In that case, a surveyor will map out your property using tools and public records in order to establish both the size and shape of your lot, the dimensions and distances to the land boundary of any buildings on your land, the location of physical monuments, topographical details like elevation, and information like where there are telephone poles or utility pipes beneath the ground.

They can also tell you of past agreements that give your neighbours rights or easements over your property such as the ability to walk across your lawn or use a part of your driveway to access their property. They can also analyze whether your existing buildings or renovation plans are in line with building codes around the distance of buildings from the property line.

Surveyors can helpful in evaluating your zoning classification and can check records to see whether there are any joints agreements with neighbours around walls, fences, or your property – something that might be particularly relevant for those living within small or conjoined lots.

How to Get a Property Survey

A property survey is easy to get – al you have to do is contact a licensed surveyor and schedule the survey. Licensed surveyors are easy to find via resources on the Professional Surveyors of Canada’s website.  The cost of getting a property survey can be anywhere from as little as a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand dollars depending on the complexity of your property and the amount of detail that you want. To save money, you can specify what kind of information you want included in your survey. The more detail you want, the more it will cost you.

What if You Don’t Have a Property Survey?

If you don’t have a property survey, you could potentially get into trouble. For example, you might sell your home with inaccurate information about the size or boundaries of your plot of land. That could lead the buyer to mount legal action against you for misrepresentation or fraud.

Another reason why you might want to get a property survey is if you plan on building a new home. Some municipalities require that you do a land survey before building. You might also want to have one done so you can pinpoint areas of elevation around your property and build your structure in the best location to prevent flooding.

Another reason you might want to have a land survey is if you’re building an addition onto your home or any outbuildings. If you plan on building an addition, you will have to make sure that it would comply with local ordinances and building codes and knowing the size of your property and the exact location of you property lines could be important information.

But perhaps the most common reason why people might run into difficulties by not having a property survey is if there is some kind of boundary dispute between you and your neighbour. You might build a fence, but your neighbour might say that it is on their property and they do not want a fence there. They could threaten to take it down and if it is on their property then they would have a legal right to. In that case, a land survey is able to determine where the property line is and resolve the dispute easily.

Related Read: Building a Legal Suite in Toronto? Beware Hidden Fees

About Amanda Reaume

Amanda Reaume is a freelance writer who focuses on personal finance, credit, and real estate. Her work has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, The Windsor Star, and online at Forbes.com, Yahoo! Finance, ABC.com , Time.com, USAToday.com, FoxBusiness.com and many other sites.

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