Title Tip – The Value of a Survey

Title insurance is used to insure (or guarantee) that you have clear title or good title to your property.  Whether your description is “Lot 7, Block 2, Pine Tree acres” or something that looks more complicated such as “That part of the Northeast Quarter of the Northwest Quarter described as follows:  Commencing at the Northeast corner of the Northeast Quarter of the Northwest Quarter, thence south on a bearing of …..……..” your title insurance will insure your clear ownership of that particular piece of property.  Before providing you with the insurance, a title company will go to the courthouse, research the public records and then examine the history of the property to make sure that there are no other parties who may have an interest in the property.  If there are any concerns, we clear them up before we provide the insurance.

The purpose of a survey is to tell you WHERE that particular piece of property is located.  In the “old days”, prior to all of the modern survey equipment, it wasn’t uncommon for a survey to be “off” by a few inches.  Even deviations of a foot or two are not uncommon.  And then there is the occasional “oops”, where the surveyor used the wrong reference point to start with or didn’t have his equipment calibrated.

I have personally been aware of a group of lake lots where ALL of the lot lines were off by approximately 16 feet – which resulted in many people owning part of their neighbors living room.  In this particular situation, all owners were co-operative and willing to sign deeds to correct the issue.  I am also aware of one other situation where the person on the end had the extra 16 feet and would NOT sign a deed until he was paid a nice sum of money.  Every situation is different.

To be sure, this type of situation is quite rare – as most surveys (even from the “old days”) are fairly close to exact.  Be aware however of the situation where the property owner has split off a piece of property and avoided the expense of a survey.  We have seen this MANY times – and had a number of clean up issues because the property lines were off by 30 feet or more.  One situation resulted in a lawsuit – because the person who had sold using his own (defective) legal description had passed away – and the unhappy owner was dealing with the offspring who didn’t really care about cleaning this problem up.

So the value of a survey is to tell you WHERE your property is.  It will show you exactly where the property lines are – so you aren’t relying on an existing fence, a power pole or the neighbors memory.

Disclaimer – this information is NOT legal or financial advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the same.  It is offered for informational purposes only.  Many different factors can influence the proper course of action for a particular situation.  Please seek the advice of a qualified professional for guidance with your specific transaction.