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"Always Get a Property Survey When Buying…Whether You Want to or Not!"


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You will most likely be required to pay for a property survey, in addition to an appraisal, when buying multi family houses (or any property for that matter).

The key difference is that real estate appraisals help your lender determine the property's value, whereas surveys help the title company verify that a property's title is legal and marketable / transferable.


CONTENTS OF SURVEYS


A professionally licensed surveyor must always create a survey, which is essentially a map that illustrates property lines, and shows where structures fall within the boundaries. These structures include:

  • The house itself
  • Fences
  • Sheds
  • Garages
  • Decks
  • Porches
  • Gazebos
  • Driveways
  • Trees
  • Easements (power poles, drainage trenches, cable & phone boxes, etc.)

If the property survey reveals that any structures are outside the proper boundaries, or if it shows the presence of encroachments from neighbors, your title company will issue an exception to the title. The result is that the lending bank will probably pull the plug on the deal.

In this case, it is better to be the buyer and walk away, than to be the seller and get stuck with a dirty title.


WHO NEEDS A SURVEY?


The short answer is: if you are buying property, you need a survey. Even if your lender does not require it, you need to be sure you are not buying a property that will be difficult to sell due to the lack of a clean title. And you'll need a survey to be 100% sure.

If you want to refinance investment property, you may or may not be required to get another property survey. It depends on your strategy.

For example, if you employ a fixer upper strategy, and you made structural additions during the rehab process, your post-rehab refinancing lender will probably request another survey.

If on the other hand you are refinancing a fixer upper that required only cosmetic improvements, then your post-rehab refinance lender will probably not require a new survey, especially if you got one in the prior 6-month period.

If you are not pursuing a fixer upper strategy and you're refinancing because, for example, you want a better rate, your lender will probably accept a property survey affidavit stating that no improvements have been made to the property since you initially bought it.



SURVEY TIPS & TIDBITS


  • The cost of a survey averages about $300 for a 2-4 unit property, but can still vary. Ask your lender / title company if you are allowed to personally secure the survey and if so, call a few surveyors from the yellow pages to price shop.
  • If you buy a property within 6 months of when the seller purchased it, see if the seller's survey can be used in lieu of paying for a new one.
  • If you're buying a condo, there is no need to get a survey because it was already done for the entire building.
  • If you want stakes marking the corners of the property lines, you'll have to pay extra.
  • Always get a copy of the property survey, because it'll come in handy if you ever have a dispute with the local municipality, refinance, or make improvements.



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2 Responses to Always Get a Property Survey When Buying…Whether You Want to or Not!

  1. rpk says:

    Nice tips on property surveys! I’m a fairly long term investor myself and I wasn’t clear on the finer points of a property survey until I read your post. Kudos!!

  2. Kev says:

    Does anybody know the implications of foreclosure properties for surveys? In other words do I need to worry about a property survey if I am buying a foreclosed property? Thansk in advance!

    kevin

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