Whether you are purchasing an existing home, acreage in the country, or a lot in a new subdivision, a land survey can be an important step in protecting your investment.
Some banks still require a land survey in order to approve a mortgage; however, in the last few years many institutions have been more relaxed with that requirement. Because of this, land surveys are often overlooked and without one, homeowners can run into potential issues.
Why a Land Survey?
A land survey will include the property’s boundary measurements, and may contain a drawing of the property’s features from an overhead perspective. It may include details such as buildings, sidewalks, fences, trees, driveways, etc., and it may also include encroachments, easements, rights of way, contour mapping, etc.
In an ideal situation, a land survey would be completed before closing on a property or piece of land, even earlier if you have complex building plans. It is also important for existing homeowners to have a land survey done before making any additions or major modifications to a home, including adding a pool, clearing trees, building a garage or addition, or installing major landscaping or an underground sprinkler system.
Greg Vaughn, director of surveying for Wolverine Engineers & Surveyors, Inc., says that a land survey is not often thought about until issues arise.
“Fencing is the one of the most frequent issues,” said Vaughn. “A homeowner might install a fence thinking they know where the property line is…maybe along the tree line or where the neighbor stops mowing. Maybe a homeowner tears down an old fence and puts a new one up, assuming the old one was in the correct location. When the new fence is complete they find out it is actually encroaching on a neighbor’s property. We also see this a lot with sprinkler systems and accessory buildings, like garages and sheds.”
Issues like these can be extremely costly for a homeowner – especially if a lawsuit is involved – but a detailed survey can help ensure your bases are covered.
FEMA 100-Year Floodplain
One of the hot button issues facing Michigan property owners in the past few years is the re-mapping of FEMA’s 100-year floodplain, which was completed in the Lansing area between 2009 and 2012. The floodplain mapping contains homes and land that have at least a 1 percent chance of flooding each year. With the re-mapping, a home that was not in a flood area before could now be considered at risk. Unaware homeowners would most likely receive a notice of this change from their mortgage company. Unfortunately, once a home is placed in FEMA’s 100-year floodplain map, the value of the property decreases significantly and the property owner must purchase expensive flood insurance. That is, unless, you can prove the assessment was incorrect.
In a situation like this, Vaughn says it is important for the property owner to get an elevation survey.
“We have found that the FEMA floodplain mapping is highly inaccurate,” said Vaughn. “I would say that 80 to 85 percent of clients that have called us after being notified of the change have ended up being removed from the list, saving them a lot of money. This is a big issue for homeowners across the country.”
As an example, Vaughn says his office was contacted by a property owner in the Lansing area who was notified that his home was in the FEMA 100-year floodplain map. Not only did his property value drop significantly, but he also had to purchase costly flood insurance of more than $3,500 a year. By paying for an elevation survey, this property owner actually found out his home should not have been included in the new floodplain map, and he received a full reimbursement from his insurance company.
What are the Costs?
A boundary survey for platted property within a subdivision runs approximately $300-$600, depending on factors like age of the subdivision, if it is a wooded area, etc. When looking at acreage and unplatted land, the price typically ranges from $600-$2,000, depending on the size of the property, if it is heavily wooded, etc. While this may seem expensive, it is relatively cheap when compared to the costs of rebuilding a fence or garage, or potential legal fees.
There are many types of land surveys, depending on the type of services desired. If you have any questions or concerns about your existing property, or a property you are looking to purchase, seek the help of a professional surveyor. Visit the Aqutitle website at www.aqutitle.com for a list of service providers.