I Don’t Need a Land Survey!

April 22, 2012

We hear it all the time, “I don’t need a Land Survey.” The fact is, you do.

We hear people say; “I bought a house 30 years ago and the property lines are not an issue”, “I just bought a house and I know where my property lines are”, “My neighbor and I know where the property lines are”, or “My realtor told me where my property lines are”. This list can go on, but these are common perceptions of people who own real estate or are about to own real estate.

The real problem of a property line dispute always stem from the fact that a survey has not been done. Disputes come from different ideas; one from a past property owner, another from an existing property owner, others come from neighboring interpretations or any combination thereof. What was once common knowledge is now a buffet of opinions. Don’t take it upon yourself, your Realtor, or your Landscaper to determine your property lines; hire a licensed professional Land Surveyor to determine them for you.

Looking at property lines in a technical sense, Surveys performed over time assuming they agree in interpretation, perpetuates them. What I mean by perpetuate is that property lines are kept in the proper location for a very long time or even forever. Property lines CAN NOT be perpetuated without a Land Survey performed by a licensed Land Surveyor. To protect the integrity and the intent of property lines as of the day they were created, we as Land Surveyors must follow the footsteps of the surveyor before us. If every surveyor does this and does not try to recreate the wheel, the original intent of your property lines will be protected and perpetuated.

The determination of property lines come from many different sources. Some sources that surveyors must consider in every survey are deeds (they describe your property boundary), title policies (typically a 4-10 page document insuring your property title that includes the most current deed and other legal supporting documents that was given to you at the closing of your real estate transaction), easement documents, roadway maps, shorelines, river banks, past surveys, existing property corners, state monuments and lines of occupation (i.e. tree lines or bush/brush lines). Without the use of these tools, your property boundary may be compromised.

To put the last couple paragraphs into layman’s terms, lets pretend that an asphalt driveway is your property and the tar you treat it with every few years is a Land Survey. If the tar is not applied on a regular basis your asphalt driveway begins to fade to a grey color. Over time your driveway will begin to crack and grass and weeds begin to grow into your driveway, distorting the real shape of your driveway. Make sure your property is getting the required tar so that your boundary does not fade away and become distorted.

Now lets imagine buying your next property with the belief that you own a certain area, to find out years later that you were wrong. Sometimes it is only a few inches, other times it is multiple feet effecting the placement of landscaping, decks, pools, or sheds. Remember the cliché’ “hind sight is always 20/20”—You do not want to find yourself on the wrong end of “hind sight is 20/20”. As a property owner it is one of your duties to protect your property, are you willing to give up inches? Are you willing to give up multiple feet? Defending or initiating a property dispute is many times very costly. Property disputes are only disputes if surveys have not been completed on your property. The more surveys done on a property, the chances of a dispute occurring go down exponentially. Spending thousands of dollars defending a property line can be avoided with a Land Survey.

If you are about to become a real estate owner, you will have a perception of where your property lines are and if a dispute should ever arise, you will wish that at least one survey has been done on your property in the past. When multiple surveys have been completed and all of them are in agreement with each other, it is very difficult to prove them wrong. If during a dispute your neighbor orders a Land Survey, and that survey is the only one of record for his property and it does not agree with the survey you have that mirrors multiple surveys done in the past, chances are heavily stacked in your favor. On the other hand if you are like your neighbor, you are likely going down a path of a spending spree to defend your property. If it comes down to it, courts may ask for other surveys done on the property or surveys done adjacent to it, to verify if any similarities exist among the surveyed properties.

Maybe you will always be like the people I mentioned in the beginning, and that’s ok. But remember there is a solution to every problem and there is a solution to property disputes. Land Surveyors can essentially eliminate future property disputes if you simply order a Land Survey every time you buy or sell a property. The best way to think of a Land Survey is that it is like an insurance policy costing approximately 25¢ a day.

Rick Hillmann is the owner of Continental Surveying Services, LLC a locally based Land Survey company that has helped commercial and residential Customers save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last 25 years. Continental Surveying Services, LLC is the only Land Surveyor in the State of Wisconsin who is an active member of Milwaukee NARI, the largest chapter in the United States.

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