For most people, the purchase of
a home, or the purchase of land and the construction of a
home, represents the largest single investment of a
lifetime. A wise investor will therefore take advantage of
every opportunity to protect that investment.
Many services are available which can assure a person of
the soundness of a real estate investment. The services of
an attorney will, among other things, assure an
understanding of the documents necessary to the
transaction and the obligations incurred by signing those
documents. A title search with title insurance will insure
that the seller owns the property that he has contracted
to sell. The search may find a lien or an unpaid mortgage,
or it may uncover a restriction on the use of the land.
There are many questions you should ask before you
purchase land. Among the most important are:
EXACTLY WHERE ON THE GROUND IS
THE PROPERTY THAT I HAVE CONTRACTED TO PURCHASE?
ARE THE PHYSICAL IMPROVEMENTS
(HOUSE, GARAGE, FENCES, ETC.), THAT I WAS SHOWN, ACTUALLY
ON THE PROPERTY?
The answers to these questions
can be reassuring or distressing, but if they are
discovered after closing the sale, the result may be
WHY ARE THESE QUESTIONS IMPORTANT?
They are important because the property described in a
contract often is not exactly as it was shown or as it
appeared to the purchaser. Sometimes property that has
been improved and maintained by a seller actually belongs
to a neighbor.
The property lines may go through a garden, or a garage,
or even a house! Occasionally, a contract describes
completely different land than that shown to the
WHO CAN ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS?
Only a person legally licensed and registered to
practice land surveying may provide the service to answer
these vital questions. A licensed land surveyor is an
expert at interpreting descriptions of property and is
uniquely qualified to accurately and precisely locate
WHAT WILL A SURVEYOR DO TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS?
The surveyor will study the documents that you supply
including those in your title search. Then a field survey
will be conducted, searching for and obtaining evidence of
the property's boundaries and locating any visible
improvements on or near the property. When the field
survey is complete, the measurements are mathematically
proven, and the documents are studied with respect to the
evidence that was found. Then the location of the property
lines, and other described lines, are determined by the
surveyor, and a report is prepared, usually in the form of
a survey map.
WHAT WILL THE SURVEY MAP SHOW ME?
The survey map will show you the location of the lines
of the property as described in the contract of purchase.
It will show you the dimensions of the land and the
location of other lines, described in your documents,
which affect the property, such as easements and
rights-of-way. It will note variations from the described
angles, lengths, and areas that the surveyor may find. The
map will also depict the location of visible improvements
on or near the property and the relation of those
improvements to the property's boundary.
It may report that the garden you admired actually belongs
to a neighbor or that a part of the land is being used by
others. It may show you that the easement, reserved for
others, in the contract is just the place where you
thought your pool might go someday! Possibly, there will
be physical evidence of an easement that is not recorded.
With the survey map, your attorney can determine if the
property conforms to certain aspects of the local zoning
laws. It frequently assists him in evaluating the effect
of covenants and restrictions on the property.
The inside fold of this pamphlet shows some of the many
questions a survey map may answer.
WHAT IF THE SELLER HAS A SURVEY?
First, be sure that it is a survey prepared by a
licensed land surveyor. Not all maps are based on actual
surveys. A map that is not a survey is not reliable.
If the seller provides a survey, it may not be adequate
for your needs. Since the date of the survey, there may
have been changes in the property lines, or perhaps
improvements were made which affect the use and value of
the land. As property values increase, the requirements of
a survey change and become more rigid. Only the surveyor
who prepared the seller's survey can state that his survey
will meet your present needs. You should consult with him
to learn if the survey is adequate. You should be sure
that the surveyor is willing to certify his survey to you
WHAT WILL A SURVEY COST?
The costs of surveys differ because of varying sizes
and locations of properties. Such things as the complexity
of the descriptions, terrain and the shape of the property
are factors that must be considered. As a result, only a
surveyor can accurately estimate the cost of a survey.
The cost of a survey can range from a few hundred to
several thousands of dollars. However, most surveyors are
willing to discuss their fees and offer an estimate before
you authorize a survey. You should keep in mind that the
cost of a survey represents a very small percentage of
your total investment, but it can help you avoid costly
and painful problems in the future.
WHERE CAN I FIND A QUALIFIED SURVEYOR?
Surveyors who are members of the Westchester-Putnam
Association of Professional Land Surveyors, Inc. are all
licensed and registered to practice in New York State. In
addition, they have subscribed to the "Code of Practice
for Land Surveys" adopted by the New York State
Association of Professional Land Surveyors, Inc. This code
is designed to help maintain a high standard of care and
precision in the preparation of land surveys. You should
inquire whether the surveyor whom you are considering will
certify that his survey has been prepared in accordance
with this code and whether he is a member of the
Westchester-Putnam Association of Professional Land
Surveyors, Inc. You can find members listed in the
classified section of your telephone directory under