Those of you relocating from other parts of the country – particularly from California like we did – are generally unfamiliar with the idea of getting a survey before purchasing a home in Austin. Buyers often ask: Why do buyers need a new survey? Well, here’s why.
What is the Purpose of a Survey?
A property survey identifies boundaries and other physical features like easements, potential encroachments and property setbacks. It goes much further than a simple sketch of the property’s physical details. A residential property survey report also shows the relative location of the house, outbuildings, swimming pools, decks and fences on the property, and it usually includes the position of any public or municipal easements.
Why are Surveys Required in Texas?
Property surveys are performed for a variety of reasons, usually because the buyer’s lender requires it before making a loan as will many title insurers before they issue a title policy. They may also be required by local law or ordinance whenever property changes ownership. In the United States, property surveys must be performed by a professional surveyor (i.e. George Washington was a surveyor), who is licensed in the state where the property is located.
We Always Recommend Buyers Get a New Survey
Residential lot and acreage land surveys can range from the very simple or highly complex. We always – and I do mean always – recommend that our buyer clients obtain their own and not rely on the seller’s old survey. Lenders and title insurers will often require a survey completed within six months of the closing date, but sometimes they will use an old survey. In Texas, many buyers attempting to hold down costs elect to use the previous survey from the sellers, but there are risks involved when accepting an older survey. The most critical is the surveyor is only liable for errors to the homeowner to whom that survey was first issued. Secondly, an old survey will not show new easements or encroachments on the property.
What If I Want to Use the Seller’s Survey?
Texas Law does not require a Seller to allow a Buyer the use of the seller’s existing survey for the purpose of closing the sale of their property. If the sellers do agree to allow the buyers to use the existing survey, the sellers must sign and deliver a document (TAR Form #1907 aka a T-47) that states that there have been no changes made to the property, and this form has to be notarized along with the old survey.
Why Sellers Should Insist on Obtaining a New Survey
Why is this problematic for sellers? The Texas Courts have declared that a Surveyor’s liability is limited to the homeowner to whom the surveyor provided the original survey The seller may be held liable for any errors on the survey due to the fact they now have made the surveyor a third party to the transaction.
Looking to Expand the Home or Get a Pool?
If you’re looking to make any changes to the home, including exterior improvements like decks and pools, it is essential you purchase a new survey when buying a home in Austin. Why? If the old survey does not show the correct property setback lines, or if there has been a new utility easement recorded, you might not be able to build a pool in the buildable area of the lot. Which means, you just bought a home with the intention of building a pool that you will never have.
Buyers and Sellers Recommendation: Insist on a New Survey
Bottom line, whether you are a buyer or a seller, insist on a new survey. Please don’t try to cut corners just to save a dollar or two. In the long run it may prove to be a very expensive shortcut.
Looking for an Austin Realtor Who Will Help Manage Risks When Buying Real Estate?
We are the kind of people who – metaphorically speaking – like to wear both a belt and suspenders when it comes to managing real estate risks. We want you to be aware of the risks and make your own decisions about what level of risk is acceptable. For more buyer tips, check out our Austin Real Estate Blog for Buyers and our Buyer Representation Program to learn how we’re different than most Realtors. Then, call us at (512) 827-8323, email us at info@11OaksRealty.com or fill out our Buyer Survey to schedule a no obligation consultation.