A title company does need a survey because it provides information important to determining if the seller can provide a clear title to the property.
- Surveys include boundary issues that may not be apparent.
- Mortgage lenders often require a survey to get a mortgage.
- Land surveys can include mistakes, so you carefully review them with your surveyor.
The title company needs the survey for the same reason you should want one: to make sure that you don’t have a serious unknown boundary issue with your land.
What a Real Estate Survey Includes
A survey can include many things, but a title company looks for issues that would cloud the title. These include boundary issues, encroachments, and easements.1
Title companies need a Survey Because of Boundaries
If boundaries are not clearly marked, many homeowners don’t know where their land ends and their neighbor’s property begins. While this may be straightforward there can be discrepancies between the written description of the property, and the survey map that a professional makes.
Title companies need a Survey Because of Encroachments
Encroachments are serious problems for homeowners. It happens when a landowner builds an improvement that extends over another person’s land. The reason that a title company wants a new survey is encroachments:
- May happen any time a homeowner makes an improvement on their land.
- Can affect your property when a neighbor makes an improvement to their land.
You may not have any control over an encroachment that affects the title to your property. If a neighbor encroaches on your land it is a serious problem. It clouds the title and can bring into question your possession. Title companies need to clear up these issues before they can write insurance policies for the title.
Title companies need a Survey Because of Easements
Easements are often invisible. You may not even know if you have an easement associated with your land. There are three categories of easements:
- Easements in gross – Owner’s rights are not considered
- Easement appurtenant – Caused by necessity
- Prescriptive Easement – Use without permission
Power lines, sewer lines, and phone lines are all examples of the first type. The second type may be access to a driveway so your neighbor can get out to the street. The third type is the most problematic. It is adverse possession of the land. It usually stems from encroachment, but it can be a situation where a neighbor simply uses your property without permission.
Title companies need to know about all of these. They can happen at any time, so the older the survey the greater the chance that one of these easements may occur.2
Do Mortgage Lenders Require a Survey?
Mortgage lenders require a survey most of the time. While the boundaries of your property may not change, improvements to the land may affect setbacks and rights to your land.
Does a 5-Year-Old House Need a Survey?
A 5-year-old house may require a survey if the mortgage company believes there may be an issue with the land. Three major issues can develop over time:
- Improvements may encroach on a neighbor’s property, or a neighbor’s improvements may encroach on yours.
- An improvement may violate setback ordinances.
- A third party may get an easement for use or access to your land.
As you can see many things may affect your property’s boundaries. While little may change from one year to the next, over the course of several years significant changes can happen. A survey will determine if these changes adversely affect your land and need to be addressed.
Does the Title Company Need a Survey if No Mortgage?
Mortgage companies are the institutions that generally require title insurance which demands a survey. Therefore, if you don’t have a mortgage you probably won’t be required to get a survey. However, it is still a good idea to get one. As state before, even if you made no changes to your land, what your neighbors do, or what a utility does, or even what the government does can affect your boundaries without you even knowing.
Are Home Surveys Public Record?
Surveys are legal documents, and in most places, they are part of the public record. Having said that it can be in a variety of places depending on where you live:
- The County Clerk’s Office
- Tax Assessor’s Office
- Your town’s Engineering Office
In some cases, your town may not keep that record, but they will have plat maps. If you can’t find it with your municipality check with your title company, your realtor, or the attorney who handled your transaction. It likely is with your contract.3
Can Land Surveys be Wrong?
Surveys can be wrong. People do make mistakes, and surveys are complicated. Some common mistakes include:
- Malfunctioning equipment
- Property line and boundary miscalculations
- Failure to consider easements
- Failure to reconcile old and newly acquired data
If you think that your survey contains errors go to your surveyor and ask for clarification about the issue first. Often, they can clear it up quickly. For more serious concerns you may need to consult your attorney about the nature of the error.4
Final Thoughts About Why Does a Title Company Need a Survey
Your title company needs a survey to make sure that there is not an issue with your property’s boundaries that you don’t know about. Mortgage companies demand it to protect their investment. You should consider it, too, even if you don’t get a mortgage.