Traditionally, a home buyer has obtained a property survey when purchasing a home. This is a drawing of the house on the lot prepared by a licensed surveyor which shows various measurements such as the distance of the house from the surrounding property lines. It will also show for instance if a neighbor’s fence is on the home buyer’s property. However, these days, mortgage lenders in many cases do not require their borrowers to obtain surveys. So the home buyer may say, “Why bother? Let me save that cost”.
The danger of that kind of decision is amply illustrated by the following real life scenario. Recently, after obtaining and reviewing a property survey for a home buying client, I discovered that the house he was buying, extended 12 inches over the property line onto the neighbor’s property. This had at least two potential consequences for my client. First, the neighbor could sue my client in the future to force him to remove the part of the house that was over the line. Secondly, even if he was not required to remove the encroachment, this problem would be a big stumbling block if my client ever decided to sell the house, because prospective buyers would have the same concern about the forced removal of the encroachment.
In this case, I required the seller to obtain an easement from the neighbor, permitting the encroachment. The easement was provided at no cost to the buyer and was recorded in the county clerk’s office so that any future buyer would see that the problem was handled and resolved. In this way, the buyer could go to closing with peace of mind. He would have never known of this problem if we had not obtained the property survey for him. It is important for home buyers and sellers to rely upon the expertise and guidance of their attorneys in these matters.