June 12, 2023

Needham, MA--A couple in search of a new property told their real estate agent they wanted a house that included gas appliances, rather than all electric. When shopping for their new home, they carefully checked the listing to ensure the property had gas lines.

However, when they moved into the home and called their local gas company to have the gas turned on, they discovered that although there was a gas line in the development, no gas lines had ever been laid to the house. The listing had been incorrect.

Had the homebuyers reviewed the property survey, they may have noted that there were no gas lines on the property.

Surveys are often required by the lender or the title company when you purchase a property, but they can be notoriously difficult for the average person to interpret. If you ever have concerns about elements of your property, enlisting a real estate attorney who is knowledgeable about surveys can help you determine before purchasing the property if there are any issues that will potentially limit your ability to add desired features to the property such as a fence, swimming pool, garage or deck. An attorney can also identify existing issues with the property.

Here is a brief overview of what is included in a survey.

General Overview

A survey includes two main elements: the written report that provides a narrative of many aspects of the survey and an illustrated map.

Legal Description

A legal description is a unique identifier of a property that not only includes a description of the boundaries and square footage of the property, but also positions the property by describing the lot or tract, within the city, county and state in which it is located. These descriptions are much more specific than the simple address attached to the property, such as 1234 Main Street.

Roadways, sidewalks and rights-of-way

The survey will show all roadways and sidewalks adjacent to the property and any rights-of-way.  A right-of-way is an area of the property which allows someone else to pass through your property. For instance, if your house is located in lakeside community, a right-of-way may exist on your property to allow other residents who live in the development to walk through your property to access the lake.

Buildings and paved areas

The surveyor will include the dimensions of all buildings and paved areas on the property, as well as the setback lines. The setback lines show how far any structure on the property must be from the property line. For instance, if you build a garage on your property, the setback determines how many feet you must maintain between the structure and the property line in order to provide space between your garage and any structures on the property next to yours.

Easement and Encroachments

The illustrated map will indicate all easements that allow access to your property for your utility installation and maintenance, for instance gas lines, electric lines, and water lines. The surveyor will also note encroachments, that is structures on neighboring properties that were built partially or wholly on your property.

If you are planning any improvements to a property you want to purchase, it is imperative that you get a survey and work with your attorney to understand any limitations the property may have.

At Kriss Law/Atlantic Closing & Escrow, we have a full range of experienced legal professionals to assist your clients with the most complex details of their real estate transactions. Contact us to learn more about our services and expertise.

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