Homes - Real Estate

Guide to property surveys

Discover the legal history of your home with Scott McGillivray's tips and tricks.

Every home is imbued with unique stories of the past lives that were lived there, but finding out the legal history of your land, such as the boundaries, possible easements and rights of way, is essential if you want to renovate or rebuild. Here are some tips and tricks to help you out.

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Why should you have a survey done?
The details of your property’s boundaries is information that every homeowner should have. Land surveys that are used for residential homes are called Surveyor’s Real Property Reports and are illustrated documents that show exactly where your home sits and where any improvements, such as renos, additional buildings, decks, driveways or pools, have been made. Since a land survey is legally binding, it can be relied on if anything is ever questioned in a real estate deal, whether by the bank, mortgage company or the local municipality.

How long does a survey last?

Surveys don’t have an expiration date but if you inherited one with your home, you may want to have it updated. Surveys are like a snapshot of your property and every time you or your immediate neighbours add or change something, like a fence, deck, pool or an extension, a survey is a must. If you’re buying a property, money lenders might even request a current land survey as part of their financing conditions, so it’s best to be prepared at all costs. On the other hand, if you’re planning on selling your home and you think that an interested buyer might be inclined to renovate or rebuild, offering a completed land survey as part of the deal might be something to consider.

How does a survey protect you?
If you're planniing a large-scale home renovation in which the footprint of your home will change, you need to complete a land survey. While the cost can be anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars (depending on the size of your lot, types of natural features on your land and the age of your property), the investment could save you money in any possible future land disputes. Building a fence, for example, is often a point of contention between even the best of neighbours and knowing exact land boundaries is critical so that your fence isn't installed a foot into your neighbour's yard. The lesson here is that building permits alone are not enough and having a professional survey completed by a registered land surveying company is a smart and necessary additional investment.

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