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(Image: Residential Lot- 908 Peachtree Battle Circle, Atlanta, GA 30327 – Listed at $125,000)

What’s your line? When a buyer goes to look at a home, sometimes it seems very obvious where the property lines (boundaries) are. But what you see may not be what you get. Property boundaries don’t always coincide with fences nor are they always where you think that they are. In fact, we’ve seen cases where even a large pool was half on a neighbor’s property; no one was aware until a survey was performed.

When we make an offer on a property, we usually ask the Seller for a survey. If the Seller does not have a survey, the usual course to order a survey at closing – but this is not the prudent course. The best thing to do is order a survey long before, so if there are any issues they can be resolved prior to closing or so that the Buyer can terminate if the issues are of great concern and not fixable.

Typically you will want to have an inspection *first* and then if there are no big issues with the inspection, order the survey. Since we often have only a 7 to 10 day inspection period, that may not be long enough for both to conclude.  So insert a stipulation in the contract that says something to this effect: “Seller must provide a survey, if Seller has ever had one done, within 48 hours of binding agreement date. Buyer has the right to order his/her own survey, whether or not Seller provides one. If Buyer’s survey reveals any title, permitting, easement, or encroachment issues Buyer shall provide said survey to Seller within 3 days of receipt and Seller shall have a 5 day opportunity to cure any deficiency. If Seller cannot cure, Buyer shall have the option of terminating this Agreement at no penalty to Buyer.”

Why the mention of “permitting” issues above?  Well, if a structure or improvement encroaches on a neighbor’s property, it likely means that the structure or improvement was not permitted with applicable governmental authorities, which is another, potentially even bigger issue.  While encroachment issues have a two year statute of limitations, permitting issues do not.  This comes up most often with garages and other structures on the edges of the property.

As with everything you purchase, be sure you know what you are buying!  One important aspect of this is knowing the boundaries of your property through a survey.  And as always, call the Mary Anne Walser team when you or someone you know wants to buy or sell a home!