The Role of Surveys When Selling or Buying Texas Real Estate

Texas Real Estate and the Role of Surveys

A property survey is a drawing accompanied by a written report which indicates boundaries of real property along with the locations of any improvements on that property. Based on the legal description of the property as well as a surveyor’s measurements, it is a critical document because most lenders require a survey for closing.

A new survey is not always required for a real estate transaction, particularly if no improvements have been made to the property and/or if sellers are selling the same piece of land that they purchased originally. If the survey still fulfills its purpose of accurately representing the property, then a new survey is probably unnecessary. However, if the land is only part of what the seller originally purchased, or if improvements have been made to the property since the last survey, the title company may require a new survey.

While a subdivision plat is sometimes confused with a survey, a plat is not synonymous with a survey. A survey reflects improvements made to property and the locations of those improvements, but a plat does not. Instead, it is prepared by an engineer to reflect the boundaries of the property. The plat is filed with the county and often provides information about easements in anticipation of subdividing property into smaller pieces, usually 5 acres or less. Knowledge about easements is important to developers planning for utilities, public roads, emergency services, and other infrastructure. The information from a survey is of greater relevance to a homeowner.

Another important purpose of a survey is to identify easements and encroachments on the property. A property owner who is not aware of property lines may encroach on a utility easement, for example, by adding a second story to a house. A survey will also identify common issues such as fence encroachments on neighboring properties.

While the boundaries and improvements to land may not change significantly from one real estate transaction to another, the accuracy of the survey is an important safeguard for a potential buyer. Misreading or misunderstanding a survey can have disastrous results. Working with a lawyer familiar with real estate law ensures the best possible outcome for everyone involved.

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