While in most cases, a residential purchaser is not required to obtain a new boundary survey in New York, it may be beneficial to do so. In many cases, the Seller or local building department can provide an old survey that can be “read into” the Purchaser’s title insurance policy. In some cases, however, the survey may be too old (e.g. it pre-dates certain improvements on the property) or the quality may not be sufficient for title purposes.
The Purchaser’s title insurance company may do an inspection to spot any obvious title issues. However, if the Purchaser does not provide a survey, Schedule B to the Purchaser’s title insurance policy may state that the coverage is subject to any state of facts shown on a survey. Therefore, while a Purchaser may not be required to obtain a survey, in order to close title, the purchaser’s title insurance coverage would be more comprehensive with a survey. For example, if a neighboring property owner later claims that it owns a portion of the Purchaser’s property, the Purchaser is more likely to have title insurance coverage with a survey “read into” the policy.
In addition, if a Purchaser is planning on making improvements to the property after the closing, such as adding an addition, detached garage, swimming pool or tennis court, the local zoning jurisdiction (Town, Village or City) may require a survey. If the Purchaser is planning to erect a fence, a survey may also be prudent to ensure that the fence is constructed in the correct location.
A common pitfall is that purchasers may assume that an existing feature such as a fence, stone wall or hedge/tree row is consistent with the boundary line. Unfortunately, these features are rarely located precisely along the property’s boundary line. In most instances, these features vary with the boundary line. For example, a fence may begin on the boundary line in the front of the property and appear to run straight toward the back of the property. However, the fence may diverge with the property line more and more as it approaches the rear property line. To avoid this problem, a property owner can hire a surveyor to “stake out” the property boundary so that the fence contractor knows where the property line actually lies.
It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the many types of survey issues that may arise in the context of a residential contract of sale. Suffice it to say that a Purchaser stands to benefit by having a survey read into its title insurance policy.
*Thank you for taking the time to read this article. This article is part of our “From Contract to Closing; Demystifying NY Residential Real Estate” Series. Other aspects of residential real estate transactions in New York are discussed in other Parts of this series.
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