In addition to physically visiting a property before a purchase, it is a good idea, as well as a requirement of most lending institutions, to obtain a survey of the property. Surveys are made by licensed surveyors who are subject to certain regulations imposed by the State of New Jersey. A survey will locate any structures and other above ground improvements on the premises, including fences, identify easements the property is subject to and provide the purchaser with the property’s dimensions.
There are numerous reasons for obtaining a survey prior to closing. One is to determine if there are any encroachments onto the property in question by any structures from a neighboring property, e.g., fences, sheds, driveways, etc. Or, on the flip side, whether there are any encroachments by structures on the property in question onto neighboring properties. Depending on the type and/or severity of an encroachment, a prospective buyer may seek to have the encroachment corrected before purchasing the property. In the situation where the property being purchased has a structure encroaching onto a neighboring property, the prospective buyer may be able to obtain title insurance to insure against a forced removal of the structure by a court of law.
Other information a survey can disclose may be rights of others to the property reflected by recorded easements (such as utility or drainage easements) or by use rather than a recorded document. For example, there may be a dirt roadway or path that has been used by others for a sufficient period of years to create a right to continue to have ingress and egress across the property.
Yet another potential disclosure might be an overlap of a property, based on its deed description, onto adjoining property. This may raise the potential for a dispute between the owners of these neighboring properties over who actually owns the overlapped area.
In reviewing the survey, the prospective buyer may also be alerted to the true dimensions of the property which may or may not be in conformity with the buyers expectation of what he or she was purchasing. The actual location of the structures on the lot may also alert a buyer to possible violations of any setback requirements affecting the property which are contained in a recorded instrument or filed map.
Most contracts for the sale of property require the seller to provide marketable title. To the extent there are encroachments or overlaps or easements not specifically accepted in the contract, these items may create defects in the title which may need to be addressed prior to closing.
While most prospective buyers obtain a new survey, in certain instances a lender and/or a title company may accept a pre-existing survey provided it is less than 10 years old and there have been no significant changes to the property. In these instances a seller can provide the buyer with a certification to this effect with the survey.