Turnkey Title Blog

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A question we are often asked is whether a survey is needed prior to closing a real estate transaction.  The answer to that question, like most legal questions, is – it depends.  Most residential real estate transactions involve a tract of land that is in a developed subdivision, while others involve rural or undeveloped land.  A tract of land that forms part of an established subdivision will already have been subjected to a survey, while rural or undeveloped land often times will have never been surveyed or only have been surveyed as part of a much larger tract.  Depending on which, a survey may be advisable, but not required or may be required.  With limited exception, commercial transactions will always involve a new survey prior to closing.  This blog entry will just focus on surveys and residential transactions.


You most likely will not need or be required to obtain a survey if you are purchasing a property in an established subdivision.  That is because land in a subdivision that has been properly dedicated has been subjected to a survey when the larger tract to which it is a part was originally subdivided.  That process would have exposed apparent easements, some non-apparent easements and physical encumbrances burdening the property.  Examples of apparent easements and physical encumbrances would include overhead powerlines, fences, utility boxes and sidewalks.  An example of a non-apparent easement would be a building setback restriction, which are nearly always present in new subdivisions.

One huge caveat to the above is if you are purchasing in an established subdivision that was developed decades ago or in a subdivision that has had a high amount of ownership turnover.   This is because a subdivision survey done in 1927 for a subdivision dedicated that same year will only show what the surveyor saw in 1927.  Thus, if a neighbor built a fence 4 feet into your property in 1957 and another neighbor built a storage shed a half a foot across your rear property line in 1973, you would only be able to determine this with any degree of certainty through a new survey.


If you are purchasing rural or undeveloped land it will more often than not will necessitate a survey prior to closing.  You will likely need a survey to set the boundaries of the tract you are purchasing, but you will need to establish the location of any apparent easements and physical encumbrances since this has not been done before.  In addition to the different types of easements and encumbrances discussed above, rural property, especially in South Louisiana, will likely have underground pipeline rights of way burdening it.  You will need to determine the location of all of these in order to set the footprint of any improvements to be constructed.

A survey is always advisable in every transaction just for peace of mind.  For some, they may be cost prohibitive, but If you are looking at purchasing property and have any questions as to the location of the fence, or a tree, or the location of your soon-to-be neighbor’s driveway, or to ensure that the improvements on the land were not built over an established setback, you will need to get one.  More than a few former clients have found the cost of a pre-closing survey to be more than worth it in the end because it ensured that these issues were addressed prior to closing and often at the cost of someone else.

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