Real Estate Alphabet Soup: S is for Survey

Miles & Stockbridge P.C.

In my last post, “Real Estate Alphabet Soup: R is for Real Property” I continued my primer on the “alphabet soup” of real estate. This post continues to stir the “alphabet soup” with the letter “S.”

S is for “Survey.” A “survey” or “land survey” is the determination of a three dimensional image of land and positions, using points and distances, as determined by electronic distance measurements. A professional land “survey” is prepared by a trained, licensed professional land surveyor using sophisticated, specialized equipment and instruments to take precise measurements of land. The “survey” information is then used to establish maps showing the boundaries of land and the location of structures on the land. A “survey” is generally used to establish the precise location and legal description of land.

There are different types of “surveys” but the most common are an “as built” or “location” survey, and an ALTA/ACSM (American Land Title Association/American Congress of Surveying and Mapping) survey. A location “survey” will generally show only the boundaries of the property and the location of existing structures on the property. A location “survey” is often required by a lender or title company as part of the purchase or refinance and insuring of a property in order to determine that the house or buildings are located within the boundaries of the subject property and that there are no encroachments onto adjacent properties, or any encroachments onto the subject property from other adjacent properties. An ALTA/ACSM “survey” is a more detailed and precise “survey” establishing not only the perimeter boundaries of a parcel of land and the location of any structures on the land, but also the location of any easements, rights of way, setbacks, encroachments, and flood plains that may exist on the land, and calculating the total area of the land, including square footage and acreage.

Another common type of “survey” is a topographical survey, which shows the physical topography of a parcel of land, by indicating the various contours, grades and slopes of the property.

S is also for “Setback” which should be shown on a detailed “Survey”. A “setback” is a minimum required distance beyond which any structure may be constructed and located on a parcel of land. Local governments may require a minimum “setback” for the front yard, side yard and rear yard of a property. In addition there may be “setback” requirements for fences, landscaping or accessory structures on the property. “Setbacks” are generally used in order to protect against encroachments onto adjacent properties, to provide visibility and safe sight distances for public streets and rights of way, and to ensure that buildings or structures are located a safe and practical distance from adjacent properties.

A “survey” showing “setbacks” and other structures and physical characteristics of a parcel of land is a valuable document that can provide assurance of what a landowner actually has, to ensure ownership and enjoyment of the property.

In my next post, I will move on to the letter “T”, the next letter in this real estate “alphabet soup.”

Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. Any federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written by the author to be used, and cannot be used by the recipient, for the purpose of avoiding penalties which may be imposed on the recipient by the IRS. Please contact the author if you would like to receive written advice in a format which complies with IRS rules and may be relied upon to avoid penalties.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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