Surveys, Survey Inspections, and Survey Endorsements in a New York Real Estate Transfer.

So, your attorney has indicated that the Seller of a parcel of real property has an “old survey” and that you could get around the cost of a new survey with a survey inspection. What’s the difference?

Survey: A licensed professional surveyor investigates the deed transfers into the owners of the parcel of property, and all of the surrounding parcels. Upon locating the various deeds, the surveyor then goes to the field with his sophisticated equipment to confirm that the metes and bounds description of the property is the same as those described by the various deeds into the owner and the neighbors. In addition to locating the boundaries, the surveyor actually investigates whether there are encroachments by fences, plantings, or other items on the property lines by physically locating such encroachments on the map. The result: you have a present day confirmation as to the boundary lines, possible encroachments, possible claims for adverse possession and an understanding what the status of “ownership” might be to that parcel of real property. The survey drawing delineates the position and boundaries the parcel.

Survey Inspection: If the seller obtained a survey, or there is an older version from the seller’s seller, a title company might avoid the cost of a “new survey” by performing a visual inspection of the property, in a layman’s attempt to identify “changes” to the property since the date of the last survey. Did the owners put up fences, buildings, or other items that might change the landscape and title to the property. Sometimes, the survey inspection will identify additions to the home, screened porches being converted to enclosed porches, and things that might give the buyer and her attorney pause to consider whether certificates of occupancy might be necessary.

Survey Endorsements:
Are issued only to the buyer’s mortgage lender., The title company assures (insures) the lender that the foundations do not encroach onto any easements referred to in the policy. The endorsement may be issued provided: (1) a physical inspection or survey discloses there are no encroachments onto any easements; and (2) the location of the foundations does not violate the covenants, conditions and restrictions of any other provisions of the title insurance policy.

Obviously, the best level of protection is the Survey because it gives you an understanding what the licensed surveyor is willing to certify as your actual boundary lines, and whether there might be any trouble brewing with the neighbors who might be claiming “adverse possession” of a portion of your property. The survey inspection is unscientific and merely provides you with an understanding of what might have changed– did the owners add a pool which needs a fence to be “legal.” You as the buyer get no protection from a survey endorsement. It simply protects your lender.

Bottom line— To reduce the risk of real estate litigation in New York, get a survey, or risk objection and confusion about your property lines.