Surveys: Who Needs Them, Anyway?

Everyone who deals with real estate in Florida needs a survey. Whether buying, selling, leasing, constructing, lending, or just plain owning real estate, you need a survey. Here’s why:

Buyer: You’re buying real estate in Florida and the broker says you don’t need a survey unless the lender requires it. Is that true? Probably not. Why? Because the survey is the only thing that ties your deed’s legal description to the actual land you are buying. You can walk all over your newly-purchased real estate and still not really know where your property begins and your neighbor’s ends. That is, unless you have a surveyor prepare a current survey map and stake the boundaries on the land itself. (The survey can also show encroachments on the boundary lines, as well as easements and features, such as buildings, structures, streets, driveways, etc., but you might have to ask for that.)

Seller: The same thing applies to the real estate seller. You need to know that the deed you sign at the closing has the same legal description as the survey and that the survey map and stakes in the ground are for the property you are selling and not for some nearby land.

Landlord and Tenant: The same thing applies to the real estate landlord and tenant because a lease is like a deed in that it is an interest in real estate. You need to know that the lease you sign has the same legal description as the survey and that the survey map and stakes in the ground are for the property you are leasing and not for some nearby land.

Contractor: Every contractor and subcontractor who improves real estate in Florida needs a survey because they should put the legal description in a notice to owner, and possibly a claim of lien, in order to comply with the Florida Construction Lien Law, and the survey is what ties the legal description to the actual land they are working on. Otherwise, they might lose their lien rights.

• Lender: Lenders usually require surveys as part of their mortgage loan process for the same reason. It is what ties the legal description on the mortgage to the actual land.

Owner: The owner of Florida real estate also needs a survey for the same reasons. And a survey is also a place to keep a record of improvements above ground and underground. When you have a gas line run underground to supply your new tankless natural gas water heater and emergency backup generator, you need a place to write down its location so that future workers do not cut into it. When you add a swimming pool in your backyard, you need a survey to determine the setback from the property lines. Your survey is what ties your legal ownership in the land to your improvements on the land.

So, as it turns out, everyone dealing with real estate in Florida needs a survey. Who knew?