Nothing sparks a livelier conversation than the issue of surveys. That’s one reason I mention it so often. It’s interesting that even the most seasoned Sellers still object to paying for a survey. A new survey absolutely provides the best protection for all involved. Even though the benefits are covered with Sellers, the expense still seems to cause controversy. After close to two thousand transactions over the past 30 years, here’s my take on the subject. Always check with your agent, their opinion and your situation may be different, but here’s mine.
You must survey. Buyers need to know what they are buying. On rare occasions it may be acceptable to waive the survey. An owner able to produce a recent/current survey who can verify all pins may have a good argument for not re-surveying. Older surveys should probably be re-done.
Sellers of newly built homes often suggest the buyer should rely on the pins that were placed when the property was purchased. I disagree. This provides little assurance that the new improvements are properly situated. Remember, the County of Hawai`i doesn’t check setbacks compliance during construction. In fact, they don’t even determine that improvements (buildings) are placed on the correct lot. Recently subdivided parcels should not need to be re-staked if there are no improvements on the property.
Economic considerations sometimes dictate the possible shifting of survey cost and responsibility. For instance, here on the Big Island, vacant land parcels may sell for as little as $3,000. A simple staking of the property could leave the seller coming out of pocket in order to close.
Sellers sometimes want to use pin-finders as a way of cutting costs. Pin-finders are unlicensed “contractors.” REALTORS® cannot recommend them. Doing so subjects us to investigation and fines for aiding and abetting an unlicensed contractor. Most pin-finders ultimately rely on a metal detector to find pins. The pins could be for some other purpose such as electrical poles.
Buyers and sellers wishing to waive the survey requirement will likely be asked to sign a very strong notice advising them of the importance of doing the survey. Interestingly, property surveys are not always common practice in other markets around the county. Hence, out-of-area sellers aren’t always so keen to survey.
All things considered, it certainly seems that everyone should be in agreement on this issue. Buyers want absolute assurance that the boundary pins are correct. Sellers want peace of mind knowing they have properly represented the property. To tell the truth, the whole issue leaves me scratching my head and wondering the same thing that little old lady did as she drove through the fast-food window; “Where’s the beef?”