Selling Advice

Where’s the Beef? A Survey Will Tell You!

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.

Why Survey?

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?”

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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