Ask a Realtor: Should I pay for a survey of the property before I buy it? (column) |

Ask a Realtor: Should I pay for a survey of the property before I buy it? (column)

Joan Harned
Ask a Realtor
Joan Harned Ask a Realtor

Dear Joan: I am buying a home in an established subdivision and my broker asked if I would be willing to pay for a survey when we were writing the offer. I said it was not a big mystery where the lot corners should be, and I actually thought the seller should pay for the survey.

We wrote the offer that way, but the seller countered that I would need to pay for a survey if I wanted one, and if I wanted survey protection from the title company, I would need to pay for the “OEC” coverage, too. Now we are under contract and I am trying to decide if I want to pay hundreds of dollars to have a survey done for really no reason at all. How important is a survey, anyway?

— Unsure

Dear Unsure: A survey may not seem that important, until something goes wrong, when it could become very important. I would not take the chance of not having a survey on any property I purchase.

Let’s clarify a few things so that you can see why I feel this way. Starting at your second question, you want to have the owner’s extended coverage (OEC) on your title insurance to protect you against any possible known or unknown survey discrepancies. It is not very expensive, but often the title company will require a survey, or Improvement Location Certificate (ILC) in order to provide this OEC additional coverage.

Protect Against Unknown

This OEC coverage might be important in the future if there was ever a boundary, access or easement issue that surfaced. It always seems surprising, but we have discovered a myriad of unknown details over the years by having at least an ILC done on a property that was getting ready to change ownership. We have found old survey pins that were actually marking a curve instead of a corner (had to remove a barn for that one), we have found easements right through the front yard in a platted subdivision and whole streets that have all the driveways on the neighbors’ property.

Properties bordering public land, such as Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have been found to encroach on the public ground as the years go by and owners “fluff” out onto the adjacent land. The initial cost of an ILC/survey may seem expensive, but it could prove to be very reasonable in light of what you may discover prior to making your purchase. And if you find nothing of issue right now, then you can feel good knowing that you will be covered in the future. Best of luck to you.

Joan Harned is an owner and broker for Keller Williams Mountain Properties and heads up Team Black Bear, her own real estate team. Harned has been selling real estate in Eagle County for 27 years. Contact Harned with your real estate questions at, 970-337-7777 or

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