professional surveyor looking at home renovationWhen you’re closing on a home or beginning a renovation project, the last thing that most people want to do is take on what they view as an optional step that might further delay the process. That’s one of the main reasons why people choose not to have a professional surveyor conduct a current survey of their property. In the long run, that decision could prove to be very costly.

One of our renovation clients, for example, opted not to have a survey done at closing when she purchased her residence. Unfortunately for her, we had to have a current survey in order to obtain HOA approval for her renovation project. That meant that she had to have the survey done anyway, which held up the renovation planning and approval process for an additional four weeks, causing her more inconvenience.  Fortunately for her, the survey showed that there were no issues with her property.

Another client assumed they knew where their property line was and had an architect draw up an impressive two-car garage addition with a second-story master suite. When they came to us to build the project, we required that they have a physical survey done, since the side lot lines were very unclear. The survey revealed that they only had space for an oversized one-car garage, because they did not realize they had to consider side-lot setbacks. The architect had to redraw and reconfigure the garage footprint based on the new survey and buildable area. It is always wise to begin planning with a current survey in hand and the guidance of an experienced licensed General Contractor who can carefully lead you through the pre-planning and construction process.

Other homeowners have not been as lucky. When you don’t do a survey or rely on one that was done years ago (and thus doesn’t take any property or zoning changes into account), you are running the risk of making some very expensive mistakes. According to The North Carolina Society of Surveyors, Inc. (NCSS), common issues revealed by surveys include encroachments across property lines or building restriction setbacks; issues with fences, walls and other landscaping features; placement of pool decks, the location of utilities and access ways; and the presence of flood zones. Imagine spending what could easily amount to tens of thousands of dollars on your dream landscape only to go through the trauma of having to tear it down and rebuild it because it’s on your neighbor’s property or it violates a setback or flood plain. The cost and inconvenience is only magnified once you begin to talk about a renovation project that impacts not just your yard, but your home as well.

These traumatic situations can easily be avoided if you simply take the time to do things right on the front end. If you go into a home purchase knowing that you will conduct a survey on the property, you can order it far enough in advance that it won’t cause any delays in the closing process. There’s also a misconception that you don’t need a survey because title insurance will “cover” you. In reality, “matters of survey” are only likely to be covered if a current survey is conducted before the title insurance policy is issued. While the NCSS does note that lender’s policies may cover “matters of survey” without actually requiring a current survey, these policies typically only cover the lender in case of mortgage default and do not provide any protection for the homebuyer.  Ultimately, taking the time to commission a current survey is by far the best insurance policy.

To find a qualified surveyor in your area, visit NCSS at and click on “Find a Surveyor.”