Phase 2: About Surveys


In Pennsylvania the title insurance companies and the mortgage lenders do not require a survey of the property each time a property is sold. Surveys do provide valuable information to the buyer of a property so the question of whether or not to obtain a new survey on a property deserves valuable consideration.


Mortgage Survey without Stakes consists of a plot plan drawing of a property showing the location of the house, outbuildings like garages and sheds, recorded rights of way and easements within the property lines. The intent of such a survey is to inform the buyer, mortgage lender and/or title company of any physical encroachments, recorded set back violations and/or discrepancies with the deed description of the property perimeter. These surveys are a picture of the buildings on the land and to not include stakes with flags or any marking on the property itself.
Certified Boundary Survey with Stakes is the physical staking and/or marking of the property corners defining the property perimeter. In addition to the staking and/or marking of the property corners a scaled drawing showing the house, outbuildings and recorded rights of way and easements within the property perimeter will be generated. Physical encroachments, recorded set back violations and deed description discrepancies will also be shown. Boundary Surveys with Stakes typically take approximately twice the amount of time to complete and do cost more money than a Mortgage survey without Stakes.


Survey Concerns

The following is a list of the major risks that could compromise your ownership of a property and/or cause added expense once you take ownership, all of which a Boundary Survey with Stakes would reveal, allowing the problem to be resolved prior to closing:

  • The lot being purchased is smaller than what was represented by the seller.
  • The lot being purchased is not located where represented.
  • The lot being purchased does not exist.
  • The lot was created by an illegal subdivision.
  • The lot encroaches on an adjoining property.
  • An adjoining property encroaches on the lot.
  • There is a gap between the lot and the neighboring property that no one owns.
  • There are easements giving others the right to use part or all of the lot.
  • There are buildings or other structures owned by others that encroach on the lot.
  • A building on the lot encroaches on the neighboring lot.
  • A building on the lot violates the building line.
  • A building on the lot violates township rules or regulations.
  • A building that is supposed to be on the lot is not on the lot.
  • The lot has no access to a public road.
  • There are driveways, paths or other non-recorded rights of way on the lot.
  • The line forming the perimeter of the lot does not end and begin at the same place (this is referred to as the lot no closing).

Survey Waiver

If you choose not to purchase a survey, you will be required to sign a survey waiver at the closing. This survey waiver takes the following form:


I, (purchaser of the property) known as (property address) hereby acknowledge that I have been advised by Settlements, Ltd. to obtain a land survey performed by a professional land surveyor on the above property prior to completing the purchase of this property. I understand that such a survey may disclose such items as a discrepancy in the legal description, easements, rights of way, lack of access to a public road, encroachments of items on this lot onto adjoining lots or encroachments of items on adjoining lots onto this lot. I have declined to purchase such a land survey and agree to hold harmless and release from liability Settlements, Ltd. for failure to obtain such a land survey.


A Case Study

The following is an accurate accounting of how a survey can save you money and problems after closing:
In 2009 a buyer negotiated for the purchase of a piece of property with several buildings located in Butler County PA and wisely elected to have a staked survey prepared prior to closing. The survey revealed that a chimney on a garage, and portions of the dwelling itself were well over the property’s lot line. This would necessitate an easement/right of way agreement with the neighbor that would be recorded in Butler County. The purpose of the easement/right of way agreement would be to allow the encroachments to exist in perpetuity so that if the neighbor ever sold his property, the garage and building would not need to be removed. Because of these encroachments, a reduction of sales price of $7,500.00 was negotiated with the seller of the property in order for the sale to move forward! This would not have occurred without the survey for Settlements, Ltd. to review and comment on prior to closing. A print of this survey is set forth below.
The following is an excerpt from First American’s claims chronicles that illustrates the value of a survey:
Owners lived on a very busy street. They searched for and found a new home to get away from the busy street and then placed a successful offer on the new home. Owners put their home on the market and found a Buyer. As Owners prepared to sell their home and move to their new home, the Buyer of their existing home ordered a survey which disclosed that the house and water line encroached onto their neighbor’s property. The Buyer was willing to continue with the purchase but they were utilizing a VA loan. The Veterans’ Administration would not insure the loan for this property with the encroachment. Without a buyer for their existing home, Owners faced not being able to close on their new home.


First American realized the encroachment situation could not be quickly resolved. First American then bought the Owners’ home within 45 days of their claim. This enabled Owners to proceed with the purchase of their new home. First American’s lawyers then obtained a court order that established an encroachment easement which resolved the problem. First American then actually sold the home to the Owners’ original Buyer. The story had a happy ending because of a survey and the existence of a title insurance policy.