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Revealing the Past: The Importance of Property Surveys

Property Surveys

If you’re looking to purchase a property or building for your business, most financial institutions require you to have a property survey to qualify for their loans. Some owners who use a cash transaction don’t always get a property survey, but if they did, they could prevent many issues by knowing all the details and history about their property.

When buying a property, having a survey helps you identify potential issues for using the property the way you intend, either by building or expanding. Knowing everything about your property can prevent a misstep of expending money when there could be a potential problem. Or know the steps you must take to make your site work for you. You could do yourself a favor and ask the seller if they have a property survey that they could share with you before buying. Otherwise, a survey can be $500-$2,000 to have complete.

In talking to Dr. Michael Shepard, Wolgast’s Business Development guru, he said the most important pieces of the survey from a construction standpoint are:

Boundaries – identify your property lines and corners, so you only make permanent changes on your property.

Utilities – which utilities are included on the property and where are they located. This helps you know possible extra costs to bring in utilities, or the fact that you must have a well and septic rather than city water and sewer, and if the position/location of your building is conducive to where the lines are located.

Easements – if there are any property easements from the utility company or other entities that could potentially cause a problem with your using it the way you intended.

Zoning – oftentimes, a property can be rezoned (trickier in a residential area) but having to rezone can add time and expense.

Roadway access – this information will be necessary if you are creating a drive from a road that MDOT regulates.

We have a client currently looking for property and his ideal site has no water or sanitary access and it had fill dirt dumped there, so if he chooses the site, he will have to run his business with a well and septic system and will have to complete soil borings on the site. This will determine the present soil types for appropriate foundation design/support, and if he will have to bring in new dirt to get the site construction ready, which costs more money. Maybe having that location is worth it to him, but at least he knows what he is facing.

Not having a property survey could create a liability for you as you’re accepting unknown conditions of your property. According to Michael, “The more information you have about a property, the less hardship it creates later.”

Other information provided within a property survey can include present wetlands, topography or flooding data, parking configurations, and any encroachments.

Property surveys and historical data are powerful tools that allow us to unlock the secrets of a property's past, understand its present condition, and shape its future. By using these resources, property owners, researchers, and communities can make informed decisions, mitigate risks, identify opportunities, and preserve our shared history. As we continue to appreciate and safeguard our built heritage, the importance of property surveys and historical data cannot be overstated.