As someone that buys and sells large tracts of land for a living, I see both sides of the question, “Do I need a Survey when Buying Land”, every day.
As with many things in life, the answer depends on the situation.
As a general rule, I typically recommend that buyers obtain a survey when purchasing a tract of land IF the buyer is a novice to the land buying world, or if this will likely be the only large land purchase they will make in their lifetime. If this is your first purchase of a large tract of recreational, hunting, or timber investment land and you would be more comfortable with a survey, I recommend you get one. If you are purchasing, say, a 250-acre tract for your family as an investment, but to also build a ranch house and plan to use it for hunting, fishing, and recreation, then I would say it’s probably money well spent to know exactly how much land you are purchasing as well as where the boundary lines are. This will help you solve any potential issues with encroachments from neighboring property owners, it will also let you know exactly what is yours when you start a timber harvest plan, etc.
When would you NOT want to get a survey when buying land? And why would you NOT want to get a survey when buying land?
First of all, the surveys can be expensive! If a buyer is paying cash for a property, it is not necessary to obtain a survey to close on a property. If you are financing the purchase, some lenders will require a survey, but not all. We recently sold a 122-acre tract of land in Floyd County, Georgia, and when the buyer went to price out surveyors, the estimates were between $11,000 and $15,000. That’s a big chunk of change. In this particular case, we already had a compartment map of the property. The compartment map was a map created by our surveyor (at a much lower cost since there was no fieldwork) by using the legal description from the previous deed. The buyer cross-referenced the acreage shown on the compartment map with the acreage shown on the county GIS mapping system and was very comfortable completing the purchase with that information and saving the money on the survey. He plans to use those savings to make further improvements to his new tract of land.
Another situation where a buyer may pass on paying for a survey is if they are an adjoining landowner. Much of our land for sale is large tracts of timberland that may go on the market only once or twice in someone’s lifetime. If we have a neighbor whose land has been in the family for generations, they probably know our parcel as well as their own, and therefore are very comfortable with the boundary lines and acreage. Therefore paying for a new survey isn’t necessary in their eyes.
Many institutional land buyers will skip the survey when purchasing land. When they buy a package of, say, 30 tracts totaling 4500-5000 acres as a timber investment, they will just use the legal descriptions for the purchase to save time and money.
Lastly, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up. If you are comfortable with previous timber maps or compartment maps or county GIS mapping systems, that may be enough precision for your needs. If you are paying $3500 per acre, for 122 acres and spend $15,000 to find out that the 122 acres is actually 120 acres…well as they say, the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.
Licensed Broker Florida and Georgia
If you have any questions about the land buying process or would like to start looking at land for purchase, start browsing the listings on our website www.countrytracts.com and give us a call.