We strongly recommend that our home buyers have a survey done on the property they’re buying before we finalize their purchase. A survey is a highly accurate delineation of the precise boundaries of the land that they're purchasing no matter how big or small it may be. Surveys offer our buyers additional protection - and let me give you an example of how.
We had an incident come up just this week, representing a buyer. The buyer had found a house they liked very much. It was a cute house on a ½ to ¾ acre lot with a really nice fenced backyard and the buyer was very happy with it. Based on our recommendation, the buyer the closing attorney order and coordinate having a survey done.
What the survey uncovered is that either the sellers or the fencing company they hired were extremely inaccurate when the backyard fence was installed creating a major encroachment. It was found that this quite nice fence actually went four and a half feet onto the neighbor's property. That's a big encroachment! We have had surveys find encroachments – or illegal extension into a neighbor’s property – of 4-6 inches and occasionally 12-18 inches. But 4 and ½ feet in a suburban lot is a long way into the neighbor’s yard!
Of course, the sellers had no idea that was the case, and they were horrified to find out about a week before closing, that this major legal issue was found about a fence that had been in the wrong place for 8 years. When the fence was installed, the next door neighbors whose property had been accidentally encroached didn't care or had no idea and so everything seemed to be fine.
Well, the neighbors sold that house to someone who lives outside North Carolina and who is renting the house out. So the sellers contacted that new owner saying ‘Hey, we found this out, we're so sorry. Would you sign this legal document that turns over that land and we'll pay you X amount for it?’ The neighbor basically said ‘No dice! I don’t want you to have four and a half feet. The sellers then asked if the neighbor would sign a legal document saying its Okay to let that encroachment exist and were told ‘no way – get your daggone fence off of my property’.
I certainly wouldn’t advise my buyer to take on the cost and hassle of moving the fence so we got the sellers to have a fence company come in, take out one of the 6 foot section of fence at the front and at the back of the yard, and move the side fencing within those now-correct ends. That change made sure the fence was well within the property’s lot line and also covered the necessary setback.