Smart FAQs on Location and Boundary Surveys

As part of the homebuying process, Smart Settlements recommends the purchase of a survey. In Washington, DC, a location survey is required in order to issue title insurance. In Maryland and Virginia, the survey is optional but highly recommended. Continue reading to learn more about how surveys affect you and your new home!

What is a Survey?

There are two main types of surveys that describe the details and improvements of a property: a location survey and a boundary survey. Both types provide important information to the buyer, title company, and lender about the property.

The surveys include:

  • Information about the survey, like when it was conducted and by whom.

  • The property location, including subdivision names.

  • Applicable easements, encroachments, restrictions, and right of ways.

  • Location and dimensions of the improvements on the parcel such as the home, patios, additions, and other structures.

  • Boundaries such as fences.

  • An official surveyor seal.

Boundary surveys are more precise and extensive than location surveys. They are also about ten times the cost. Locations drawing surveys are typically ordered by buyers in conjunction with a purchase to advise them of the approximate location of improvements and to alert them to possible title or boundary issues on the property. Boundary surveys are more typically ordered when construction or fencing is contemplated or there is a possible boundary or title issue. Here are the main differences between the two:

FORM DESCRIPTION
Recommended when buying a home. Recommended when planning construction and new structures at thenew home.
Required by most mortgage lenders. May be required if you are purchasing commercial or vacant property.
Based on previous surveys and documentation. Surveyors conduct extensive research of past documentation plus publicrecords and DC’s SurDocs.
Not strong enough to support legal land disputes. Strong evidence for land disputes and title insurance policies(which last until your mortgage is paid back in full).
Does not use markers/stakes. Does not offer exacting boundaries.Produces drawings that are estimates within one foot of actual dimensions. Uses markers and surveying equipment to get the drawings within ⅛ ofan inch of actual dimensions.
Cost around $200-$300. Cost $700 or more depending on the scope of the work.

Note: Location and boundary surveys are separate from home appraisals. While both are important in your home-buying process, the main purpose of a survey is to measure the property itself and the location of all improvements while the appraisal measures the value of the property.

Do I need a survey? If so, which one?

Yes, Smart Settlements strongly recommends that all buyers purchase a location drawing survey in conjunction with settlement. Smart will circulate the survey in advance of closing and will recommend that buyers compare the survey to their own knowledge of the property. Questions about the survey may be addressed with our attorney and with the surveyor before closing.

One exception: surveys are not done for condominiums.

For specific questions about the survey process, please contact Smart!