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Surveys: Detailed property drawings

Region: Ontario Answer # 393

What are surveys?

A survey is a detailed drawing of a property, including the exact dimensions of the land and the location of any buildings, fences, driveways, and adjacent roads. It will also show easements or rights-of-way which utility companies or others may have over the property.

A survey can be very important to a purchaser because it will help make sure that the size of the property stated on the listing and in the purchase agreement is accurate, that the buildings do not encroach onto an adjoining property, that neighbour’s buildings do not encroach onto your property, and that the property conforms to municipal requirements such as the minimum distances of buildings from the property line.

A fairly recent survey is sometimes required by your financial institution if you are taking out a mortgage loan to finance the purchase of your home. In many cases, a survey that is 15 or 20 years old will be sufficient, as long as there do not appear to have been any significant changes to the property. Also, in lieu of or in addition to a survey, lenders will require the purchaser to purchase title insurance.

If you are buying a home, you should ask whether the sellers have a survey. If they do, you can include a clause in your offer that the seller must provide you or your lawyer with the survey shortly after the agreement is accepted. If the seller does not have a survey, you may want to include a clause that the seller must provide you with an up-to-date survey at the seller’s cost. If you are purchasing a new home, the builder will usually provide you with a copy of the survey. You should, however, make sure that this is written into the purchase agreement.

What if I need a new survey?

Even if you purchase title insurance, if there is no recent survey for the property you are purchasing, you may want to have a new survey prepared for other reasons, such as to ensure that a proposed fence is being built in the right place, or if you want to build a structure, that set back laws are being complied with. A survey can cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the size and shape of the property and the number of buildings or other improvements on it. If you do not know a professional land surveyor, your lawyer or real estate agent can usually refer one to you. For more information about buying or selling a home, contact the Ontario Real Estate Association, or visit orea.com.

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