What is a Survey?
First let’s get the concept of what a survey is out of the way. Merriam-Webster defines survey as “2: to determine and delineate the form, extent, and position of (as a tract of land) by taking linear and angular measurements and by applying the principles of geometry and trigonometry.” Think of it as a map of your property marking property lines, easements, buildings, and setbacks. It shows the truest picture of what the layout of your land is and defines what you actually own when it comes to a piece of land.
Alright, So Who’s Paying For It?
Like most things in a Texas contract to purchase a one to four family residence, the cost of a survey is determined during the offer and negotiations on a new home. There are several checkboxes that determine who pays for the survey. On more than one occasion I have seen an experienced agent check a box incorrectly which later cost their client money.
Paragraph 6. C (2) and (3).
Let’s cover (2) and (3) first as they are very simple. The blank spot in both is for a number – the number of days after the effective date of the contract with which a buyer or seller must obtain a new survey. ; Pretty straightforward. (2) is for the buyer paying for the new survey and (3) is for the seller paying for the new survey (told you it was simple).
Paragraph 6. C (1).
This is where I see mistakes most often. This section lays out the rules and is typically used when a survey already exists on the home and both parties would prefer to use the older survey for some cost savings. Your agent and you (the buyer) should be looking at the existing survey though, if any major changes have been made (new pool, deck, shed, fence lines, etc.) you’ll want a new survey. This will help you when you sell the house someday and also make sure that you know the official layout of your land and home.
If both parties are going to try to use the older survey, caution should be taken by the agents (as I said I see a lot of mistakes made here). The first section of (1) is for the number of days for the seller to present the survey to the the buyer and the title company. The set of checkboxes who (buyer or seller) will pay for the survey if it is deemed not acceptable by the title company or the buyer’s lender. It clearly spells out that they (buyer or seller) must obtain it no later than three days prior to the closing date.
Here’s where the mistake is made. The section in bold (in the contract, bold below indicates my emphasis) that reads:
If Seller fails to furnish the existing survey or Affidavit within the time prescribed, Buyer shall obtain a new survey at Seller’s expense no later than 3 days prior to the Closing Date.
I have seen several times where we thought there was a survey and checked off C (1) and asked for the seller to pay for the survey. During negotiations, the seller’s agent suggested the buyer pay for the survey and we agreed. However, when we received the signed contract back, they had merely crossed off the seller’s checkbox and checked the buyer’s checkbox. This is fine, if the seller does indeed have a survey, but if they do not or forget to supply one in the prescribed time, the sentence in bold (described above) becomes the most important one in C (1). Because the seller failed to provide a survey (whether they didn’t have one or didn’t perform their duties in a timely manner), the buyer now has the right to order one and have it conducted – and the seller has to pay for it.
Your agent should be aware of this, but as I’ve said previously, I have seen it happen more than once (when I was on the buyer’s side of the transaction – it didn’t make the seller very happy with their agent, but my buyer loved me for it). Knowing your contracts can really pay off for your clients and really should be a no-brainer for an agent.
image courtesy of blmurch