When to Order a Survey
If you are buying real property, other than a condominium, you should always obtain a survey. If you are borrowing money for the purchase, the lender will likely require a current survey. And, the title company will likely require a survey in order for you to obtain title insurance coverage insuring over the pre-printed policy exceptions for what a survey might show. Typically, a condominium purchase does not require a survey because the condominium map itself constitutes the survey.
In many real property purchases the seller or some predecessor in title has already obtained a survey and you should always request a copy. Your surveyor should be asked to update the survey and re-certify it to you. You will want your surveyor to use your current title commitment to update the survey.
Surveys provide key facts about the property that often times cannot be discovered by other means, including: the dimensions and area of the property; whether there are any improvements, encroachments and adverse claims; the location of access (or lack thereof), any easements, fences and water courses; the setbacks, land use approvals (and any violations); a flood plain designation; and, of course, the legal description of the property.
There are a number of types of surveys that are accepted in Colorado, the most appropriate dependent upon the circumstances of your purchase: improvement survey plat (ISP), land survey plat (LSP), ALTA/ACSM (ALTA), environmental survey and improvement location certificate (ILC), just to name a few. Variations of these may include light, imaging, detection and ranging system (LIDAR) detail, geographic information systems (GIS) layering and topographical attributes information. Each survey has its own specific purposes in mind in providing detailed, often customized information about the property. The type of survey and what it needs to include is an important decision in your purchase process. For example, a lender may require that the survey identify that the property is not located in a flood plain.
A survey is not always a completely precise instrument. Certain aspects of the survey rely on human decision-making, interpretation and assumptions. While modern technology has improved the surveying craft, it is not without its glitches and is by no means fool-proof. Yet, today there is no better product for the purposes intended. Buyers and brokers often times will not have the skill set to review your survey. For this purpose you should consult with an attorney to assist you. In some situations, what is disclosed on a survey may be an incurable title defect where you may not be able to proceed with the purchase.
Garfield & Hecht, P.C., has skilled real estate attorneys at various locations to assist with survey review and all other matters when purchasing a property. In Aspen please contact John Belkin (970-925-1936, ext. 215, ), Chris LaCroix (970-925-1936 ext. 204, ) or Ron Garfield (970-925-1936, ext. 200, ).