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What is a property survey and why get one?

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When you sign a contract to buy a home

What is a property survey?

A property or boundary survey provides details of the boundary lines and the legal description of a property, including its area and the condition of the home. 

Property surveys are not a legal requirement when purchasing a home, yet for vast majority of home buyers property surveys performed by a registered surveyor can provide significant peace-of-mind, as you can’t simply receive a refund or claim warranty on your new home purchase.

Why should you get a property survey?

When you sign a contract to buy a home, you’re also signing up for any defects or problems that property has. While a property survey is not required by the law, it is worth considering so you know the exact physical characteristics and the legal boundaries of the property.

Here are some of the reasons a property survey or a home buyer’s survey can help when buying a home.

Know the exact condition of the home

A property survey will give you detailed information about the condition of the home. The surveyor will determine whether the home has any structural problems, if any major repairs are needed such as roof repairs or rewiring, and if the property is in the flood zone area.

It also provides you with a comprehensive commentary on the property, from the kind of walls used to the type of glazing.

Should there be an issue the survey finds, you can immediately raise it with the appropriate party, instead of having no recourse later down the track.

Recognise the boundary lines

A property surveys tells you where the boundary lies so you know what land you can use if you plan on constructing any additional structures such as a pool, a driveway, or a fence.

Generally, most people are unaware of the location of their boundary lines. Understanding boundary lines is important before you’re able to build a fence, pool, add an extra room or pave your driveway, saving yourself neighbour headaches and even potential legal implications.

It’s also important to note once a property survey is completed and the boundary lines determined, it becomes a legal boundary and can’t be disputed.

Legal information

A property survey provides important legal information that you can use to protect yourself from lawsuits or neighbourhood disputes if you plan on building on the land in the future.

Property surveys are not an all-encompassing legal safety net, but it can provide significant peace of mind about the property, its geography, and the boundaries upon which it sits.

Identify existing easements

Property surveys will tell you if there are any existing utility easements over your property such as water mains or underground cables. It is critical to know the location of easements before you start construction of structures including fences, pools or driveways as it is a legal requirement to avoid erecting structures within the space of easements.

Additionally, an easement or a right of carriageway will tell you if your neighbour has a legal right to pass through your property and vice versa. Easements are not usually shown on the deed, however, a property survey will indicate any existing easement over your property.

Highlight zoning restrictions

Zoning regulations define how a property can be used, whether that’s for residential, agricultural, industrial or commercial purposes. Utilising a property survey will identify any zoning restrictions the property has and ultimately identify how a property may be used.

The survey will include details on how you can use the property and makes sure it’s being used appropriately. For example if you plan to convert your home into a place of business, a farm, or a box factory in a few years, a property survey can tell you whether that’s permitted.

Violating zoning rules may result in penalties and legal action from relevant state governments.

Property survey cost

The average cost of property surveying in Australia is approximately $165 an hour, however this cost varies state-by-state. The cost of completing a property survey is also influenced by the property itself. Should the property be in a location which is not easily accessible to vehicles, it will cost more. Larger properties will also cost more, as will properties with irregular borders, tough terrain and lots of foliage as they will take longer to survey.

Final word

Property surveys may not be a legal requirement, but for an investment that you have spend countless hours saving for, it can be extremely worthwhile having one completed.

Houses are significant expenses, and knowing the ins and outs of the property and how you can in fact use it, is necessary information before considering renovating, expanding or turning the property into a business.

Property surveys can be also be a beacon of light in legal disputes or conflicts, affording you peace of mind of the correct details of your property.

Other helpful resources:

About the article

As Australia's leading online lender, loans.com.au has been helping people into their dream homes and cars for more than 10 years. Our content is written and reviewed by experienced financial experts. The information we provide is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives or needs. If you'd like to chat to one of our lending specialists about a home or car loan, contact us on Live Chat or by calling 13 10 90.

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