Buying or selling a new home can be a daunting challenge, especially for those starting out on the property ladder. Even if you have had some previous experience – as either a vendor or a buyer – the process is complicated by a plethora of legal, town planning and lifestyle issues. As buying a home is, for most people, the most significant investment they will make during their lifetime, it is always advisable and prudent to ensure you have the most comprehensive and reliable information – and that all starts with a residential survey and valuation report.
Residential surveys cover a broad spectrum of properties, from city apartments and townhouses to suburban villas and village cottages – even refurbished farmhouses and converted warehouses.
UK-based Hocking Associates has a team of experienced surveyors who can offer bespoke advice to accommodate clients’ specific requirements, whether buying or selling. They strongly recommend that vendors ensure they have an “expert eye” before selling. “Our chartered surveyors offer advice on items which are likely to be identified by a surveyor acting on behalf of a purchaser. This enables you to attend to any remedial works or obtain estimates prior to marketing your property, thus enabling a smoother sale.” As for valuation reports, these can be essential in such matters as matrimonial disputes, probate, inheritance/capital gains tax, and lending. “We also prepare expert witness reports for court purposes in respect of property-related matters.”
Key Property and Land Details
For Australian real estate portal Homely, a detailed property survey is essential. “Many home buyers skip this in an effort to save money, but we feel the benefits and protection property surveys offer outweigh the cost. Home owners shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that a property survey isn’t vital. Building guarantees aren’t warranties and warranties only cover major and minor defects in the first two years (depending on the country). Regardless of how sure you are that everything will be fine with the property, a survey should always be conducted by a professional surveyor – not a lender. Property surveys will clearly show the boundaries of the property, the lot size and the property description.”
The key benefits of commissioning a property survey include ensuring the land described is what you are paying for; eliminating disputes over boundary lines and corners; and outlining issues with fences and buildings. It also assists with zoning classifications; confirms if you can subdivide; provides information about underground cables and drains; and determines any rights of way, easements and encumbrances.
And most importantly… it protects your investment. “Without an extensive and qualified examination of your land and house,” notes Homely, “it’s very easy to run into costly issues and disputes down the track. The right property survey for your home offers a better understanding of the property before you commit to the purchase.”
Staying Abreast of Legal Matters
Many owners are well informed about their property details but, even then, obtaining additional knowledge is always useful. “Most people,” according to US-based FindLaw, “seek out the expertise of a professional surveyor to settle common property description issues before they become problems. And, in addition to a professional survey, many people seek other specific certifications such as an environmental certification, a zoning opinion letter or a flood plain classification.”
One of the most common reasons a landowner contracts a surveyor (the location of boundary lines and other lines of occupancy or possession) “is a critical piece of information to have before you build a fence, add a sun-room or pave your driveway.” All too often the survey shows that you and your neighbours were operating under the wrong assumption about the placement of the boundary line between your properties. “Before you have that fence erected, you want to make sure it will be built on your property, not your neighbour’s. The boundary line certification will also tell you whether the legal description of your property is accurate. Sometimes a dispute between neighbours is just the result of a misunderstanding, such as confusion over where one property ends and the other begins, which is why having your property surveyed is a good idea.”
First Step on the Property Ladder
Families, couples or individuals planning to buy their first home will invariably have spent days, weeks and even months pouring over websites, brochures and other sources of information.
“You’ve likely already put together a list of all of your ‘must-haves’ for the actual house,” says Westcott Homes, “but you’ll also want to consider how that new home will fit into your lifestyle. Moving is a big deal and your first home should enhance your lifestyle, not detract from it. When making the decision of which home to buy it’s critical that you look at how that home will work in your everyday life.”
The Washington State home builder recommends five lifestyle considerations before buying your first home…
1. Location, Location, Location: “It’s the ability and ease with which you can accomplish day-to-day tasks that can really make or break a location.”
2. Recreation and Amenities: “Think about what you like to do in your down time and start looking for neighbourhoods that can support that.”
3. Your Budget: “To create a realistic budget for your first home, you’ll want to create a new monthly budget that takes all items (maintenance, mortgage payments, etc.) into account.”
4. Five Year Plan: “While no one has a crystal ball to see into the future, most of us have plans and goals we want to achieve… giving those some thought is essential so you buy a home you can stay in for years to come.”
5. Features that are Essential to Your Lifestyle: “Taking time before you start looking at homes to figure out what matters most in your lifestyle means you’re that much more likely to find your perfect home.”
Many of us faced with the substantial investment of buying a home, or selling our property quickly, might be tempted to cut corners and costs, but the consequences could be catastrophic. Lumbering through with the help of bar-stool experts and Google searches might provide some valuable initial insight. However, ultimately the best advice will always be provided by experts.