How Real Estate Property Surveys Work in Washington: A Buyer’s Guide

March 20, 2024
Last updated:
March 20, 2024
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When buying a home in WA State, you have an opportunity to request a real estate survey to identify the legal boundaries. Your mortgage lender might require a survey as well, if you’re financing a home purchase.

As a buyer, you’ll want to know how real estate property surveys work in Washington. And that includes what a real estate property survey is, what it does, and how it could protect you as a homeowner in Washington. This guide answers all of those questions and more.

What Is a Real Estate Survey?

In a home buying context, a real estate survey (a.k.a., property survey) is a detailed examination and mapping of the boundaries and physical features of a property, conducted by a professional surveyor.

In Washington, real estate property surveys can help home buyers accurately determine the property lines and identify any encroachments or easements. Homeowners can use them as well, to document the location of improvements such as buildings, fences, and driveways.

For home buyers in Washington, the property survey typically takes place during the due diligence phase of a real estate transaction. This occurs after the buyer and seller have agreed to the terms of the sale, but before the closing.

This gives the home buyer a chance to learn about any property boundary issues that might affect their decision to purchase the property. It’s an important part of the evaluation process when buying a home in Washington.

In short, the survey report helps the buyer make an informed decision. It might also be used by the mortgage lender, title company, or insurance providers.

What Benefits Does It Provide?

A real estate survey in WA State is like an official map of the property. It shows where everything is and helps everyone involved in the sale understand the layout.

Here’s how a property survey could benefit a home buyer in Washington:

1. It can help prevent post-sale boundary disputes.

The survey will clearly mark the edges of the property, so there’s no confusion about where one property ends and another begins. This helps avoid arguments between neighbors about who owns what.

2. It helps to clarify the property rights.

A real estate property survey also shows if there are any special rules or agreements (like easements) that affect how the property can be used. For example, there might be a pathway through the property that others are allowed to use.

3. It gives the buyer more clarity.

It gives the buyer a more detailed picture of what they’re buying. The buyers can see where the house, fences, and other important features are located on the land. This helps them know exactly what they’re getting into, before they buy the property.

Who Pays For the Property Survey in Washington?

Moving on to another common question: Who pays for the property survey in the state of Washington, between the buyer and seller?

In general, the party who wants or needs a property survey will be the one paying for it.

If a home buyer’s mortgage lender requires a survey to be performed, then the buyer will likely foot the bill. But it’s negotiable. In some cases, the seller might agree to cover the cost of the survey or other closing costs. This will need to be spelled out in the purchase agreement.

If the seller chooses to survey the property and lot, prior to listing the home for sale, they will have to pay for it. In this scenario, the buyer hasn’t even entered the picture yet.

In Washington, a standard property survey used for real estate purposes can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. Depending on the scenario, it can be paid for at the time the survey is performed, or rolled into the buyer’s closing costs.

Glossary of Related Terms

When buying a home in Washington, it’s important to understand the terminology being used throughout your transaction. And this applies to real estate surveys as well.

We created this mini-glossary to help you understand some of the “jargon” that applies to property surveys and related topics.

  • Boundary Lines: The lines marking the legal limits of your property ownership. A survey accurately determines these.
  • Boundary Survey: The most common type of survey for home buyers, specifically aimed at establishing the property’s boundary lines.
  • Closing Costs: The fees and expenses associated with completing a real estate transaction, including survey fees, title insurance, appraisal fees, and lender fees.
  • Easement: A legal right for another party (like a utility company) to use a portion of your land for a specific purpose (like running power lines). A survey will identify easements affecting the property.
  • Encroachment: A structure (like a neighbor’s fence or shed) that illegally extends onto your property, or vice versa. Property surveys can expose these potential issues.
  • Legal Description: A precise description of a property’s location and boundaries, typically used in legal documents such as deeds and survey reports.
  • Location Survey: A broader type of survey that also shows the location of buildings, improvements (fences, driveways), and potentially topographical information.
  • Monuments: Physical markers (like iron stakes, pipes, or concrete) placed at corners or along boundaries to identify them on the ground.
  • Plat: A map drawn to scale showing the division of land into lots or parcels, along with streets, easements, and other relevant features.
  • Property Line: The boundary that separates one parcel of land from another.
  • Setback: The distance between a building or structure and the property line, as required by local zoning regulations.
  • Topographical Survey: Shows variations in elevation on the property (hills, slopes, etc.) Useful when major landscaping or construction is planned.

Should You Review the Real Estate Survey Before Buying a Home?

Surveys can be an important part of the home buying process in Washington. They give home buyers and homeowners a clearer picture of their property boundaries, along with other important information.

By reviewing the property survey, you can avoid any potential issues with your neighbors. So, it’s worth considering, even if your lender doesn’t require one.

If you’re wondering how real estate property surveys work in Washington, perhaps speaking with a seasoned real estate agent or surveyor may help. Once you’ve armed yourself with all the necessary info to make an informed buying decisions, be sure to reach out to Sammamish Mortgage to get the mortgage process started.

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