Surveyor's Report

When buying a residence or commercial property, a Surveyor’s Report is, in my view, a necessity. A buyer takes a great risk if a Surveyor’s Report is not obtained.

What is a “Surveyor’s Report”?

It is a document prepared by a registered surveyor and usually comprises one or two pages of text and a page on which a sketch (an aerial view) of the property is made.

What is contained within a Surveyor’s Report?

The text page describes what improvements are built on the particular property, and the sketch page shows the position of those improvements on the land, and shows the position of the fences in relation to the boundaries. The sketch also shows whether there are any encroachments by or upon the property.

What is the purpose of a Surveyor’s Report?

The Report is often referred to as an “Identification Surveyor’s Report” because it enables the buyer, by examining the Surveyor’s sketch and reading his text, to confirm that the property described in the Surveyor’s Report is, in fact, the property which the buyer has seen and has contracted to buy. The buyer and the buyer’s lawyer can cross-check the Surveyor’s Report against the description of the property in the Contract for purchase.

You cannot presume fences are on the actual boundaries…

Many purchasers wrongly presume that the position of the fences mark out the boundaries of a property. Quite often, the fences are not on the boundary line – in fact, in a couple of cases we’ve had, the fences have been a very long way outside the true boundary. In these cases, each buyer thought, because of the position of the fences, that they were buying a much larger property than what the Title Deed related to. We were able to get each of the buyers out of their Contracts because of these discrepancies. If a Surveyor’s Report had not been obtained, each purchase would have been finalised and no-one would yet know of the problem. The problem would have been discovered later on probably at the time the properties are next sold.

What if the Surveyor’s Report reveals a non-compliance with Council requirements?

The Surveyor’s Report will also contain a certification by the surveyor as to whether or not the position of the improvements on the property complies with local Council requirements as far as distance of the improvements from the side and front boundaries.

If the position of any of the improvements on the property do not comply with Council requirements, then it becomes necessary for the buyer’s lawyer to apply to the local Council for a Building Certificate. This involves a Council Building Inspector coming to the property to check things out. If the Council issues a clear Building Certificate, it means that the Council is, in effect, saying “although the position of the improvements do not comply with Council regulations, the Council is prepared to give the property the “all OK” status”.

Can I utilise an existing Surveyor’s Report to save money?

On many occasions, the buyer can use the Surveyor’s Report which the seller obtained several years earlier (when that seller purchased the property). Using the seller’s Surveyor’s Report can occur when there have been no alterations or additions to the property since the date of the seller’s Surveyor’s Report. This will save the buyer the cost of the Surveyor’s fees, which normally range between $500 to $800 (including GST). Councils presently charge approximately $275-$330 for a Building Certificate on a residential property.

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