We put in an offer for a property we love only to discover that it has a boundary problem. We are so disappointed, why were we not told of this before?
As an experienced agent, I always ask for a copy of the lot plan and legal description when I am putting a value on someone’s home with the view to listing it for sale.
This tells me that they know where their deeds are, whether their property has had a recent survey and if I might be likely to find any anomalies that will need correcting before it can be conveyed.
If I see an old plan, I recommend to my sellers that they should have a boundary survey and sometimes a new plan done as early on in the process of selling as possible.
Why? Because years ago the methods of measurement were not as sophisticated as they are today; even if their boundaries have been measured correctly, the plan may be in imperial units or even roods and perches!
With the new Land Title Registry now in effect, it’s preferred for all land measurements to be in metric measurements.
Older plans, (say pre-1970) that are drawn in imperial, may not even be to scale — you have no idea what condition some people’s deeds are in.
Even if the measurements on the deed description do match the plan, those of their neighbour’s may not and therein can lie a problem that will prevent a sale from moving forward until it has been sorted out.
Some homeowners are agreeable to making arrangements for this, although they do have to be made in advance.
Most surveyors are very busy and have at least a two to three-month waiting period; other home sellers are reluctant to realise the importance this plays in the transaction.
A property survey report is the responsibility of the seller and is paid for by the seller.
There are those who are concerned about the cost.
Some people sell their houses to move themselves towards a healthier financial situation.
Therefore, the cost of a survey and new plan — which can be a few thousand dollars — might not be something they relish or is within their immediate financial capacity.
In Bermuda, we don’t have buyers’ agents as they do in the US. We have only sellers’ agents.
So here, the agent’s fiduciary duty is towards the seller — as they are the ones that pay the commission. If an agent is presented with an old plan there may be several things that raise a red flag or even several red flags.
Boundary surveys fill the following purposes:
1, Determine the actual physical extent of the property, so that the buyer can clearly see what they are buying.
2, The surveyors can establish that the boundaries are actually as described in the legal description and on the lot plan.
The deed plan and description need to match. Sometimes things are in the description but not on the plan as it has not been updated, or vice versa.
3, Establish boundaries in the ground with capped steels or bolts with red witness pegs.
4, Show if there are any encroachments or anomalies with the boundaries.
5, Provide a clear plan where the boundaries are marked in red. Rights-of-way over someone else’s land are marked in yellow, and other people’s rights-of-way over your land are marked in green.
6, Present order for good title to be passed on free of encumbrances.
7, For any banks that are lending money for the property, a boundary survey is mandatory, as any encroachments very often create an obstacle with respect to financing.
With the new Land Title Registry in place, all the i’s have to be dotted and t’s have to be crossed. Buying a home is not like buying an appliance or a car; it is far, far more complicated.
In reality, a large percentage of properties whose deeds are more than 40 years old in Bermuda are likely to run into some sort of title transfer problems.
A good lawyer can usually rectify any problems within a matter of months; some things take longer than others depending on their complexity so if you are in it for the long haul it could be worth the wait.
But potential sellers please take note and by all means come and talk to me or your respective agent should you need further advice on this subject.
Boundary surveys fill a host of purposes and are helpful in getting a home sold as soon as possible.
• Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty’s leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for nearly 30 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 332-1793. All questions will be treated in confidence. Follow Heather Realtor Bermuda on Facebook and @heatherrealtorbermuda on Instagram