Have boundary surveyed to find true property line


November 28, 1993

QUESTION: My neighbor wants to install an in-ground swimming pool, but I believe that it will extend into my property. How can I be sure where my property ends and his begins? I received a "location survey" at settlement when I bought my house.

ANSWER: The only accurate way to be sure of the location of your property is to have a boundary survey. According to David S. Thaler, a licensed surveyor and engineer, the "location surveys" commonly received at settlement are not suitable for locating property. Although they are inexpensive (about $130), in general, they only verify how a home appears to be positioned on the lot -- not the boundaries of the lot.

What is needed -- if you wish to install a fence, build a pool or settle a dispute with your neighbor -- is a "boundary survey" done by a qualified surveyor. Although somewhat more expensive -- usually between $750 and $1,000 -- the boundary survey will accurately determine the land you own.

Q: What is title insurance, and why do I need it when buying a new house?

A: Title insurance guarantees or insures the ownership of the house and land being purchased, subject to certain conditions called title exceptions. For example, a survey exception means that title is guaranteed subject to what is found through a survey -- either boundary or location survey.

Under Maryland law, the title company handling the settlement is required to offer the buyer title insurance guaranteeing the buyer clear title to his house and land.

That is, that there are no unknown liens or claims to the property. The title company is typically an agent of the title insurance company or underwriter.

There are two types of title insurance: mortgagee's and owner's. A mortgagee's title insurance policy, which is almost always mandatory, protects only the lender and terminates immediately when the loan is paid off.

That is why owner's title insurance, which carries a one-time premium and is good forever, is always recommended by experienced real estate professionals when someone buys a house.


Michael Gisriel is senior vice president of Fountainhead Title Group of Columbia and hosts the weekly radio show "All About Real Estate" on WCBM from noon to 1 p.m. on Sundays.

Send real estate questions to Michael Gisriel, c/o Mailbag, Real Estate Section, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

You may also leave questions on Sundial, the Baltimore Sun's telephone information service, by calling (410) 783-1800 (268-7736 in Anne Arundel County). Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6170 after you hear the greeting.

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