I received a frantic call the other day. The closing had fallen through because the title company told them they needed a survey. In all likelihood, the underwriter came back and told the title company this but I cannot know that for sure. No matter the origin of the discovery, the whole dramatic event could have been avoided but let’s look at the particulars:
The situation is that the description for the property in questions doesn’t really describe anything. In fact, when I do get out to get the survey done, we will be surveying the neighbors and the subject property will get what is left. This isn’t all that uncommon. Often, families gave or sold pieces of land to one member or another and throughout the course of the years, there was only a fraction of the original land left.
The description for the parcel in question reads, “The portion of the property of Nellie F. Woods, deceased conveyed pursuant to the last will and testament of Nellie F Woods, being the balance of all of the Nellie F Woods property willed to the party of the first parts property as described on Morgan County Tax Map 142, Parcel 1160.” Tax maps are not legally binding nor do they represent any substantial evidence when deciding property lines. Worse yet, there is no parcel 1160.
Back to my earlier statement of, “the whole dramatic event could have been avoided.” A cursory search by the listing agent would have brought this description to light. Had this Realtor understood how to read a legal description, they could have identified the potential problems that might ensue and then brought this to the attention of the title company at the time of listing and with this improve the value of the property. While it may have caused the seller to spend some money, it most certainly would have highlighted the troubling legal description and started everyone on the path to resolving it.
Instead, the closing fell apart, has been rescheduled, and is pending a rush survey that may or may not make it in time for the next scheduled closing. The buyer could have just as easily walked away and then the whole sale would have been lost.
The lesson here – figure out what you are selling and if there is any question, call your title people or your surveyor. If you do not have a surveyor on speed dial, you need to. Find one you can trust. A good surveyor will spend the time to ensure that you look good. They will answer questions and only do what is needed for each situation. Not every property needs a survey.