Which plan is right for me?

When buying or selling a home it is important to obtain the right land survey in accordance to your specific need with up-to-date accuracy, in order to ensure the most accurate depiction of your current property.

There are three factors to consider when deciding which plan is right for you:

  1. The problem you are trying to solve
  2. The type of plan
  3. The age of the plan

Different situations call for different kinds of information. Selecting the plan that has the information you need for your situation is crucial in determining which plan is right for you.

Buying a house

If you are buying a house, a survey plan will support your due diligence process. There are three categories of problems that need to be considered. These are:

  • Potential boundary disputes
  • Potential title problems
  • Zoning by-law conformity

Boundary disputes may arise when one neighbour is occupying and using a portion of the adjacent landholder’s property. A survey plan will show exactly how far a fence, building, walkway, driveway, garden or other property feature is over the boundary, which could lead to a nasty dispute in the future.

Potential title problems may arise if a survey plan shows that the property frontage is smaller than what the property deed describes or illustrates an unregistered easement crossing the property. It is best to know upfront about a situation where the property has unexpected restrictions.

It’s also wise to ensure that what you see on the property you are considering—the fence, the pool, the driveway, the addition, the shed—has been built in accordance with municipal zoning by-laws. A survey plan is not going to tell you if a fence or addition has been built in accordance with the Ontario Building Code or complies with zoning requirements, but will allow you to compare actual measured distances with the setbacks required by the zoning by-law specifications for a specific property.

The ideal survey type for this kind of investigation is a Surveyor’s Real Property Report(SRPR).

Selling your house

If you are selling your house, it’s helpful to provide prospective buyers with information that assists their due diligence process so they feel comfortable submitting “clean” offers. A survey plan is the "property inspection report” equivalent of a home inspection report. It is widely accepted that encouraging multiple clean offers often increases the final sale price.

The ideal type of survey for the home selling process is an SRPR. Reference Plans are also valuable but may show less detail and may not provide a prospective buyer with the insights they are looking for because they rarely show the house structure. However, in the absence of an existing SRPR, a Reference Plan may suffice.

Renovating or building on your property

If you are renovating or building on your property, a survey plan shows the size and shape of the property, used to calculate its area and maximum building envelope (taking zoning setbacks into account). This information helps determine the size and location of a new structure (e.g., pool, shed or house extension) and is critical when applying for a building permit. The ideal survey type for this purpose is an SRPR.  A topographic plan is also valuable providing that it shows the property boundaries. A Reference Plan may not show the desired level of detail for this purpose.

Boundary dispute

If you are currently in a boundary dispute with a neighbour, a new survey plan will provide the evidence you need to support your position, whether you are the initiator of the dispute or on the receiving end of a neighbour’s complaint. Existing survey plans may be useful in providing you with an initial, high-level idea of where you might stand on an issue, and can show you a historical timeline of the property. However, when dealing with boundary dispute you are strongly advised to obtain a new survey so as to be sure you have the most current analysis of your property and its boundaries.

Also see Types of survey plans for more information.

Age of the plan

All survey plans are a snapshot of land, property boundaries and property features at the time that the survey was conducted. When considering whether or not to purchase and use an older survey plan, one must consider how much detail the plan shows and how much change there may have been to that property in the ensuing years. The standards for surveys changed in the late 1970's, and then again in the 2000's with the introduction on PINs (Property Identification Numbers). Where there has been little or no change in fences and buildings, an older plan may prove useful in many situations.

Be aware that sometimes parcels have been subdivided or new buildings erected that may not be the original structure shown on a plan. When in doubt, consult a surveyor or get an up-to-date survey.