Tales from the Archives

Culvert installed under house

Culvert installed under house

This is another interesting survey from the archives. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Construction of the residence pictured above was just completed. The house was located in a modern new subdivision. The proud future owners were looking forward to closing in just a few days when we were contracted to do a land survey.

While performing the survey, we discovered that a 36 inch corrugated metal pipe was running straight underneath the foundation as indicated by the blue shaded area in the graphic. We were later informed as to what occurred. The design plans called for the storm culvert to be installed along the northwest property line, then turn down the southwest property line to the headwall as indicated by the shaded red area. However, the grading contractor had decided that the design route was too circuitous and that he could save a fair amount of money on pipe by following a more direct route straight through the lot. It apparently did not occur to him that an active metal culvert with water flowing underneath the foundation could cause potential structural problems.

Upon discovery of the problem, we delivered our findings to a shocked and dismayed buyer and mortgage company (not to mention the real estate agent and the homebuilder). The buyer called me and asked what I would do if I were in their shoes. Being honest, I told them I would not buy the house. They were really set on the house though, so I advised them to get assurances from geotechnical and structural engineers that the foundation would be stable. The engineer required the culvert to be cut and the ends sealed. A new culvert was properly installed in approximately the correct area as represented by the red shading. I say “approximately” because the culvert is supposed to be wholly located within the designated 20 foot drainage easement as indicated by the shaded green area. As you can see, it is not.

I do not say this by way of bragging – it is the plain truth. Most surveying companies would never have caught this. Too many surveyors perform hurried, cursory land surveys which do not indicate all the improvements. We caught the problem by being thorough. The buyers could have just as well bought the property with the problem undiscovered until years later.

One other alarming aspect of the problem is its now invisible nature. Subsequent buyers must always rely on the honesty of previous owners to disclose the problem. If the chain of disclosure is broken, the circumstance will remain unknown. The law says that sellers must disclose any known defects to potential buyers, but it must be tempting to remain silent considering the adverse effect this knowledge could have on offers.

The moral of the story is this:

It does not matter if the construction or the neighborhood is new or old – never, never buy property without a land survey. It is a risk too great to take considering the cost of land and construction.

By | 2009-10-18T18:00:20+00:00 October 18th, 2009|Due Diligence, Survey Problems|Comments Off on Tales from the Archives

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