The best way to understand why it’s important to have an Identification Survey done when you are buying a new home is to ask yourself some questions:
- Is the contract I’m about to sign really for the house the agent showed me?
- How do I know I’m not signing a contract for the dump next door?
- My solicitor doesn’t go out and look so how can I be sure?
- What if someone accidentally wrote 56 Smith Street on the contract when they really meant 58 Smith Street? What if the same people own both houses and there WAS a mistake? The vendors name on the contract would be the same so how would anyone tell?
- I could just fit my boat and caravan down the side of the house but what if that fence is out of position? The only reason I’m buying the place is so I can keep them in the backyard.
An Identification Survey will show a plan of the house and other structures on the block and show their relationship to the boundaries. It will also describe the house with things like “Two Storey Brick Dwelling, known as No. 58, having brick foundations and a tiled roof together with a pool and Metal Shed”. It will also describe the houses on either side making it easy for you to determine that you are signing a contract for the house you were shown. There’s also an extensive written report that references any Easements, Restrictions or Covenants that may affect the property.
Another reason for having an Identification Survey done is to obtain a Building Certificate from Council. Most Councils won’t issue a Building Certificate unless they have an Identification Survey less than 6 months old provided.
Some people rely on old Identification Surveys done when the previous owner bought the place. This is fraught with danger. The classic example is the gentlemen who asked the vendor to sign a Statutory Declaration stating that he had made no changes to the house or other structures since the date of the old Identification Survey. The vendor readily signed the Statutory Declaration and the sale proceeded. Unfortunately, a neighbour had made changes to his place and an awning encroached onto the gentleman’s land. When the gentleman discovered this and asked his neighbour to remove it WWIII broke out.
Most people only buy one or two houses in their entire lives and it is just not worth the risk to NOT have an Identification Survey done. This includes Rural Areas where people just seem to assume that fences are correct and yet the reality is that more rural fences are out of position than urban fences and usually by much greater amounts.