Corner stakes are one of the most important parts of buying real estate, I have learned this in 25 years of selling real estate in San Juan. For properties that were the subject of a transaction years ago, corner stakes were not a big deal; of course, neither a water source, nor a septic permit or archaeological areas. Times have changed in our rural area and the buyer needs to know what to buy before they close.
To make an informed buying decision on any type of real estate purchase, even an improved one, they need to know the property limits. In every contract I write I include that the seller is obligated to show the buyer the locations of the stakes and further agrees to hire a surveyor to mark the missing stakes. Many sellers remove this provision due to the additional cost, but then I recommend my buyer to hire the surveyor to find the corners.
Stakes disappear over the years because a tree can fall on them, a car knocks them over, a neighbor can remove or move them and if they are wood, they rot. Of course, cows and horses love to scratch their chins. Surveyors mark a date on each stake and are required to record the survey if new stakes need to be set.
In some cases, we have found that the corners were originally set incorrectly. This is usually due to improvements in equipment with GPS and / or mistakes made in the 1960s and 1970s when many of our subdivisions were closed.
I remember a map that said 100 feet of waterfront. When we taped it up, it was only 80 feet from corner to corner. It was a really good thing that we found this out before closing so the buyer could make an informed decision.
The stakes on undeveloped land are even greater. A buyer needs to understand the side, front, and rear setbacks, especially if the land is waterfront, in order to determine if what he wants to build can actually be built in the space the county has legally allocated. The shoreline can be difficult to measure; the county uses a straight line or corner-to-corner approach. In many cases, the shore winds. The county decides, based on the regulations, on the width and distance of the house on a lot, which is important to know in determining if the lot is suitable.
One of the reasons why corner stakes are so important is that they reveal any issues with the boundaries of the land. It is not uncommon in rural real estate for fences to wind across the property line to the other. Also, which is also not uncommon, there can be large and small encroachments such as landscaping, a fenced garden, greenhouse, parking lot, hot tub or shed, or my favorite. all time…. an addiction.
Lenders and buyers usually accept a curvy fence a few inches above the line, but anything over 6-8 inches can be a problem. Lenders and buyers must resolve the encroachment before closing.
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Merri Ann Simonson
Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Inc