Real Estate

Cottage Q&A: What’s considered a “recent” property survey?

Close up of a "sale pending" sign on a property By Tada Images/Shutterstock

What is considered a “recent survey” when selling your cottage in Ontario?—P. Froehlich, Salmon Lake, Ont.

We can’t give you a specific number of years. “In the eyes of a surveyor, if it wasn’t done yesterday, it’s not up to date,” says Martin Elder, the owner of Martin Elder Real Estate Group. “But in my experience, if it was in the last 20 years, that’s new.”

A survey is a useful and valuable document, but there’s no legal requirement for you, as the seller, to get a more recent one (or to have one at all). “When you sell a property, it’s not up to you to prove what you own,” says Elder.

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Typically, “what the survey would be used for is for ‘compliance,’” says Ian Keay, a real estate lawyer with MKC Law Office in Peterborough, Ont. “And a better term for it would be a ‘location survey,’ since it reveals the location of all structures in relation to one another and, importantly, to the boundaries of the property,” he says.

Here’s how it works: “During the sale process, the seller can produce a copy of the survey to the buyer. The buyer’s lawyer then sends the location survey off to the local municipality’s building department.” The building department would review the survey to make sure everything is as it should be. For example, were sheds or bunkies built with the proper permits? Is a structure too close to a lot line? Is there a fence that appears to be on your property, but it’s actually on the neighbour’s property? And so on. If there are any problems, the seller could be made to “remedy the deficiencies,” says Keay—like move a shed to make it comply with local bylaws, for example.

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Even if you don’t have to get a new survey, could an up-to-date document make your cottage more sellable? Sure, says Elder. “It’s the sort of thing that gives the buyer confidence in the owner.”

This article was originally published in the June/July 2023 issue of Cottage Life.

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