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Ensuring Old Surveys Are Accurate

By Staff | Apr 26, 2017

Many people who buy and sell land probably don’t take the phrase “more or less” in describing the size of tracts very seriously. They should – because it can mean a lot less.

County Surveyor Roy Haught explained the problem to Tyler County commissioners earlier this month. It is a serious one, but a challenge about which county officials can do little.

Many of the original deeds for land being sold were written many years ago, Haught explained. As much as 90 percent of the deeds recorded in Tyler County were based on surveys performed more than 150 years ago. You know the type: They use features such as large trees and rocks in streams to mark property boundaries.

And they can be dramatically wrong, Haught said. He related a situation in which a person thought he was buying 68 acres of land – but found the tract actually was only 53 acres.

Needless to say, any number of serious problems can result from deeds based on flawed, out-of-date surveys.

Local officials are virtually powerless to do much about the problem. The county has one surveyor, Haught. Yet thousands of deeds may be incorrect.

Commissioners agreed with one suggestion made by Haught. It is that when new surveys of property are done in the county, he should receive reports to ensure the documents meet county standards and are acceptable for county records. That may help in some cases.

Obviously, the burden of ensuring deeds are accurate will fall on property sellers and buyers. Where land has been surveyed during recent decades, there probably is no problem. But when the last survey goes back a century or more, it may pay to have a new one prepared. Attorneys handling land transactions can provide advice on that score.

The bottom line, as you may have guessed, is simple: When in doubt – survey.