Lay of the land

The dish on real property reports

Lost in the lexicon of real estate transactions, a real property report can paint a picture that, in many cases, is worth much more than a thousand words.

An RPR, which is an essential part of real estate transactions, provides a visual and written assessment on the current state of affairs on a given property.

Performed by licensed land surveyors – and ranging in cost from $800 to $1,000 each – this report will disclose essential information such as the property line of a plot of land, recent improvements made to a property and details on any permanent structures (such as sheds, decks, houses, and garages) built on a property.

In other words, an RPR literally provides a lay of the land, spelling out exactly what is included on a property, said Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association executive director Brian Munday.

“It’s important to know that (when buying a property) you’re actually getting what you think you’re getting,” he said. “And with a real property report, you a get straightforward certification from the land surveyor stating any issues property owners may need to be concerned about.”

Some common concerns that an RPR helps identify is whether there restrictions on a plot of land, including the locations of utility right-of-ways and overland drainage right-of-ways, which are governed by land-use bylaws. These may limit the extent and location of any improvements or additions a property owner may make in the future.

Before signing on the dotted line, buyers need to be confident there are no issues with their home to-be. An RPR can help provide that assurance, said Jeffrey Kahane, a real estate lawyer with Kahane Law Office.

He notes standard purchase contracts, by default, have the provision of an RPR to buyers as a requirement. In some case, sellers may want to remove this clause – either because they don’t want to fix a problem or pay to update the report, said Kahane, noting this typically occurs in a “sellers’ market.”

If buyers haven’t gained access to a seller’s RPR at the time of closing, Kahane said they either have the right to not take possession of the property or pay any interest until they are provided an RPR; take possession, but not pay for the property and instead pay what they would have paid as interest on their new mortgage as rent for the new property; or come to a “fallback agreement” with the seller wherein a percentage of the agreed upon price is held back until an RPR is provided.

For more information about RPRs, visit www.alsa.ab.ca.

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