An example of a Real Property Report. Photo courtesy of the Alberta Land Surveyors' Association.

The importance of a Real Property Report when buying a house

While many documents come into play when purchasing your home, one of the most important is the Real Property Report (RPR).

A real property report is a requirement during a standard real estate transaction and, in Calgary, Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association (ALSA) members complete those reports.

“A Real Property Report is a legal document that shows the boundaries of the property in question and the improvements relative to those boundaries. When I say improvements, that includes of course the house, but also the deck, shed, garage and fence that may be on the property,” said Brian Munday, executive director of Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association (ALSA).

He adds that a RPR could show, for instance, that part of a driveway on the property you are looking to buy is actually on a neighbour’s land, or that their fence or shed is encroaching on to your potential future property.

Munday says the RPR has two parts. The first is a sketch of the property showing boundaries and improvements, and the second is the certification where the Alberta land surveyor indicates whether there are any encroachments or other issues that the land owner should be aware of, including those stemming from neighbouring properties.

He says those issues may have been known to the current land owners for years and gone undisputed, but that doesn’t mean anything if one person moves and the next homeowner decides to block off the other person’s driveway.

“What the land surveyor is always looking to do is re-establish where the original land surveyor had created those property lines.”

“Those are the sorts of things you want to be aware of and be able to address before you complete what is going to be the biggest transaction of your life,” said Munday.

He says when creating a RPR they look for original “monuments” or markers on the property, and also research land titles for original documents.

Munday adds that even though the equipment used by surveyors today is much more accurate than it was decades ago, surveyors are not looking to adjust property lines from those set out in the past.

“What the land surveyor is always looking to do is re-establish where the original land surveyor had created those property lines,” he said.

An interesting example, Munday says, is that the provincial border between Alberta and Saskatchewan was set at 110º longitude, and still follows the physical monuments put in 125 years ago, even though modern GPS shows the border is not exactly where it should be.

“It doesn’t matter, because the basic principle in statute law and common law is that the monuments in the ground determine where the boundary is between the two provinces, and it’s the same sort of thing between two neighbours in Calgary,” said Munday.