Hawaii Island

Love Your Surveyor

Nothing in real estate has the capacity to spark livelier discussions than surveys. Most REALTORS® have a few good war stories to tell. The survey provides essential peace of mind to the buyer and important protections for the seller. It’s one of the most important steps in the transaction.

Understanding Contract Stipulations

Paragraph K1 of our standard contract stipulates, in part, that the property is to be re-staked even if the pins are visible. It goes on to explain that a map with all the improvements will not be provided to the buyer. Paragraph K2 specifically requires that a map indicate the distance of improvements relative to the boundary. It does not require that the surveyor provide an opinion as to whether or not the improvements are in compliance with local regulations.

Challenges in Interpretation

While this is probably a good idea, there are times when narrative reports are inaccurate. Because the surveyor can only comment on current conditions and regulations, it’s important to consider that past current requirements may differ from today’s. For instance, prior to 1996, there was no rear setback requirement for accessory buildings such as workshops and garages. They could be built all the way to the property line. Other survey reports have noted a driveway apron legally crossing association property as an encroachment.

Navigating Boundary Discrepancies

Another interesting situation is where a de minimus structure position discrepancy exists. State law allows tolerance for improvements built on or even slightly over a boundary. A surveyor might report these as encroachments or setback violations. Surveyors can only report what they see. Interpreting layers of regulations that change with time and circumstance is difficult. With narrow “spaghetti” lots, setback issues and slight encroachments are common.

Seeking Clarification and Resolution

For setback problems complying with the de minimus guidelines, an application for formal recognition can be made with the County. Incomplete or inaccurate notations on a survey report can really confuse a transaction. When questions arise, the folks at the Planning Department are really the experts. Your agent normally sees the report first. They should be able to advise you when it’s time for a visit to the friendly staff at the County Planning Department…and yes, a staking and re-survey should ALWAYS be conducted for new construction. That’s the only way to insure you stay in your own yard!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at denise@hawaiilife.com or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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