Registered Professional Land Surveyor
President of Robert Keys & Associates in Amarillo
This is the first in a series of interviews with other professionals who participate in the real estate transaction.
How do you normally interact with real estate agents?
I have been a partner of a real estate company for 40 years, and I’ve been a surveyor for 47 years. I know both sides and what real estate agents expect. Everybody thinks there’s one kind of survey: the kind they need. We have to educate everybody on the different types of surveys and just ask questions: What do you need and who do you need it for? Is it for a lender—do they have special requirements? Is it for a potential buyer who just wants to see what’s there? Someone who doesn’t really need a land title survey but wants his boundaries marked? So, we get into a conversation.
What are some of the most common topics that you deal with?
What does a survey cost? Surveyors are professional service providers; we give cost estimates based on time required. Surveyors generally have set prices for our small residential land title surveys.
What current issues are surveyors facing?
The reuse of old surveys by title companies and real estate agents. There have been a lot of disgruntled buyers realizing the survey they received was not a current survey of the property when they bought it. It’s a big issue with not just Texas surveyors but surveyors all across the nation. We’ve even had people try to use surveys that are 30 years old and older.
I warn REALTORS® to be careful. Don’t say, “Oh, it’s no big deal; just sign the T-47 affidavit that no changes have been made.” You can create a lot of problems for yourself and others by doing that.
One issue that’s going to come up in the future is that very few people are becoming surveyors. The profession’s dwindling because of age. New people do not desire to work for the amount of time it takes to become a licensed surveyor. You put in eight years with your education and work experience just to become licensed, and the rewards for that aren’t that great compared with other professions for the time that is required.
What do you wish REALTORS® knew about your business?
No one understands that you just don’t go out, find a boundary corner, and start. In rural areas, I’ve actually surveyed 17-plus miles to try to determine a 1-mile section of land. You may have to go 20 miles away, plus or minus, to find sufficient boundary corners to reestablish a section.
What makes things run more smoothly?
It would help everybody to communicate more. When you do not know—and before you assume something—please call a surveyor, title company escrow officer, or a land title attorney.