A few years ago, I got a client who was referred to me after going through hell to acquire land previously.
He showed me one of the site plans of the land he failed to acquire even after making payments. The land was engrossed into a dispute after it emerged that he was one of three persons to have bought the same land. To make matters worse, the land which they were showed to be the land as developed in the site plan was actually in the sea. Yes! You heard me right.
There was another client whose property he bought sitting on a four-plot land ended up being three plots and a quarter. This is because what was detailed on the site plan after negotiation was different from what was on the site plan in the land title. He only discovered the fraud years after he returned to the country to further develop the property.
These two real experiences point to the key role of surveyors in acquiring a land or a property (building).
What is Land Surveying?
Land surveying is a process of validating, locating, mapping and plotting the boundaries, corners and structures within a given land or property. This covers every detail on the property deed; including ownership, buildings, street, building and land location, fence etc. This is to ensure all details are appropriately described and verified to be 100% accurate and up to date. Simply put, land surveying helps one to understand a land or property in full.
Who is a Surveyor?
The person who undertakes the activities above is a surveyor. McSteen.Com puts it better. It says a Surveyor is a professional trained to use an intricate combination of law, math, engineering, and physics to work out and establish property boundaries. They use specialized equipment like GPSs, prisms, software, radios and robotic total stations to complete the survey.
Being one of the oldest professions in the world and even in Ghana, the profession has evolved to have many roles and divisions in every aspect of national development. For a global body like the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, there are more than 100 varied career roles across the surveying profession in three main sectors: construction and infrastructure; property; and land.
However, the Ghana Institution of Surveyors (GhIS) which is an umbrella professional body in Ghana puts them in three divisions; thus Land Surveying, Land and Estate Valuation and Quantity Surveying.
Who Qualifies to be a Land Surveyor in Ghana?
Since our focus is on land and property (building) acquisition we will limit ourselves as such. In Ghana, surveying is controlled by the state. in fact, before the return to constitutional rule in 1992, the Director of Survey was the President.
So, the surveyor works for the country and hence, every surveyor in the Mapping and Survey Division of the Lands Commission is an official surveyor of the state. They all report to the Director of Survey.
To augment its work, the Director of Survey also licenses private surveyors to work on behalf of the Division. These are what we know as Licensed Surveyors. Although they are duly qualified, their work is by default supervised by the Director of Survey. When their work is approved by the Director, it then becomes a product of the state through the Lands Commission.
Obviously, there are many surveyors who are not licensed but work on several properties in the country. Most of these surveyors must be working under the supervision of official surveyors of the state or licensed surveyors by the state until such a time they will be licensed.
Why You Need a Survey to Acquire a Property
As earlier noted, the activities of surveyors vary, but we will limit ourselves to property acquisition.
Background Check: Land acquisition is very complex. It is not your usual purchase of any other property, not even a vehicle. Because land is as old as man, establishing the ownership of the land requires a lot of work beyond the expertise of the average person. With the knowledge, skills and network of the surveyors, he or she can assist you to establish the true owner of the property as of the time you are making the acquisition.
This reduces the tendency of being defrauded or stuck in protracted litigation that will cost you more than you may have bought the land. Buying the land from the wrong person could even cost you your life. That is why Real Estate Developers like myself always ensure, our surveyors are involved in every stage of any land or property-related transaction we undertake.
This is all time and space will permit. I will bring you the rest of article in the Part-2 of this series of The Importance of a Surveyor in Acquiring a Landed Property.