Location, Location, Location. Unknown, Unknown, Unknown! or, Surveyors Rescuing Buyers

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In conjunction with our Discovery Report program, described in the January, 2015 issue of the American Surveyor Magazine, we have periodically placed advertisements in the local newspaper in Green Valley, AZ, primarily appealing to owners and sellers, or their agents. However, we seldom have had enough response to pay for the advertising. We kept tinkering with the ads and in February of this year found an ad whose potential knocked our socks off. In it we addressed, for the first time, the "buyer" of property and stipulated to the Ad Specialist that the ad was to appear in the Friday edition and in or adjacent to the Real Estate Section. (Figure 1).

We had not appealed to them before because "Buyers" are only to be found in Real Estate Offices and Real Estate offices are impenetrable lairs where innocent Buyers are lured and kept until they are zombified into Owners. From there they are sent to the land of denial. However, through their reading of the classified ads, Buyers, while still Buyers, can be rescued and deprogrammed. Through buyer-oriented ads these still innocent souls can be warned of the dangers of the unknown and advised of the security of property corner monuments.

In the week following the first buyeroriented ad we received four calls from bewildered Real Estate agents stating that their buyers would not close until all the corner monuments were shown to them. This may not seem like much to you, but to us this cult-rescue was remarkable considering that in the previous 20 years, in two states, we had received zero such calls. Each of the four requests led to a Discovery Report and one led to a full survey, complete with Record of Survey to replace two missing monuments. The return ratio on this ad was twenty one dollars for each dollar spent.

As further evidence of the effectiveness of the buyer oriented ads; within three weeks of the appearance of the last ad in Green Valley (we are now back in Idaho) the calls stopped. You can turn this stream of customers on and off with buyer-oriented ads. Obviously the Discovery Report/Buyer Oriented ads system has great potential.

Who Benefits?
With the improved economy, established survey firms are now loading up with construction projects, the ones with diesel engines, back up horns and contractors blaming you for every little thing that goes wrong and threatening to bite your head off and spit down your throat. Wouldn’t you really rather load up on boundary projects?

How about the young PLS who is eager to break out on his own but is intimidated by the fabled disaster of the first two years?

How about the College freshman looking for a career but is put off from surveying by low wages, old rigs and patched jeans?

The Discovery Report/Buyer Oriented ads system can be the means of turning these things around.

The advertisements then became a game of wits, with Real Estate Agents, Title Companies and Owners on one side, and Surveyors and Buyers on the other. Some Real Estate agents were quite put out at the inconvenience of having to find corner monuments, it obviously not being their idea. One buyer confided to us, after watching us uncover all six of his buried lot corner monuments, that when he requested the survey his agent responded, "This is the wild west, we don’t do surveys out here." Well, even in the Wild West, when the buyer cracks the whip, everyone jumps.

Another of our opponents’ moves was exposed when a buyer called us saying that he would like to have his corners found, but since the agent said the buyer would have to pay for it, he was wondering what the cost would be? Obviously we needed to counter this move and did so with another ad (Figure 2).

Not only is this a game of wits, we find that there are spectators. Some clip the ads out and tack them to their bulletin boards like baseball cards; it is surprising to meet people who recognize us from the advertisements, know our names and invite us to socials. On the other hand, one Real Estate Agent stated in an off tone, "Oh, I know you, I’ve seen your ads in the newspaper". She did not invite us to socials.

A seller of property refusing to pay for a survey reminds us of the seller of a survey rig we once went to see. We found the rig up on jack stands with the front u-joint removed. Not only did we have to go buy the part and install it before we could test drive the rig, when we did decide to buy it, the seller whined, "Why should I pay for the part when you are going to drive away with it? (True Story!)

Above are some ideas for the educational block of the advertisements (Figure 3). Be sure to confirm the percentages and understand that the connotation of missing is "not visible".

Proactive Presentations
In awakening Buyers to their peril, in providing a service to defend and perpetuate the land boundary infrastructure of our communities, we have created a condition and expense that the real estate industry has grown unaccustomed to. In their view, we have created the problem.

A solution to this problem is already provided on page 2 of the Arizona Association of Realtors "Additional Clause Addendum", used since Feb. 2011. A generic rendition follows (Figure 4).

During the month of February there were 175 real estate closings in the Green Valley, AZ area. We captured four per ad. Could we improve this percentage with visits to agents in their office, with the standard form in tow, marked with prices or price ranges? How about presentations at Real Estate Seminars? Could members of a Survey Association share the advertising expense and place ads in every newspaper, phone book and Internet listing? Could a tipping point be reached where Real Estate agents, as a matter of course, call in surveyors at the beginning of each property listing? And all this without new statutes, regulations or lending-institution requirements.

The Geometic, Jean Fernel, wrote in 1530; "But what if our elders…had followed simply the same path as did those before them?…It seems good for the philosophers to move to fresh ways and systems; good for them to allow neither the voice of the detractor, nor the fullness of authority, to deter those who would declare their own views. In that way each age produces its own crop of new authors and new arts."

Chad & Linda have been partners of the Erickson Land Surveys firm for the last 21 years and work exclusively with land boundary issues. It is with sadness that they report that their professional illustrator and daughter, Lani Erickson, succumbed to angiosarcoma on 5-20-15.

A 1.299Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE