I have grown up knowing that the best kind of mistakes are the ones that you avoid. When we had our cattle ranch in the hardwood hills of New Brunswick, no one surveyed property lines.
It would have cost far more money than it was worth. What difference did it matter if I had a few more spruce trees that I was never going to use or if those trees belonged to you? Neighbors could generally work things out between themselves without too many hurt feelings.
When we moved into the world of suburbia in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and later to Columbia, Maryland, and Roanoke, Virginia, knowing where your property boundaries are seemed to be a little more important. When we sold our home in Roanoke, Virginia, and the new owners were determined to have a new survey, we found out that we had paid for cleaning up a fallen tree that might have been on our neighbor's property. I did not lose any sleep over it because they were good neighbors. I would not have wanted to argue with them over it.
I spent a few years doing real estate before my current job with WideOpen Networks. As a real estate agent I got an indoctrination by fire into the importance of surveys. When a lot that I sold was surveyed, it turned out that one of the boundaries of the lot ran right down the middle of the concrete driveway of a home on an adjoining property. The new lot owner was a whole lot calmer about the problem than the people who thought they might lose half their driveway. Fortunately a solution was worked out, but the importance of surveys was indelibly impressed into my mind.
On a recent weekend in April 2014, I took my annual real estate training so that I can continue to have my license. You work so hard for your license, that you hate to lose it and have to do all the training and exams all over again. I always learn something from the courses so I never mind the $100 that I pay to Ken Sykes. He is a great instructor and since he actually lists and sells properties, it is a great way to get a quick update on the market.
Ken explained during our recent Saturday together that almost no one does surveys anymore because the banks and title companies do not require them. The result of fewer people doing them is that surveys are becoming more expensive. As they become more expensive even fewer people are taking the time to have their properties surveyed.
Beyond property boundaries, our modern properties have all sorts of things running underground. As we become a society more and more dependent on technology and less and less knowledgeable about what makes things work, we end up living in a precarious position.
Ken told us the story of someone who bought a property that they thought was hooked up to city sewers only to figure out a couple of years later that the property had a septic tank that was overflowing and needed to be pumped. All of us in the class were a little suspicious of someone not putting two and two together that they had not received a septic bill for two years, but they went to court and won anyway.
A few years ago, a new house was built on the lot beside us. We came home from a trip one weekend and found sand coming out of our water taps. In putting in the power to the new house, they had cut our water. They fixed the line but never told us or flushed the sand from the system. The same folks cut our cable line up in so many pieces that it had be completely replaced. No one ever even said "Sorry" during all this.
When new homes were being built in our Roanoke subdivision, we would just grit our teeth and wait for them to cut off the power when they started digging. That was years ago and maybe I thought with all the cool mapping that can be done today that we were beyond cutting lines. At least there was the hope that construction companies might have absorbed something out of the thousands of "Call before you dig" ads that I have seen since then.
I guess I was wrong, this morning as I was trying to get my morning work done and off to an appointment, our power went off. That is an unusual occurrence here in Carteret County. While we are often in the way of some strong winds, we have giant power poles and even after Hurricane Irene, our power was only off for three hours. Our power is incredibly reliable here, but we did not have to look far for trouble. We had heard that a lot owner hoping to make his lot more attractive had decided to install a septic system.
As we left for our appointment, I stopped to talk to the guy running the excavator. I had to yell over the noise of the motor and I guess I was pretty irritated, but he was rather defiant when I asked him if he had called before he started digging. His answer was "I don't have to call when I am on the lot back from the power right of way." When we got on a more even footing and he turned the excavator off I told him that based on my experience things underground were not always where they should be. He ended up calling the power company. When we came back from our appointment, he was having to explain himself to the power company. I would hope that we as electric power consumers do not have to pay for his needless mistake.
There is a lot stuff in life that you do not have to do. Sometimes, however, it makes a lot of sense to take the time to do what is right even if you are not required to do it. They surveyed the lot over three weeks ago. How hard would it have been to place a call and have the underground lines marked in that length of time? My understanding is that the service is free.
A lot of folks let things slide because they think they can get away with it. That is a recipe for trouble.
I am happy our power was out only for a couple of hours. It is also nice that all my computers came back up without any problems. This might spur me to buy a new UPS so that I can gracefully shut down my desktops the next time this happens.
A neighbor who is on oxygen had to switch to her portable pack and go to another house where the air conditioning was running. She had just plugged her cell phone in to charge when the power went out so she had no telephone.
The guy with the excavator certainly did not think of any of this when he started digging right by the power right of way. He should have done the right thing and had the underground lines marked. It would have saved all of us some trouble.
While we are not as obessive about property lines and our schedules here on the Crystal Coast as some folks farther inland and further to the north, our time is important because there is lots to do this magical time of year. I would rather not waste my time because someone was too lazy to do the right thing.