What is a real estate survey, and why would you need one?
In the United States, land is usually surveyed using a metes & bounds, OR a lot & block survey system. Most neighborhoods in cities, where you probably live, use a lot & block survey system. So…in addition to the property address…the house will have a legal description similar Lot 2, Block A, John Doe’s Subdivision. That legal description was created when your land was originally platted, and would be used again when a new survey (basically a map of the property line, house location, etc) is created by a surveyor.
A surveyor charges anywhere from a few hundred dollars, to many thousands of dollars, to come out and literally map out the boundaries of a property & create a new paper (or digital) survey when you order one from him. The process can take a few days, to many weeks, depending on what company you use, how big the lot is & how active the local real estate market is.
On cash transactions, usually a survey is not required unless there is a clear need for it – e.g. a house is very close to a property line, many acres are involved, it’s in a rural area OR if the title company finds something wrong (e.g. the legal description appears odd on a former deed) that needs to be double checked.
On most (but not all) financed transactions, banks require a survey to be able to fund a transaction.