At the risk of sounding like Jerry Seinfeld, let me open by asking, “Realtors: What’s the deal with them?”

A few years after I had gotten divorced, I finally reached a point where I could afford to buy a modestly priced home. This was in 2003 and the market hadn’t started to take off yet. Not being the type to waste other people’s time, and being a surveyor, I liked to do my own research. So, I checked the local MLS site to see what was available for sale.

I found a small house I liked that was in my price range. I called a lady friend of mine to have her show it to me since her real estate sign was in the front yard. I had known this lady and her husband for a little more than 20 years, and considered them to be good friends. At the time I called her, she had been selling real estate for less than a year and was looking to build her client base. Being a friend, I wanted to help. 

The house was exactly what I was looking for — so much so that I didn’t even look at any others. We were in my friend’s office working up an offer an hour after she showed me the place. My offer was accepted the next day, and I joked with her that it was the easiest sale and commission she ever made. That was a decade ago.

Here We Are Today

A few weeks ago, I received a call from this lady (we now live in different towns about 50 miles apart). She was inquiring about a survey on a residential lot she was trying to close a deal on in Sedona, Ariz., which is a very high-priced market.

She said that she found three of the four corner monuments, “and they all look like they’re in the correct location.” She explained that she couldn’t find the fourth monument, and that it appeared to fall in the middle of two water meter boxes. Odds are, it did, and got knocked out when the boxes were installed.

She wanted to know if I could research the County Recorder’s website to see if there were any surveys recorded on the lot that she could use. While this irritated me a little, in light of our friendship and the fact that I could do the research in pretty short order, I checked it out for her.

I found where one surveyor had performed a survey that abutted her lot on the west and another surveyor had done a survey three lots away to the east. After I gave her the information, this was her first comment: “We don’t want to pay a lot for this survey since three of the four corners are in. Can you give me the name of someone who can do a cheap survey?” A lot survey in this particular subdivision would typically go for about $1,200 at the top end, but I had seen them done for as low as $600-$800 also. 

Now, as if her comment wasn’t bad enough, the ironic part is the house she was selling had sold five years earlier for $450,000. I would surmise that it was selling for a bit more today. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it was selling for the same price. At $450,000, a $1,200 survey would only equate to 0.27 percent — a relative drop in the bucket.

Same Old, Same Old

I’ve been a surveyor here in Arizona for almost 40 years now, and I was dealing with this sort of nonsense way back when I started. The only difference is the cost of homes has gone up tremendously. I guess some things never change. (Hence, the title of this article!)

Coincidentally, I sold the house I mentioned in the first part of this story a couple of years later. At that time, another lady who had previously worked for the same survey company I was employed with had just started selling real estate. Again, wanting to help out a friend who was new to the game, I gave her the listing. She did an incredible job getting it sold in a short period of time.

A few months after selling my house, I ran into the first lady in town one day. She was very upset with me for not using her in the transaction. She questioned how I could do such a thing to a “good friend.”

My only response to her was, “I am so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking, especially in light of all the surveys you’ve sent me over the years?” I paused a moment as her face reddened, and then added, “Oh, wait a minute. You’ve never sent me a survey, have you?”

Patrick Naville and his wife reside in Prescott Valley, Ariz. He is a land surveyor with the Yavapai County Cartography Department in Prescott. He has published three books of historic fiction, and is currently about to release his fourth. He can be reached at