What exactly is a land survey?

A licensed surveyor will research the documents available about your land, including tax maps, deeds, filed maps and previous surveys that are filed in the respective county seat. Then, the property will be physically measured, usually measuring each location several times, averaging the results to determine its true position. These dimensions will be compared against the previous records to determine if there are any discrepancies. At this point, a certified map will be drawn, showing any existing structures, driveways, walks, walls, fences, pools, hedgerows etc. and their relationship to the property line. If Stakes are ordered, various points on the land will be marked, usually using iron rods or concrete monuments so the owner can see exactly where his/her boundaries and property corners are. Staking the property also makes re-surveying of the land easier if it needs to be done at some point in the future.

What are some reasons to purchase a land survey?

Although a survey may seem unnecessary, there are many instances in which a survey is required or recommended in order to prevent confusion or possible legal problems in the future. Banks, funding agencies and mortgage companies often require a survey in order to protect their interest in the property.

  • A survey will alert you to any boundary discrepancies that could affect the value of a property before you buy it.
  • A survey will show any encroachments of the boundaries either from your neighbors property onto yours, or from your property onto your neighbors.
  • A survey will show if your property is accurately described in your deed.
  • A survey will reveal any recorded easements or right of way which will entitle other people to use a portion of your property.
  • A survey will confirm that the property shown by your real estate person and described in the contract is in fact the property being sold to you.

Before building any permanent structures, such as a house, fence or shed, or installing a new septic system, pool or driveway, near the edges of land that you own, it would be useful to have a surveyor mark your property lines. There are many things to keep in mind when building a permanent structure, such as easements, set backs, and other requirements which will be marked on your new land survey map.
You might also consider having a survey done if you are planning to sell your property. Acreage, shorelines and road frontage are three selling points that can be measured by a surveyor and will make your property more marketable.

Why is a survey map an important document to have?

A survey map will help you visualize exactly what the property looks like and contains, and it also gives you a type of protection. It will highlight any encroachments there may be onto your property and will help to identify any other irregularities that may result in possible future legal disputes.
The surveyor assumes full professional responsibility for the accuracy of the survey and therefore may serve as an expert witness in court. In this way, a new survey enhances your title insurance policy.

Why should I purchase a new survey when there is an old one available?

When a professional survey is completed, the property lines as established by the licensed surveyor become the legal boundaries of the property. These boundary lines do not usually differ significantly from the previously accepted boundaries, but that is not always the case.
An old survey does not always reflect current existing conditions and is therefore it is not recommended to rely on one.

Are there different types of surveys?

Yes, there are different surveys to cater for different needs.

  • Title (Boundary) Survey is a survey map prepared by a licensed, registered surveyor.
  • Sight Plan Survey A survey preformed for the purpose of proposing construction on a property in order to obtain a building permit.
  • As-Built Survey Is usually required by municipalities to show a completed construction project before the municipality will issue a certificate of occupancy (C.O.) to the owner.
  • Topographical Survey Shows the elevation changes and other physical features such as rock crops, steep slopes, wet areas, etc.
  • Wet Land Survey A survey preformed for the purpose of delineating the perimeter of a wet land to better understand how much of the property can be developed.
  • Lot Consolidation Survey Sometimes referred to as an “abandonment” survey. When a person owns or wants to purchase two or more contiguous properties for the purpose of combining them into one parcel.
  • Subdivision Platting A survey preformed for the purpose of dividing one parcel of land into two or more parcels.

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Is a “stake out” included with a land survey?

Stake out of property vs. a maps only title survey
Banks and mortgage companies require a survey map, they do not require a property to be physically staked. What most clients do not realize is that the staking process requires a second trip to the property and therefore costs more.
It is however entirely understandable that a client would assume that a “survey” would include a survey map and physical staking of the parcel boundaries. Your surveyor should be very clear about the cost and time difference and discuss with you the pros and cons of staking the property. It is often recommended that a client walk their new property with map in hand. If the property has obvious physical features such as fences, stone walls, buildings etc. shown on the survey, one can deduce the proximity of the lot lines. If these features do not exist, or if the client feels they need a better understanding of the lot lines, stakes can be requested before or after the purchase of the property (closing) is completed.

What will a new survey cost?

The cost of a new survey is influenced by many factors. Some of which are, the type of survey required, the size, location and terrain of the property. Therefore, the cost of each survey is quoted on an individual basis.