Property surveys are conducted in order to determine or confirm property boundaries, especially when someone is getting ready to buy or sell property. Property surveys are also used to determine any other restrictions and/or conditions that are associated with the legal description of the property being surveyed. Simply put, a survey property is used to determine what is and is not yours in a landowning context.

Generally speaking, you would need a land survey in order to establish boundaries when new parcels of land are being developed. You would also need a land survey in order to identify as well as confirm land boundaries that have already been established. An example of this would be putting a fence on your property line. A land survey could tell you where your property line ends, and where your neighbor’s property line begins.

If you are buying a home, you may be required to obtain a survey in order to secure financing, such as a mortgage. Although a survey is not mandatory in all locations, many lenders and title companies do require that a survey be conducted before moving forward in the home buying or selling process.

Land surveys are done in order to show the boundaries of a parcel of land. However, there are also topographic surveys, which show the plane as well as the elevation of land. An example of this would be how a topographic survey would be required for requested road improvements.

Other types of surveys include:

  • Monumentation Surveys: These surveys are done if you would like to add a fence to your property;
  • As-Built Surveys: As-built surveys are used to determine property lines, as well as where improvements can be made. An example of this would be driveways and sidewalks;
  • Mortgage Surveys: Similar to as-built surveys, mortgage surveys clarify property boundaries for an entire property that is to be mortgaged; and/or
  • Floodplain Surveys: Floodplain surveys are how they sound; they show flood hazard areas.

It is important to note that if you are requesting a property survey, you should be specific regarding why you need the survey. This is so that when you get an estimate for the work to be done, it is accurate in relation to what you actually need done.

What Will A Professional Land Survey Show?

To reiterate, a land survey is chiefly intended to provide the property’s owner with a description of their property, as well as disclose any limits such as boundary lines. A professional survey will show whether any fences, driveways, or additions are encroaching on your neighbor’s property. Additionally, the survey will allow the homeowner to ensure that the legal description of the property is accurate and correct. This information can help avoid title and boundary disputes later on.

Some other examples of what a professional land survey will show include, but may not be limited to:

  • Existing Improvements: A survey will reveal whether any additions, improvements, or repairs are compliant or non-compliance with local ordinances;
  • Zoning Restrictions: Existing zoning restrictions could limit how a homeowner may use their property. Zoning restrictions will be further discussed below;
  • Utility Lines: A professional survey will show where underground cables and drains are located under your property, if any. Should these public cables and drains exist, the utility company may have the right to determine how you are to maintain part of your property in order to protect the utility lines. An example of this would be if the electric company were to tell you when to trim your trees;
  • Rights-of-Way, Easements, and Abandoned Roads: Survey actions will disclose any laws or private agreements granting others the right to walk across your property; or
  • Rights-of-Support: A professional survey can clarify whether you have a legal obligation to provide support to your neighbor’s land. An example of this would be by maintaining an existing retaining wall in good condition.

As previously mentioned, a professional survey can provide information regarding zoning laws and restrictions. Zoning refers to when local government attempts to create uniform neighborhoods and uniform land uses in some areas, which is accomplished by controlling how individuals can use their property as well as what they can build on their property.

The use of zoning powers has been approved as constitutional by the United States Supreme Court. However, land use and zoning laws are generally maintained by local governments, as well as by municipal codes. It is used to categorize and separate different land uses into distinct districts within a municipality. An example of this would be how a local government will provide separate districts for the following uses:

  • Residential;
  • Business; and
  • Industrial.

How Do I Locate My Property’s Survey? How Much Does A Professional Survey Cost?

If you are buying a home from someone else, you should ask the homeowner or the person selling the home to you to check with their lender and/or title company. These parties can determine whether there is a property survey on file for the home; if they cannot produce the survey, your local tax assessor’s office may have access.

If you are already a homeowner and were never provided with a copy of your property’s survey, your local property records could have the document. However, the document may be outdated, in which case you should consider having an updated survey completed on your property.

How much a professional survey may cost largely depends on what type of survey you need, as well as the property’s size, location, and history. Generally speaking, a simple property boundary survey costs between $100 to $600, while a mortgage survey costs an average of $500. Additionally, you will need to pay more, the more complex a property’s features and records history are.

In terms of finding a professional surveyor, you can ask your title company or lender for recommendations. You should also take the time to question any potential surveyors, and talk about your needs beforehand in order to ensure they can fulfill your specific requirements. Additionally, you should check that the surveyor is licensed to practice in the state where the property is located.

It is important to be aware of how much time it takes to complete a survey. Although property surveys can usually be completed within a week, it could take up to three weeks, depending on the company and the demand for their services. There are many variables to consider when determining how much time it takes to complete a survey, such as the quality and availability of property records such as deeds.

What Should I Know About Title And Boundary Disputes?

Because a professional survey can alleviate some title and boundary disputes, it is helpful to discuss how to determine whether there are any issues. Title disputes generally involve two adjoining landowners disagreeing over who actually owns a piece of property. Boundary disputes, however, generally occur when two adjoining landowners disagree regarding where the line between their two pieces of property runs.

Professional surveys frequently reveal that an adjoining property owner has encroached onto the surveyed property. If you have a boundary dispute with your neighbor, review your claim to the boundary before taking any legal action against your neighbor, such as filing a lawsuit.

You should always first try and communicate with the person you are having the boundary dispute with, to see if it is possible to resolve the dispute without any further action on your part. However, if you can not reach an agreement, you should then be ready to do all necessary preparation for resolving a boundary dispute.

An example of this would be going to your local county land records office and looking up the deed to your land, as the deed to your land will clarify where the boundary lines for your property are. Additionally, you can get the plat map for your neighborhood which shows all of the boundary lines.

You may then file a lawsuit against the offending party if they do not cease their trespass onto your land.

Do I Need An Attorney For Professional Survey Issues?

You can obtain a professional survey without the assistance of an attorney. However, an experienced and local real estate lawyer can review the survey in order to determine whether you are using your land in compliance with any existing restrictions clarified by the survey.

An attorney will also be familiar with the laws of your locality, and will be able to represent you in court, as needed.