What Is a Land Survey, and When Do You Need One?


Land surveys are required for defining property borders and the location of features on a property. There would be no way to tell where one piece of land ends and the other begins without land surveys. While today’s property conflicts may not cause as much turmoil as they did centuries ago, everyone should be aware of who owns what.

What is the definition of a land survey?

A land survey is a diagram that depicts the exact location of a property’s borders. The dimensions and location of any structures or other site improvements on the property will also be laid out in the survey.

Land surveying can be done in a variety of ways depending on the size and shape of the property as well as the sort of legal description available.

When is a land survey required?

It’s possible that referring to a legal description isn’t adequate to determine your property’s boundary lines. Hiring a land surveyor can assist you in meeting specific standards for purchasing or renovating real estate, as well as just locating your property borders for your own reference.

The following are some of the reasons for a land survey:

  • Identifying property lines
  • Meeting the conditions of the mortgage.
  • Getting title insurance is important.
  • Disputes about boundary lines are resolved.
  • You should be aware of what you’re purchasing.
  • Identifying easements.
  • Construction of a house or other construction.
  • Bringing an old property survey up to date.
  • Locating services.

Old real estate legal descriptions may allude to landmarks or monuments that no longer exist on the site, necessitating new measurements by a land surveyor in order to provide precise boundary lines. New land survey monuments may also be placed as a reference point for corners and borders by the surveyor.

Different types of land surveys are available

The type of survey you receive will be determined by why you require a land survey. Professional land surveyors perform property surveys to cover your specific real estate demands, whether you merely need to locate your property lines or are looking to split parcels of land.

The following are examples of land surveys:

  • ALTA conducted a survey.
  • Survey of the boundaries.
  • A survey of the location
  • Survey of subdivisions.
  • Survey for site-planning purposes.
  • Survey of the construction site.
  • Survey of the topography.

ALTA’s poll

When purchasing a home or investment property, an ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey is performed. Before issuing title insurance, most title companies will demand an ALTA survey. Because lenders frequently need them before giving financing, an ALTA survey is sometimes known as a mortgage survey.

Survey of the boundaries

A boundary survey is performed to establish the exact location of a piece of land’s property boundaries and corners. A boundary survey is useful for resolving legal issues, locating easements, and keeping personal records.

Survey of the location

A location is similar to a border survey, but it incorporates improvements to the site. The survey depicts the location and extent of improvements, as well as the distances between them and the property lines. For zoning permissions, property owners frequently utilize a location survey.

Survey of subdivisions

For a subdivision, a subdivision survey is used to split a parcel of property into many lots. Subdivision plats are created using a subdivision survey, which must be submitted with the recorder’s office in the land records.

A survey of the planning process

The development of site upgrades is planned using a site-plan survey. A boundary survey is used to draw the planned building or other development. When applying for building permits, a site-planning survey is typically used.

Survey of the construction site

A surveyor laying out the site of planned structures and improvements is what a construction survey entails. This is done by the surveyor to show construction workers where to build and how far apart planned improvements are.

Survey of the topography

Topographical surveys show where natural and man-made elements on a site are located. Buildings, fences, utilities, ponds, rivers, trees, and elevations are examples of these characteristics. Engineers and architects frequently use a topographic survey to design site upgrades.

What is the cost of a land survey?

A land survey’s cost is determined by the type of survey as well as the size and shape of the property. The cost of a property survey will also vary depending on the travel time of the professional surveyor.

Most land surveys cost between $200 and $800, according to HomeAdvisor, with the average being $500. The fees of a land survey will be higher for properties with more area or corners.

Because of the extra labor that goes into researching documents and providing more details, ALTA surveys have a higher average cost. An ALTA survey typically costs between $2,000 and $3,000.

Keep in mind that all prices are national averages. A residential survey might cost a lot of money, depending on the market and what public documents are available. A survey in California, for example, can cost anything from $5,000 to $10,000. Depending on the survey’s complexity, this number could be significantly higher.

How to obtain a copy of a land survey that has been documented

A certified copy of a land survey may usually be located at the building department’s office or in the land recorder’s official records. You might also be able to find the survey recorded with the local tax assessor’s office in some areas.

A title company can also assist you in locating a survey. Before issuing title insurance, most title insurance firms require an ALTA survey, so they will most likely have a copy on file.

Qualifications for land surveyors

Land surveying is a highly technical procedure with very little margin for error. Because the accuracy of a property survey is so critical, each state has its own set of rules for who can conduct one.

Each state has its own set of standards for land surveyors, but in general, state surveyor licensure entails the following:

  • Education is a requirement.
  • Exam.
  • A minimum of experience is required.
  • In order to keep their license, most states need surveyors to participate in continuing education.

Most people will need a bachelor’s degree in surveying, mapping, or geomatics to get the education they need to become a surveyor.

In addition to license requirements, most organizations will require surveyors to have a certain level of experience before they can conduct and certify a survey.

Last but not least

Simply put, a land survey will record the specific nature of your property and its location. A bank won’t know what it’s financing on if property lines aren’t defined, and a construction crew won’t know where to start building without them. Make sure your land survey is up to date and includes any new additions or features to the property. A land survey must be accurate in order to be useful.