Why Do I Need a Land Survey?

When it comes to economic growth and implementation of sustainable development, land administration is critical. One key aspect of land administration is the land survey. Every residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial development starts with a survey of the land, which allows professionals to confirm boundaries & key aspects of a property.

If you’re a residential homeowner purchasing a new house (or simply trying to split property for a real estate transaction), the thought could arise: Is a Land Survey Even Necessary for my Transaction? (Especially since one has been performed in the past)

The simple answer: Yes.

The main reason? To protect you from future issues that might arise (legal or investment wise).

Consider these scenarios:

  • The piece of real estate you’ve recently purchased had a garage built on it 2 years ago by the former owner. Upon further inspection after a land survey, it’s discovered the garage is partly constructed on your neighbors property, and must be torn down, negatively affecting the value of your investment.
  • You’ve purchased a large 100 acre tract of land, and decided against having a land survey performed (to save some money). After years of use, you order a land survey in order to develop on the property, only to discover that only 5% of the property is build-able, as the remaining 95% lies in a floodplain.

If you’re still on the fence, here are some additional reasons to consider a land survey:

To Determine Boundary Lines

Land is a vital resource for the development and economic growth of an area, and in order to ensure that every property owner understands their specific parcel, boundary lines must be set. This is a main reason why land owners seek the help of land surveyors. Location of boundary lines and other occupancy lines are critical pieces of information that land owners need to have before erecting a fence, adding a sunroom, paving the driveway, or extending a balcony.

It’s important to ensure that you don’t encroach in your neighbor’s property as it could lead to costly legal disputes down the road.

To Solve Boundary Disputes

It’s common for land owners to develop an emotional attachment to their property, therefore you’ll find land owners protecting their property in case another neighbor encroaches. Even if the encroachment is mere inches, land owners can sue neighbors to have fences, driveways, or other structures removed from their land.

In order to prevent situations from escalating, it’s wise to hire a land surveyor who can help dispute & solve these types of boundary issues.

To Obtain a Building Permit

Before erecting a fence, building or extending a deck/balcony, demolishing a structure, or making any other home upgrade, nothing can be done without the landowner obtaining a building permit. Building permits are usually issued by local or state authorities and this cannot be achieved without the help of a land surveyor.

In order to be issued a building permit, you need a vital document that is provided by land surveyors. The land survey report is a vital document when applying for a building permit and it gives the landowner permission to begin a project.

Once you’ve made the decision to have a land survey performed, you’ll need to identify the type of survey you need. Below are a few examples of common surveys:

Types of land surveys

  1. Boundary Survey

    Just as the name suggests, this type of survey helps establish true boundaries of a given piece of property. When conducting this type of survey, land surveyors usually identify previously recorded markers as well as newly established landmarks to define true boundaries. To help mark corners and lines of a plot, surveyors use markers like iron pods, pipes or concrete monuments placed in the ground. In the past, surveyors used piles of stones, trees and other less permanent markers which resulted in confusion as they were either destroyed or changed.

  2. Topographic Survey

    This type of survey helps locate natural and man-made features such as buildings, fences, elevations, land contours, trees and streams (among other things). Experts usually measure their elevation on a piece of land & finally present them as contour lines on a plot. This type of survey is most oftentimes required by government & municipal institutions. Engineers and architects also utilize this type of survey to aid in design of improvements or developments on a site.

  3. Mortgage surveys

    This type of land survey helps determine land boundaries and building locations. They are required by title companies and lending institutions, especially when they’re providing financial backing. This is done to show that there are no structures encroaching the property, and if any structures are present, they should meet current zoning and building codes. According to some experts, it’s important to get a mortgage survey (instead of a mortgage inspection). In their opinion, a mortgage inspection is a substandard survey which usually does not adhere to any set of standards and is usually not regulated by any official land survey.

  4. ALTA/ACSM Survey

    This form of survey combines the elements of a mortgage, topographic and boundary survey. It follows a set of standards put forth by the American Land Title Association and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. This type of survey is typically conducted on commercial properties.

  5. Right-of-way survey

    This is a type of survey that maps the limits of existing (or proposed) highways & public utility transmission easements which include mapping of parcels to be acquired for these purposes. Usually the baseline to which any highway, easement or acquisition lines are referenced shall be a traverse line, project centerline or construction baseline. Highway or easements will be noted accordingly and will be monumented.

In conclusion, it’s a wise investment decision to have a land survey performed, whether it be for real estate transactions or personal peace-of-mind. The modest amount of money it costs up-front can solve many potential problems encountered down the road.