What is a land survey?

A land survey is a drawing that shows exactly where the boundaries of a property are. A survey will also lay out the dimensions and location of any buildings or other site improvements on the property.

There are various methods of surveying land based on the size and shape of the property and the type of legal description that’s available.

When do you need a land survey?

Referencing a legal description may not be enough to determine your property’s boundary lines. Hiring a land surveyor will help you to meet certain requirements for buying or improving real estate or simply locate your property boundaries for your own reference.

Reasons for a land survey include:

  1. Finding property lines.
  2. Meeting mortgage
  3. Getting title insurance.
  4. Settling boundary line disputes.
  5. Knowing what you’re buying.
  6. Locating easements.
  7. Building a house or other structure.
  8. Updating an outdated property survey.
  9. Locating utilities.

Old real estate legal descriptions may reference landmarks or monuments that are no longer on the property, so a land surveyor will have to take new measurements to provide accurate boundary lines. The surveyor may also place new land survey monuments as a reference point for corners and boundaries.

Types of land surveys

The type of survey you get will depend on the reason you need a land survey. Whether you simply need to locate your property lines or are trying to split parcels of land, professional surveyors provide property surveys to cover your particular real estate needs.

The types of land surveys include:

  1. ALTA survey.
  2. Boundary survey.
  3. Location survey.
  4. Subdivision survey.
  5. Site-planning survey.
  6. Construction survey.
  7. Topographic survey.

ALTA survey

An ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey is done when buying a home or investment property. A title company will normally require an ALTA survey before issuing title insurance. An ALTA survey may also be referred to as a mortgage survey, since lenders often require them before providing financing.

Boundary survey

A boundary survey is used to determine the exact location of property boundaries and corners of a piece of land. A boundary survey may be used to settle legal disputes or locate easements or for personal records.

Location survey

A location is similar to a boundary survey, but it also includes site improvements. The location survey shows the location and size of improvements as well as the distance measurements between them and the property lines. Property owners often use a location survey for zoning permits.

Subdivision survey

A subdivision survey is used to divide a parcel of land into multiple lots for a subdivision. A subdivision survey is used to create subdivision plats and must be filed in the land records with the recorder’s office.

Site-planning survey

A site-plan survey is used to plan the development of site improvements. The proposed building, or other improvement, is drawn inside of a boundary survey. A site-planning survey is normally used when applying for building permits.

Construction survey

A construction survey involves the surveyor staking out the location of planned structures and improvements. The surveyor does this to show construction workers where to build and the distances between planned improvements.

Topographic survey

Topographical surveys lay out the location of natural and man-made features on a property. These features may include buildings, fences, utilities, ponds, rivers, trees, and elevations. A topographic survey is often used by engineers and architects for planning site improvements.

How much does a land survey cost?

The cost for a land survey varies depending on the type of survey and the size and shape of the property. The cost of a property survey will also vary based on the professional surveyor’s travel time.

According to HomeAdvisor, most land surveys cost between $200 and $800, with the average being $500. The costs will be higher for properties with more acreage or more corners.

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