Content of the material
- Land Survey Cost by Project Range
- Motley Fool Investing Philosophy
- How To Read A Property Survey And Map
- Dig Out Your Deed for Additional Info
- How To Survey Land
- 1. Research
- 2. Field Work
- 3. Reconciliation
- How To Survey Your Own Land
- The Survey Process #
- How Much Does A Property Survey Cost?
- Factors That Affect the Cost of a Land Survey
- Frequently Asked Questions
- 1. What information will you get on a residential report?
- 2. How long will your property survey last?
- 3. When should you have a land survey done?
- 4. Does the buyer or seller cover the land survey cost?
- 5. Where do you get a copy of the land survey for your property?
- When do you need a land survey?
- Locate Hidden Property Pins
- Fence Land Survey Cost
- Can My Neighbor and I Simply Agree Where the Boundary Should Be?
- Contributing Costs to Hiring a Boundary Surveyor #
- You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Land Survey Cost by Project Range
Single-boundary survey of 1/2 acre or smaller property with existing deeds
Land survey done for mortgage purposes on a standard-sized one-acre lot
High $6,000 40-acre plot requiring four new boundary markers and a topographical drawing
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How To Read A Property Survey And Map
Reading the written portion of your survey may prove to be more frustrating than it is educational, and most people will likely glean more from the visual portion, which is the map; although, if you find any real stumbling blocks on your survey, you can call the surveyor who created it. Every survey map will detail some common features like
- The address of the land surveyed
- The legal description of the land. This provides any surveyor enough information to locate the property, and cannot simply be the address.
- The total acreage surveyed
- Surveyor’s name, business name, and contact information
- Initialed Surveyors registered professional stamp known as the surveyor’s seal
- A mention of the recorded file name from the previous survey, possibly including details of when the land was part of a larger parcel.
- Visual indicator to show the scale of the map
- A GF number*
- Map legend to explain details
- Numbered lines between corner markers
- Itemized table of numbered lines, their bearings, and their distance
- Location of buildings, including residences and sheds
- Names on the title for neighboring properties and their total acreage
- Location of any water supply pipelines that touch or feed the property
- Location of water meters on the property
- Location of electric poles at the road that the property fronts, and any on the property
- Location of any electric meters on the property
- Name of the municipality owning noted water lines
- Utility easements
- Fence types and locations
- Roads or driveways
- Any right of way on the property
- Any shared access easement
- Field notes
*The GF number is the guaranty file number generated by the title company, which is used to communicate with the closer. The opening title is the most common name for the process to create a working file for the sale to go through, and it is unlikely that the survey will be distributed without the GF#.
Dig Out Your Deed for Additional Info
In older neighborhoods, property owners may have purchased or sold off portions of their yards. Locating a survey pin won’t give you this information, but the most recent legal description recorded on your deed will list any such changes. If you don’t have a copy of your deed filed with your homeowner records, get one at the register of deeds office, often located within your county courthouse.
How To Survey Land
There are three phases of the work that a surveyor will perform in order to be able to deliver a survey for a piece of land. These phases include the following:
The surveyor will research all the prior documents that are on record for this piece of land before visiting it. The documents will be found in the records office at a city or county, and the list includes any previous surveys, maps, wills, and deeds. In the case of subdividing a larger piece of land that has been in a family for generations, the potential for somewhat inaccurate or incomplete records could prove challenging, since the surveyor may need to create the first official documented boundary.
2. Field Work
Includes all travel time to and from the location, the time it takes to conduct the survey and lay out whatever lot identifiers are needed (to clearly indicate whatever is needed for the perimeter boundary, as well as any interior lots if the land is being subdivided, including any driveways on flag lots at the rear of the property).
This covers the conversion of whatever data was collected in the field and the creation of whatever documents are needed by the client. This could include
- a boundary survey for the entire piece of property,
- a copy that marks out any subdivided lots, and
- if it’s being subdivided, an individual survey of each lot for future buyers.
This could be delivered as an Adobe PDF file with individual layers, allowing the new owner of the entire parcel to create individual lot surveys as each lot sells. The survey could also detail land features such as ponds, retaining tanks, creeks, rivers, power lines, sewer lines, fences, easements, underground water lines, water meters, water valves, light poles, fire hydrants, manholes, true north. It can also detail trees by type, number of, and heights documented.
Other elements are included like the location of and the identification of any roads that touch the property line, topographical information detailing elevation, flood zones, and distances to buildings on neighboring land. Once the surveyor has completed the survey, it will have to be recorded at the County Recorder’s office, so the record exists in a central location in the case of future sales or land disputes.
How To Survey Your Own Land
You cannot create a legally binding survey yourself. Because of the critical nature of a survey and all the negative ramifications from getting it wrong, surveyors are typically holders of some related degree as well as licensed by the state.
Only conduct your own land survey if you want a rough estimate of your land size or want to determine your land price per square foot. Here are the tools you need to start:
- Stakes and ribbons
- Measuring tape
- Plumb bob
A good first step is to check your property sale documents to find one boundary of your property. You may need to check with your local County Assessors Office.
- Start from a known point and measure the distance along the lines.
- Depending on your property size, it helps to drive stakes and mark off with ribbon using your plumb bob every 30 feet or so to keep track.
- Measure to the corner of your property matched up with your deed, stake it and turn.
- Keep going until you complete your entire property line and don’t forget to measure hills as well.
- Now, you can calculate the square footage of your plat of land.
The Survey Process #
The survey process is involved and meticulous; boundary definition is a legal matter and professionals take it seriously. Your surveyor takes several steps to ensure that they provide the most accurate information possible.
To start, the surveyor verifies and establishes each corner of the property. Once that is done, markers (usually iron pipes or rebar) are placed in each corner and spray painted. After the corners have been marked, the surveyor is able to connect them to form the property line and note any encroachments.
From there, the surveyor creates the boundary drawing. Because this drawing is a legally binding document, surveyors must be sure to comply with the varying regulations pertaining to land and properties. These vary according to your location and local statute.
How Much Does A Property Survey Cost?
On average, new homeowners can expect to pay $400 – $700 for a professional property survey. However, the cost of a property survey depends on several factors, such as property size, terrain and location. For example, if you want to survey a wooded area, you’ll end up paying more than if you were to survey a flat, relatively empty piece of land.
Professional surveyors also charge for the time it costs them to do research on your property. A well-documented plot of land will take less time to research and cost less money to survey. It also pays to go local, since travel time is also included in the final price.
Basically, the easier the land is to survey, the less you’re going to pay.
Factors That Affect the Cost of a Land Survey
Many factors come into play when pricing a land survey. The size and shape of the property are essential to assessing your land. The property measurements are important for guiding any future construction projects that take place on the land. A simple rectangular parcel of land will have a lower price for surveying than a parcel with a unique shape or irregular size.
Another of the determining factors related to cost is how accessible the land is. If it’s simple to get to, its price will be lower. On the other hand, if it takes several rides to get to it, the price starts to rise. Another factor that plays into this is how far the property is from the land surveyor’s office. Time of year also affects accessibility. For instance, a land surveyor who needs to work in the ice and snow or during the extreme heat of summer may put a premium on their services since it’s less comfortable to do the work at those times.
Surveyors appreciate finding existing items on the land that show the previous survey is still accurate. This can include trees, monuments, stones, fences, woods, and more. When these things are found, it is easier to modify the initial record instead of starting from scratch.
The terrain can also affect the price. Bumpy terrain and mountainous regions are more difficult to survey. On the other hand, a level piece of land will be simpler, and you can expect a lower price for that work. The trees across the land can make a land survey take longer. In some cases, items will need to be removed to get a full picture of what your land is holding.
As a way to make things simple, they will ask for any existing records you have available. If these are present, it can cut time and make the cost of land surveying less expensive. The most important record is the plat that shows a division of the land. In some situations, a new plat needs to be created. This adds fees to the typical surveying charge. Previous land transactions are another record to provide a land surveyor. These verify how past owners have handled legal records. These factors impact the price of land surveying.
Frequently Asked Questions
Asking the correct questions when you talk to your local surveyors will help them understand the scope of the project, and this can help you get a more accurate estimate to build a budget around. IMG_9922 by Hugo Chisholm / CC BY-SA 2.0
1. What information will you get on a residential report?
If you choose to get a residential report, it’ll tell you everything you need to know about the property. The report will outline your boundary lines, wells, septic tanks, waterfronts, buildings, and driveways.
2. How long will your property survey last?
Your property survey will last as long as the surveyor’s liability will last. This basically means that it’ll last as long as the professional that drew it up will defend it if it gets challenged. The time will vary from state to state, but the average range falls between five and ten years.
3. When should you have a land survey done?
It’s important to have a land survey done before you make changes to your property, before you sell it, or if you have a dispute with your neighbors over the property lines.
4. Does the buyer or seller cover the land survey cost?
Which side pays for it during a sale will vary. Usually, the seller has to pay for it because it’s on them to provide the correct documentation. Some mortgages require the buyer to get one before they’ll approve funds for the purchase.
5. Where do you get a copy of the land survey for your property?
Go to your local land records or building inspector’s office. Many counties keep surveys on file at your local city building inspector’s office. You can get surveys connected to your tax maps from the land records office. Ask for the county assessor.
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:
- Finding property lines.
- Meeting mortgage requirements.
- Getting title insurance.
- Settling boundary line disputes.
- Knowing what you're buying.
- Locating easements.
- Building a house or other structure.
- Updating an outdated property survey.
- 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.
Locate Hidden Property Pins
Survey pins are thin iron bars, 2 or 3 feet long and sometimes capped with plastic, which the original survey crew inserted on the property lines. If you have access to a metal detector, move the device over the ground along the sidewalk to the curb to locate the survey pin. Pins may be buried just under the surface, or up to a foot below. A few days before you dig, however, you must call 811, the free, federally designated number that will route you to your local utility company. Ask the utility company to come out and mark any buried lines so you don’t unintentionally hit one. There’s no charge for this service, but if you damage a buried utility line, you could end up having to pay to repair it.
Fence Land Survey Cost
If you’re looking at cheap fence ideas, you’ll have to ensure that it’s on your property. Most fences will get installed one or two feet inside your property line to ensure you have no disputes going forward. You want to conduct a boundary survey before you start this project to ensure there are no issues. You can get a single boundary line or go around your entire property. For a single boundary line survey, you’ll pay around $100. If you want to fence in your entire property, the land survey cost jumps to $400 to $700 for a standard ½ acre lot.
Can My Neighbor and I Simply Agree Where the Boundary Should Be?
If you and your neighbor have agreed where you both want the property boundaries to be, then you can make a "lot line agreement," also called a "lot line adjustment agreement." These agreements are official and binding by making and signing deeds that describe in detail the agreed upon property line.
Before you proceed, check your local zoning and subdivision ordinances to make sure your new lot will be in compliance. Some communities require lots of a certain size before they allow animals or extra buildings. Even a small loss of property could create an unanticipated problem. You may need to appear before your town’s planning commission or governing board to get your lot line adjustment approved.
If you or your neighbor are still both paying off mortgages on your properties, you will probably need to consult with an attorney before making a lot line agreement. Your mortgage is signed with a description of the property. If you execute a deed without the bank’s approval, you are in breach of your mortgage. You will need a loan modification. You will be responsible for any costs associated with the modification.
After signing the deed, you will need to file it with the county land records office. This office, which is sometimes known by names such as the County Recorder’s Office, or the Land Registry Office, will file the deed and make it available for public viewing upon request. This gives notice to any future purchaser of the land of the new, agreed-upon property boundaries.
Contributing Costs to Hiring a Boundary Surveyor #
As stated above, there are additional factors that contribute directly to the cost of the survey. Some of those factors include:
- Date of the last survey: The more recently a survey has been performed on your property, the more accurate the information is. A newer survey means less work for the surveyor and therefore a lower cost. An older survey means more work and comes at a higher cost.
- Deed to the property: Even if the property does not have a recent or current boundary survey, the deed should have some description of the initial survey markers. This information is a great deal of help to the surveyor.
- Difficulty of the property: Plots of land that are flat and easy to navigate are every surveyor’s dream. It makes it easier to establish property lines and takes far less time. However, if your property has rugged terrain or is difficult to get around, it is going to be harder to get an accurate survey, increasing the overall price of the job.
- Property development: If there has been any development on the property without a survey, there is a possibility that any previous markers were destroyed or removed. This adds to the tasks of your surveyor, driving up the price of the services.
- Water boundaries: More difficult to survey than land boundaries, water boundaries definitely increase the cost of the survey. There are laws in place that give people who own property along lakes, streams, and other bodies of water ownership over that water. These laws are complex, taking rising and falling water levels into account, and make the boundary survey process more complex as a result.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
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