How to Find Out Who Did the Original Survey on Your House

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Visit your jurisdiction’s building inspector or the land records office. Many jurisdictions keep surveys on file at the city building inspector’s office. You can also get surveys connected with tax maps or half-section maps from the county’s land records office — usually the county assessor. Copies of property plats, or surveys that show when a large piece of land has been divided into smaller parcels, are often available from the county recorder for free or a small fee.

How To Get A Property Survey

Now that you understand the benefits of property surveys, you’re probably wondering how you can get the most precise idea of your property’s legal boundaries. There are several ways to go about getting a property survey.

Hire A Land Surveyor

Luckily for grazing deer and hungry rabbits, not every plot of land is clearly defined and enclosed by a white picket fence. As land shifts over time, some initial property line markers may no longer exist. If you have any questions about property lines, the safest thing to do is hire a land surveyor.

A professional land surveyor is an expert in defining property lines. They use their skills, education and specialized field equipment to create legally binding property surveys. They can even serve as expert witnesses in court cases about land disputes. (Remember when we talked about encroachments earlier?)

During the property survey, a land surveyor will compare historical records and data with any existing markers to accurately define your property lines – and their findings are legally binding. This process takes time, effort and boots-on-the-ground legwork, so hiring a well-respected and well-reviewed land surveyor before purchasing land or beginning any new home expansions is your best bet to avoid any legal issues in the future. Call around for quotes before you decide, and be wary of any too-good-to-be-true low estimates.

Check The Property Deed

Several different types of deeds are used in real estate. A property deed is a written legal document that transfers ownership of a property from the grantor to the grantee. (Not to be confused with a title, which is the actual document that states who legally owns the property.) This type of deed will have several pieces of important information about the property: accurate owner names, exact address, tax map number, legal description, restrictions, and other information like conditions of the transfer and reservations of rights by a prior owner. While some deeds only reference a lot or block number, many include detailed measurements in the form of – yep, you guessed it – a property survey done by a land surveyor.

Search Property Survey Records

While there is no national archive of real estate records, many states require property surveys to be filed with the local government. You can search for property surveys by visiting the courthouse, property or assessor’s office where your new land is located. You will need to manually check transfers, requirements and restrictions on the property. This avenue can be time-consuming, but it’s a free to low-cost way to empower yourself with the knowledge and history of your new property’s legal boundaries.

Find A Property Survey Online

Can’t make it to the courthouse? No worries, many local governments keep property records online. To search for your piece of land, you’ll need specific details about the property you want to look up. Gather as much information as you can, like the street address, boundary descriptions and date of the last survey, and search the official county or assessor’s website where the property is located.

The more information you have, the easier it will be for you to find the survey you need. Not all records will be digitized, but the results of your search may help you narrow down the exact office where your survey is located. You can then call the office and ask if they can mail you a copy of the survey.

Geographical Information System (GIS) maps and property search sites are a better option if you have limited information on your property. However, these sites often charge a fee or require a subscription.

Contact The Previous Surveyor

Land surveyors keep copies of the property surveys they complete. (Legally, the survey belongs to them.) If you know the name and contact information of the previous land surveyor, try reaching out. It’s very likely that, for a fee, they can send you a copy. Land surveys usually last 5 to 10 years after they are completed, so if the previous survey was done a long time ago, it’s probably a good idea to get a new one done even if you locate the official document.

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Contact your loan officer to find out if he has access the property’s survey. The mortgage lender might have a copy of the property survey, because it also holds the title.

How much does a property survey cost?

The cost depends on what type of survey you need and the property’s size, location and history. A simple property boundary survey can cost anywhere from $100 to $600, while a mortgage survey costs an average of $500, according to data from HomeAdvisor. The more complex a property’s features and records history, the more you’ll likely pay for a surveyor’s time.

If you’re buying a home and need a survey to establish property lines or determine whether a property is in a floodplain, or if you’re required to provide the document to your lender, you will need to pay for the survey.

When There Is No Property Survey

When there is no property survey, a county recorder may have a plat map. A plat map shows a tract of land subdivided into plots. A developer usually creates a plat map before building a subdivision or a neighborhood. A plat map can be used to determine property lines.

Read More:How to Read Land Survey Plats

Records

Maps from the Secretary’s Office, from the late 1700s to mid-1800s Minutes of the Commissioners of the Land Office and Land Board Lands Under Water Application Survey Maps, from 1786 to present Lands Under Water Index Maps, from 1900 to present State-owned waterbodies & related research Card Index of Land Sales, from the 1650s to present Transfer of Jurisdiction Maps 1829 Surveyor General’s Atlas of Patents Letters Patent Miscellaneous Deeds and Title Papers Military Patents

How to Legally Determine Property Lines

Hire a Licensed Land Surveyor

To get an accurate determination of property lines that will stand up to legal scrutiny, you’ll need to hire a professional surveyor. (Note that most states require licensure of land surveyors; check your state’s requirements.)

While a professional survey may cost a a few to several hundred dollars—or more, depending on property location, size, shape, and terrain—it’s money well spent since property disputes cost a lot more in time, potential hefty legal fees, and neighborly goodwill.

What Information Do I Need?

A party should have the property address or parcel ID, the name of the document for which he is searching, the document number, the document type and the assessor’s parcel number (APN). The APN may be the assessor’s block and lot number.

Standards and Procedures Manual for Surveying and Mapping

The Standards & Procedures for Surveying and Mapping manual provides a standardized guide for consultant land surveyors in the performance of surveying and mapping projects for the Office of General Services.

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Property Survey FAQs

Still unsure how property surveys work or if you need one? We’ve answered a few frequently asked question.

Is a property survey necessary?

Property surveys may not be legally required and may not be a requirement for all mortgage lenders. You can order a survey at any time, but it can be especially important to order one when buying or constructing a new home.

Can I buy a house without a survey?

Purchasing a house without conducting a property survey can be risky. Not considering the boundary lines of the property could lead to unforeseen problems down the road. It’s also worth considering a property survey when buying a home.

Do I need a survey if I am a cash buyer?

Because you are purchasing the home using cash, there are no lender requirements to have a boundary survey completed. However, a survey may be required should you decide to purchase title insurance.

Bottom line

You might not need a property survey done before buying a home. But in some cases, your lender or title company might require one, so make sure you’re prepared. Whether you’re closing on a home or planning a major addition, knowing your property’s precise boundary lines can help avoid costly headaches and disputes with neighbors later on.

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