What is a land survey and why should I get one?

Purchasing a piece of property is no walk in the park. It entails hard work and due diligence, or you may end up with many unexpected legal issues. One of the things you should consider as a part of your due diligence is a land survey. While some might regard a survey as an inconsequential requisite to owning a property, the truth of the matter is that skipping this step can lead to a disastrous result later on.

First and foremost, it is important to understand what exactly a property survey is. In its simplest explanation, land survey is done to determine land boundaries. It is defining what is yours and what is not. It is usually done on new parcels of land and to confirm the boundaries of already established plots. For example, a survey of your land would be necessary if you want to build a fence between your property and your neighbors.

Property survey can also measure the extent of a body of water, a structure, an easement, etc. It can also be done to map topography. A property survey is carried out by a professional land surveyor. Having a land survey done is advised to prevent conflicts after purchase. 

Before you purchase a property, it is highly recommended you do a survey and some lenders will even require you to get one before you can finance it.  For example, if you are looking at a purchasing a piece of property and it is advertised to be 2 acres, the only way to verify the size is to get a land survey done.  This can only be accomplished with the help of a registered or professional land surveyor. 

Who is a land surveyor?

A land surveyor is a licensed individual who can accurately measure boundaries on a parcel of land. They can also create reports, plots, deeds, and other legal documents. They determine land size and measurements. Land surveyors can work both in an office and in the field. Once they are in the field, they make use of the latest technology like GPS, robotics and drones. They can take photos of the property and make computations on boundaries.  Inside the office, these surveyors utilize software such as Auto-cad to create maps and draft plans.

Being a surveyor is interesting since they work on a wide variety of projects like developing subdivisions, building tunnels, doing mining exploration, etc.

They also work hand in hand with architects, engineers, and developers. They are normally the first person in the construction site to measure and map out the extent of the project. The measurements they plot will later be used by engineers to layout a structure safely and by architects to design the landscape and the structure.

Myths about land surveying

There are many myths and misconceptions about land surveying.  Below are a few common ones:

  • Neighbors will respect property boundaries

Neighbors fighting over property line are very common regardless of where you are in the world. Most often, land owners would later find out that they are over their property line, or that their neighbor is using the land that they actually own. This is the reason why you need to hire the service of a dependable land surveyor. It is your primary obligation as owner to verify and check that your property lines are correct before you utilize your land. Plotting down the borders in black and white will prevent disputes among the neighborhood.

  • You can do your own land survey

Unless you are a professional land surveyor, it is practically impossible for you to be able to be certain about your property’s boundaries. While working on a DIY home project might sound pleasing, a DIY land survey is the exception. Putting up a building structure without hiring a licensed surveyor is risky and it poses great consequences. For example, you might have to tear down your building if later you realize that you have built on your neighbor’s property or even too close to your neighbors’ property according to the guidelines in your city or county.

  • You can rely on old documents

If your property has been surveyed before but you realize that the documents are already very old and difficult to understand, it is in your best interest to get a new survey.  You cannot rely on an old document if the information is incomprehensible. You want to ensure that the data about property lines are updated and valid.  Additionally, older documents may not include all relevant data.  Today’ land surveyors have access to large amounts of data from many sources and are able to compile all relevant data of your property and relay it on a single survey document.

  • You can use your phones GPS

Because of technological advancement, people can get tools and applications that used to be exclusive to certain professions and industries. One of those is your phone’s GPS. Some people think that they can use this tool to locate and demarcate their properties. The truth of the matter is that surveyors make use of professional-grade GPS system that are hard to understand without industry specific training. Using your mobile phone to mark your property’s boundary is not advisable and will not be legally honored.

Benefits of a land survey

When you get a land survey done, your property corners will be found and you receive document that shows all improvements on your land.  But aside from this, a survey will be able to help you decide whether a property is worth buying. The worst thing you can do is to spend a thousand of dollars on an investment that you might not be able to maximize later on. With a completed survey, you will be able to determine beforehand whether a land is fit for your needs and requirements.

Are you in the process of subdividing a land? If you are, then a property survey should be one of the first steps you should take.  It helps families who are dividing an inherited piece of land and business subdividing a parcel of land into subdivision.  

Reasons to get a land survey

  1. To determine property lines

The most basic reason why homeowners seek the help of a professional land surveyor is to set the property corners and establish the boundary lines of a property. These boundary lines are a legal matter and it is important information to know before you can build a structure, add a fence, or make just about any permanent improvements to your land. After all, before you erect a structure, you want to make sure that you are building it within your property bounds and not on your neighbor’s.

  • Certifying existing improvements

The surveyor can also show existing improvements, repairs, and alterations during the time of the survey and this survey can show such improvements are not against regulation and codes within the county or city you live in. It will also be the duty of the surveyor to inform you whether your latest improvement is a violation of a certain law or a local ordinance.

  • Report the presence of utilities

What’s beneath your property? Your surveyor can show any above ground evidence of underground utilities. Understanding the location of these utilities are important in order to prevent disruption of service in the event of an excavation. Additionally, knowing the location of these utilities will also let you know if there are easements associated with these utilities.  If there are easements, this will give utility companies and local government agencies the right to access your property to service these utilities.  Knowing about the easements on a property you may be thinking about purchasing may help you make a more informed decision.

How do I hire a land surveyor?

Looking for a property surveyor who can get the job done should be a part of your due diligence. It is not as if you can simply browse Google and hire the first surveyor that pops up on your screen.

Before anything else, be sure that you will be hiring a licensed surveyor. Any person can adopt the title of a “surveyor” but you need licensed surveyors who is legally allowed to execute the job. These are individuals that have a state license from the Secretary of the State’s office.   

When deciding on a land surveyor, you should call and speak to the potential surveyor you are thinking about hiring.  Find out what they specialize in.  Some surveyors specialize in commercial land surveys, while others working only with residential clients.  It is important to find the survey company that does what you need them to do so that you have the specialized attention you need.

Read reviews about the surveyor’s past customers. Unless you have all the time in the world, you don’t like to deal with a surveyor who will need a year to complete his survey! You want someone who can get the job done in a specified amount of days.  When contacting a land surveyor pay attention to how long it takes them to respond to you and how long it takes them to give you a quote.

How much are you willing to pay?  The price of a land survey varies greatly based on the type of survey you want and also based on the size of your property.  There are other factors that affect the price of your property.  For example, if your property has thick vegetation or has lots of improvements this can cause the price of the survey to be higher.  If you are concerned about the price of the survey, you should ask the surveyor about it and they should be transparent with you about pricing.  

The Bottomline

A property survey should be your first step when you decide to purchase a property or if you are deciding to start construction on your dream home.  It may be a bit expensive, but it may save you thousands in the long run.  It’s almost a no-brainer to do a property survey and to establish the boundaries of your property before starting a major project.  That last thing you want to do is encroach upon your neighbor’s property with a fence or build something that is out of city or county regulations.    

At Keystone Land Surveying, we specialize in residential land surveys.  We have completed thousands of surveys all over Metro-Atlanta.  We are a full-service land survey firm located in Lawrenceville, GA and can help you with any project of any size.  Call us today at 770-545-8700 or CLICK HERE to get a quote. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *