If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the different types of land surveys, you’re in the right place.
From boundary establishment and mapping terrain features to analyzing property values and creating legal documents, land surveying is a complex yet vital process that requires expertise, technology, and precision.
In this blog, we dive into the various types of land surveying to give you a comprehensive understanding of why land surveying is so important and how it can impact your life if you’re getting into real estate.
Join us as we explore the world of land surveying!
1. What Is Land Surveying?
Land surveying has been around since the concept of land ownership emerged.
Through the years, the technology used for measurement has significantly advanced, and the types of surveys needed for various purposes have also evolved.
Land surveying is the practice of determining the three-dimensional position of points on the surface of the Earth, as well as the distances and angles between them.
Basically, it’s the process of measuring and mapping the features of an area or property and creating a visual representation of the land’s features.
It involves measuring the angles, elevations, directions, distances, volumes, and other characteristics of a physical landscape using specialized equipment.
Land surveying takes into account all aspects of the land being surveyed, including its size, shape, terrain features, structures, and man-made objects.
And there are multiple types of land surveys that can tell you different things.
2. What tools are used to survey land?
Land surveyors use a variety of tools and techniques, including GPS, lasers, and satellite imagery, to collect data and create maps that are accurate to within a few centimeters.
GPS (Global Positioning System) is a modern-day technology that helps surveyors measure distances and angles between two or more points.
GPS receivers collect data from satellites in orbit, which can be used to determine the exact locations of points on Earth.
Surveyors also use total stations, which are robotic theodolites that measure angles and distances between two points.
They’re typically used for detailed mapping applications such as boundary surveys and topographic surveys.
Finally, drones are increasingly being used to take aerial photographs of properties and obtain highly precise data, as they can cover large areas of land in a relatively short amount of time.
Surveying is an important profession that plays a role in many aspects of society, including construction, land development, and resource management.
3. Why Would You Need a Survey?
Have you heard of a land survey, but aren’t sure when you might need one?
If you’re considering purchasing a large piece of land for a new home, it’s a good idea to have a land survey done on the property so that you have a clear understanding of what you’re buying.
And surveying a home before buying it isn’t the only reason to have a survey done.
Surveys are often required for various reasons, from solving disputes to helping you purchase a new home.
Surveys can help ensure that projects are developed safely and efficiently, while also protecting the interests of property owners.
Here are a few reasons why you might need a land survey:
Buying or selling land:
If you’re buying or selling a property, you might need a land survey to determine the boundaries of the land and to make sure that the property lines are accurately marked.
Building a new structure:
If you’re planning to build a new structure, such as a house or a fence, you might need a land survey to make sure that the structure is being built in the correct location and that it is not encroaching on your neighbor’s property.
If you’re planning to subdivide a piece of land, you’ll need a land survey to determine the boundaries of the individual plots of land.
Resolving boundary disputes:
If you’re having a dispute with your neighbor over the location of the property line, you might need a land survey to help resolve the issue.
Obtaining a loan or mortgage:
Some lenders may require a land survey before they will approve a loan or mortgage for a property.
Getting a building permit:
In some cases, you may need to provide a land survey to obtain a building permit from the local government.
Flood zones are no joke and flooding can be expensive to repair.
You may need a land survey before you can get insurance coverage for your property.
If you’re installing utilities, such as electricity, water, or sewage, on your property, you might need a land survey to determine the best location for the utilities and to make sure that they are not encroaching on your neighbor’s property.
Updating old, outdated land surveys:
If you have an old land survey that is no longer accurate, you might need to have a new survey done to update the map of your property.
This could be necessary if you’ve made changes to the property or if the surrounding area has changed.
4. What does the process look like?
The land survey process typically consists of three phases:
Planning and research:
During this phase, the surveyor will determine the purpose of the survey, the extent of the work that needs to be done, and the specific tools and techniques that will be used.
The surveyor will also review any available maps, plans, and legal documents related to the property.
In this phase, the surveyor will go to the property and collect data using a variety of tools and techniques, such as GPS, total stations, and drones.
The surveyor will measure and mark the boundaries of the property and any other relevant features, such as buildings, trees, and utilities.
Analysis and mapping:
In the final phase, the surveyor will analyze the data collected in the field and create a map of the property.
The map will show the boundaries of the property, as well as any other relevant features, such as buildings, utilities, and topographical features.
The surveyor will also prepare a report that describes the survey process and the results.
5. What is the timeframe?
Anyone who has ever worked in construction or hired a contractor can tell you that it can often take longer than expected to finish a project.
The same is true for land surveys.
The time frame for a land survey will vary from project to project and can depend on a number of factors, such as the size of the property, the terrain, and the amount of research that is required.
In general, it can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks for the surveyor to complete the survey.
It’s difficult to give an exact time frame for each of these steps, as it will depend on the specific project and the complexity of the property.
But here are some general estimates:
Planning and research:
This phase could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the amount of information that needs to be gathered and reviewed.
The fieldwork phase will (definitely) be the shortest.
It could take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the size of the property and the number of features that need to be measured and mapped.
Analysis and mapping:
The analysis and mapping phase could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the amount of data that needs to be analyzed and the complexity of the map that needs to be created.
Again, these are just general estimates, and the actual time frame will depend on the specific project.
Typically, just a few days are needed for each step, but things don’t always fit into that timeline.
Just assume it will take longer than expected. Maybe 3 to 4 weeks.
Commercial surveys will typically take longer — closer to 4-8 weeks.
6. What are the different types of land surveys?
There are a variety of different types of land surveys that surveyors can perform.
The type of survey you need will depend on the purpose of the survey and the information you need.
Common types of surveys include:
This is the most common type of survey, and it determines the boundaries of a parcel of land.
It involves measuring and marking the property lines and creating a map of the property.
This type of survey creates a detailed map of the land that shows the natural and man-made features of the area, such as hills, valleys, rivers, and buildings.
It is often used in the planning and design of development projects.
This type of survey is used to document the location and dimensions of existing structures, such as buildings, roads, and utilities.
It is often used to verify that a construction project was built according to the approved plans.
This type of survey is used by lenders to verify the boundaries and dimensions of a property before approving a mortgage.
It is similar to a boundary survey, but is usually a simplified version.
American Land Title Association (ALTA)/ACSM survey:
This type of survey, also known as a “commercial survey,” is used to provide detailed information about a property to potential buyers or lenders.
This type of survey is used to determine the location of a property or structure on the land.
It is often used in conjunction with other types of surveys, such as boundary surveys or topographic surveys.
This type of survey is used to divide a piece of land into smaller plots or lots.
It involves creating a map of the property that shows the new boundaries of the individual lots, as well as any shared areas or common facilities.
New construction survey:
This type of survey is used to verify the location and dimensions of a new construction project, such as a building or a road.
It is often used to ensure that the construction is being built according to the approved plans.
7. What Are These Land Surveys Used For?
These surveys can be used for a variety of purposes.
Here are a few examples and use cases for each type of survey:
- Marking the boundaries of a property before building a fence
- Determining the boundaries of a property before buying or selling it
- Verifying the location of a property line before building an addition to a house
- Planning the layout of a new development, such as a residential subdivision or a shopping center
- Designing a new road or bridge
- Creating a map of an area for environmental or resource management purposes
- Verifying that a construction project was built according to the approved plans
- Updating an existing map to show the location and dimensions of new structures
- Creating a record of the location and dimensions of existing structures for future reference
- Verifying the boundaries and dimensions of a property before approving a mortgage
- Providing a lender with information about the property to ensure that it is a good investment
- Providing detailed information about a property to potential buyers or lenders
- Documenting the boundaries, improvements, rights of way, and encumbrances or easements on a property
- Assisting in the transfer of ownership of a property
- Determining the location of a property or structure on the land
- Verifying the location of a property line
- Creating a map of an area for land use planning purposes
- Dividing a piece of land into smaller plots or lots
- Creating a map of the property that shows the new boundaries of the individual lots
- Identifying any shared areas or common facilities in a subdivision
New construction survey:
- Verifying the location and dimensions of a new construction project
- Ensuring that a construction project is being built according to the approved plans
- Creating a record of the location and dimensions of a new construction project for future reference
8. What factors contribute to land survey costs?
The cost of a land survey depends on a variety of factors.
The terrain of the property being surveyed can have a significant effect on survey costs.
Rough or heavily wooded terrain will require more time and labor to survey, which will increase the cost of the survey.
Size and shape:
The size of the property also affects land survey costs.
Larger properties require more time and labor to survey, which can add to the cost of the survey.
The shape of the property also affects costs, as irregularly shaped properties are more difficult to survey.
Basically, a small square property will be cheap to survey compared to a large property with a unique shape.
Properties located in rural areas may require additional travel time for the surveyor, which can add to the cost of the survey.
Additionally, properties located in crowded urban areas may require additional time and labor due to additional obstacles present, such as trees and buildings.
Certain types of surveys require more time and labor to complete.
Need a super simple property boundary survey?
It’ll be cheaper than an ALTA survey for sure.
9. How much do land surveys cost?
Are you wondering how much a land survey will cost?
There are a lot of factors to consider such as the shape of the land, its size, the state you live in, etc.
Here is a general idea of land survey costs by acre, survey, and purpose.
- 1/2 acre: ~ $200 – $700
- 1 acre: ~ $500 – $1,000
- 10 acres: ~ $2,500 – $3,000
- 100 acres: ~ $6,500 – $9,500
The actual cost will depend on the type and scope of the survey being performed.
There are many different types of land surveys that can be done on your property.
Each will have a slightly different price.
- Boundary survey ~ $200 – $2,000
- Topographic survey ~ $500 – $1,200
- As-built survey ~ $600 – $1,200
- Mortgage survey ~ $450 – $600
- ALTA/ACSM survey ~ $2,000 – $3,000
- Location survey ~ $200 – $700
- Subdivision survey ~ $300 – $400/lot
- New construction survey ~ $1,000 – $1,500
The price of a land survey can vary depending on the specific purpose of the survey and the extent of the work that needs to be done.
For example, a survey conducted before purchasing a home may cost a different amount than a survey used to redraw property lines.
Here are the average costs by the purpose of land surveying:
- Buying a House ~ $200 – $800
- Selling a House ~ $250 – $850
- Fence Survey ~ $400 – $700
- Finding Utility Lines ~ $800 – $1,200
- Redraw Property Lines ~ $800 – $1,200
Other factors that can affect the cost of a land survey include the size of the property, the level of detail involved in the survey, and any additional information that is included.
So, if you’re planning to have a land survey done, be sure to consider all of these factors to get an accurate estimate of the cost.
10. Who Pays for Land Surveys in Real Estate Sales?
Who pays for the land survey? Buyer or seller?
It all depends on where you live!
In some states, the seller is responsible for covering the cost of the survey, while in other states, the buyer is responsible.
It’s important to check your state laws to determine who is responsible for paying the fee.
That being said, the process is often negotiable, so it’s worth discussing with the other party to see if you can come to an agreement.
11. How Long Do Land Surveys Last?
While there is no expiration date to the placement of your tree, most land surveys are only valid for about 5 to 10 years.
If you have nothing that needs to be done (like selling your property or building an addition to your home), then an 11-year-old survey may not matter.
However, if you do need to make any changes to your property, it’s important to have an updated survey done.
12. Should I DIY?
Surveys are expensive.
You’re on a tight budget.
You might be thinking of doing your own property survey to save some money.
While it might seem like a good idea at first, it’s important to keep in mind that even small mistakes can have serious consequences.
If you build something on a neighboring property due to an incorrect survey, you could end up facing a costly legal battle.
There’s a reason why surveyors need a license.
Each state has developed a set of qualifications to guarantee that people conducting different types of land surveys are well-qualified and make as few mistakes as possible during the process.
This helps protect accuracy while ensuring the technical precision needed in such an endeavor.
So in short, you should not try to DIY when it comes to surveys.
Your homegrown survey may not be accurate and will not hold up in court.
Trust the professionals to ensure that your survey is accurate and avoid any potential problems down the line. Trust us, it’s worth it.
13. How do I Get a Good Land Surveyor?
If you’re looking to hire a land surveyor, start by researching local professionals in your area.
Make sure that they are licensed and experienced in the type of survey you need to be completed, as well as any relevant state regulations.
You can also ask for referrals from your friends, family, real estate agents, and anyone who has personally used a surveyor.
Referrals are probably the best way to ensure that you get a qualified and experienced surveyor for the job.
It’s also important to get quotes from multiple surveyors so that you can compare prices and services.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the scope of their work, how many types of land surveys they can do, and any additional costs that may come up during the completion of the survey.
This will help you make sure that you get a good deal and find the best professional for the job.
Land surveys are an important part of real estate purchases, building projects, and more.
Understanding the cost of a land survey, who pays for it, and how long it lasts are all essential pieces of information when you’re considering getting a survey done.
Make sure to do your research and get quotes from multiple surveyors so that you can make an informed decision and get the best deal.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.