location surveys

If Compass Consultants had an office in Pisa, Italy during the 12th century, then the world would not have gotten one of its most famous buildings. We would have carefully scrutinized the proposed site of Pisa Cathedral’s new bell tower, done our research, and reported to our client that the ground was far too soft to support a 183 marble structure.

By the year 1990, its unstable foundation had caused the bell tower to list 5.5° to the side – not so much that it fell over before remedial work would reduce the tilt to just 3.97°. Sure, the Italians could have eliminated the tower’s tilt altogether, but Pisa Tourismo surely would have had a conniption fit if they did.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was a happy accident. But you should not expect the same outcome if you build on unsuitable land! Heavy clay and sandy soil are both common throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, which means you simply cannot do without a location survey before breaking ground on a new construction project.

What Is a Location Survey?

A location survey is an in-depth analysis of a proposed site for development. It assesses the physical, environmental and legal constraints of the site, compares them to the project’s requirements, and determines whether the land is suitable for the project.

If a location survey produces a positive result, the builder may next proceed to conducting a feasibility study which assesses the economic, social and political factors of the project. (Of course, if you’re only building a house on land you already own, then social and political factors are likely to be moot as far as the scope of the project is concerned.)

When Do You Need a Location Survey?

You should always get a location survey before planning new construction. It won’t just spare you the enormous expense of attempting to build on unsuitable terrain, such as wetland, or too close to other features, such as existing buildings. It will also ensure that the proposed construction is fully compliant with all existing zoning laws. The penalties for violating these laws can include fines, demolition, and even criminal charges in some cases.

Your general contractor may attempt to assure you that a lot is suitable for construction, and that a location survey would be superfluous. They may be correct, but you should still commission a location survey all the same. For all their other experience, a contractor does not possess the same training and equipment as a professional land surveyor, and cannot say with total certainty whether it’s safe and legal to build. A contractor is also probably unfamiliar with every zoning variance the proposed construction site is subject to – another field of expertise which solely belongs to local land surveyors.

When You Build, Build With Confidence

Are you in the earliest stages of construction planning in Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota? Leave nothing to chance! Contact Compass Consultants today to schedule your location survey, as well as the ALTA survey, construction survey, and any other survey you need to proceed with the utmost confidence. We promise you this: no leaning building in the Midwest is ever going to become a tourist attraction.

Boundary Surveying

“It’s important to establish boundaries.” This has become very popular relationship advice recently, and we do agree that it can be healthy to forbid your mother-in-law from joining you on your honeymoon.

But as professional land surveyors, we strongly believed in the importance of establishing boundaries long before it became a psychological concept du jour. That’s because land boundaries are fundamental to the concept of land ownership itself – which makes boundary surveys no less crucial.

What Is a Boundary?

Also known as property lines, boundary lines form the outermost edge of a parcel of real estate. If your property were to become its own sovereign state, then its boundary lines would become its borders.

Boundary lines are typically defined according to county or city guidelines, and are available at those entities’ respective assessors’ offices. Deeds, which transfer real ownership of properties, often include boundary line descriptions. Many existing boundary lines are also defined by survey pins, which are physical markers placed by professional land surveyors.

Why Is It Important to Know Your Boundary Lines?

Knowing precisely what your land is – and where it ends – is vital for a number of reasons. It can save you the considerable legal expense of becoming the defendant in an encroachment lawsuit. Likewise, it can prevent you from encroaching on a municipal or utility easement, a mistake that carries equal potential for financial loss. Knowing your parcel’s boundary lines can also prevent you from losing your title insurance – an expensive mistake under many circumstances.

What Is a Boundary Survey?

A boundary survey is a type of land survey that determines the true placement of a land parcel’s property lines. It also indicates wherever there are encroachments, such as a neighboring landowner’s misplaced fence, and easements, such as placement of utility lines

A land surveyor considers many sources of information while preparing a boundary survey. That includes consulting public records made available by sources such as the Registrar of Titles, the Probate Registrar, the Department of Transportation, and the offices of the town and county governments. Conversations with the parcel’s previous owner and whomever owns adjoining property can provide valuable information as well.

The surveyor uses the information they collect to measure, mark and map the limits of a parcel’s boundary lines. This process, which involves identifying physical features which might mark boundary lines (such as a stream), placing survey stations, and establishing traverse networks, is what you see a surveyor doing while they’re out in the field wearing a high-visibility vest and fiddling around with a tripod.

When field work is complete, the surveyor compares its results to those of their earlier research. Once they have carefully reconciled all of the information they have gathered, the surveyor concludes the exact position of the boundary lines. After they have placed new survey pins (or whichever type of monument their client has specified), the surveyor prepares a legal description of the boundary lines and formally reports their findings.

When Do You Need a Boundary Survey?

“Investment must be rational; if you can’t understand it, don’t do it.” Warren Buffett famously said this about investing in businesses, but it is no less applicable to land ownership. In no uncertain terms, if you own land, then you owe it to yourself to understand precisely which land you own. That means engaging a surveyor if you’re unsure of your property’s boundary lines.

Boundary surveys are also routine whenever land parcels are purchased, sold, subdivided, or improved upon. Building improvements, which include additions to existing structures, carry a real risk of encroachment when boundary lines aren’t known. Likewise, if you intend to build a new fence, swimming pool or guest house – or install a septic tank – then you had better make certain to do it squarely within the confines of your boundary lines if you wish to avoid civil court.

How Long Does a Boundary Survey Take?

Not very long. At Compass Consultants, we typically require two to three days to complete a survey, which includes the one to two days we spend onsite. Naturally, the exact timeframe in which we can complete a boundary survey depends on many factors, including the size and complexity of the parcel, the season and weather, and the number of surveys we are already obligated to produce for our clients.

If you’re currently unsure of your boundary lines, preparing to purchase or sell a parcel of land, or planning to build on land you currently own, then we welcome you to contact Compass Consultants today for your boundary survey. We service Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, and we also provide comprehensive ALTA surveys, location surveys, construction surveys, and other surveys that present essential information to buyers, sellers and lenders alike.