Land Surveying Frequently Asked Questions

When do I need a land survey?
Investing in your property by knowing and marking your boundaries is a good idea, especially to avoid any future conflicts regarding the use of your land.  Make sure you have a land survey completed before:

  • Before you sell your home or land
  • Before you buy your home or land
  • Before you develop or subdivide your land
  • Before you construct a building, fence or other improvements
  • Before land is divided by a will
  • Before a boundary line dispute arises

Why get a boundary survey?
When purchasing real estate, you acquire certain rights to land described on your deed.  Improvements you see on the ground such as fences, landscaping, buildings and trees may or may not all be in conformity with your deed.  Under certain circumstances, the physical use of your property by neighbors can result in a claim of ownership.  Your rights can be restricted by easements or other uses.  The only person who can legally locate your boundaries, easements and other land rights is a licensed land surveyor.

What does the surveyor need from me?

  • The purpose and type of survey
  • The deed of your property or a copy of the deed with the legal description of the property
  • Any survey documents or information related to the property
  • The history of ownership if known or available
  • The name and address of adjacent property owners
  • Any information about disagreements over the location of boundaries of the land
  • The abstract and title option if available or if required by the land surveyor
  • The land surveyor should be shown all monuments marking the corners or lines of your land and any knowledge of their origin that you are aware of

My neighbor has had her property surveyed.  I don’t think the property line is in the right place.  What can I do?
First, try to talk with the surveyor who did the work.  Most surveyors are willing to spend some time explaining the property line to a neighbor, although their schedules are often very busy.  In establishing a property line, a surveyor is always aware that it has two sides.  He or she will make every effort to locate the line in such a way as to respect the rights of neighbors.

If you are unable to contact the surveyor who laid out the line in question, or if you don’t understand the explanation you are given, you may need to hire a surveyor of your own to check the line.

Whenever there is a question or dispute about a property line, be sure to mention that to any surveyor you are thinking of hiring.  These situations often involve extra work, and it is best to inform the surveyor in the beginning to prevent a misunderstanding about the cost later on.  Some surveyors prefer not to work on disputed boundaries at all, partly due to the difficulty of predicting the cost of such work.

What will the surveyor give me after they finish the land survey?
The surveyor should provide you with a survey map or plat and if they were required to set corner markers that map should be filed or deposited in local county records for public viewing or for future copies.  The corners that were to be located on the ground should be uncovered or replaced by the surveyor if missing with their State Registration number attached and visible stakes set next to the corner marker so you can easily find them immediately on completion of the survey.  If a new parcel is created then the surveyor should also supply you with a written description suitable for a deed.  However, not all types of surveys require everything listed above.

What is an ALTA survey?
The correct name is ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey.  An “ALTA Survey” is a survey done in accordance with the standards jointly established by the American Land Title Association and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.  By requesting an “ALTA Survey”, a lender, buyer or other interested parties can be assured of acquiring surveys from across the country that consistently meet the same standards.  Typically, an ALTA Survey is required on commercial parcels.  Most residential parcels are not required to have this type of survey; however, in some cases a Title Company will require this type of survey to be done.  Visit www.alta.org for more information.

What is an easement, and how is it used?
An easement allows one party to use another party’s land for a particular purpose.  For example, a person might have an easement that allows him to use a driveway across his neighbor’s property.  In many areas, utility easements are in place to allow government agencies or utility companies to place poles, wires, pipes or cables across privately-owned land.  An easement can be created for nearly any purpose if the parties agree to do so.

Some easements are created in the process of platting land.  Others are created by separate legal documents.  If there is an easement on your property, there are likely to be some restrictions on how you can use the land in the easement area.  A surveyor can locate an existing easement in connection with a survey.  An attorney can provide more information on how the easement area may be used.

On many residential lots, there are drainage and utility easements along the sides of the lots.  Most cities do not allow buildings to extend into these easements, and there may be other regulations as well.  Information on these regulations can usually be obtained from local Building Inspectors.

If a new easement needs to be created, it is generally necessary to have a surveyor locate the correct area and prepare a legal description of it.  An attorney can then prepare a document which the parties can sign to create the easement.

My property has just been surveyed.  The neighbors’ fence is partly on my property.  What should I do?
When an improvement owned by one person is located on land owned by another person, the situation is known as an encroachment.  The laws and court decisions on this subject are complex.  To understand your legal rights in such a situation, it is best to consult an attorney, preferably one with experience in real-estate matters.

If you are otherwise on good terms with your neighbor, and if the fence is not in your way, it is probably unwise to start a quarrel over the matter.  In most cases, the actual value of the land involved is very small.  You can ask your attorney about the possibility of creating an easement or license, which can protect your title to the land involved while allowing the fence to remain in place, either temporarily or permanently.  With your attorney’s advice, you will also need to decide whether it is necessary and appropriate to do this.

What will a land survey cost?
The cost of a land survey is dependent on several different factors:

  • size of the property
  • type of survey being done
  • purpose of the survey
  • number and size of improvements on the property
  • terrain of the property

Ultimately, it comes down to how labor intensive and challenging the property being surveyed is and how much time it takes the surveyor to complete.  If you have a question regarding a particular piece of property, Compass will be able to give you a fair and honest estimate to complete your project.