What is Land Surveying

Land surveying is the process of marking property lines and appraising your land. Discover the benefits of surveying and how to find a surveyor. 

There are many considerations when buying your own home or business. Not only do you want to find a building that suits your needs, but the property must be good as well. Property appearance will vary depending on your needs, but there are a few common issues to look out for. For example, you want to get the foundation of the building inspected before you purchase it. If you are planning to make any changes, it is important to know where all the property lines are and whether there are certain sections of the property you cannot disturb because of utility connections.

The best way to learn about your property is through a land survey. In many cases, you are required to get a land survey before insuring your property. Not only does a land survey clearly define your property lines, but it gives you important information about zoning rules and the overall state of the land.

Benefits of Getting a Land Survey

There are several benefits to getting a land survey. The benefits vary depending on what you need to do with the land. If you are buying land for construction purposes, getting a land survey lets you know the exact definitions of your property. This is important because you cannot build on every part of your property. Each county has different regulations regarding zoning. For example, you are not able to build a property a certain distance from the road. There are also rules regarding how closely you can build next to neighboring land, which is measured based on your property line.

Land surveys also have a practical purpose if you are buying or selling land. Much like homes, the overall value of land can change over time. A land survey not only looks at property markers to determine the actual size of the land, but it also takes into consideration the health of the land. If the lot developed an environmental issue, such as unhealthy soil or a weakened foundation, the value of the land decreases.

A land survey provides topographical information about the property. This contains helpful information about how weather affects the land. Some areas included in a topographical land survey include structural weaknesses and flood prone areas. If you are buying property to build on, it is important you understand this information. Otherwise, you risk building on an area that is ultimately unable to support the structure, which can lead to thousands of dollars in repairs.

Land surveying is also necessary if you want to build both commercial and residential properties. This typically only happens on larger plots of land. The process is known as plot parceling. Commercial and residential properties use different sets of zoning codes and regulations. Improperly parceling your property can lead to fines or even having commercial property shut down for safety concerns.

Identifying Utility Connections

Another important aspect of land surveying has to do with utility lines and hookups. Certain utilities are easy to spot because they are above ground, such as electrical poles. However, most other utilities, like water connections, are underneath the property. If you do not know where the utility lines are located, you risk damaging them during construction. Fixing utility lines is an expensive process, and if the damage is too extensive, it may require a complete replacement. This is not only pricey, but also a lengthy process.

Even if you are buying an empty plot of land, a survey can help with utilities. Land surveyors can identify which parts of the land are ideal for utility setups. As with building, there are strict regulations regarding where utility companies can set up connections on your property. If you build over these spots, the companies cannot simply set up a connection somewhere else on the property.

There are additional concerns with utility connections. Depending on the regulations in your state, utility companies may have some control over the property. For example, power companies are often able to set limits on whether you can plant trees or how tall they grow if they are within a certain distance of their power lines.

Types of Land Surveys

There are several types of land surveys. The most basic survey is a boundary survey. During this survey, the surveyor identifies the borders of your property line while marking the borders of state- or privately-owned property around your lot. Boundary surveys also identify locations known as easements. Easements are sections of property that are shared either by the state or the other landowners. Easements are most common if your property is near a beach or forest, with select clearings or crossing sections counting as an easement.

The most common land survey is an ALTA/ACSM survey. This survey is more commonly known as the Extended Title Insurance Coverage Survey. In most states, this is the minimum survey you are required to get before you purchase property. Insurance lenders require the survey before issuing a quote, so they know whether there are any existing issues with the property as well as the most up to date value. These surveys are based on requirements set by both the American Land Title Association and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.

Elevation and floodplain surveys look exclusively at weather concerns. These surveys measure the elevation on your property and identify what areas are vulnerable to floods. It is often performed alongside a topographic survey, which includes all the natural features on your property, such as hills, streams and lakes.

Cost of Property Survey

The cost of property surveying greatly varies based on your state and the size of land. Based on a study from HomeAdvisor, the average cost ranged from $400 to $700. Larger states often have a higher variance. For example, the Texas survey goes as low as $200, but in larger cities, jumps to $500 or $600. If you are buying land, the seller may include a land survey as part of the costs.

If you want to arrange your own survey, you can find a list of specialists from the National Society of Professional Surveyors. Many real estate agents are also partnered with local surveyors. You can also use websites like Angi, HomeAdvisor or Thumbtack to find surveyors.