What is a Property Survey?
What is the Purpose of a Land Survey?
Types of Surveys
How to Read a Survey
Reasons Why Your Client Needs a Survey

What is a Property Survey?

A property survey is a precise, professional measurement used to confirm a property’s boundary lines and legal description. It also determines other restrictions or easements included in the property. While you can technically have a property surveyed at any time, confirming the boundaries of the land is
an important part of the home buying process and is often times a requirement of the lender.

What is the Purpose of a Survey?

Land surveying allows your client to understand the land boundaries. A survey is performed in order to locate, describe, monument, and map the boundaries and corners of a parcel of land. It might also include the topography of the parcel, and the location of buildings and other improvements made to the parcel, in addition to locating easements and utilities and making your client aware i f any part of the land is in a floodplain.

Types of Surveys

Boundary Line Survey

Boundary Line Survey is the basic process used to confirm property lines on a parcel of land. They’re conducted by surveyors to identify and evaluate existing man made structures, elevations, natural features and boundaries on a property. Boundary Line Surveys are crucial for protecting property rights and preparing for land development.

Topographic Survey

Topographic Surveys illustrate the property’s plane and elevation of the land in addition to boundaries. It looks for features that include ditches,
embankments and contours in the roads. Topographic surveys are usually required in the event of requested road improvements.

As-Built Surveys

An As-Built Survey determines property lines, as well as areas where improvements can be made. For example, an as built survey could point out flaws or
imperfections in the driveways or sidewalks. An as built survey will also include ways to fix or improve these issues.

Mortgage Surveys

Mortgage Surveys are similar to As Built surveys, in that the survey covers all of the land to be mortgaged. Therefore, the final survey will distinguish the property lines as defined for what will be covered in the mortgage.

Foundation Surveys

A foundation survey focuses simply on the foundation of a structure, providing an effective “snapshot” of the foundation as of a certain date A surveyor will come on property (usually at the builder or lender’s request) to document this critical stage of construction. The survey will plot the location and dimensions relative to property lines, and/or in comparison with previous site plans or plats. Elevation readings may also be taken throughout the foundation to identify any high or low points, serving as a baseline measurement.

ALTA (American Land Title Association) Surveys

An ALTA Survey is a specialized Boundary Survey of a property that adheres to strict standards developed by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) NSPS). An essential part of any legal ownership of land, the boundaries of a property must be properly and professionally delineated, making note of any easements or public right of way, or any other addition to or deletion from the property throughout the course of the parcel’s history. Clearly defining the boundaries of a property prevents any dispute over where one parcel ends, and another begins. An ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey is a foundational component of any real estate due diligence period and is necessary to obtain comprehensive Title Insurance for any property as a buyer, seller, or owner. An ATLA Survey is typically only required for large, commercial transactions.

How to Read a Survey

  1. Find the compass on the survey and locate the North arrow to approximate your property’s location on the ground.
  2. Locate the legend on the survey that explains what certain symbols on the map mean.
  3. Look for the starting point, or “the point of beginning,” and trace the different segments of the land from there.
  4. Follow the numbers and letters that indicate the direction from North and the distance between points.

Reasons Why Your Client Needs a Survey

Finding the Boundaries of the Property:

Perhaps the most common reason for having a survey is to define the boundary of a property. This could be because the owner wants to construct a fence or building, and they want to be certain they are correctly positioning it on their land. One sure fire way of angering a neighbor is to construct a fence that
takes some of their land or what they believe to be part of their land. Wrong or right, having a survey carried out first will make sure disputes don’t escalate. As mentioned previously, a property line survey is quite common. A little due diligence is smart, especially when buying or selling a house.

Overlapping Claims:

A property survey should indicate that there isn’t a discrepancy between the land border and that claimed by a neighbor. This can also be important when the land is next to a highway, where the survey should certify the boundary line.

Right of Way:

If part of the property blocks the neighbor’s access to the street, they are likely to have the right of way to cross the land. The surveyed land should clear up any concerns about this.

Party Walls & Shared Driveways:

If the property shares a driveway or wall with the neighbor, there could be certain required obligations such as maintaining the property sufficiently to
support the neighbor’s property. Improvement Violations by the Neighbor: If a previous owner of the home has made improvements, they may be violating the law or local restrictions. A survey can ensure that the improvement doesn’t breach height, dimension, or building line restrictions.

Potential Zoning Issues:

A land survey will check the property’s zoning classification to make sure it is being used appropriately. Land surveys are often used to determine zoning

Items Hidden Underground with Land Surveys:

A land survey should identify underground pipes or cables so that you know to avoid them when having some construction work done. Utility companies often have easements or right of use over the property to access and maintain whether they are for power, gas, etc.

Bodies of Water:

If there is a pond, well, creek, or river on the property, this will be documented in the survey of the land. These items will be shown on a topographic survey as well. They can be especially vital when there are property rights involved or a flood zone involved.

A Cemetery:

A land survey will determine if there is a cemetery on the land or if the land was ever used as a cemetery.

Finally, What Do You See? Any of the following are indicators
that your client needs a survey:

Fences that appear to be over the property line.

Driveways that appear out of place OR the absence of a driveway.

Sheds, garages, or other out buildings that appear to be over the property line.

Gravestones or evidence of gravestones.

Railroad tracks or evidence of railroad tracks.

Water running through or adjoining the property (ditches, streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, creeks,

Roads of paths crossing the property

Abnormal or outof place utility markers.