Content of the material
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- Where do I find my propertys survey?
- How do I hire a property surveyor?
- Preparing for the Search
- How Much Does A Property Survey Cost?
- Locate Hidden Property Pins
- Final Thoughts
- The Home Property Survey: Know Your Land
- How to Get a Property Survey
- Your Due Diligence with a Property Survey
- Sign up for the Newsletter
Where do I find my propertys survey?
If you’re buying a home, ask the seller to check with their lender and/or title company to see if there’s a property survey on file. The local tax assessor’s office may also have one.
If you’re already a homeowner and a survey was never provided to you, your local property records or engineering department may have one on file, but it’s probably older and could be outdated. While such dated surveys are typically accurate on standard city lots, they can be wrong if you live on a former country parcel that’s been altered for suburban development. You can also check with neighbors to see where they got theirs.
Contact the title company that handled the title transfer when the sale of the property closed. To issue a title insurance policy on a property, a title company often keeps a copy of a property survey to help show that the title is clear. Title companies can also make an exception if no survey is done, and therefore don’t provide survey coverage in the policy. Depending on the details of the sale, you may be able to get a copy of the property survey from the title company.
How do I hire a property surveyor?
Searching for property surveyors in your area is one of the best ways to find companies to get the job done.
“There is a surveying society in each of the 50 states, all of which are affiliated with NSPS,” Sumner says. “Each of those societies has a website, which will typically include a ‘Find A Surveyor’ section.”
It can be more cost-effective to work with the previous surveyor on the property, if possible, because that surveyor will have maps and records already on hand. If you can’t locate the prior surveyor, the next best thing is to try to work with the surveyor who assessed the properties next door.
Don’t be afraid to ask your title company or lender for recommendations, too.
You should also take the time to question your potential surveyor. Talk about your needs beforehand to make sure they can fulfill the requirements. Check that the surveyor is licensed to practice in the state where the property is located, Sumner advises.
Be mindful of how much time it takes to complete a survey. Wooll says property surveys can usually be completed within a week, but it could take up to three, depending on the company.
Sumner says there’s no way to determine exactly how long it’ll take to complete a survey since there are so many variables to consider, including the quality and availability of property records, such as deeds.
Preparing for the Search
There are even better information sources than your deed. The best (and sometimes most elusive) document you can lay your hands on is the surveyor’s map, or plat. The plat translates that legal confusion of numbers and terms on the deed into pictures. It may also show references to natural landmarks, or triangulation data which may locate a particular point.
Plat-chasing is a major pastime among surveyors. Your plat, if one exists, may accompany your deed. Or it may languish in city or county records (clerks’ or surveyors’ offices would be the best places to search) or reside with a previous owner. Plats of neighboring land are helpful, too. They may show the location of a common boundary.
If you live in a subdivision or built-up area, you may be wondering why your deed’s legal description reads only “Lot 22, Rock Creek Estates” or “Tract A, First Addition.” But these, too, are metes and bounds surveys. The surveyors created several lots at once, so they drew one map of the whole thing. Deed descriptions merely refer to the master plat, which you will find in the public records.
You should also keep an eye peeled for early versions of your property description, surveyor’s notes, and descriptions of roads that border your land. Why? First, to ensure that your deed doesn’t contain mistakes; second, to find out all you can about boundary markers — the key to property lines.
You are now nearly ready to step into the surveyor’s shoes. First, though, you’ll have to gather your equipment. You’ll need a compass, long measuring tape, plumb bob, level, hatchet, some ribbon, and stakes. You’ll also need a willing assistant. Now check your instruments. Do they read in the same numbers as the survey? If not, you will have to translate.
Most people will have on hand the type of compass that uses the directional measurement known as azimuth. Being ornery as a rule, surveyors use another system, called bearings. To learn how to translate one to the other, see the end of the article section “Converting Azimuths to Bearings.”
On to distances. We measure lengths in feet and inches, don’t we? Well, the surveyor uses either feet and tenths of a foot (be very alert for this!) or a venerable system called chains. Don’t panic at this. A chain measures 66 feet. Why 66 feet? Because it’s convenient for land computations. Ten square chains equal one acre — which means to compute acreage rapidly, all you have to do is find the number of square chains, then move the decimal point once to the left. Also, one mile stretches exactly 80 chains.
A hundredth of a chain — about eight inches — is called a link. Old-timers also used a quarter-chain measure (16-1/2 feet), calling it a rod, pole, or perch.
I find that if I’m faced with a description written in bearings and chains when my equipment reads in azimuths and feet, my brain reels at the prospect of translating and tramping about at the same time. It’s far better to translate all the degrees and distances on paper before you set out.
How Much Does A Property Survey Cost?
On average, new homeowners can expect to pay $400 – $700 for a professional property survey. However, the cost of a property survey depends on several factors, such as property size, terrain and location. For example, if you want to survey a wooded area, you’ll end up paying more than if you were to survey a flat, relatively empty piece of land.
Professional surveyors also charge for the time it costs them to do research on your property. A well-documented plot of land will take less time to research and cost less money to survey. It also pays to go local, since travel time is also included in the final price.
Basically, the easier the land is to survey, the less you’re going to pay.
Locate Hidden Property Pins
Survey pins are thin iron bars, 2 or 3 feet long and sometimes capped with plastic, which the original survey crew inserted on the property lines. If you have access to a metal detector, move the device over the ground along the sidewalk to the curb to locate the survey pin. Pins may be buried just under the surface, or up to a foot below. A few days before you dig, however, you must call 811, the free, federally designated number that will route you to your local utility company. Ask the utility company to come out and mark any buried lines so you don’t unintentionally hit one. There’s no charge for this service, but if you damage a buried utility line, you could end up having to pay to repair it.
Before building a new structure or installing a driveway, it’s vital to have a professional come out and mark the property lines. Property pins can be moved over the years, and in some cases, the boundary may extend past a property boundary marker if a previous owner bought or sold land to a neighbor. In a best case scenario, you may have more land than you thought you did. In a worst case scenario, you may have poured the driveway on the neighbors’ land, and they can make you tear it out.
The Home Property Survey: Know Your Land
So what have you accomplished? A lot. If you found some corners, you may have staved of a boundary war with your neighbor. Show him or her what you’ve found, so you’ll agree. Then paint a few trees or pile rocks around the spot so it doesn’t go to weeds. Don’t force your grandkids to go through the same search.
Even if you didn’t turn up any corners, your time hasn’t been wasted. You’ve probably dug up some useful old records, and that’s half of what you’d pay a real surveyor for.
How to Get a Property Survey
You may not need a new property survey if the property has been surveyed in the past. Laws vary from state to state, but typically a survey done within the past 10 years will still be valid. Check with your local tax assessor’s office or courthouse to see if any prior property surveys are on file. If you’re buying a new property, your lender or title company may be able to help you find previous surveys.
When you buy or sell a home, lenders or title companies sometimes arrange for a property survey to be conducted and include the fee in closing costs, so all you need to do is pay. Depending on state laws, the homebuyer or seller might be responsible for paying, or the fee may be negotiable.
To arrange a property survey on your own, you’ll want to start by researching land surveyors. Each state has a professional society for land surveyors, and you can visit the National Society of Professional Surveyors website to find your local society and find a surveyor that way. You can also ask local real estate agents, your title company or your lender for recommendations. No matter how you find a surveyor, make sure they’re licensed, insured and able to perform the job on your property.
When getting estimates from surveyors, provide as much information as possible about the property and specify the kind of survey you need. Once you’ve selected your surveyor and schedule the survey, it typically takes a few weeks to complete the job. If you need one completed for a home purchase, schedule your survey as soon as possible.
Your Due Diligence with a Property Survey
Sounds simple enough, right? Your property survey tells you about the property you’re potentially going to purchase, and any stipulations that come with it. It’s still important to complete your due diligence when it comes to a property survey. First, get multiple quotes from surveyor companies, and pick the one that works best for you. Then, make sure you go with the surveyor to attend the property survey. You will learn more about the land you might buy, and be the first to know about any potential problems. Finally, follow up with any questions once you’ve seen the property survey.
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