Surveyors are trained professionals who use their knowledge to find historical records and discover contemporary information about land, ownership and boundary lines. They are the first line of defense before significant changes can occur on any property, including a sale.
All 50 states require surveyors to have a license to protect against any contentious litigation between parties who share a boundary. Property owners can only determine approximate boundaries. A surveyor establishes true distance through discovery of original plot markers. True distance is important when a landowner anticipates landscaping, driveways or fences. While good fences make good neighbors, emotions run high if a fence crosses the line.
Land titles will provide a legal description. The surveyor must locate and read existing historical legal descriptions. This research should establish the existence of all known markers that have never been in question. Using survey tripods, auto-levels, prisms, magnetic locators and protractor-like photo survey equipment, the licensed surveyor identifies and marks the property lines. This information will appear in the final survey report, which is a legal document.
The surveyor puts his findings into a report showing boundaries and features of the subject property. This report contains drawings that indicate area dimensions and the location of existing structures and proposed new structures. The drawings indicate true distance from property lines to buildings. Setback dimensions, porch piers, overhangs, offsets and other characteristics, as well as true distance from boundaries or street lines, are requirements for inclusion in the final document. The surveyor must place additional measurements that cause a parcel to be unique and address requirements of municipal law.