How Does a Land Survey Work?


What is a Land Survey

  • A land survey is the measurement or boundaries and area of a particular piece or group of lots. These surveys are done by professional land surveyors that have met the requirements of the state to be licensed. Surveyors use special equipment and documents to find a point of beginning and then measure to another point until the area is mapped out. Then they use some type of markers to show the boundaries of the lot or lots. They can map out the measurements of a house, shed, driveway or anything else on the lot. Fences are one of the major encroachments found in land surveys. This type of survey is used for many purposes, including title insurance, mapping of a new subdivision and writing legal descriptions.

Land Surveys for Residential Property

  • When someone purchases or refinances property, the lending institution and/or the title insurance company calls for a survey. An existing survey may be used if it is not to old and there have been no changes the property. In this case the seller would sign a survey affidavit stating everything is the same. The lending institution may ask for the survey to be re-certified in the buyer's name. In this case, the surveyor would go out to the property to make sure there have been no changes. The survey would show all boundaries of the property and the placement of the house, garage and any other building. It would also mark where the fence is, if any. If there was any documentation as to a septic tank or well, that would also be included on the survey. The lending institution and title insurance company need to be sure that there are no encroachments into someone else's property. This could lead to legal issues and the title agency will not insure a known encroachment. An encroachment is when something, like a fence, goes over the boundary of your property line. It then is encroaching on another property. FHA lenders also want it certified that a well is at least 50 feet away from a septic tank.

    Something the lenders are looking for now is old underground oil tanks. Sometimes a land surveyor spots the pipe coming up from the ground and records it on the survey. The lenders won't lend on a property with an underground oil tank unless it is removed or there is certification that the ground is not contaminated. The insurance companies will not insure when they know it is there either.

Preliminary and Subdivision Surveys

  • Preliminary surveys are conducted by surveyors to determine the feasibility of a subdivision, condominium or other project. They can find wetlands and protected vegetation and plan for buffer zones. They can also take soil borings to determine the type of soil that exists for septic areas, and foundations. Once the preliminary subdivision is done and the area is found fit for construction a subdivision survey can begin. A surveyor can plan and plot for streets, blocks and lots. Depending on the size of the subdivision they can even plan out parks, schools and strip malls within the boundaries. Every municipality has specific regulations regarding the infrastructure of a subdivision. It is the surveyor that knows and understands the ordinances and puts the plan together for the developer. Then they are involved throughout the process with each individual lot and structure. Nothing gets built without a land surveyor being involved.

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