Surveys and Surveyors... what is all the hoopla about?

What is a survey?

According to Black's Law Dictionary a "survey" is "[t]he process of which a parcel of land is measured and its boundaries and contents ascertained; also a map, plat or statement of the result of such survey, with the courses and distances and the quantity of the land." Black's Law Dictionary, 1445 (6th ed. 1990). So in plain English, a survey measures your land and determines your boundaries. 

In most situations, a survey will confirm whether a piece of property is located where a buyer/seller believes the property to be located. But there are many different types of surveys: 

  1. ALTA Survey - This type of survey is to provide a title company and/or lender with the necessary location and survey data to issue an American Land Title Association Survey policy. It usually shows the relationship between existing improvements on a particular parcel of land relative to the boundaries set forth in the property's deed. 
  2. Boundary Survey -  a boundary survey is used to locate the corners and boundary lines of a parcel of land. This type of survey involves both record and field research including measurements and computations needed to set the boundary lines in accordance with applicable state laws. A boundary survey may also involve locating easement lines and encroachments. 
  3. Construction Survey - this is a type of survey required for staking out structures located on the property, including walls, buildings, roads, and utilities. It provides construction personnel with directions for implementing the improvements shown on the development plans. 
  4. Location Survey - this is very similar to a boundary survey, but it provides additional information on the location of interior improvements. This type of survey is most commonly used to fulfill the requirements of a zoning permit or loan application. 
  5. Site Planning Survey - combines the elements of a boundary and topographic survey for site planning. This survey is used to plan design improvements and developments before construction begins. They are frequently used for designing house lots, subdivisions, stores, playgrounds, commercial & industrial sites, and streets and highways. 
  6. Subdivision Survey - is used to divide a parcel of land into smaller tracts lots, or estates. This type of survey is used to design streets and drainages, and it must be recorded by the local and state government agency. 
  7. Topographic survey - is used to locate both natural and man-made topographic features on a parcel of land. It is often used by architects and engineers for planning site improvements and developments. It is typically implemented through a combination of aerial photography and ground field methods. 

As you can see there are many different types of surveys that are used for many different reasons. Depending on the purpose of the survey, the surveyor will perform the survey best for you. 

When do survey issues arise? 

The most common time for a survey issue to arise is before the transfer of real estate. This is usually something that is required by a Bank. The Bank wants to make sure that they know exactly how much land they are purchasing for their buyer. This also arises when the county engineer determines that a new survey is required. In our experience, when the county engineer wants a new survey it's because the legal description is outdated and the landmarks may have washed away. 

Another time that survey issues arise is when there is a property line dispute between neighbors. Over the years, we've seen several cases where the property line is "off" by 15 or more feet. If this happens to you try to be proactive and have a real discussion with your neighbor about the property line before bringing filing a legal action. And to further complicate the situations, we've had different surveyors come to different conclusions about the property lines. To learn more about a surveyors role in litigation check out this article

If you have questions about your real estate matter and your survey feel free to give us a call at 740.346.2899.