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Updated: September 27, 2015
One of the primary roles of the land surveyor is to find the boundaries of a property. That boundary is described in legal documents and the land surveyor follows that description and locates the boundary on the physical land and marks it, so the owner knows what land he owns. Having a land survey done can save a lot of hassle and cost in the future, but there are factors to consider when having one done including the up-front cost which is usually between $334 and $651.
Why do a land survey?
If you are a homeowner that is going to do some building like a fence, garage, patio, pool, etc., without a survey you have no recourse if at a later date it is found that your fences intrude on a neighbor's land or that there are rights to easement by one of the service companies (this means that an electric, sewerage or water company has access rights to your property to carry out maintenance and repair). Consider an example where a property owner has built a garage over part of the access rights and service companies have then been known to remove the garage to carry out maintenance.
Most problems arise when improvements done to the property such as patios, pools, driveways, garages and building extensions are either outside the building limits or eat into the neighboring property. A land survey would define the dimensions of the lot and outline any improvements (garage, pool, patios, house, drive, etc.) and show whether they encroach upon a neighbor's property.
Fees can range anywhere from $200-$800, depending on the size of the lot, your geographical location as well as the age of the lot. Over time, land does shift slightly and monuments (items such as trees or rocks that were used in initial land survey) may no longer exist. The surveyor will need to take these things into consideration when working on the home and may even have to re-establish boundary lines.
When should you do a survey?
A boundary survey is not always required. Different states have different requirements, but, if you are the buyer, it is to your benefit to know exactly how much land you are paying for. Surveyors often find defects that could lead to renegotiating the price of the property you are buying. A fence that divides a property from a neighbor may not be built along the boundary line of the adjoining properties. The property's driveway may encroach on a neighbor's land. A neighbor may have built a deck that extends over the borderline. Issues like these should be addressed before you close a transaction.
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