If you’ve noticed a person in an orange vest carrying around a brightly colored tripod with a metal device on top, you’ve likely come across a property surveyor. Property surveyors can come in handy when you’re buying a house, selling a house, or if you simply have a property dispute with a neighbor. Here’s more information on what property surveyors do, what they cost, and when you might need one.
Property Surveyor Definition
A property surveyor takes precise measurements to identify the boundaries of a parcel of land and prepares reports, maps, and plots that are used for construction, deeds, or other legal documents. A property surveyor determines the precise location of roads, buildings, and other features that are used to determine any changes to the property line, restrictions on what may be built on a property or where new structures must be located, how large structures may be, and the appropriate building depths for foundations. Some surveyors work for the county while others are employed by private companies such as engineering firms.
What does a surveyor do?
A property surveyor determines the precise location of roads, buildings, and other features of a specific property. This information is then used to determine any changes to the property line, restrictions on what may be built or where new structures must be located, how large structures may be, and the appropriate building depths for foundations. Some surveyors work for the county while others are employed by private companies such as engineering firms.
When do you need a land survey?
If you plan to construct a new home or structure on your existing property, you may need a land survey to identify the precise boundaries and any potential restrictions. For instance, some parcels of land have a right-of-way, which allows adjacent property owners to utilize a portion of your land to access their homes through a driveway or road. Other properties have easements, a service company’s (electric company, water or sewer company, etc.) right to access a portion of your property to make repairs.
A property surveyor identifies these issues, allowing you to modify your plans by moving the location of your planned structure so that it meets requirements and doesn’t infringe on any rights of other property owners or local ordinances.
You might need a property survey if you are having a dispute with a neighbor regarding boundary lines or fence locations. It’s not uncommon to discover that a neighbor’s fence is situated on your property or that a corner of your shed or garage is on a neighboring property.
In any case, you should always hire a property surveyor before making any major improvements or additions such as installing a swimming pool, building a fence, constructing a garage or home addition. If you don’t have your property surveyed and it’s later discovered that you’ve built a structure on property that belongs to a neighbor or is restricted due to a right-of-way or easement, it could become an unpleasant and expensive legal conflict.
What are easements?
Easements are common land or utilities owned publicly and used by the local community. Easements are documented on a title report and may affect what a buyer can build or plant on a property. Common examples of easements include the placement of utility poles, water lines, sewer lines, and right-of-ways.
A right-of-way is a type of easement that allows someone, such as a neighbor, to travel across your property. This can be along a pathway or roadway that is generally seen as public space, but does not affect your ownership of that land.
Mortgage Survey vs. Boundary Survey
When you’re buying a home, your lender may request a mortgage survey, which is different from other types of property surveys in that they are typically requested by lenders or insurance companies rather than homeowners. A mortgage survey is how your mortgage lender can verify that the property they’re lending you money to purchase is as described in legal documents and is suitable as collateral for your mortgage loan (if the property is worth at least as much as you’re borrowing).
A boundary survey, on the other hand, is a type of house survey that determines the property lines of a home. It defines the property corners as described in the home’s deed and includes any easements on the property.
Property surveyor costs
Property surveyor costs vary widely, ranging anywhere from $200 to $1,000. The cost of depends on the size of the parcel you’re having surveyed, the complexity of the survey (such as how many structures or roads must be identified), and your location. For instance, a survey of a small plot of land in California could cost several times as much as a survey of a few acres in Iowa or Pennsylvania.
Most property surveyors are found through word of mouth, or based on recommendations from your lender or title company. If you’re utilizing the services of a private company instead of your county’s property surveyor, it’s a good idea to research several companies that offer property surveying services to find the best price. It is important to note that there is a lot of scientific work as well as historical research done on the property to determine the boundaries, so the price is likely to reflect those factors. However, a good property surveyor should keep you updated on any additional costs before starting the property survey.
Why a property survey is important
It is important to have a property survey before starting any project or addition to your property. It can help avoid problems, in the long run, should you find out that your planned structure interferes with an easement or extends onto a neighboring property. While a property surveyor is not always needed when purchasing a home, it is best to be prepared that your mortgage lender may require a survey.