Site Survey


A land survey is an important tool for determining the features and locations of property lines in your lot. That way, you can easily know where your lot ends, and your neighbor’s property begins. More importantly, land surveys have led to a significant decrease in property disputes. 

In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about land surveys. Especially when you’re planning to lend or pull a building permit for your property. On top of that, we’ll show various instances, where you need a land survey, apart from determining the location of your boundary lines! 

What’s a Site/ Land Survey?  

In essence, a land survey refers to a drawing that shows the location of a property’s boundaries. Moreover, it lays out the location and dimension of any structures on the lot. 

It’s also worth mentioning that there are several techniques for surveying land. But that usually depends on the existing legal description and the shape/ size of the property. As a result, there are different types of land surveys. 

At the same time, the type of land survey you’ll get depends on why you need it. As an example, you may simply need the survey to split a parcel of land or locate the property lines. Interestingly, a professional land surveyor will give you a property survey that covers your specific real estate needs. 

Nonetheless, it’s good to know the different types of site surveys available. Check them out in the next section!

Types of Site Surveys 

Land surveys can be grouped into the following categories; 

  • Boundary survey

As the name suggests, this type of survey shows the property’s boundaries. It includes physical documentation, recorded deeds as well as plats. More importantly, it often involves fieldwork on neighboring properties to verify and identify the correct land boundary. It can be used for personal records, locating easements, or settling disputes. 

  • Location survey

A location survey resembles a boundary survey. However, it contains additional details on the location of site improvements. Also, it shows the size of those improvements and the distance between them and property lines. This type of survey is mainly used by property owners for zoning permits or loan applications. 

  • ALTA survey 

An American Land Title Association (ALTA) survey is usually done when purchasing an investment property or a home. Moreover, it’s also known as a mortgage survey because lenders usually require them before they offer their financing services. On the same note, a title company often requires it before they issue title insurance. Note, an ALTA survey can also be referred to as an ACSM survey. This acronym stands for the American Congress on Surveying & Mapping. 

  • Construction survey

A construction survey stakes out the location of site improvements and planned structures like utilities, buildings, or roads. The land survey prepares this document to show construction works the distances between planned structures and where to build them. It involves an As-Built survey, vertical/ horizontal grading, and slope staking. 

  • Site planning survey

A site planning survey combines a topographic and a boundary survey. It’s used to plan and design site improvements, industrial & commercial sites, and house lots. Also, it’s used to design playgrounds, streets, stores, highways, and subdivisions. 

  • Topographic survey 

This refers to a survey that locates manmade and natural topographical features like trees, streams, buildings, and fences. Also, it may include other features like rivers, elevations, land contours, ponds, and so on. In California, topographic surveys are often used by an architect and a civil engineer to plan site improvements. 

  • Subdivision survey 

Subdivision surveys are used when subdividing a large parcel of land into smaller estates, tracts, or lots. However, it can also be used to design drainages, lots, and streets. More importantly, a subdivision survey has to be recorded by the relevant local government agency and filled in the land records. 

Uses of a Land Survey 

A legal description will not be sufficient to determine the boundary lines of your property. Instead, you need to hire a licensed land surveyor to help you meet specific requirements. This will come in handy when you want to locate the property boundaries for personal use or when buying real estate. 

Other applications of land surveys include; 

  • Obtaining title insurance
  • Locating easements
  • Locating utilities
  • Finding boundary lines
  • Building a structure on the site
  • Meeting mortgage requirements
  • Updating an outdated site survey 
  • Settling property line disputes 

What is the cost of obtaining a land survey? 

The cost of obtaining a site survey service tends to vary depending on the property shape/ size and survey type. Also, the cost will vary based on the travel time of the professional land surveyor. Nonetheless, HomeAdvisor suggests that the cost of most site surveys ranges from $200 to $800. But the average cost is around $500. At the same time, if your property has more corners or more acreage, expect the cost of the land survey to be higher. 

When it comes to the type of land survey, the average cost of the ALTA survey is a bit higher as compared to other survey types. This is because these ALTA surveys require extra work to obtain more details and research documents. In that regard, an ALTA survey has an average cost of about $2000 to $3000. 

Another thing worth noting is that the cost of a survey may vary based on the available public records and the specific market. In California, the cost of the site survey can range between $5000 and $10000. But as we’ve stated above, this cost can be higher based on the survey’s complexity. 

Where do you get a copy of a certified site survey? 

In most cases, a recorded copy of a site survey can be obtained from the land recorder’s office or the building department’s office. However, in some regions, you can obtain it from the local tax assessor’s office. Also, title insurance firms require an ALTA land survey before they provide title insurance. Therefore, such companies can also be very useful in tracking down your land survey. 

Final Word 

To sum things up, a land survey is a document that shows your property and its location. That way, the construction crew can know where to erect the building. Also, they define property lines, thus helping banking institutions to know what they’re lending on. However, this will only be possible if your land survey is accurate. Moreover, you need to ensure that the survey is updated to include any new site improvement. 

  1. I appreciate the information about land surveying. To build my home, we need a land surveyor. I’ll find one that does residential areas.

  2. It was informative when you mentioned that a land survey can help you locate utilities. It seems like you would want to have a land survey performed before you start digging on a property. You would want to know where the utilities are so that you don’t damage them by digging in the ground.

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