Land Surveying Questions and Answers

Q1:How much does a survey cost?
That is the question that I am asked most often.  The short answer is the more complicated the project is the more it will cost.  The reverse is also true. A competent surveyor can normally give you a professional quote to survey your property.

Q2:Do you do residential Property surveys?
Actually only do them for our good clients that need them.  The bottom has fallen out of that market and most of the residential request are generally in need of a specific property line survey or a neighbor dispute for a fence or tree.  To survey a  tract of land correctly you have to check into the property lines around it.  For that reason a good survey can take 8 hours and most surveyors do them in about 1 to 2 hours.

Q3:Do you travel out of town to do surveys?
Yes not only out of town but out of state.

Q4:Do you have to be a licensed professional to survey in any state?
If you are surveying a property line and making property corner decisions the states require that you take and pass professional land surveying test and be licensed.  Some states require this for a topographic survey others don’t distinguish and yet others have different licenses depending on what level of survey you want to perform.

Q5:What are the hardest states to get licensed in?
You might guess it is New York, California and Florida.

Q6:What is and ALTA survey?
About 20 years ago the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping and the Land Title Association got together and made a very smart decision.  They wanted a standard product for commercial loans on commercial property.  It was widely known that surveyors were very good at collecting field evidence as to where the property lines and possession lines were located on the ground.  It was also known that the title insurance companies had good people that could research a title and find old and sometimes ambiguous easement that would not normally be found by a surveyor.  They got together and came up with a standard product with multiple choices that would produce a survey that was surveyed on the ground by a professional land surveyor and the title was produced by a professional title attorney.  The marriage of the two was call the American Land Title Association and the initials for that was ALTA.  This has been an excellent instrument and is widely accepted and the surveying standard for commercial properties.

Q7:What is a topographic survey map?
This is a map that shows the elevation of the ground in a specified area (usually in conjunction with a property boundary).

Q8:What is a Benchmark?
That is a fixed point on the earth surface that has a known elevation.  These are used to establish the contours in a topographic engineering survey or to check a finished floor elevation of a house to see if it is in or out of the floodplain. These are very important on property adjacent to rivers or the ocean.

Q9:What is a planametric survey?
This is similar to a topographic survey in that it only shows the improvements in a specific area.  Improvements like buildings roads bridges towers etc.

Q10:What is a traverse point?
This is one of the lease understood things in surveying.  With modern survey methods surveyors rarely survey straight down a property line.  The reason is that there is almost always and obstruction like a tree or ornamental plants, or wall that cannot be moved and cannot be seen through.  So the surveyor will set random stakes near important objects like property corners buildings and use the points to survey the property.  These points should be tied together geometrically.  If they are all correct the improvements on the property can be surveyed correctly with minimum impact to the land from the survey. These are almost always mistaken for property corners.

Q11:Should my surveyor walk the property with me at the end of the survey?
Absolutely and show you how he marked the corners.  This is very important.

Q12:What is a survey Plat?
It is a map of the survey with notes and abbreviations on it.  It is very valuable and should be up to the standards of the state it was surveyed in.  You should have your surveyor thoroughly explain the map at the time he delivers it.

Q13:What is a legal description?
It is a written description of the property that usually references a survey and explains the length and distance of the property lines and the area of the tract surveyed.  In modern times it is required in most states to sell the property.

Q14:What if the legal description does not match the survey Plat?
Usually the plat is considered to be the ruling document.

Q15:You say aerial survey can you really survey from an airplane?
Yes you can but not for a property survey.  However it is a excellent way to survey for a topographic or planametric surveys.