In the simplest terms, a boundary survey will mark the exact legal boundaries and other features of your property. This information is researched, physically plotted then graphically drawn out to scale by a land surveyor.

While a land survey isn’t typically required when you purchase a home, it’s an extremely useful tool that can clear up a whole lot of confusion.

There are several types of surveys that can be conducted on the land you own. The one that I needed before put up a fence for my Roxy is called a “Boundary Survey“.

A Boundary Survey is used to identify a property’s boundary lines. In this type of survey, the surveyor will set (or recover) the property corners and produce a detailed plat or map.

To accomplish this, the surveyor will research the public records and do research in the field, take measurements, perform calculations and d.

Why do you need a Boundary Survey

Boundary surveys are necessary for construction and permit purposes. And without a survey, you truly won’t know where your property lines are.

It’s easy to see a fence or even a row of shrubs and assume that it perfectly marks your property line. The truth is that it’s rarely an indication of the property line.

In fact, most fences (including mine) are well within the property line. After my survey, I had the fence contractor install mine about one foot from the property border. Perhaps the next person to buy my home will never know that they actually own an extra foot on each side of it ? ,

There’s also a chance that an existing fence was installed beyond your property line. So, even if there’s already a fence in place, that’s no guarantee that it accurately marks your property line. If you build over the line, you may have to remove the fence later. And… potentially anything you build that’s too close to or over that line.

Yikes. That’s a tough lesson to learn. Aren’t you a bit curious, now?

Cost of a Boundary Survey

Depending on the size of your property and how complicated your records are, this survey can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars! According to 2020 data from Home Advisor, most properties will cost between $200 and $1000, with the national average falling somewhere around $500.

In 2012 I paid around $600 for my survey. This cost included the actual survey as well as a Plat Survey. A plat survey is a legal document that shows the area around the plot as well as the plot itself. It clarifies where streets, other plots and easements are and how your plot fits into the bigger picture.

3 Steps to Conducting a Boundary Survey

When I spoke to the surveyor he told me there are 3 steps in the process of conducting a property survey:

  1. Pre-survey research
  2. The field inspection
  3. Creating the topographical map

Conducting Pre-Survey Research

Before actually conducting the survey on site, the surveyor will first research the property. The research involves:

  • a search of title of the subject lands
  • a search of title of the abutting properties
  • a search of all pertinent encumbrances registered against the title of the subject property
  • a search of all pertinent encumbrances registered against the title of the abutting properties
  • a search of other surveyor’s offices to obtain all plans relating to location of boundaries of the subject property

Survey Field Inspection

The second step is the physical survey of the property, or the “field inspection”. This is where the surveyor physically surveys the property.

The field inspection is done from a specified point near your home but not necessarily on your property. From that specified point, the surveyor is able to fine the four (or more) corners of your land. Typically the surveyor will mark these edges with a colored flag or if that’s not possible he may use spray paint.

Creating the Survey Topographical Map

Once the physical survey is done, the final step is to put everything into a topographical map. Often times this step will include an analysis of the field data along with a “written opinion” of the surveyor, going over any issues that may have been found during the survey.

Survey map of property
Here is a part of my survey map. The bottom has a signature of the surveyor along with an official seal.

What my survey showed…

The survey showed that most of my neighbor’s driveway is on my property. And the other neighbor’s garden is split between her yard and mine. In my situation this isn’t problematic. My neighbors are now informed about our property boundaries and I think we were all surprised by the borders.

What I learned from going through this process is that you cannot trust a fence or a shrub line.

20120317-131402.jpg
The pink marker here is partially on my neighbor’s driveway. It’s good to know these things.
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If the survey marks are on a hard surface, the surveyor will usually mark them with spray paint. If they are in the grass, he will paint the spot, too, or may flag the original post if he finds it as in the next photo.
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Update: This is a survey marker… a photo I took after the fence was put in. As you can see, the fence is about a foot in from the pink flag.
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Another post-fence update photo: my fence is well within the surveyed property line.

Wrapping Up

I’d recommend a property survey to anyone who owns a home. The information is always useful and handy to have, especially if you plan to do any work to your own property. It’s also helpful to have the information in the event one of your neighbors is planning their own construction project. You never know when the survey information will come in handy.

If you’re looking for more detailed information on land surveys, you may find this page helpful.

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