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When do I need the services of a Land Surveyor?

  • When buying real estate (to protect the investment you are about to make.)
  • When selling real estate (to insure you are selling what you intended to sell.)
  • When property is not clearly defined by a description or a plat.
  • When required by a lending agency.
  • Before constructing improvements near a property line. (fences, driveways, buildings, etc.)
  • When a parcel is to be separated from a larger tract.
  • Before harvesting timber.
  • When purchasing title insurance.
  • When a property line or corner location is unknown or in dispute.
  • When you believe someone is encroaching on your land.
  • When purchasing flood insurance.
  • When establishing lease boundaries.
  • When establishing hunting rights.
  • When clearing land.
  • When developing real estate.

Why should I get a recent survey?

Since purchasing a home is one of the largest investments most of us will make, you should seriously consider getting a very recent land survey. A few years ago, an industry change took place in which title companies, in certain situations, will allow the buyer to use an old survey for the closing transaction. While this approach decreases the buyers closing costs, it begs the very important question; should you trust it? Consider that a typical survey costs about one-half of one percent, or less, of the purchase price, compared to a realtor’s 3% or 6% and a loan origination of 1%.

How much will a survey cost?

The cost for most land surveying work is determined and based on the following variables:

  • Type of survey: Cost may increase as the required precision and scope of the survey increases.
  • Record search: This varies by (a) the number of parcels involved; and (b) the number of past transactions. (This necessary step is complicated by the casual manner in which many land transactions have been handled in the past, resulting in vague, incomplete, and often contradictory legal descriptions and land records).
  • Size and shape of the property: An irregularly shaped parcel has more corners to monument than a rectangular parcel containing the same area.
  • Sectionalized Survey Work: (Mainly in west Texas) This could require the survey of the entire section (640 acres +/-) in which the land being surveyed lies, regardless of the area of the parcel. In some cases, a survey of more than one section is required, depending on the location of the parcel in question in relation to the sections shown on the government plat.
  • Terrain: A level parcel of land is easier to survey than a mountain parcel.
  • Vegetation: Branches, brush, and small trees must frequently be cleared to afford a line of sight for the Surveyor. Shrubs, flowers and trees on home sites are normally not disturbed, but may require additional field time to perform work around them.
  • Accessibility: The time to perform the surveying work varies with the distance to, and the difficulty in reaching, the corners on the site.
  • Amount of existing evidence on the property: Existing evidence such as iron, wood, or stone monuments, old fences and occupation lines, witness trees, etc. aid the Surveyor. Their absence may compound difficulties involved in retracing the original survey.
  • Local knowledge of property: Someone pointing out accepted occupation lines and monumentation is a considerable aid to the Surveyor. Local knowledge of property:
  • Adjoiner Difficulties: When neighbors are uncooperative, and otherwise difficult or impossible, boundary line location may be established by boundary line agreement.
  • Time of Year: In summer, foliage may present problems making traversing difficult. In winter, weather may slow travel to and on site, and sometimes conceal field evidence.
  • Title Company Requirements: Title companies may require considerably more documentation than is normally required by the average land owner.

Because of these variables, it is difficult to determine the exact fees. However based on general experience and the requirements for the work, the Surveyor can furnish an approximate estimate of the costs.

Think about cost this way; will you spend less now by having your property surveyed and, thereby, fully exposing potential legal issues, or will it cost more down the road to resolve these issues in court, after you have already purchased the problem?

How do I choose which surveyor/firm to hire?

A land surveyor should never be chosen based on price alone. Remember the old saying, “you get what you pay for.” Registered Professional Land Surveyors, like other professionals, vary in knowledge and ability so choose a reputable firm in whom you can place your trust, with competency being the number one factor. Other factors should include:

  • Is the firm registered with the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveyors?
  • How many years has the firm been in business?
  • Is the principle of the firm a Registered Professional Land Surveyor?
  • Does the firm have “Errors and Omissions Insurance”?
  • Is the surveyor a member of the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors?

Some of these questions and answers were provided by the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors, Dallas Chapter 5. You can find more information and a local TSPS Registered Professional Land Surveyor at the following links:

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