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Why Land Surveys Matter to Buyers

why land surveys matter to buyers

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Published date:

November 24, 2014

Last updated date:

July 11, 2024

By Laura Mueller

Buying land is a big investment, and you want to know exactly what you’re getting in the deal. Enter the land surveyor – a licensed specialist who collects real-world data about a piece of land and helps identify any major issues ahead of a sale. 


Two types of survey are relevant to the land-buying process:

  • Residential boundary surveys, which identify boundary lines of a property and the specifics of any structures on the land
  • Mortgage surveys, which let lenders and title companies know that boundary lines remain intact since the last time the land was purchased


As a land buyer, your concern is primarily with the residential boundary survey. And while not required in all property transactions, this type of land survey can provide you with all sorts of necessary insights as you negotiate and close your deal.

While not required in all property transactions, this type of land survey provides all insights as you negotiate and close your deal.

Keep reading to learn more about the role of a land surveyor in the buying process, plus tips for hiring a qualified surveyor for the job. 


What is a Land Surveyor?

A land surveyor is a geospatial professional who measures land and records data on where things are positioned. 


Among their various responsibilities, land surveyors are responsible for things like:

  • Determining the boundaries of a property
  • Creating maps
  • Settling disputes around property lines
  • Guiding the layout for improvements like buildings, utility lines, and roads


Land surveying is a licensed profession that requires a lot of skill. Any findings of a land survey ahead of a sale are considered legally binding and can be used in your purchase negotiations or any later property disputes. 


How Land Surveying Works

A land surveyor has three main goals when assessing a piece of land:


(1) measure it accurately;

(2) collect data on any structural elements;

(3) accurately relay all findings in a detailed map. 


To do this, a surveyor stakes the boundaries of a piece of land and notes any unique property features, such as a building or body of water. A tool called a total station is used to provide precise measurements around and between benchmark features, as well as to measure topographical elements. 


In some cases, a land surveyor will use a GPS (global positioning system) to add to their mapping data with satellite input. 


With all of these measurements on hand, surveyors go on to produce a scale drawing that details structures on the property, fence lines, and any land improvements. The surveyor will also note access to the public right of way and list any established easements attached to the property.


Benefits of a Land Survey Before Buying

Again, you don’t have to have a land survey done before purchasing land. But it’s usually a good idea, especially if the property you are interested in hasn’t been bought or sold in recent years. 


Some of the benefits you can expect from a land survey include:


  • Precise measurements of where a property starts and ends, as well as any notable features, so you know what you’re getting
  • An uncovering of any irregularities, which you can then use in price negotiations 
  • Identification of boundary issues or land problems that will affect your decision and/or that need to be immediately addressed


Who Pays for a Land Survey and How Much Does It Cost?

Unless unique arrangements have been made, the buyer pays for the land survey as a condition of closing costs. 


The average cost of a land survey is about $600. Prices can vary quite a bit though, so be sure to get two to three quotes from different land surveyors and go over exactly what you expect to receive in the finished report


There are a few factors that will impact your final cost – namely the size of the property and the exact services that will be required. A land survey can be a simple matter with minimal complexities to the job. It can also be an expansive project that requires multiple days of research. 


Also, relevant to land survey prices are any additional services you may request, such as reports on the condition of structures on the land. When getting quotes, be sure to ask what’s included in the standard fee and what is extra. 


How to Hire a Qualified Land Surveyor

There could be a lot riding on your land survey, so it’s important you hire someone skilled, trustworthy, and able to provide you with everything you need to know to make an informed decision. 


Any land surveyor you hire needs to have a degree in a related field such as surveying, engineering, or geomatics, and be licensed by the state. You can find a land surveyor by getting a referral from friends, family members, or your real estate agent or attorney.  


You have the choice between hiring an independent surveyor or working with a land surveying company. It’s up to you which way you go, though do expect some differences in terms of pricing, services, and availability. 


Final Takeaways

You deserve to know what you’re buying with your land investment. Work with a land surveyor to identify key features of a property, including boundaries, easements, and encroachments, and make sure that you have all the relevant facts on hand before committing to a purchase.

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