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Understanding a Land Survey: Meaning, Costs & More

written by: Ciaran_john•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 6/29/2011

Understanding a land survey is important for anyone considering building a fence or structure on the boundary of their land. Surveys clearly define the plots of land and prevent disputes between neighbors.

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    Many homeowners have a hard time understanding the purpose of a land survey because they think that a home appraisal tells them all that they need to know about a property, and cannot see the point of a land survey. Historically, banks required homeowners to pay for a land survey before taking out a cash out refinance or home equity loan, but that is no longer the case and leads some people to think that surveys are unnecessary. In reality, banks do not require surveys before writing loans because they pay for title insurance and the insurance companies insure the lenders from legal disputes arising from factors that include boundary disputes.

    The title insurance protects lenders but it doesn't protect homeowners who face legal disputes with neighbors or municipal authorities. Very often, boundary disputes begin when fences are erected or when roads are repaired. Some homeowners buy homes and assume that existing fences were erected on their property only to later discover that the previous owner unknowingly crossed the boundary line.

    Surveys are particularly important for people planning to replace septic tanks or install swimming pools, because many cities and counties have rules that specify how far such things should be from houses and boundary lines. If someone installs a septic tank too close to a neighbors property, they may have to remove it, which could cost them thousands of dollars. Understanding land surveys also enables commercial property owners to ensure that business activities do not violate city ordinances that restrict the placement of signange or commercial structures. An accurate survey provides a buyer with some recourse after purchasing a strip of land if the the owner of the neighboring property disputes the boundary.

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    Images

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    How Much Does A Land Survey Cost?

    There are many factors involved in the pricing of surveys. Understanding a land survey pricing index is important because a survey for one person could cost twice as much as for another depending on the type of property involved. Typical residential surveys costs around $500 but prices are increased for parcels of land that are not square or rectangular. The surveyor has to physically do more work to measure an irregular area than a plot of land with a rigid boundary lines. Surveyors also bump up prices for plots of land that are harder to measure due to physical features. An area of land that sits on the side of a mountain or in a forest will be harder and more time consuming to map than an area of land in a field. Some surveys are less detailed than others because of physical obstacles such as rivers or lakes that prevent a surveyor from taking readings very easily.

    Accurate records of parcels enable surveyors to complete their work more easily but people ordering surveys for large areas of land often have to pay in excess of $1,500 for land surveys. Although costs are often high, the fees involved are usually negilible when compared with the costs of litigation incurred by people who cannot quickly settle boundary disputes by producing a survey. Understanding a survey and the benefits of having one is something that many homeowners learn very quikcly.

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    Resources

    Land Surveyors: Do I Need One?

    http://www.landsurveyors.com/resources/survey-do-i-need-one/

    CNN Money: Who Needs a Property Survey

    http://money.cnn.com/2006/05/23/real_estate/who_needs_a_survey/index.htm