February 04, 2019
Land Surveys—the What, Where, When, and Sometimes Why
The What: Land surveys are representations that define the legal boundaries and features of a property in graphic fashion, similar to a map. In order to make a survey, professional surveyors utilize a home’s deed, which ideally contains a legal description of the property and, in the best cases, also includes a map of the boundaries. But because these descriptions can grow outdated, and sometimes refer to features that may die (we’re looking at you, trees) or be removed (sheds, shacks, outhouses … need we go on?), the surveyors will also often physically measure the land, too, so as to produce the most up to date survey possible. They will also include any easements or physical restrictions on the property, as these are part of the legal net of boundaries, and describe whether the property is within a floodplain, in which case the home’s elevations should be depicted as well.
The Where: Literally everywhere. There isn’t a piece of land in the United States that hasn’t been surveyed to some degree of specificity. Even uninhabited desert-land has its boundaries, and you can bet those boundaries can be found on a map somewhere. GPS is a tool often used in modern surveys. Moreover, mountainous terrain and land within floodplains are measured in three dimensions: properties that change in altitude require the use of altimeters to determine their features.
The When: Surveys aren’t always made when a parcel of property changes hands, but often they will be. They are practically always made when development begins on a property, or when a larger property is subdivided. Depending on where the property is found, there will be a specific monumentation a surveyor must follow. Sometimes it’s a piece of rebar with an identifying cap driven into the ground; sometimes it’s a magnetic nail in concrete. The goal is to make the property all the more identifiable the next time a survey is made.
The Potential Whys: The reasons one might want a survey done of a property are legion. Beyond the needs to know where the property lines are for purposes of subdivision and to determine that the plot one is buying is in fact the size agreed upon, states often require a survey for the building of a new home. This can be key to figuring out where on the property to best build and to allow for drainage. One common reason for surveys on existing properties is to resolve property disputes between neighbors. It is actually an everyday occurrence for one neighbor to erect a fence that the other believes is in fact on their property; and sometimes a tree that dies will be in a perceptual grey zone, leaving both neighbors claiming it is actually on the other’s property. A land survey can solve these issues quite easily and leave the neighbors more certain of their relationship.
Once a buyer has found that perfect property—and perhaps a survey has been performed to show the property is as agreed upon—we here at Topouzis & Associates, P.C. stand ready to help in the conveying and purchasing of title clear of judgments and defects. And we help our clients put into place a good policy of title insurance—another “must” in the process—to make certain. Contact us if you’d like us to do this for you.