How Important is Land Surveying in Today’s World?

land surveying

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Most of you have probably never thought about land surveying until you needed it at some point. Many of us hear about land surveying all the time but never really give it much thought.

Since an investment in land and/or a home will likely be the largest investment you will ever make in your lifetime, knowing where your property lines are becomes very important indeed.

The art of land surveying was developed centuries ago. In fact, it’s one of the oldest professions in the world. The fact that it was used by man at such an early time and is still being used now shows how important surveying is to our survival.

Modern Uses of Land Surveying

Surveying land has many uses. Boundary surveying, for instance, allows you to know where your property corners or property lines are. This is especially helpful when disputes with a neighbour or with other people arise in terms of where your property ends.

If your family wants to divide a tract of land and transfer ownership to other family members, a boundary survey is the first step to do so. If you’re having a building constructed, it is very important that you have the land surveyed to make sure that you are not encroaching onto other peoples’ property. A mistaken building location is very expensive to fix so you might as well invest in a boundary survey to prevent this.

A topographic survey, or topo survey for short, is another important type of land surveying. A topo survey is done to locate natural and man-made features on a particular parcel of land. A topographic survey is different in that the elevation of the land is surveyed which means it can show man-made underground features, retaining walls, utility lines and etc.

Before you start any kind of construction activity, it’s important to have a topo survey done in the area so they’ll have an accurate record of the land’s existing conditions. Yes, that spot with the new mall in the neighbourhood had to have a topo survey done first.

Now, a flood survey or flood determination – this is very important too. It isn’t evident just looking at a property whether you are at risk of flooding or not. And, in some cases, even looking at the flood maps doesn’t give you an accurate answer.

The flood survey determines the elevation of the home and compares that to the base flood elevation. This is the only way to be sure you’re not in a flood hazard zone. If you’ve just been told that you live in a flood-prone area, having that confirmed by a professional land surveyor would let you know how to best proceed.

When getting flood insurance, insurance companies would require an elevation certificate from you. A land surveyor would be able to assist you with this.

If a company wants to invest in another state, or if there is a national lender on a commercial project, they will likely need an ALTA Land Title Survey done before anything is constructed. An ALTA Land Title Survey is a lot like a regular boundary survey except that nationally accepted ALTA Standards are used to guide the surveying effort.

Land surveying standards vary widely from state to state and an ALTA Land Title Survey is used to cut down on this variation. Also, an ALTA Land Title Survey typically is more involved than the state standards variety.

Because of this, an ALTA survey can be more anywhere from 50% to 200% more expensive than using the state standards only. If you need this type of survey, I suggest seeking an experienced land surveying company who is familiar with these additional requirements.

In summary, there are many uses for a land survey and for seeking the services of a land surveyor. If you’re unsure of your situation, consult Dadeville Land Surveying at (256) 307-1447 today or go to the Contact page and send us an email.

Why You SHOULD Have a Land Survey Completed Before Purchasing Land?

The importance of land survey before purchasing land

land surveyBuying land, whether commercial or residential, is actually a costly endeavor, even though prices have eased somewhat lately. This is the reason locating a parcel you like and making a deal for it without performing a land survey within the area is likely to be the greatest mistake that you could make.

Here’s why it’s extremely important that you have a land survey done first:

Land surveyors can determine whether you’re actually getting what you’re going to pay for. Land surveying establishes whether or not the sidewalks, trees, driveways and even the bird bath are part of the property you’re planning to buy. Land surveying also determines whether the neighbors are encroaching onto your property, which would then mean you’re likely to have problems later on with your neighbors.

Getting a land surveyor doesn’t only mean you will know what you’re getting or not getting; land surveyors are the experts, so they can help with building regulations, wetland regulations, etc. Please note that these regulations may change any time, but land surveyors ought to be updated on these regulations; or if not, they’ll refer you to somebody who is.

Let’s say the present landowner (the one selling the land) supplies you with old land survey documents. You should still hire your personal land surveyor to find out if the boundary monuments remain in position. Also, land surveying done a couple of years back might not show recent changes to the land. When the existing survey is older than about 10 years, you need to get the latest survey. Technology and surveying standards are much better now and could give you more confidence in the survey work.

In addition, that survey was completed for that owner. He might have instructed the surveyor not to show some things on the drawing. At least have a land surveyor get out there and evaluate the parcel using this survey in hand. We have witnessed numerous cases when a whole new land survey would save the customer thousands, so don’t be a victim.

I’ve heard many say getting a land surveyor is nothing but unnecessary expense. I’ll let you know what’s unnecessary: the worries brought on by paying thousands of dollars for something and finding yourself not receiving whatever you were expecting. If you’re smart, you’ll hire a professional surveyor to do the land survey prior to making any land purchases.

New ALTA Survey Standards from ALTA/ACSM

New ALTA Survey Standards

ALTA SurveyThe ALTA Survey Standards are being revised and will become effective February 23, 2011. Recently, committees from both the NSPS and ALTA met to review and approve the upcoming standards.

The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), which is a member organization of the American Congress on Surveying & Mapping (ACSM), is a trade organization for the profession of surveying and mapping.

For years ACSM has been the leader among surveying organizations in working with ALTA to develop these nationally recognized surveying standards.  ALTA is the American Land Title Association,  and is the trade association and national voice of the abstract and title insurance industry.

2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys  

Summary of Significant Changes from the 2005 Standards to the 2011 Standards

– Annotations on American Congress on Surveying and Mapping – ALTA/ACSM Standards

Changes to ALTA Survey Wording

The ACSM website has a “Summary of Significant Wording Changes” document, which spells out changes to the ALTA survey standards, which have not changed since 2005. Some of the noted changes are:

  • Expands on the “Relative Precision” of the survey
  • Expands on documents to be provided by surveyors
  • Requires more measurements when a water feature is one of the boundaries
  • Suggests that new legal descriptions might not be necessary
  • Requires a lot more information on easements
  • Reinforces that the title opinion should be furnished to the surveyor before the survey begins
  • Expands Table A to include a number of new items which may be requested by clients

While none of these are major changes, surveyors AND those ordering an ALTA survey should be aware of them. One item that I’ve heard a lot of noise about is item #21 on Table A, which, if checked, would required the surveyor to obtain professional liability insurance for the particular survey project.

Many surveyors don’t carry professional liability insurance because of the expense of this type of insurance. This will significantly change the price of an ALTA survey if the item is checked.

Surveyors and Clients should discuss the Table A items in detail each time anyway, but this is a big red flag that should be addressed. We’ll see how this plays out in the future and what it will mean for ALTA Surveys.

"Survey Land Twice, Clear-Cut Once"

survey landI read an article with the above title that reminded me of surveys I’ve been involved with over the years. In most cases the land owner hired a logging company to clear-cut their property and the loggers got over the property line in their zeal to get the “big trees that were out there.” In all the cases, it would have saved the landowner a LOT of money to get the boundary marked by a land surveyor.

 “If you want to be certain and not rely on (assumptions) … it should be properly surveyed,” said Herb Suderman, a real estate attorney.

This is a common occurance in rural areas because more logging is done there. BUT, this same type of problem happens regularly in towns by landowners building home additions, driveways, fences, swimming pools, and storage buildings over the property lines.

Even if you’re sure you’re not over the property line, there are also easement lines and setback lines on most lots that must be avoided.

Please check your property lines and your property survey drawing before undertaking any building or clearing project. As the cliché goes, “you can pay me now or pay me later.” And, I’ll add to that cliché and say that it always costs you more later.

“In rural areas because it’s more expensive to survey a large parcel of land, often the surveys are not done,” he said, adding that can cause some “big surprises.”

And, while you probably don’t REALLY need to survey twice, at least once is highly recommended before you “clear-cut” your land.