Do I Need A Land Survey?
A Land Survey is not required on every real estate transaction, but is sometimes necessary and invaluable. A survey marks the lands outer boundaries and a plat map is prepared showing the land boundaries along with a legal description.
When Do I Need One
A survey should be performed anytime the boundaries of the land are not properly marked. This may not be necessary in the city, where each lot is marked by fences but in the rural areas the property lines are often unmarked. The surveyor will mark the property lines with stakes and flags to show these boundaries.
What Does The Survey Do For Me
Marking the property lines can protect you. Many land owners build cabins on their properties. At times they think they know their property lines. Maybe they reviewed a topographical map or were shown the supposed property lines by a neighboring property owner.
If you rely on this information you may build a cabin on the neighbors property. A building of any kind is owned by the individual whose property it is built on. Don’t build your neighbor a free cabin. You would be shocked how often this happens.
Surprisingly this is also common in cities. Garages and sheds are often built on the property line with parts of the structure being on the adjoining property.
Why Not Use My GPS
I am regularly asked by land owners: why can’t I use my GPS to find my property corners? There are many reasons why this is unwise. Below are a few:
1. Your GPS Is Not Accurate
While surveyors do use a GPS system to complete their survey it is much more accurate than your hand held GPS.
2. A Survey Is Based On Section Corners
Surveyors first find a section corner to start the survey. This is necessary as surveys are based on established section corners.
3. All Sections Are Irregular
West of the Mississippi river land is divided into sections which, in theory, are 1 square mile. These sections were established by government surveyors when the land was opened for settlement. At the time, surveyors tools were not as accurate as today. Because of this none of the sections are exactly 1 square mile.
To compensate the surveyor must prorate the measurements of each parcel in the section. The amount its over sized or under sized is pro-rated across all parcels based on established surveying principals.
4. Priority Affects Land Parcels
Because of the above difficulties it is common for property descriptions to overlap or leave gaps between them. These are resolved by the priority of the recorded deeds (the order they were recorded). Without a knowledge of how to search deeds at the county recorders office you will not be able to determine priority.
5. Difficult To Find GPS Coordinates
It is difficult to find the GPS coordinates for your lands corners. These coordinates are not used by title companies and are difficult to find. In fact the coordinates cannot be determined without a professional survey.
These and many other issues are taken into account by professional surveyors as they prepare the survey.
Although not necessary with every land transaction a land survey is very helpful. The surveyor will create survey plat which is a map of the property showing the measurements and property lines, and containing the legal description. They will also mark the property corners by placing wooden stakes in the ground.
A personal GPS is not adequate to find your property boundaries and corners.