What is a Real Estate Survey, and Do I Need One for My Next Purchase?

Real estate survey

There is a lot of important information you need for you real estate purchase.

You need to know square footage, value, room count, bathroom types, damage history, and more. Through inspections and appraisals, you can usually gather the information you need to make an informed choice on your next home.

But in many cases, you also need to know the boundaries of the property. The boundaries are often recognizable. There are, in most cases, clear points where one property ends and another begins. But that’s not always the case. For certain properties, especially (but certainly not limited to) properties in rural areas, having a clear definition of where one property begins and another ends is critical.

When Do I Need a Real Estate Survey?

What is a Real Estate Survey?

A real estate survey, often called a “property survey” or a “land survey,” is simply a process that helps define and establish the boundaries of a piece of property. It clarifies the size, shape, and end points for land, and creates a legal boundary for properties. In essence, it is simply a drawing of the property boundaries.

Real estate surveys are often useful when buying rural property.

Using the property’s deed, the surveyor lays out the exact dimensions of a property. But old deeds can be outdated or contain missing information, such as trees that have been removed or buildings that have been demolished. The information may not include new buildings, creating confusion about the exact boundaries of the property. For this reason, a surveyor will physically measure the land, giving an accurate description of the layout.

Did you know? Among his many careers, which included farming, the military, and politics, surveying was one of George Washington’s first professions.

Different Types of Surveys

There are many different types of surveys that can be used.

ALTA Survey

These surveys, which are administered by the American Land Title Association, are often needed when someone is buying a home or an investment property. The title company will often require an ALTA survey before they will issue title insurance, making it an important part of the overall process. It is sometimes called a “mortgage survey,” since it is requested by the lending company.

Construction Survey

When someone is planning to build a new structure, they will use a construction survey. This survey will include boundaries and dimensions for the proposed building, and can include other improvements as well. It is used to essentially show workers where to build.

Boundary Survey

This is simply used to establish the exact location of boundaries, angles, , and corners of a property. It is often needed to settle legal disputes between two parties or establish easements.

Location Survey

This is essentially a boundary survey that includes site improvements, landscaping, and buildings. It not only shows the size, shape, and boundaries of property, it also shows the location and size of structures and measures the distances between them.

Subdivision Survey

This is a survey used by developers to divide a parcel of land into multiple subdivisions. It can be used to create plats and must be filed in the recorder’s office.

Topographical Survey

This survey lays out the slope and features of a property. It can take into account both natural and manmade features.

Benefits of a Land Survey

There are numerous reasons why you may consider getting a land survey. In some cases, they are required by the lender, so getting one is not an option but a condition for financing. However, there are benefits to these surveys, even if they are not required.

Having a property survey completed helps to find property lines so you know exactly how much land you are purchasing. It can be helpful for getting title insurance, and can help settle boundary disputes with neighbors before they even become a problem. With a land survey, you know exactly what you are buying so there are no unwelcome surprises in the future. The can be crucial for locating easements, and may be needed when you decide to build a house or new structure on the property, such as a storage shed. They can also be helpful for locating utilities, among many other benefits.

When Should I Get a Survey?

While you can, if you choose, get a real estate survey with just about any purchase, some situations call for them more than others. First of all, if the surveying information currently on record is old and outdated, it may be wise to have a survey completed. Old information likely does not include trees, new buildings, or demolished structures. Having this information presented on the official records can be helpful.

If you are purchasing a large property, especially one located in a rural setting with no clear boundary markers, a survey can be extremely useful. Large plots of land are not always clearly defined, but a survey can help.

If you are planning to develop the property, a real estate survey may be needed.

Investors and developers will usually benefit from land surveys, but private homebuyers purchasing a property, of any size, with no clear boundaries will likely benefit from a survey as well.

Costs of a Survey

Real estate surveys require the service of a trained professional, and while they are not overly expensive, they are not free.

According to HomeGuide, the national average for a land survey is between $380 and $540. They say that certain factors can drive up the price. If there are issues with current documents or “terrain complexities,” the price may go up.

Another source, HomeAdvisor, says that the “typical range” for hiring a land surveyor is $345 to $675, with an average price of $504.

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I hope you enjoyed reading this article. It's my goal to keep you updated with the latest real estate mortgage news. I'm proud to provide you with 100% original and unique content. Subscribe now to get high quality real estate mortgage content and articles delivered directly to your inbox. Chad Baker is Regional Manager for Cross Country Mortgage. Chad is consistently recognized in the top 1% of mortgage originators in the United States 2011-2019. Got a question for Chad? Call (858) 353-8331 or submit your question online