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A Complete Guide to Land Surveying

Surveying Costs, Types and Hiring Tips

Land surveyors mark land boundaries, create land maps and develop legal descriptions of property lines, among other tasks. They use existing property records, as well as computers, measuring tools and mapping systems as tools of the trade.

The many services surveyors provide include:

  • Locating property lines
  • Setting boundary markers to identify property lines/corners
  • Preparing legal descriptions of property lines
  • Adjusting boundary lines
  • Settling property line discrepancies
  • Preparing maps or plats of a property
  • Developing topographic maps
  • Locating underground cables and utility lines

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There are many reasons to hire a surveyor. You’ll need a plat drawn up to subdivide your property or to apply for a building permit for exterior work such as building a deck, driveway or sunroom. If you’re building a fence, you’ll need to hire a surveyor to identify exact property lines. A survey is a good idea if you’re buying or selling a property, or if you’re unsure of property lines. A survey is also required for new construction.

Surveyors must be licensed, but licensing requirements vary from state to state. In some areas, civil engineers can also perform surveying services. Many states have a board that oversees the licensing of land surveyors - check with local officials to find a list of licensed surveyors in your area.

Surveying Costs

Surveying costs depend on many factors, including the type of survey, the size and shape of the property, terrain, accessibility, the time of year, how difficult it is to locate the boundary lines, and the complexity of the records search.

Surveying services can range in price from $300 to $5,000 or more. In most cases, budget about $500 to $1,000 for a single-family home on a small- to medium-sized lot. Large properties and subdivisions could pay upwards of $5,000.

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Hiring Tips

Most people only need to hire a surveyor once or twice in their lives. This means the average person doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about who to hire or how to find a qualified surveyor. These tips will help you through the process:

  • Contact the state or local board that certifies land surveyors to ask for a list of licensed surveyors in your area. In most cases, the board will not be able to provide referrals or recommendations, but the list is a good starting point because you ONLY want to hire a surveyor who is licensed. In some cases, the board will also be able to provide you with information about any complaints or disciplinary action against a given licensed surveyor.
  • For referrals, talk to friends and neighbors about who they’ve used. Were they happy with the service? Was the price fair? You can also turn to consumer resources such as Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau for confirmation that any company you’re considering has a good reputation.
  • Give some thought to what you want before contacting surveying companies. What exactly do you need done? How much can you spend? Do you need the work done immediately? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you figure out if the company you’re considering is a good fit.
  • Seek quotes from multiple surveying companies to find the best price. But never choose on price alone. Consider the company’s experience and reputation, too.
  • Ask lots of questions. How long has the company been in business? Does the company have experience with the specific type of surveying you need? Are permits needed? If so, does the price you’re quoted include permitting fees?

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